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Summary:

Updated with comment from Crackle: For a few months now, plenty of buzz has been circulating about the Crackle-produced The Bannen Way, a gritty noir web series created by Mark Gantt and Jesse Warren that was set to launch on Jan. 6 (a date proudly plastered […]

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Updated with comment from Crackle: For a few months now, plenty of buzz has been circulating about the Crackle-produced The Bannen Way, a gritty noir web series created by Mark Gantt and Jesse Warren that was set to launch on Jan. 6 (a date proudly plastered on the official site). That’s a pretty easy date to remember — the first week in January. So color me surprised when today I got a tip that the first three episodes of the series were live on Sony’s web video portal.

Screw-up at Sony HQ — or a sneaky effort to ensure that the show is eligible for the 2nd annual Streamy Awards (which require that at least three episodes be released during the previous calendar year)? Well, we’re still waiting on comment from Crackle, so there’s no official answer yet. In the meantime, though, let’s watch some web video! Update: A representative from Crackle confirmed via email this afternoon that making Bannen Way eligible for Streamys consideration was a factor in the decision to release the show early.

First things first: Bannen Way is compellingly made and well-written, with a knack for drawing the viewer into its world of cards, sex, addiction, and high-stakes larceny. Neal Bannen (Gantt), an inveterate gambler and crook, is broke and in debt to the wrong people — from the very beginning, he admits, he’s “f—ed” — and while he’s not necessarily the most likable hero (something about his consummate smugness makes it hard for him to generate much empathy), his grandfather’s guidelines for life — the titular “Way” — make for a nice framing device.

According to the creators, who spoke at a recent Tubefilter meetup, the shooting schedule was insanely tight, but the lack of time doesn’t show. It’s a tightly paced ride, and the acting — especially Michael Ironside (in his second web video project this year) as a hard-edged police chief with a vested interest in Neal’s well-being — is uniformly professional and polished.

However, stylistically, Warren and Gantt owe Guy Ritchie at least a nice thank you; Bannen Way‘s eclectic mix of gangsters, scoundrels and attractive ladies (some of whom are even introduced with distinctive freeze-frame title cards) seem pulled directly from an American remake of Snatch. The creators have brought some individual flair to the proceedings, and the level of production is impressive for web content, but if you’ve seen more than one gangster film in the last two decades, you won’t be overwhelmed by The Bannen Way‘s originality, and you might even grow bored at times of how derivative certain elements are. For example, in case you were wondering, the guys seem to have a thing for large-breasted brunettes, as Neal flirts or has sex with at least three different ones in the first three episodes. Blondes and redheads need not apply.

Bannen Way, much like Angel of Death (Crackle’s big action smash from last year) was filmed essentially as an independent feature, and after premiering online will eventually be released on DVD as a full-length film. It’s a smart way for Sony to get its money back, but losing the novelty of being a web series will mean that Bannen Way will be just another crime caper on the shelves at Blockbuster — and not the most novel or inventive of its genre.

  1. Okay. This early release is such a disservice to the indie dramatic shows that worked all year to get their seasons out and finished only to then drop a $700,000 studio show three days before the end of the year.

    It presents itself as a web series in the US and is sold as a television show for millions by a major studio in the rest of the world. Doing this right now is not a good thing for the independent web community. I donā€™t have a horse in this race (drama category), but I know people who do. Who do you think is going to win a Streamy for drama now? And you know that most of the good but unknown actors in the guest star category will be crushed by a studio PR machine backing a celebrity actor.

    Is the point of the Streamys to make the world aware of Robert Forster and Sony or good independent web productions?

    Its timing is great for them. Not all of us. Cant they just win everything in drama next year when the rest of their season finishes? If you release the first 15 minutes of Iron Man 2 right now can it win something in the Oscars or should it be judged as a whole in the next year that it completes the story? This has nothing to do with the quality of the show ā€” its great, it should be ā€” the point is the timing and the bully factor.

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  2. At least Crackle was up front about the early-release decision. Honestly, there is some big big content up next year that is going to be pretty hard to go up against (LXD and The Mercury Men just to name a couple…not to mention hopefully fingers crossed a second season of Compulsions) so I can see why they’d want to make a run of it this year.

    Crackle being transparent about their decision now puts it in the Academy’s hands to decide whether to reward this action or not. In the end, it should be the content that is judged but it’s challenging to reward an entire series based on just the first three episodes and look past months and months of discussion and buzz, which sounds like is one of Tom’s major complaints.

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    1. It is only one part of my opinion, yes Jenni.

      It’s never just about the content in this, it’s all the mechanisms that get content there to be judged.

      It’s Sony deciding to spend… oh (I am making up numbers sure, but they are numbers very do-able for a Sony) lets drop $40,000 to $60,000k on an “awareness” campaign for the Streamys for this 3 episode / 3 day before the end of the year entry. That also helps the Streamys too sure, but help us indie producers?

      Not really unless you parlay losing to a studio into a win as a self-financed individual or group of individuals who were at least able to get nominated.

      Whereas lets say Bernie Su could personally afford $1000 for Compulsions campaign for awareness to get the word out and add the man hours for free, then he and everyone else who did whole dramatic seasons this year are up against a studio influence pushing an incomplete run of the show they want to sell this coming year and submit as a finished season for the third award season, which is why they dont want to wait to be elligible,

      So with offers of the promise of future paying work to those along the way, agents really pushing and calling in favors for their actors, writers and creators on Bannen Way, (most of us to not have powerful agents picking up the phone and saying you need to look at this series or any agent pushing for us in this awards show) with this last minute bid from Sony you have legal departments, PR depts., etc, ALL pushing to make it happen for them against a few grass roots people with twitter accounts. Challenging.

      They can rightfully say “You’re not going to invite previously award winning/nominated actors like Robert Forster, Michael Lerner or Michael Ironside to your web awards show and not give it to him are you? ARE YOU?” Give it to Craig who? What agency is he with? No, no. thats not going to be news like us winning and we’ve leveraged these names in foreign markets. So, no, Craig I am sure hes great but no. Hope I am SO wrong.

      When Joel Bryant won last year in drama after Rosario, Neil Patrick, name, name, etc, etc.. I was SO happy because here’s a guy who does the work for years, trying, taking it, and comes up from struggling to be seen and do what he loves for pay without all the support and hype, and MOST import him winning means something to him and will mean something to those of us laboring in obscurity.

      I venture Joel Bryant was 1 million times more happy, grateful and impacted career-wise by winning a Streamy than Michael Ironside or Michael Lerner will be if they win or even know the Streamys exist. (they might really love winning and are sitting twittering all day for votes but…I doubt it)

      Any of us regular people would be affected more. It would mean the world to me. I never won anything before so yeah, it would be great to have years of trying without help acknowledged. That’s being candid and intellectually honest.

      No, Sony vs Taryn O’Neill and Stephanie Thorpe does not sound like it will just be about the content. Or a fair fight.

      It’s worth the major studios time because saying it won something ups the price to those in their network of international and domestic buyers that already are lined up to buy the show/film after it is “a web series.” It’s slick, expensive and looks like a TV show. Do you want your beautiful passion project shot for free with friends that is unlike anything a studio would greenlight up against that?

      Even if its greater artistically and in ambition than this show it can’t compete. There will be someone hired to make sure the interviewers on the red carpet know who they all are on that studio show and interview them because that will make the news not us.

      It is VERY important for a studio investing money in “product” to legitimize oversees distribution by a Streamy to cross platform the movies and foreign television sales of “award winning” US shown web series so they kind of need this to happen. Transparent what they are doing? YES.

      Let’s go ahead and get three episodes in so we have the “win” we already printed on the posters for the Asia market.

      Well now you and I can forget getting to the next level with some recognition as equals unless we beg to work for a studio on a project they say its okay for us to do, because if its just a show you pay for because your passionate to see it and get it out then your gonna be competing against a major corp for attention and votes and lose every time.

      A little film from a studio can go up against a big budget film and win something because though the film might be small or personal the mechanism that distributes it and gets it awards is the same deep pocketed one that the big budget film has got. You spend 10 mil on an Oscar campaign for The English Patient, fine but we spend 10 mil on Little Miss Sunshine (more than the films budget say) because a studio released it then it becomes just about the content because big or small the playing field is leveled by release times (the movies have to be complete not the first few minutes, and released a certain time) but the studios even the chances.

      If Little Miss Sunshine were made in my back yard and on my credit card, no “names” just equally good actors and with nothing more to spend after that well…

      A show puts out 23 episodes of a hard fought to make beautiful drama and 3 days before the end of the year a major studio drops the minimum 3 required to double dip this year and next year so the studio can sell it oversees as traditional television and a film as “the Award Winning Series” to recoup the 700,000 they have spent on name actors and production. Yes, thats good business IF thats what the Streamys are now about. I DO NOT think the guys who started the Streamys are about that AT ALL. They have integrity and were supporting us the little guys and the web community.

      If you can get a deal with Sony or a studio run with it, I would (or will if they aren’t too pissed that I have an opinion) but I would never say its keeping me on the same playing field as Dirty Bomb Diaries. That’s an insult to their hard work without resources.

      If that is what our own awards show all about already then we personally are in deep trouble because Safety Geeks and Invention have NO money to spend on advertising, no actors agents or producers agents calling “the right people” on the shows creators and actors behalf, no offers of show sponsorship and future jobs with a major studio later or a PR campaign so regardless of the quality of the work we do… it forever “hangs in the closet” appreciated by the few thousand people we can reach personally cause something else has been anointed to be sold and win.

      Let’s see how it goes down. If I’m wrong, I’ll be delighted and intellectually honest about it.

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  3. This is gonna totally add fuel to Tom’s fire, but Joel didn’t win the Streamy last year. It was won by Alessandro Juliani of the BSG series, and the SyFy Machine. =)

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    1. Ok correction was nominated.

      Apologies for error. Still happy for him as we started out performing live in 1998 at The Comedy Store doing sketch at 12 midnight in the main room and working it ever sense.

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      1. sorry sense = since.

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  4. Tom, I agree with you 100%. Anyone who remembers the stunts Sony pulled to win the video game turf wars of the late 90’s knows that this is not an isolated incident. They do things like this for one reason and one reason only; to crush their competition before they get a chance to swing back.

    There are some people who are supporting them for this but you have to look past your next potential job and look at the bigger picture here. If Big Media is allowed to basically crush all of us, we are NOT going to benefit from this. They will simply turn around and hire their cronies and celebs for future projects, NOT us whether we supported them or not.

    Again Tom, I’m with ya!

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    1. Yes. I remember the video turf struggles and how they were played out a friend of mine is a video game designer. I have stories.

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  5. I think many people are losing sight (and diminishing) the spirit behind the Streamy Awards, and the foundation upon which they were founded — to recognize and honor quality web content. Does the fact that ‘The Bannen Way’ secured studio backing mitigate their hard work or somehow make them undeserving of recognition? Absolutely not. Mark and Jesse invested their time, money and passion into creating their art, just as all of the other content creators have who are vying for nominations. Just because they are eligible, doesn’t guarantee them a win — or even a nom — so I don’t think it’s worth all of this fuss, which undermines the fabric of a community that should be invested in the success of the ENTIRE web TV category as it will ultimately benefit everyone in the long-term. And while I’m confident that Sony isn’t putting anywhere near $40-60k into promotions, any efforts they do put forth also elevate visibility for web series overall. So, let them spend their money, which will likely expand the reach for your Streamy-submitted series as well.

    One of the core tenets of indie work is that it is free of the politics of the Hollywood machine, and creates a system where the work is paramount, not hidden agendas or subversion. In-fighting amongst content creators likes this is antithetical to the entire reason people like Felicia Day and others chose to go around the system — to create something special and build new bridges for their craft to reach the masses. Does the fact that The Guild attracted funding from Microsoft now make it ineligible for Streamy recognition? Of course not (though just as absurd a thought as questioning ‘The Bannen Way’). And remember, they’ll still ultimately have to perform with only 3 episodes against those that have a full season under their belt.

    So, let’s focus on the good that comes out of even the Streamy campaigning process — the additional exposure, the fan interaction and excitement. All of that is beneficial to helping the space grow and thrive, and will open up opportunities, even if your show may not get the nomination this year. And I have been enjoying all of the creativity coming out of the process, and have even uncovered some gems I hadn’t seen.

    You’re all doing incredible work, and I’m honored to be part of an industry that is churning out Streamy-eligible content in droves. Let’s celebrate that instead of scrutinizing it. That’s the shiny new board’s job anyway! ;)

    Best of luck to everyone, and I’m excited for what is sure to be a great event!

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    1. Come on, we’re supposed to support Big Media stomping the independents just because they made a movie and chopped it up on the web and called it a series?

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      1. I don’t think Sony releasing the series to be eligible as ‘stomping the independents.’ If you had a studio-backed series that employed the same tactic, would you still have an issue with it? I suspect not. If anything, as Nick eloquently states below, this is a Streamy rules issue, so I’m simply suggesting that the community focus on that and work toward a positive common goal instead of against ‘The Bannen Way.’

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  6. This is being discussed on every site so I don’t know where to post this! NewTeeVee will do!

    My frustration is not with The Bannen Way/Sony/Mark Gantt… I commend them on what looks like an awesome series (geoblocked in Australia) – and by all means they should do what it takes to be eligible – everyone wants an award. Hell, I would have snuck out an early release if I had a series shot.

    My frustration is with the Streamy rules. I understand it is only in its second year and part of being a new organization means that they will be tinkering with the rules to figure out what works best (the Oscar nomination rules change every year).

    I personally believe that the current eligibility rules are flawed, a minimum of three episodes is a reasonable requisite but series should only be eligible if the LAST episode of the series or that season was aired in the 2009 calendar year.

    The Streamys are a celebration of storytelling on the web – they are called web SERIES not web EPISODES. The Bannen Way is one project that consists of an entire series. How can you judge the series and its ability to tell a story from the first 3 episodes? Hell you wouldn’t even get a decent look at the first act!

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    1. Excellent points, Nick, and I don’t disagree. Feedback like yours is important for the Streamy founders to hear and consider as they fine-tune the process, which as you highlighted, is only in its second year (and a huge undertaking). My comments are centered around how it’s dragging a deserving series through the debate — especially when most arguments are rooted in speculation on an outcome that has yet to occur. All they are is eligible. They’ll still need to rely on the strength of the content, which as you aptly pointed out, will mean considering an unfinished first act against completed series. Thanks for the discussion!

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      1. Agreed… slamming The Bannen Way is not warranted in this discussion. The series looks great and Mark and Jesse clearly went to a lot of effort and should be applauded for their achievement.

        Yes, I acknowledge the Streamys are new and a massive undertaking and applaud the founders and Academy for putting on the event.

        Hopefully critical discussions like these about the rules will assist the Academy in refining the selection process.

        There is obviously a glaring flaw in the rules if a series can be up for the same award twice.

        Also the question is what are web series being judged by? Three episodes or an entire series’ ability to tell a story and integrate other elements such as interactivity and social engagement (all widely acknowledged characteristics of a web series).

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  7. If it is geoblocked in Australia then is it still eligible. I mean the www is supposed to be world wide and if it is blocked then it is effectively not online world wide. This is an international awards show and that should not be acceptable.

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  8. Once a show has been released world wide then it should be eligible, but not until then because that is simply against the spirit of the WWW.

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    1. This is a totally separate issue from what has been discussed thus far. Geolocking is becoming more common with studio-backed series that aren’t willing to pay international rights (or as an effort to make additional funds by selling international rights in addition to domestic). Should the fact that a show is trying to protect itself monetarily be rounds for ineligibility? It’s worth discussing.

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      1. The www was conceived to share information around the planet. If a studio chooses to geo-lock a series for their own needs then that is their choice. However, if it has not been released world wide then technically it does not exist on the www.

        Now if a show is blocked by a national government then that would be a different issue.

        I would say that a show like Harpers Globe would become eligible once it has been fully released to the World. That way the Streamys is actually an international award and not a regional award.

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  9. I pretty much will be echoing what Nick said, but I posted on anchor cove my thoughts before he posted his here so I feel like it’s a point worth repeating. To me bashing a series is unnecessary and I have never really partook in that. But I think the issue of what should be considered is an excellent discussion point.

    So here’s my post from anchor cove, apologies to the people reading everywhere:

    I don’t necessarily think its fair & it’s not what I do, but ya know what is fair?

    I feel like a series should be judged as a whole story arc or season. Even if the voting is in February this show should technically be judged only on these 3 episodes which simply isn’t enough to go by. I’m rewatching Lost at the moment and even though the “Pilot” was brilliant television do I think it deserves an award just for that? No. It could easily have all fallen apart halfway through the first season. Another example, one of my favorite shows but had more of a cult following, Roswell. It was the highest rated pilot ever by test audiences. And it was a good show. Was it the best show ever as it’s high pilot rating should suggest? No.

    So my argument is not the “big media is evil” and more the question “How should we judge a story?” I feel like a story is much more than it’s first chapter. Took me halfway through Pride & Prejudice before I fell in love with that book. Now I’ve read it numerous times and suggested it to friends. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. There is introduction, conflict and eventually resolution. Critically stories, be they books, shows or movies, can only really be judged by how they navigate every part of a story.

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  10. I keep seeing this on Twitter about the early release of The Bannen Way for Streamy consideration… It does seem to upset people with low budget shows that want awards… my question is, why do we assume that The Bannen Way will even be nominated and win? Is the Streamy’s just gonna give awards to a show because it cost a million dollars? Well if so, then the Streamy’s means nothing to me. I personally would be much more impressed by a web series that wins an Emmy, and both the Daytime and Primetime shows give them out for Web Series… but regardless, if the Streamy’s awards The Bannen Way for anything we will wait and see, but I would question the validity of that awards show if it will only give shows like The Bannen Way and Dr. Horrible awards. It’s a lot harder to make a really good high quality web series on a shoestring then a millstack, and there are people doing it. So we can only wait and see…

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