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WIFTI Summit 2012 and ScriptDC
University of California, Washington Center in Washington, DC
Panelists: Julie Anne Emory, Timothy Cooper, Thom Woodley
Moderator: Ursula Lawrence
Sunday, December 2, 2012

Writer: Heather Godwin, Writer and Producer

Since I’m no longer twenty-four, I decided to jump on the chance to take the Web TV Master Class at the WIFTI International Summit to ensure I was staying current. Okay, the truth is I didn’t have a clue. What the heck is this Web TV I keep hearing about, and why can’t I keep blissfully ignoring it?  It turns out that Web TV is something no independent producer, amateur video geek or artist should ignore. It is an exciting new platform to share ideas, the new way for writers and producers to introduce the world to their work, and for the first time EVER – a platform for indie episodic TV.

According to Web TV pioneer Thom Woodley (who is also the writer of those brilliant Dos Equis commercials), the whole thing began in 2005 when YouTube came out and we got broadband.  The creator of the ground-breaking webisode series,  Greg and Donny, Thom played the teaser for his new Webseries  called All’s Faire,  a send-up on the cultish world of Renaissance Fairs.  The closing shot is of a sword plunging through a laptop with the titles, “Coming soon to a Computer near you.”  A sharp reminder of this changing world we live in.

Thom’s comprehensive presentation gave an overview of what he does (LOTS–check out the photo above) and the what and why of the Webseries world.  What is it? Episodic video entertainment on the web delivered via the Internet instead of through satellite, cable or broadcast.  What it is not is film or TV. He then broke out the many differences between the conventional platforms and the new web platform, from format style to how people watch it (on a small screen, for one) and provided interesting statistics.  For instance, in thirty seconds up to 33% of your audience is gone, in one minute 44% are gone, and almost 60% have abandoned it completely by the two minute mark.  Boy – better have something that grabs and keeps their attention.

The why was simple – because you can.  Web TV is indeed an indie producer’s paradise. You can shoot your project on an iphone, make something twenty seconds or twenty hours long (the longest YouTube video is two days) and it can be just about ANYTHING you want. The trick, of course, is to drive the number of views. Right now the winner is Gangnam Style at over eight hundred and sixty eight MILLION views.  Poor Justin Bieber had to take a backseat to the Korean dance marvel.  But seriously, what TV show has those numbers???

Next up was screenwriter and director, Timothy Cooper, whose newest web series was nominated for the WGA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing Original New Media in 2011.  His newest web series, Concierge, stars comedians from Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and other well-known shows.  Timothy walked us through the process of producing a webseries, which was very much the same as producing an indie film – find friends with gear, don’t make something on a spaceship, feed everyone, and spend your money on good audio. Of course, the trick with a web TV show is – you have less than 30 seconds to start your story.  Forget the first five pages – the show is over by then. “Don’t be precious,” he advised. “Less is more.”  His creative slide presentation (see above photo) broke down even the most basic production elements for those who haven’t stepped foot into the world of production. Because the truth is, even though YouTube is truly available to everyone who wants to upload a video, it’s still production.

Next up was Julie Anne Emory, an actress who writes, produces and directs her own award winning webseries, called Then We Got Help! Julie’s presentation covered the marketing aspects of not only how to get people to view your video, but also how to use Crowd Funding sources like Kickstarter (above photo is Julie showing the group her Kickstarter video) and Indiegogo to raise money.  Social media plays a huge part in the marketing of these series, since it is a web-based viewership. She also graciously included a chart of different companies that you could approach to help you create, distribute and monetize your project. She then broke it down into four categories: Old School, (i.e. NFL, Amazon.com, Ikea); Digital Majors (i.e.YouTube, Aol, Netflix); Digital Indies (i.e. deca, blip, BrightRoll) and Big Names (i.e. The Fine Brothers, vimeo, Digital Video Ecosystem) The overarching thing I got from Julie’s presentation was – like any independent project, to really get viewership, raise money and make money – you had to put in the time to become your own marketing, PR and distribution company.  But that shouldn’t stop those from posting something just for fun.

That’s the beauty of this new format – you can be serious about it, but it’s equally as accessible for those who want to do it just because. No beating down a door to get someone to see your personal masterpiece, simply join YouTube and make your own channel.

Ursula Lawrence concluded the three hour workshop with information about the East Coast Writer’s Guild of America and what a terrific resource it is for writers of all kinds. They now have an active Web TV component, also invite documentarians and have a really active chapter that hosts workshops, meet-ups and numerous resources any producer and writer can take advantage of.

I left inspired that the creative world has been handed a new universe to play in called the World Wide Web.  This is probably the most innovative, inviting and forgiving opportunity video artists have ever had to express themselves and make art for art’s sake.  What an exciting world we live in – I say dive in and swim with the geeks.

About the Writer: Heather Godwin, Writer and Producer

Heather Godwin freelances in television production, writing and events.  Her short documentary film, Ode to Treasure Hammock Ranch – A Film about Cows and Creativity screened at the Global Peace Film Festival and Bellamy Road Gallery in Florida under Spiritpaddle Films.