If Kafka had a YouTube (i)Channel

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You know you’ve found compelling online video when a new viral serial prompts you to amend your NetFlix queue. Halfway through episode eight I paused iChannel and tabbed over and moved Orson Welles’s The Trial to the top of my queue. Two hours of capitulating Anthony Perkins, eight more iChannel vignettes, and some extensive Wikipediaing of “Kafka” later I totally understand I., iChannel’s reluctant anti-hero.

Launched six months ago, the interactive fiction show iChannel is the life of I.. The character I. is a twenty-something year grad student who, up until November 15, 2006, led a life not worth watching. I. suddenly finds his life is being vlogged (episode embedded above). He is lifecasting, but he does not want to be lifecasting.

“We’re making what’s voluntary on YouTube involuntary,” explained writer/director Craig DiFolco in a phone interview.

The Kafkaesque series is the brainchild of Craig DiFolco, a New York filmmaker, and actor Michael Izquierdo. “We actually live in the same building,” DiFolco admitted.

Beautifully shot and thoughtfully acted, the show’s careful pacing and short episode are key to its success. “We wanted to do something that had more immediacy. And that’s the great thing about the internet.”

I., followed everywhere by his suasive audience, is coming to grips with his newfound chat-enabled popularity. Months before Justin.tv attempted to answer live texts from his viewers, I. was reading YouTube comments sent to him from real viewers (albeit, not live) on his Treo.

“The great thing has been the interaction with the audience,” a sincere DiFolco explained. “We write the show week to week and didn’t know where is was going at first.” Much of I.’s personal development takes place at the behest of commentary sent in by YouTube viewers and displayed as personal text messages to I. in the following episode. “The audiences on YouTube are just really creative and collaborative.”

So when Izquierdo got an acting job in California, very far from the show’s base in New York City, the filmmaker went with a viewer’s comment and shot several episodes in California, not disrupting the show’s flow at all. In recognition of the importance its subscribers, commenters, and responders, iChannel put together a Truman Show-inspired thank you video.

The interactive viewers are critical to iChannel’s success, and the little digital monkey will only keep dancing if people post and watch. “We try to end the episodes with some reason to come back and some reason to comment.” DiFolco hinted that the next episode will be out sometime this weekend (maybe) with a special guest star.

If you aren’t caught up, pull out your cockroach suit, cozy up to your laptop, and make I.’s life worth watching. Send him a message.

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