In the last year I’ve become a massive fan of web series – they’re great to watch in bite sized pieces: on the train, on your phone at lunch, while waiting for ads on tv to finish, on the toilet (is that just me? oooooook, then).
Web series are also a great way for writers, directors and filmmakers generally to show what they can do, on a limited budget (or sometimes on a big budget). Those of us who like writing shortform (ie TV rather than feature film), have a way to get noticed by networks – it’s well-known by now that shows such as Broad City, Animals, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and now High Maintenance, all started as web series before being picked up by the likes of HBO, Comedy Central and FX.
There are quite a few websites featuring web series, as well as courses and books on the subject to check out, which I’ll detail in another post. For now I’ll list a few of the series I’ve enjoyed and can recommend.
Just a few disclaimers:
I have to say, I’m heartily SICK of web series about twenty-somethings navigating their way towards adulthood – yes, their blurbs always say ‘navigating’, like it’s oh-so-hard, when we know it’s the bloody easiest time of your life (finances notwithstanding). You have your youthful good looks, ambition and self-belief to burn, no end of scholarships, competitions and funds to apply for that are under 30’s only, precious little attachments to take you away from your self-absorbed life and…where was I? No, I’m not a bitter old woman…not me.
ANYHOO…the other category I hate is ACTORS playing out-of-work ACTORS! Yes, we know, that’s why you’re doing a web series, cos you can’t get work and you need to elevate yourself above the masses and BE SEEN. I know several of these series have won awards, yadda, yadda, but if I have to see another drop-dead-gorgeous, perky, tiny, twenty-something bemoan her or his life, I will, like, literally throw up in my mouth. No, still not bitter.
Umm, I’m also a little over series set in LA or Brooklyn. Like, WAY over them. But still, sometimes a really funny or touching one comes along…and I cast my bitter old woman biases aside. (I’m sure if I lived there, I wouldn’t be able to get enough…and there’s no casting aspersions on great festivals like LA Webfest or Brooklyn Webfest).
That said, I welcome more from other cities of the US and the rest of the world. (Are there any set in Cuba? Helsinki? Vladivostok? Wagga Wagga?)
There are getting to be more series about people in their 40’s similarly trying to find their place in life…obvs at my stage of life I quite like these, even when combined with the living in Brooklyn trend. Check out 47 Secrets To A Younger You, if you’re nearing midlife and like stories reflecting your demographic 🙂 Or F to 7th (which has been picked up by Showtime).
The sharehouse trope – well, I’m writing a series myself on that – but there has to be a twist for it to work. Or at least really memorable characters butting up against each other in awkward/hilarious ways. See some of these below.
Here are some of my favourites from the past few years, as well as some new ones that aren’t well known yet but have potential. Yes, a lot are comedies – because that’s my fave genre. Shaddup and watch them.
One of my faves EVER, it follows un-named pot dealer (known only as ‘the guy’) as he responds to calls from his client base across Brooklyn & Manhattan. Each ep there is someone new with their own problem/s to work through – and there’s always a fantastic plot twist or revelation that just shines a light on what it is to be human. A must see.
The Katering Show
Another amazeballs show which parodies cooking shows on TV (I could possibly have included it with the mockumentaries below). As it says: “The journey of an intolerable foodie and a food intolerant”. What a logline! Hosted by the 2 Kates, McLennan is the effervescent (and deluded one), while McCartney is the deadpan, sarcastic one. It’s won awards everywhere, has a massive following, and Series 2 went to ABC iview. And it’s Australian. Watch it!
Meanwhile, On Earth
Another aussie comedy, this one’s from NIck Boshier, famous (in Oz, at least) for being Trent from Punchy (see mockumentaries below), and collaborator with Christiaan Van Vuuren of Bondi-Hipsters in the series Soul Mates.
Yep…another aussie series, this time set in Melbourne, about a try-hard in dance therapy. She’s a loveable loser who most of us will be able to relate to, even if the new age mantra/crystals/totem-animal stuff just seems whackadoodle. Each ep is fairly self-contained, each with its own theme, and each very funny. Oh, and the team is predominantly female – go sisters! Anyhoo, have a watch.
A series from LA with a different story each ep…but all on the theme of being stuck in traffic. Interesting combo of film and illustration – each ep is filmed in a car, with the surrounding traffic jam a 2d illustrated backdrop. Not the funniest ever, but it shows what can be filmed on a limited budget and one set. The attempt at English accents is abysmal in this ep, but I like the depiction of up-themselves rock musos:
A Shared House
A new aussie series about…you guessed it. Interesting mismatched characters share a house, and although there are occasionally over-long monologues, the characters are quirky and the laughs are there. Series 2 will be filmed soon (resulting from a successful Pozible campaign).
Yet another, but very different sharehouse series, in the film noir genre. This is a sharehouse full of flying bullets, steamy looks, and split bills. A hard-boiled detective, sultry femme-fatale, and a sentimental Russian thug share a house in present day suburbia. They would have killed one another already, but the dead don’t pay the rent.
Another share-house comedy – except the house is a tent, and the place and time is convict-era settlement at Sydney Cove, 1788. From the director of Wilfred, the series is currently in post-production, but for now, we have the very amusing trailer.
(An interview with the writers will be coming up on the blog soon too).
Big Country Blues
I don’t even like country music, but I love this drama about Grayson ‘Big Country’ Ricker chasing his country music dreams to Nashville. So well written and performed, with very listenable music that you see it going straight to TV. Although it hasn’t :/
This lesbian drama series set in Sydney’s Inner West has a massive fan base throughout the world, and is continuing to win awards, the most recent being LA Webfest. Flawed characters crash through life (and look hot doing it!) Look for the shots of King St Newtown, as well as bars and coffee shops in Marrickville and Erskineville.
Oh You Pretty Things
Eavesdrop on the lives of young things in the LA indie music and fashion scenes (like a less pretentious Entourage) – at least they’re not actors. Reviews were divided, but hey, it’s great to look at – and was filmed in Silver Lake and Echo Park…not the ubiquitous Hollywood.
An aussie sci-fi series from Deadhouse Films that’s been garnering loads of awards at various festivals…including the recent LA Webfest. The discovery of a derelict ship in a remote space station – with its entire crew murdered, but its cargo, nine asylum seekers, alive – sets off a chain of events that threatens humanity. It was screened on Foxtel’s SyFy channel last month… stay tuned for more great Sci-fi from these guys.
A high concept, full-throttle thriller that imagines a world where technology can literally take humanity offline. Originally in small snippets, it’s incredibly bingeable, and has been edited into a movie (if you have a spare 3 hours).
This is like the poster child for sci-fi/comedy web series, created by gamer and actress Felicia Day (of Supernatural, Eureka and Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog).
The show started in 2007, solely supported by fans through Paypal, before Kickstarter was created. From seasons 2-5 the show was sponsored by Xbox before ending its run on YouTube in 2012 with the final season 6.
The Away Mission
With a hint of Red Dwarf, a dash of Star Trek and a pan to the face of Bottom… The Away Mission is one of the silliest web series about two men killing time on a remote planet that you’ll ever find. I just love the British humour.
SOS: Save Our Skins
SOS: Save Our Skins is the tale of two hapless British geeks who wake up in New York City only to find that the entire human race has vanished.
Archer meets Star Wars! Well, Archer on a space-ship anyway. This one has yet to release a full episode, but the teaser looks great, as does the website! With actors well known in web series and geek circles (like The Guild, Ash vs Evil Dead, Geek & Sundry), a lot of thought and pre-production has gone into this by the Canadian creators. As long as they continue to find their own voice, this will be an absolute corker of a series.
The misadventures of a family of East End characters, led by brothers Doug and Den, who find it hard to leave their old ways behind as they make a new life in Essex. Those who loved the series Monkey Dust some years back will love this too. Cheeky!!
There’s so much good aussie content in this category that I’ll stick with it.
Trent from Punchy
This hoax was so good (back in 2008), people were buying that Trent, an alleged ice-head from Punchbowl in Sydney’s south west, was real. The videos went viral, with the first one at over 7 million views now. News articles were written about the phenomenon, and he even ended up on a Houses episode on SBS on demand. Take a look, ay.
These New South Whales
Another one based around Newtown, Sydney. A real life hardcore band plays a punk band trying to make it, despite being purportedly not very good. No-one interviewed in the series has much good to say about them. Look for gratuitous references to Newtown and inner west pubs like the Marly or the Lansdowne (alas no longer with us). Also black tape on their nips. “Dump the shit!”
Streets of Sydney
Each ep in this series satirises the people living in the area being parodied that week. Of course, I first had to watch Episode 8: Inner West (although, I have to say Newtown is NOT known as Little Melbourne…who came up with that?) The stereotypes are spot on…and this ep shares a lot of Portlandia-like characteristics.
But enough of other people’s work. Say you want information and inspiration to inform your OWN work, or an ongoing source of new web series coming out. Here are some great places to check out new web series, or info for web content creators:
Tubefilter is the curator of online video, with plenty of very useful resources, especially the Indie Spotlight section. The site covers sooo much, from industry news, to web series reviews, to related events, and one heck of an Awards Show (you may have heard of the Streamy Awards?). You can’t afford not to read it if you want to create online content.
Is the premier US site dedicated to web series. As the site says, it’s “an online community dedicated to transmedia & web series creators. Our mission is to empower web creators with an ability to cultivate audiences, improve the quality of their content and expand their careers”. Especially check out Web Series Wednesdays, and it’s fairly new online Snobby Robot magazine.
Everything film and TV related, as well as awards news, reviews, business news, interviews…the Web Series category is especially helpful.
A webseries magazine that provides coverage of web festivals and award shows from across the globe, podcasts with brilliant creative-types and in-depth features and reviews.
Tangled Web We Watch
While no longer updated, TTWWW was a blog for web series creators and consumers and is a great starting point for anyone new to the web series scene. From depiction of the main types of series, to reviews, interviews with creators and others in the biz, festival listings and even a resource listing of indie production companies, directors, DOPs, soundies etc..
Newly discovered by me, it is a blog by Larry Brody about…you guessed it, but also has links to courses, competitions, and other resources. It has a Web Series category that shares the best new series, as well as articles on the subject, yoinked from Snobby Robot and the like.
Indie Series Network
The Indie Series Network is a nonprofit community of professional artists. They champion the web series as a uniquely collaborative and empowering medium of creative expression with the potential to entertain, educate, enlighten and—ultimately—elevate the human experience. Crikey! They also have Web Series of the Week, and Annual Indie Series Awards. Another one to bookmark.
The Comedy Crowd
UK based, this is a good site for comedy in general, but there is a Web Series category, a section for Creators’ Stories which is very inspirational, an Opportunities and Competitions section, and a Feedback Panel which is great for early career writers and comedians.
That’s more than enough to go on with, I’m sure! What are some of YOUR favourite web series? Are you making one yourself? Are there any websites I’ve missed you’d like to recommend? Do drop a line below.