This is the first in a series of discussions on the state of web series in the grand scheme of things, particularly the involvement of big studios and networks in web content and series. Enjoy our thoughts and contribute your own! We would love to hear what you have to say.
Can indie creators on YouTube and Vimeo truly compete with traditional media entities and digital juggernauts?
Shay: Quick answer: Not really. The internet is now king. Tastes have shifted. Shows are available on the go. Cords are getting cut. Expectedly, industry big wigs paid attention and shifted programming from the screen across from your couch, to the one on your desk and then to the one in your hand.When a thing becomes popular it also becomes profitable. While Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like have been planted on the web since their respective launches, other more established networks have cropped up in app and web form further crowding the market. It boils down to the financial state of the creators. It’s rare that an individual content creator or even a start-up production company would have the capital to promote a series in the manner that a monied network might. Enough promotion will draw eyes to content no matter the quality. Personally, I might be more prone to dig into a show promoted by the peacock network than a web series buried on YouTube. The advantage I see for indie content creators is the turnover rate for projects. While traditional series spend eons in the purgatory of development, indie content creators typically have control of the process and the product. So I say not really, because while the pockets of the content creators may not be lined with dough, innovation and the speed of uploading that content counts for something.
MJ: Can indie filmmakers compete with big studios? Isn’t this the same question? Modes of media-making – from film to television to streamable media – are constantly changing and and growing and attracting attention of greedy big-wigs. It only makes sense that big studios want to get in on easily accessible media, in this age where nearly everyone is watching their content on their phones or laptops or tablets. My answer to this question is, “…yeah.” But it really depends on what the indie content creator wants. Do they want money? Do they want likes and views? Do they want to transition from a web series to television or film? Did they make their series on a whim with friends from film school? If the ultimate goal of a creator is to eventually get spotted by a studio and gain notoriety in the industry then this kind of transition would be perfect. But for creators who feel that the powers-that-be are stealing the system away from its rightful users, it could appear to be impossible to compete. However, I’ve always found that kind of mentality to be awfully self-congratulatory. I don’t think that the internet belongs to one entity, whether it be a conglomerate of indie creators or studios. Indie series creators might have done it first but that does not imply ownership. It couldn’t possibly; Youtube and Vimeo are for anyone, they aren’t policed. As Carmen points out, indie series have some advantages (free content, more freedom, interaction with fans) and the platform is constantly changing, what with social media becoming ever more pervasive. Who knows who’s going to release the next big series? Fucking Instagram? Vine? Six second episodes, dude.
Carmen: If you were to ask me two years ago, I would have said, “Of course they can!” but now, I’m on the fence. Indie filmmakers and web series creators turned to the web as a way to present their stories to the world on limited to no budget but still manage to create complex characters and interesting storylines that are well-edited, beautifully acted and visually stunning. Indie filmmakers were the stars of the web for a few years and more and more people began to take note… especially big time producers. The same big time producers who turned their noses up and sniffed at the idea are now fully invested in doing what they previously looked down upon. And while I don’t think it was anyone’s intention to edge indie filmmakers out of the picture, with their large-scale marketing campaigns, bigger sets, larger casts and huge production scale, it kind of feels like that’s what they’re doing, purposeful or not. BUT! indie productions do have an advantage over these large-scale productions: sheer numbers. As powerful as they are, these production companies can only make but so many web series at the scale they’re making them. Let’s watch a show on Netflix about politics. Ok, what else? A show about women in prison. Ok, then what? Ummm, two Marvel shows. Ok, finished those. WHAT ELSE?? Hmm, um, here’s this show for kids? No, thanks, I just found a whole bunch of cool shows on YouTube, I’ll be over here for a while. So the big timers might have the money, but us indie folks, we got the goods. Lots and lots of goods. People will always want more, and that’s what we’re here for.