Thursday, May 11, 2006

Internet and Serials and Writing - Oh My!

Everyone here knows of my love for serials. I've related my joy over the format on many a blog in the Scribosphere. It's a unique writing challenge to tell a moving picture story in chapters -- short bursts of content that keep the viewer going and asking, "what's going to happen next?"

(Which reminds me to post the next chapter of Radar Men from the Moon)

Much like a novel, the serial has an overall structure and individual chapters which have their own internal structure. It's like television only it's not - it has a definite, particular story to tell. Television has many stories to tell about particular characters.

Well, now the serial format has come to the internet - in a big way. And with all the discussion we've been having lately about In2TV, WB and the BitTorrent, Generate, Itunes and other 4th Generational Media (Hi John!) it seems appropriate that this new serial is debuting on the net and on DVD. That's why I'm discussing it here.

We are in on the ground floor of an opportunity limited only by our creativity and our bandwidth - both of which can be overcome. We are at the dawn of a new age of media that includes traditional scripting for film along with pages and pages of additional content needed to be created for MySpace pages, wikipedia entries, and other types of interactive entertainment and information we haven't realized yet.

All built around around content. All built around branding. All built around entertainment.

Below is an early press release I recieved which got me (re)thinking about all this before I've had my second cup of coffee.


Iron Sink Media Launches Interactive-Webisodic
Romantic Comedy Series: “Soup of The Day”

Unique Hybrid Series/Movie to Debut Simultaneously on Hottest Websites: MySpace.com, YouTube.com, and on iTunes for Podcast

May, 2006 – Los Angeles – New multi-media production company Iron Sink Media is launching a ground-breaking, web-based, hybrid series/movie “Soup of The Day,” it was announced today by Scott Zakarin, one of the co-founding partners of the company.

The interactive-webisodic romantic comedy “Soup of The Day” will launch in May. The show empowers viewers to become involved with the fictional characters, played by actors from improv troupes such as The Groundlings, in three weekly 5-minute episodes over eight weeks. Through the blogs of each of the characters at MySpace.com, viewers will track the round-the-clock comments on their romantic relationships, as well as the on-air stylings of the sexy host of a new Internet video news program now being broadcast at MissileBlast.com.

At the end of its run, “Soup of The Day” will be re-edited with alternate, unrated scenes into a feature length movie to be released on DVD, with hours of additional bonus features.

(Edit: No TV. No theatrical. Profitable)

Online viewer comments will influence the outcome for handsome 28 year-old photographer Brandon Craig, by helping him navigate his way through every man’s fantasy that is also every man’s worst nightmare: simultaneous, heated monogamous relationships with three spectacular young women.

The problem is the certain explosive reaction from the other two girlfriends when he finally chooses one of them.

Will it be his Monday girlfriend Monique, his beautiful but blunt, powerful and demanding boss who will fire him; his Wednesday girlfriend Wendy, a tough and sexy undercover cop who will kick his butt; or his Friday girlfriend Franki, the good-humored host of MissileBlast.com and passionate lover who is so emotionally fragile that a break-up could spark her to severely injure herself. The ending has yet to be written.

Chipping in to offer unsolicited (and often inappropriate) advice to Brandon are his buddies Todd and Rob. At their favorite restaurant/watering hole -- where the favorite soup of the day is so much easier to manage -- Brandon explains to them exactly how he got into this predicament, seen in the “pre-episode” on May 8.

“Soup of The Day” stars Catherine Reitman (Comedy Central’s “David Spade’s Showbiz Report”) as Monique, Patty Wortham (“Closing Escrow”) as Wendy, Tina Molina (“The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story”) as Franki, Jon Crowley (Happy Madison Productions’ “Gay Robot”) as Brandon, Brian Palermo (Bravo’s “Significant Others”) as Todd and Rob Cesternino (“Survivor”).

“Soup of the Day” is served free at SoupMovie.com and the Web’s most popular video destinations, MySpace.com, YouTube.com, and as a free subscription podcast at iTunes.com.

Unfinished pre-episode footage can be viewed online at the following SoupMovie.com.

Produced by Iron Sink Media partners Paul S. Camuso, Rob Cesternino, Scott Hettrick and
Rich Tackenberg, “Soup of The Day” is directed by Zakarin and the show’s “scenarioists” are Zakarin and Cesternino. The executive producers of “Soup of The Day” are Christopher Berube, Paul E. & Marie Camuso, Mark Furia, Christian Gfatter, and Kathy Gfatter.

An online pioneer, Zakarin was the creator of the first episodic Internet serial in 1995, “The Spot,” and a partner with Tackenberg and Brandon Tartikoff in AOL’s original production studio in the late 1990s called Entertainment Asylum.

Zakarin says, “Technology allows mass audiences to enjoy a new form of programming in multiple formats. You can become involved with the “Soup of The Day” characters on your computer or iPod now -- influencing their story for the DVD movie version coming this summer.”

Zakarin was one of the producers of the award-winning “Comic Book: The Movie” and he and Cesternino were producers with Tackenberg as executive producer on the reality series “Kill Reality” for E! Entertainment Television, which resulted in the feature-length DVD movie “Scorned,” released to retailers in April by Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(Edit: Note the following mandate for the company)

About Iron Sink Media

Founded in 2006, Los Angeles-based Iron Sink Media produces original programming for multiple formats, and is developing distribution of original and third-party content on the Internet and DVD.
-----------------------------------------------
As stated above, Scott Zakarin is one of the guys behind Comic Book: The Movie, and I had the pleasure of writing their presentation at the 2005 DVD Exclusive Awards Show. Scott Hettrick was the producer of that show and the former Editor-in-Chief of DVD Exclusive and Video Business. I wonder if the origins of this business venture started there?
So if there's something you have percolating in your mind (and on the page) and you aren't quite sure how to realize its potential. Take a minute and rethink it in light of the above - a serial that's later edited as a feature with extras. Also factor in the Myspace pages, maybe comic book webpages and wiki metacontent and you begin to build a universe to call your own.
Hmmm....
Anyway, let the DISContent begin. I look forward to hearing your commentary.

85 comments:

Christopher Sharpe said...

I love it. This is actually how SEX MACHINE got started. We were going to do it as a web series and then bring it out re-edited as a feature with bonus nudity and violence for the paying customers.

Bill Cunningham said...

Chris -

Why don't you send us the links to the Myspace pages you have? I'm sure people will want to check out more examples of what we're discussing here...

DecoderRing said...

You never know what's going to catch the imagination, but if this one flies, it's in a good position, as they've got lots and lots of what people love most: extra stuff

Increasingly there are so many ways to reach an audience with different kinds of stories that it becomes impossible for a small group of people to control. And that's why its brown trousers time in many a boardroom, my friends.

Neal Romanek said...

Thanks for bringing up the topic, Bill.

I myself will continue to write spec screenplays and try to sell them to an industry that doesn't need or want them.

But in the meantime - weary as I am of begging other people to give me the opportunity to do what I want - I'm doing the rabbit + crow podcasts (stand by for shameless self-promotion) which are short movies without moving images, and the rabbit + crow blog (which will start incorporating more fiction), and my wife has been trying to talk me out of starting an episodic online novel (but I'm thinking of just doing it behind her back).

There is almost no reason not to take your material directly to your audience any more. And your audience is gigantic - anyone with a computer (which is most people in the industrialized countries at virtually every hour of the day - compete with that Multiplex!). If you are going to do a full on motion picture adaptation of the entire American Civil War that emphasizes performances by famous movie stars, you MAY need institutional backing. But even then...who knows?

I posted about this a while back on the r+c blog with an analysis of Old Hollywood vs. The New Motion Picture. Yo, check it:

http://rabbitandcrow.blogspot.com/2006/04/hollywood-obituary.html

Neal Romanek said...

Lemme try to post that URL again for the r+c blog post:

Hollywood Obituary

Bill Cunningham said...

Thanks Neal!

Christopher Sharpe said...

We've used MySpace to promote in a few different ways.

One is setting up a MySpace account for the main character in the movie:

http://www.myspace.com/sexmachinefrank

This actually really helped when promoting a local screening of the movie.

Also, our main MySpace profile is here:

http://www.myspace.com/asphaltplanet

This is more of a general promotion page.

But it's amazing the amount of traffic you can generate from MySpace. I'm definitely going to be exploiting it even more in the future as well as staying on the alert for upcoming web technology that can be used for promotion.

Curt said...

Here's something I happened across in a bookstore just yesterday. Don't know why I haven't heard of it before, but it looks pretty cool! I'll probably buy it sooner or later, cash permitting.

Chopped Nuts said...

The question of course comes down to promotion, which, really, is the crux of studio backing in the first place. Even big-name stars are really just a form of advertising (this movie must be cool because Samuel L. Jackson is in it). With more people putting out content like this, we'll have something akin to the slush pile of scripts that development execs end up with - there's good stuff in there, but are viewers going to burn out before they find it?

On a side note, will itunes charge for putting for-profit stuff like this in their listings?

Bill Cunningham said...

I remember John Rogers talking about Monster Island. I think there's sequels too if I'm not mistaken.

great concept. Great execution.

love the logo.

Kelly J. Compeau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neal Romanek said...

That's a great point of Daniel's: When the market is saturated, how do you end up sorting the good from the bad?

The instant access aspects of the internet help a lot certainly. If all studio execs (or readers) had instant access to all scripts equally. It would flood them even further, however I think it would allow the cream to accelerate to the top more quickly as well. Having easy access allows you to just as easily and quickly drop the bad stuff too.

Bill Cunningham said...

Neal - I agree that instant access will allow you to quickly weed out the chaff from the wheat. There will also be a rise in portals, that by their nature and branding will be gatekeepers of sorts.

Grubber said...

That's a great point of Daniel's: When the market is saturated, how do you end up sorting the good from the bad?

I agree to a point, and I think Bill has a valid point there about portals and gatekeepers, but also, if you look at what becomes wildly popular on the net, as a very easy example lets take the Star Wars Kid....good(or funny) things travel fast.

Word of mouth of good quality products would spread like wildfire I imagine, so you could build a fanbase quite quickly.

Especially if the people who learn about it can download it immediately, instead of waiting until next week to see the second episode, and then waiting again to see the first episode on DVD months or years later.

You could have a solid following in a matter of days, let alone weeks. I do feel sorry that the days of allowing shows a season or two, to find their feet, or gather a following is going, if not gone forever.

cheers
Dave

DecoderRing said...

The evangelical zeal with which surfers spread the word on their favorite finds helps a lot too... there are two kinds of people; those who haven't seen Homestar Runner and those who are about to tell them about it...

wcdixon said...

new to these blog sites and this serial/web series stuff...can someone recommend some good/successful? examples of such product?

Bill Cunningham said...

There's a lot of stuff being tried on Youtube.com - whether that means it's good or not is of course, up to you.

Warren Leonard at Screenwritinglife.com said last night that there is a soap at Harvard that is broadcast every day over the web.

In terms of serials - you can go to youtube, google video, internet archive and others and type in "serials" and look at several of the classic serials from Republic and Monogram that have fallen into the public domain. I'm running chapters from Radar Men from the Moon right now.

Christopher Sharpe said...

This thread has gotten me thinking about some of the earlier (Web 1.0) sites that were focused on original content.

Two that I liked a lot back then were zerotv.com and heavy.com. They're still around, but not near as cool as they were.

Zerotv.com actually had a serialized web sequel to AMERICAN MOVIE. The episodes are still there, it's called MARK AND MIKE and they're still worth watching.

It's no longer on-line, but Heavy had a reality series called d.Life, that was cool because it was three people covering their lives with little cameras, but it also had drug use, nudity and fucking.

There's so much that's possible, that it makes the traditional 90 minute movie seem a little boring.

Bill Cunningham said...

Christopher I understand exactly where you're coming from, and that's the beauty of the internet. It has developed a reputation for bringing its audience an experience they won't find on tv or anywhere else.

Yes it's raw. Yes, in many ways its amateur...but as you said - it's compelling.

It will be interesting to see this convergence between traditional media and the internet. Mark Cuban has an interesting piece on his blog today about blogs v. journalism which hits on the same nerve ending.

Christopher Sharpe said...

One other thing to throw into this discussion might be the way cartoonists have use the web to build followings for their work. They give the comics away for free, then recoup their costs via merchandise, graphic novels, etc. I know it's worked out pretty cool for some of them. http://www.dieselsweeties.com might be something to think about.

Also, I'm trying to remember the internet site (web 1.0) that had a bunch of web cartoons, I think this was where UNDERCOVER BROTHER started. They also had a really cool one called ZOMBIE HIGH SCHOOL. They were Flash animated serials. This ring any bells for anybody? I think the idea was that they were doing these serials, then they would bring out a DVD and ideally get the concepts picked up for feature films/television. I think another series was MR. WONG.

Christopher Sharpe said...

Nevermind, I found the site I was thinking of. http://www.icebox.com. It was much more of a presence back in the day because they were releasing new episodes on a weekly basis.

Bill Cunningham said...

Web 1.0 (thanks for the nom de plume there!) had a problem of thinking that everything was worthy of distribution. Now with Web 2.0 - broadband, we know that the good stuff will rise to the top and the bad stuff will die off.

The big difference is that we now know we have to make money at this in order for it to work. We also have more tools at our disposal to help the look of our product.

My big hook with this is the idea of taking the same programming and using it twice.

Christopher Sharpe said...

One other thing I've been thinkig about... television shows do really well on DVD.

If you had a show/serial/whatever that built up a following for on-line, it seems like it could potentially do really great things for its eventual DVD release.

Of course, the catch is... it would have to be GOOD. Your ability to trick people through box art and a catchy title might be diminished.

Bill Cunningham said...

Oh ye of little faith...

The point would be that Good = Entertaining, right?

So yes, it would by necessity have to be entertaining and addictive, but that's half the fun don't you think?

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