Jill Golick's Story2OH.

Web Creators Show and Tell

I'll admit, as a shameless fan of ABC's LOST, most of my Wednesday evenings are spent huddled in front of my TV, held rapt with attention, and yet, driven utterly insane by the show's convoluted plot. That being said, I consider it a good thing that I opted out of the confusion this Wednesday, choosing instead to attend the Web Creator's Show and Tell.

Held at the Camera Lounge, a lovely lounge, bar and screening venue on Queen Street West, the Web Creator's Show and Tell is but one of the regular monthly screenings put on by members of the Writer's Guild of Canada. Previous showings have included such popular television series' as Being Erica and Flashpoint, and the environment is incredibly well suited for networking with the writer's that make these shows possible.

While in the past, screenings have dealt mainly with content destined for traditional broadcast, Wednesday proved particularly intriguing, with its focus on online content. Jill Golick, Scott Albert, Evan Georgiades and Robert Mills spent the evening screening their own web-destined content, and discussing the tips and troubles surrounding the launch of an online series.

The fact that discussions and screenings like these are being held with increasing regularity may be a sign that online video has finally begun to enter the public eye. Big name writers like Joss Whedon have only perpetuated this trend, with last year's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog one of the more notable web-based series' to see release in recent years.

What's interesting about shooting for an internet audience is that the process is very much a departure from what you'd encounter with traditional telelvision. Scott Albert said it best when he explained that online content "really has to have the satisfaction of an entire television show" yet within a considerably smaller time frame.

Albert used his dark-office comedy Team Leader to demonstrate how his series was ultimately condensed into 12 webisodes - all less than ten minutes.

"The structure is more fragmented than what we're used to, kind of like channel surfing, but on the net," noted Robert Mills. Yet, "the same dramatic arc has to hold, as with anything, and still include a beginning, middle and end."

But, this channel surfing mentality - internet ADD, as some have coined it - has problems of its own, as some have pointed out. Evan Georgiades' Meta-Faith, for example, is more than just an online video presentation, but an online community intended to encourage as much user participation and interaction as possible. What has proved difficult is not only driving, but maintaining an audience - a fact that not only Georgiades, but other writers have noticed as well.

It's not only building an audience, but making money in the process that has proved challenging for writers. Unlike the world of broadcast, there is one very important thing which those producing online lack - funding. Jill Golick and Mills have funded their previous web creations almost entirely out of pocket, mainly because the majority of publishers and distributors have yet to see any merits in the online world. Coupled with the prevailing notion that the Internet is a bastion for free content and material, writers and producers are finding themselves in a particularly difficult position when searching for income online.

There are, of course, ways to mitigate such issues, but whether any one solution works for sure is anyone's guess. Golick's most recent production, a tween-focused series called Hailey Hacks, releases a shortened video for free online, and an extended, paid-for version for viewing elsewhere. Mills, in bringing his broadcast-born series Ruffus the Dog online, looks not to make money from the series itself, but from the merchandising surrounding it.

While there's no doubt that quality content exists online, whether any of these approaches will prove effective is anyone's guess; exactly what's needed to build an audience, and yet still be financially successful, is still very much up in the air.

Laughed Albert, "I don't think any of us thought, 'how can we make money? I know - internet videos!'"

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