While over the years some great storytelling has emerged from the internet in the form of serialized content (just ask our man Koo and The West Side) the web series hasn't always gotten its due. This may be partly because the arena is full of less-than-outstanding content (it is the internet after all), but also because nobody tended to take them seriously. And by "nobody" I just mean no established independent film institutes and supporters. Now that Sundance is offering an inaugural Episodic Story Lab and IFP has included Web Series into their Emerging Visions component of Independent Film Week, that could be changing. Find out what each institute has to say about their new programs, and why 2014 could start a golden age for episodic content.
When it comes to web series, it sometimes takes a little digging to find something you like, but once you've found it, you may feel like you've discovered something completely unique all on your own. (Watching Netflix's recommended titles leads to some great flicks, but there's certainly no feeling of excitement about the algorithmic generated suggestions.) What prompted organizations like Sundance and IFP taking notice of web series? Perhaps it's to do with established filmmakers using the medium or the newness of the creativity the platform offers. Either way, for filmmakers who want to get into web series or those who have waited for the form to grow in credibility, this could be big. Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute told this in an interview with Indiewire about their new Episodic Story Lab initiative:
We know that a lot of independent film artists traditionally working in feature length film have discovered the creativity that's possible in this new medium but lack a little bit of understanding how to structure a story over multiple parts and how the actual craft applies in that format.
Earlier this month, No Film School talked to IFP Program manager Dan Schoenbrun about the Web Series sidebar of Independent Film Week, and this is what he had to say:
More and more, we’ve been seeing creative storytellers moving fluidly across various mediums to tell their stories. The web space is one that’s wide open for innovation, and we think that it’s going to be daring, forward-thinking storytellers who are going to define and expand its potential. IFP has a long track record of supporting boundary-pushing filmmakers looking to create a sustainable business model for their feature films, and we’re excited to play a similar role in the web space. The format democratizes serialized storytelling – it allows anyone the opportunity to develop a series and reach an audience, in whatever form, with whatever business model suits them best.
While for its inaugural year, the Sundance Episodic Story Lab will be by invitation only, you can still make the deadline for IFP's Independent Film Week application for Web Series. Check out our original interview with IFP's Dan Schoenbrun to find out what IFP is looking for and what's expected in the application. Because both programs are so new, it will be interesting to watch what storytelling comes out of them and how they are recieved. As Indiewire put it, we may just be entering a golden age for serialized storytelling via the web:
Two decades after the peak of the '90s independent film boom, 15 years after HBO ushered in this third golden age of television, and nearly a decade after the launch of YouTube, serialized storytelling in multiple formats is quickly becoming a preeminent and more attractive space for the independent filmmaker.
What do you think about Sundance and IFP adding episodic content as a legitimate medium to their rosters? What would you like to see happen to the future of web series?