‘Change Agents': the New Web-Series Gurus

Once you came to Hollywood with what you hoped was a great original screenplay under your arm and you could make things happen in the business. Now it helps to already have made that film … complete with dedicated website, blog, Facebook/Myspace pages, key word, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and email strategy, even perhaps a […]

Once you came to Hollywood with what you hoped was a great original screenplay under your arm and you could make things happen in the business. Now it helps to already have made that film … complete with dedicated website, blog, Facebook/Myspace pages, key word, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and email strategy, even perhaps a flash game widget.

As the music business collapsed, musicians learned they had to market themselves independently and digitally. Now filmmakers must move further and further into that same groove.

While the Indie film business works through its current economic shake-out/evolution, DIY marketing has become essential for all but the biggest names.

Suppose you decide to create content primarily for internet distribution. Web programs require even greater measures of interactive efforts. Webisodes are the new cable, but instead of hundreds of channels, there are infinite niches ready to be filled with shows.

If you just create and upload some of that content — great, terrible or indifferent — probably nobody will ever know about it. You don’t just have to DIY on the production side, you must, must DIY big time on the e-marketing side. The interactivity is the content. It’s a movie. It’s a TV series. It’s a website. It’s a blog. It’s a text message. And a Facebook page, etc. etc. Execute all that … and maybe they will check out your show.

And if your reels are any good, they may just stay and watch. Much harder than writing that compelling screenplay. But then you have to do that, too.

A number of filmmakers who have set out to create specifically for the web have broken through and are now creating commercial programming for that space.

Doug Cheney, Ryan Wise, Chris McCaleb and Chris Hampel, the four writer-directors who are Big Fantastic (above, top), did double duty against their industry day jobs — creating 80 nimble 90-second episodes of "Sam Has 7 Friends” with their own resources. Making a full-time career of Big Fantastic, they did “Prom Queen” and “Robin Cook’s Foreign Body,” a web series prequel to the book of the same name for Michael Eisner’s Vuguru, plus “Sorority Forever” for the WB.

Miles Beckett (below), Greg and Amanda Goodfried of EQAL, the team behind the internet blockbuster “Lonelygirl15,” have launched “Harper’s Globe,” a 15-part web series which is a standalone webisode/social network series spun off the new CBS series, “Harper’s Island.”

Tony Valenzuela, director of “Harper’s Globe,” created the evocative epic web series on his home computer. Returning home from his day job in an ad agency, Tony sipped energy drinks into the wee hours as he created his epic web series, “2009Atruestory,” which led him to EQAL.

On the comedy side, Benny and Rafi Fine (above, with Bart Simpson) have been Youtube comedy stalwarts with 24,000,000 hits on their fast, precise, often witty humor pieces. Living, producing, writing, directing and editing in their two-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood, the Fines have been featured on all major internet comedy sites. With over 337,000 views in March — business as usual for their content, the Fines are number 50 on the Most Subscribed YouTube Comedy Channel this month and number 84 all time.

In their own words:  “Yes, we are brothers. Yes, we used to be orthodox Jews and are sons of a Rabbi. No, we will not stop offending you with our videos.” The Fine Brothers’ new web series pilot for Comedy Central is actually not raunchy and will air in early April. It features another Youtube superstar — video blogger Shane Dawson.