Monday, December 7, 2009

Six Ways To Support Web-Based Programming

With all the buzz about Gotham and Venice, and questions about how these shows will be able to sustain themselves, I thought it would be worth writing about some of the ways fans can lend support and help web-based programming become viable.

1. Have high standards: Some people thought my review of Venice was harsh and that I "expected too much." Ridiculous. The very people who created Venice have said, time and again, that they wanted an opportunity to do things differently, have expressive freedom, and present a realistic portrayal of women loving other women. When producing for the web, there is no network censor, no Standards and Practices committee to answer to. If web-based programming isn't going to be any different or better than what's on television, what's the point in watching it? If you can push the envelope, why wouldn't you? I have over 700 television channels to choose from, and a 42" HD screen to watch them from. If I'm going to watch a web-based program for more than a few episodes, there's got to be something new and different in it for me - something I can't get on television.

If we, as viewers, keep our expectations low, there's no incentive for the people producing this programming to strive for excellence. The web will never be taken seriously as a viable, sustainable medium for film and video unless there examples of professional-level productions. By giving any production (whether it be Venice or Gotham or whatever) a free pass to be less than professional in the way it looks, feels and is delivered, fans are basically ensuring that they'll never get anything better, and that the web as a medium, will never really come to fruition. Think about it: if you were a corporate sponsor looking to pour lots of money into a project, would you choose a project where the sound is muffled or the production team can't figure out how to get their own website working?

2. Participate in the Discussion: Crystal Chappell and Martha Byrne are both Twitter users, and they both read their email. Other people producing web-based programming probably are, too. If you like what they're doing, let them know. If you don't like it, let them know. I'm not advising anyone to be rude. Offer creative criticism. Think about it this way: if no one tells Crystal Chappell that the soundtrack to Venice is way too loud, and that it detracts from the action, she may never realize it. Martha Byrne heard complaints about the premiere episode of Gotham being too short and she immediately got online and promised subsequent episodes would be longer. Issues probably won't be addressed unless people mention them. Both Venice and Gotham have forums. Use them. Not to talk about last night's Steeler's game, but to talk to other people who are watching and to provide feedback. ABC, CBS, and NBC are probably never going to ask you what you think about their programming, but producers of original content for the web already are.

3. Check out the Sponsors: Nicole Miller is sponsoring Gotham and Venice has sponsorship from two local businesses (who, I assume, donated space and food to the production of season one.) Click on their links. Maybe even drop them a line to let them know that you checked them out after finding their link on the site of a web program you're following. Corporate sponsors back projects in an effort to drum up their own business. If there's nothing in it for them, they pull their sponsorship.

4. Pimp Away: If not for people pimping their favorite web series on blogs or Facebook or Twitter, I never would have found out about Empire or Ylse or Anyone But Me. Twitter is an incredibly good way to get out a message to lots of people at once. If you like a web series, get the word out and share it. These productions run on almost no budget and can't afford to advertise. Nelson Branco and Roger Newcomb do not have to be the only ones using the power of the internet to promote projects they want to see succeed. You're reading this blog, aren't you?

5. Watch: This may be obvious, but it bears mentioning. Someone, somewhere is keeping track of how many people actually press PLAY. If people like Crystal Chappell and Martha Byrne are going to secure significant financial backing for these projects, they need to demonstrate the ability to attract viewers. Watch the damn shows where it counts. If your friend downloads Venice and sends it to you as a file attachment or burns it on to a disk so you can watch it on your tv? That doesn't count.

To the people who thought I was being a "bitch" for pointing out the myriad of problems with the Venice website, chew on this: lots of people weren't able to watch the premiere on the Venice website. If any of those people watched, instead, by downloading the video clip from Yousendit, those views don't count. People will inevitably start downloading Venice and posting it on their own YouTube pages - just like they did with Guiding Light. Guess what? Watching the show in this way doesn't count, either. If you're not watching on a site officially sanctioned by a web series, your viewership doesn't really count.

6. Subscribe: Ok, wait. No, I haven't subscribed to Venice and, so far, I have no plans to. I really do think they should give viewers more of a chance before forcing them to decide if the show is worth paying for. I also think 9.99 is a little steep for a season, as opposed to a full year. That said, I don't think there's anything unreasonable about asking satisfied viewers to start paying after they've had a significant taste. I had mixed feelings about Venice, but a lot of people adored it. If you truly adore a show, consider paying for it.

Web Series Worth Checking Out - a really short list

Empire - Good, soapy fun. Season one didn't have the greatest writing or acting, but these guys put together a whole season, with a full story arc, on a shoestring budget, with no publicity, and without the benefit of even one known actor. And they really, truly get what soap opera is all about. Chris Douros, who plays Thomas could easily be the next big thing on soaps. Empire boasts one openly gay character, and one character who is on the DL. Roger Newcomb says there are some exciting things in store for season two of this series, with a respected soap director taking the helm, and the possibility of some familiar faces joining the cast. I have high hopes for this dark horse.

Anyone but me - Ah... to be young, beautiful, and in love in New York City! Oh, yeah...and also a lesbian. Season 2 is due any day. If you check it out now, you can breeze through the entire first season just in time for the second. All the fangirls who think Venice broke ground by showing two women kissing, check this series out.

Ylse - And now for something completely different....a bilingual web series about a young, Hispanic Oprah Winfrey wannabe. This is good fun, and it takes chances...like poking fun at a gay priest in episode one, and alluding to the hypocrisy of a church that covers up sexual molestation of children. Give this one a go - it's got a lot of humor, and it's really well directed.


27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand how anyone can say someone's expectations are too high. It's not wrong to have high standards. If we continue to accept low quality that is what we will get. So many people have touted Venice as ground breaking then turn around and make excuses for the problems. If it is suppose to be ground breaking it needs to improve dramatically.

I personally don't like the characters of Gina or Ani and, since the show is based around Gina, see no reason to continue watching.

I have seen both episodes of Gotham and both left me wanting to see the next episode, Venice not so much.

Michele said...

Don't worry the creators of Venice have been told about the music being alittle bit too much. They are also working on their website issues, but this is a mom & mom production group so give them a break. I don't think that $9.99 is too steep to be entertained. I've paid $10 to see some crappy movies.There are people on the BPD website offering to donate subscriptions to Venice to peeps who can't afford it. Thats what I love about the Otalia/Venice community. Also, all the skin in the world didn't help the L word just made it look trashy at times. JMHO

Michele said...

again, what are you people expecting? It was entertaining. (albeit alittle cheesy with the music video of CC and JL walking into the cafe, but I loved it)

Anonymous said...

And The Guild!! :D A show about disfunctional online gamers !! so fun!

Loved what u wrote! Thanks for sharing I HEART YLSE!

Another small tip - feel free to eliminte :)
It also counts if viewers watch the webseries on the series youtube since they get $$ for every hit they receive and even more for every hit the sponsors receive (see youtube rewards program).

-msfantasticopr

Simone said...

What did I expect? Simply good storytelling and decent production value. It wasn't awful, but it also wasn't great. It definitely has room to improve, but it won't if everyone is fawning over it like it's the next greatest thing without cause. And if you truly think it's amazing, you really, really should expose yourself to more content (I don't say that ass an asshole, I mean it sincerely - you're missing out).

Like I said, I've been exposed to some well-produced, well-written webseries already, so I expect nothing less from Venice. With a few notable exceptions, all webseries are pretty much mom and pops productions with little money. Good writing is free and excuses are weak.

Snap - spot on list.

Thermos said...

I really don't have a problem with anyone having high expectations, and I don't think anyone should be criticized for having them. It's like telling someone that their opinion is wrong. That's out of line. On the other hand, I don't see Venice as a mom & mom production either, as we have been assured that Kimmy, CC, and Hope all know what they are doing. If they don't, and it's a "learn by doing" situation, hey… I'm all for learning from your mistakes. I'm just not going to pay for the privilege of watching them stumble around on the learning curve. They should also be up front about their limitations, so customers aren't wondering "WTF" when things aren't going smoothly.

Anonymous said...

To Michele,

I expect to be entertained. It's all very well for you to decide it was entertaining and $10 isn't too much to pay for it. I was not entertained and $1 is too much to pay for not being entertained.

I'm glad you enjoyed the premeire and are looking forward to the rest of the show, but as Thermos said I shouldn't have to pay for them to figure out how to make a good show or what their website needs to be.

They have been hyping Venice for months, they should have been more prepared. While I think the show can improve, this team has shown nothing that makes me think it will so I'm of the assupmtion "what you see is what you get".

Snapper said...

Michele -

I feel you've entirely missed my point. Venice is a "mom&mom" operation? We've all paid $10 for crappy movies in the past? *So what?* How do either of these things make up for what's wrong with Venice? There's not a web series out there that *isn't* basically just a bunch of people and a shoestring budget. The fact that Venice is a little production doesn't make up for the use of cliches my grandmother would have found tiresome or dialogue out of a shitty novel. The fact that I've shelled out $10 for crap in the past doesn't make me want to keep doing it...if anything, it makes me more careful about how I spend my *next* $10. The truth is, the Venice production probably had more money poured into it than most projects of this kind because they sold tons of merchandise in advance, yet they couldn't even get their website looking good and running smoothly for the premiere (which had already been pushed back.) Empire did an entire season with basically no budget or publicity. Their website was never down, and every single episode aired on time, without a glitch.

I did't hate Venice, but it didn't wow me, and it certainly didn't live up to the hype. Crystal Chappell and Lesley Penny raved about Kimmy's amazing script for months, so it was a real let-down to find the first episode riddled with terrible dialogue. This can be remedied, but it won't be if blindly loyal fangirls sit around talking about how sublime and flawless it is. How many months ago were some of the same fangirls sending me nasty emails because I took issue with Guiding Light not getting on with an Otalia kiss after MONTHS of promises? The same fangirls who kept saying they had "faith" in the GL writers, and they just KNEW a kiss and even a sex scene was just around the corner, and that I should just shut up. They swore GL and Otalia were sheer perfection in every way, and they got shafted for being blindly loyal. People must LOVE being duped.

Not I. My time is valuable to me, and there's no shortage of programming. If I'm going to watch something, it's going to be something I actually think is good or has the potential to improve. If somethig I watch *isn't* good? I'll say so.

As for the nudity - I don't think anyone who's complained about the women wearing clothing are lobbying for gratuitous flesh. It's *realism* we're after. The argument that The L Word sucked, and they had naked women is akin to saying Showgirls sucked, so there should never be another movie shot in Las Vegas. Two women who strip off their clothes in a fit of passion and jump into bed to fuck their brains out DO NOT wake up wearing clothing. They just don't. Any adult lesbian knows this. Another website actually pointed out that Ani even has a bra on. HELLO!

Michele said...

I guess maybe I'm alittle modest because I like to sleep with atleast a tshirt & panties even after a night of fuking my brains out. I felt that Jessica L. was really good at portraying Ani's hurt as she realized this was just another glorified booty call for CC's character Gina. I thought production wise, Venice looked amazing. (also Jessica is a new mom who is currently breastfeeding so maybe the bra was a necessity). I'm looking forward to continuing supporting Venice and hoping for a season 2 to happen because I love JL and CC together.

Michele said...

I just watched episode 4 of ABM and the first scene where the girls are in bed (with both of them wearing t shirts) having a discussion about how amazing it was and how good it was. So I guess ABM wasn't too concerned about that overused dialogue or about truly showing what lesbians wear after a night of fuking ur brains out

Anonymous said...

Michele,

ABM is not asking for people to pay $10 to watch. Thought Venice was suppose to be groundbreaking? So if they do what someone else does its ok?

Michele said...

Peeps no one is forcing you to pay $ 9.99 to watch Venice. Per this blog #6 way for webseries to survive, if they can't get sponsors, is subscriptions. I personally will pay to see what makes me happy, which is watching Jess and Crystal together again.

Snapper said...

Again, Michele - the argument that the fact others have done stuff badly makes mediocrity (or complete shittiness) acceptable is about as weak an argument as you can make. You're turning this into a ridiculous pissing contest. Know who wins pissing contests? Nobody. Because there's nothing to win and everyone ends up with piss on her shoes.

I didn't write a review of ABM - I listed it as something worth watching, and a show that actually does take chances and push the envelope. It's perfectly fine if you hate it. But, if they've done something poorly (and I'm sure there's lots of room for improvement there...but I am not in the process of reviewing it, so that's irrelevant)I see no reason why it should excuse or encourage others to follow suit. Maybe Gina should come out of the shower and Ani wake up to find the entire last year was a dream. I mean, it's a stupid idea, but they did it on Dallas, so why not follow suit?

Since you are clearly thrilled with Venice exactly as it is, I'm really glad you're subscribing to it. I say this without a hint of sarcasm. You love it and you're taking a financial stand to support it. No one is stopping you from doing this. All anyone has said is that they, themselves, will not pay for Venice based on just one episode.

Michele said...

To Snapper

I don't want this to be a pissing contest either, but I was just pointing out how in an earlier blog u critize Venice for being unrealistic because they were wearing tanks and panties and certain dialogue thats all. I just thought it was a littl nitpicky. I was just giving u a comparison (okay maybe a little pissing was done. I'll try to refrain next time)I've always enjoy reading your blog because I find u to be refreshingly honest and I hope to continue.

Michele said...

Snapper

I enjoyed watching ABM. I've seen it in the past. Sometimes the acting is a little wooden, but its entertaining.

Michele said...

Little update on Venice, Crystal and Kimmy made an announcement on Twitter last night that there will be a season two because of the subscriptions. Also, they will be getting more servers for the website (dealing with a company in Colorado) to make sure the website works, but there won't be a new epi this week (teasers and behind the scenes will be there instead) Crystal assured everyone that there will be a new episode 2 on Dec 18th.

Snapper said...

I'm tempted to delete that last comment, because this isn't a public service for viewers of Venice. Also because I don't want this blog to serve as an endorsement of a project that is being so very badly run.

I'll leave it, up, though, since it doesn't contain anything everyone doesn't already know by now. They didn't plan or do this professionally, and now they're delayed, yet again. I won't bother watching episode 2 of Venice, whenever that finally appears. This last episode of ineptitude has left a terrible taste in my mouth. This mess is NOT what the world should look at as a stride in lesbian entertainment.

Michele said...

to Snapper,

I guess there's no need for me to come back to your blog since you clearly have your mind made up about Venice, you're done. I disagree with you on many things you've said about Venice & the whole process, but I also agree with alot of what you said. Being a webseries, the website should work. That's not rocketscience. Why would you look to a webseries,
which you've only seen 1 episode and say its a mess & can correct itself in the future. The people behind Venice are writers and actors this is all new for them too. I'm going to cut them alittle slack on certain things. Okay I'm going back to drinking my Venice koolaid now..see ya

Thermos said...

Wow! That post just supported all of your criticisms of the business/technical side of Venice. Sure was nice of her to help you out like that, Snapper.

Stella said...

I wonder how will people like Michelle react when they realize that the show will be about Gina/Tracy and not Gina/Ani. Even the fangirls won't be able to swallow that one.

This is what the VTeam gets for cultivating obsessed fans who can't think critically. But then again, I don't think they want to listen to any critism, they just want to be praised.

Thermos said...

Thought it was interesting when Crystal Chappell tweeted today that she was going to look at the rough cut of episode 2, meaning that it's still not ready to air...two days after it was supposed to. This leaves me wondering how much of the delay is actually server related, and how much is their ineptitude. IF they were smart, they would changed the Venice air times to every other Friday, but I doubt they are that smart.

Thermos said...

Think you are right on there, Stella. It's the fanbase they asked for, and they got it. Problem with it is that when your fanbase is a bunch of blind sheep, it's hard to get anyone outside of that to look at your project seriously. I thought JL was the lone bright spot in ep one, but it's the Chappell show, so we'll be stuck with Gina.

Snapper said...

Thermos, I stopped following CC on Twitter a while ago, and I decided, after the completely unprofessional announcement that episode 2 would be delayed, to just quit following Venice, altogether. You've piqued my nosy interest, though, so please clarify. Are you saying that she tweeted TODAY about looking at a rough cut of episode 2? Are you serious?

Thermos said...

Snapper,
Yes, seriously. the tweet is still there.... Looking at rough cut of epi 2 later today. Am looking forward to it!
about 21 hours ago from TweetDeck

http://twitter.com/crystalchappell

It says 21 hours ago, because I just copied/pasted it here. So yeah. Ep 2 still not ready, regardless of server issues. I won't be surprised if Eps 3&4 airdates are postponed for the "holidays."

Snapper said...

Ok, is it just me, or is it patently obvious that episode two didn't air because it wasn't even edited, yet? This gets worse and worse.

Thermos said...

No, not just you. Apparently, not just you & me, either. Looks like CC was in on it, too, lol... And since Christmas and New Year's Day are on Fridays, I wouldn't expect eps then either. I don't expect to see ep 3 until January 8.

Snapper said...

To the person who posted the item I just removed: I don't pass judgement on anyone who watches pirated material, as I have done so, myself. I won't however, turn this blog into a directory of pirated material. Also, no matter what my opinion of Venice might be, I don't wish to be associated with what basically amounts to stealing, en masse, from Crystal Chappell and her project. If people care to view Venice without paying the subscription, I'm fairly sure finding it online won't be much trouble - this blog and its comments section will not be the place to look.

Long story short: don't bother posting links to sites where pirated material can be found. I'll delete such posts.