Blog Post

Camp Bloody Beach‘s Amateur Curse

Let me peel back the curtain here a little. We at NewTeeVee Station are frequently contacted by creators who want us to look at their new web projects, some of which are great, and some of which are so-so. We try and emphasize the great stuff in our coverage, mainly because it’s not polite to jump up and down on something awful — especially if it’s a series by a group of passionate amateurs who might learn from their mistakes and one day go on to produce something even better.[show=campbloodybeach size=large]

But today, I’m going take a different tack. I will be constructive with my review, but I will also be frank: Camp Bloody Beach is not good.

Comparing itself to “lonelygirl15 meets Friday the 13th meets Blair Witch,” Camp Bloody Beach uses the attractive-people-talking-into-a-camera format (I’m still not totally prepared to call it a genre) to tell the story of a Canadian summer camp being stalked by a serial killer. A more accurate description would thus be: a Friday the 13th clone, told like The Blair Witch Project, but on the Internet. And not in a particularly exciting or effective way, either.

On a technical level, Beach gets a pass because the show is supposed to look like it’s being shot by people who aren’t pros at holding a camera. But all the other usual amateur complaints apply. The writing is flat, the tone veers so wildly from comedy to horror that it never manages to be either funny or scary, and the acting, while not awful, fails to make an impression. And the attempts at interactivity pretty much boil down to just asking people to email and leave comments — though I will give them credit for replying to the haters on YouTube.

I could go on (doing a web series about summer camp in the middle of winter seems wildly incongruous, for one thing), but the fundamental problems all come down to premise and execution. What made lonelygirl15 initially compelling was that you didn’t know it was a mystery; Bree had built a small fan base before the strange circumstances of her life became more apparent. Meanwhile, every video page on the Camp Bloody Beach site (which is woefully out of date) features a header counting down how many people are dead so far — there’s no attempt to be coy about the subject matter. And what made Blair Witch Project scary was that you could tell the actors were actually scared. No one at Camp Bloody Beach seems very scared — there’s no sense of building tension, even as people start dying in larger numbers.

Beach has close to a thousand YouTube subscribers and 25,000 channel views, which isn’t bad for a production of this scale (it probably helps that they’ve been able to promote the show to lonelygirl15 fans). But there’s a lot going wrong here.

Because I promised this would be constructive, here is a tip for the makers of Camp Bloody Beach and other aspiring web series creators. The “It’s BLANK meets BLANK!” pitch arose in Hollywood because most decisions made at major studios are made by executives looking for easy ways to justify their choices, and “BLANK meets BLANK” is a way to make a multimillion-dollar project seem like a safe investment to men in suits.

But guess what, guys? You’re not making a movie in Hollywood. You’re making something for the Internet, where productions are cheap and the only suit you have to convince is the one in your closet (that is, if you’re prone to talking to your clothes). Don’t be “BLANK meets BLANK.” Go crazy. Take risks. And for the sake of all of us reviewers, who open up every unsolicited email hoping to see the next great show, please be original.

19 Responses to “Camp Bloody Beach‘s Amateur Curse”

  1. DaveandTom

    I agree ayp7 our show Safety Geeks: SVI is very good to us, to many reviewers and esp to its’ large audience but there are some who just wont like it, don’t get the humor, incorrectly think something is wrong with it because it’s just not done the way someone else thinks its should be…etc. Hey Citizen Kane got bad reviews. It doesnt matter, what matters is that those that do enjoy it get a chance to see it. The think is does it do what it promises to do? Does its audience like it? We are now in episode 9 of ours and couldn’t be prouder of it. Forge on LG15 !

  2. @Anne, You might very well be right. I haven’t had a chance to watch enough CBB to make a judgment call on “quality” or not. However, there are niche audiences who enjoy campy B movies, etc. The point of the niche comment was meant to represent a broader statement, not necessarily specific to CBB.

    I agree that press should be harsh when needs to be. Without some sort of criticism, there’s no credibility. However, as web creators, we have to remember that it’s unlikely that a series is going to be considered “good” by everybody out there. The better strategy in my opinion, is to be good to a specific audience niche. LG15 is considered extremely successful, but at the same time, I know people who hate the show. It doesn’t mean that’s it’s good or bad, but that the show was extremely successful for its audience type.

  3. Anne Onymous

    Camp Bloody Beach’s problems really have nothing to do with appealing to a niche. While it’s not my kind of show, I can appreciate a quality web series, even get excited about it, without loving it. Camp Bloody Beach isn’t good. It isn’t well written, well shot, or well acted. Amateur is the perfect name for what the show is. Sorry for all of you who prefer that the press that covers us take on the role of cheerleaders; that’s not their job. Their job is to move us forward to the next level, to help the rest of the world see that what we do is as valid a form of entertainment as anything else.

  4. Very interesting review, Liz. I think bloggers/journalists need to be honest with their opinions. That brings credibility. Otherwise, what’s the point? That said, I’m not saying whether I agree or disagree with the sentiments of the article. But I do respect you putting your honest thoughts down.

    With the web and the “long tail” of video, we’re going to see many shows that will reach small core niche audiences. These shows will be “successes” among their small audience base. However, to be so targeted means you’ll likely polarize other types of viewers. That’s just the way it goes. So it’s not surprising that CBB has a polarizing effect. Because the show isn’t for everybody. My series “The Hayley Project” is the same way. We have a specific audience that seems to enjoy it, but I know the limitations of its scope and genre (which is why I don’t over-market it to my late 20s/early 30s friends). I think web creators need to understand that the traditional idea that huge audiences are success metrics may not apply on the web. Sure it’s great to reach a massive audience, but creators should use the web as an opportunity to find people who are into very niche content. Just my 2 cents.

    Also, clarification on the vlog-style “genre”. People have called it “genre”, but really it’s format.

  5. The link on that comment goes to an interview I did with a creator who posits that the talking-into-a-camera-and-solving-a-mystery format is actually a genre, not a format of storytelling. The joys of an ever-evolving medium include the fact that we’re still making up labels as we go. I personally am not sure, but do respect your opinions on the subject.

  6. Anna, comments like that bother me as well. I prefer the first person vlog format for interactive programs (as they create more realism).

    Comments like that seem to degrade the storytelling format. I’m a “wannabe writer” myself, and POV is one of the biggest decisions in storytelling and it really changes the story. An author I like (Tamora Pierce) recently switched from 3rd to 1st person and I was greatly worried about the change. But you know what I realized: Good writing is good writing and can be created in any POV.

  7. “(I’m still not totally prepared to call it a genre):”
    Comments like this drive me crazy.

    There’s a reason you’re not prepared to call the to-camera delivery style a genre: because it isn’t one. The stories being told this way vary wildly, from comedy to character driven drama to mystery to horror. The first-person delivery is a storytelling technique, one especially well suited to the internet.

    Writers in all media, – fiction, journalism, screenwriting – play with tense, point of view, all sorts of different things. In the case of a medium that often involved a solitary person looking into a small window on a screen, a solitary person looking back out at them can frequently be a visually and personally satisfying option. When I hear you say you don’t like first-person shows (and though you didn’t say it, it’s kind of implicit in your comments within this review, as well as your attitude on certain others), it makes me wonder what you’d think of someone who refused to read novels told in third person: it’s the same thing.

  8. Broken Kid

    “And I’ll definitely say that the level of work put into this show is impressive. It’s just a matter of moving to the next level, which is within their grasp.”

    Liz, I wish you phrased it that way in your article, because your constructive criticism in your article was solely about the marketing. It was a valid point, but I think what people are interested in is what makes this series unique. I’ve reviewed music for years, and I know it’s important to not comment on the marketing the artists, labels, or PR folks use but what makes the music good or bad and why.

    You talked about that with CBB to some degree, and I agree. But I like CBB for many of the reasons you don’t. It’s funny, and it’s creative. The website clearly demonstrates it’s a show (would you think it was real if the website said it was?), but that’s part of the show’s offering – the body count is clever.

    I hope people check this show out. I think it’s quite unique. And yes, you’re getting LG15 fans commenting here, but we all know this isn’t LG15. :)

  9. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t have a real problem with your article, except the interaction point (I don’t want to sound mean). I think interaction is what makes the Internet so different, and that many shows don’t harness it’s power.

    I just think your a little heavier on the criticism a little lighter on the constructive. But I’m glad you gave CBB a chance.

  10. @milowent: To each their own, but Blair Witch almost literally scared my pants off.

    @Cassi: You’re very right in that, reviewing this show today, I wasn’t able to enjoy the show as a fan might (though I did notice and enjoy “Melissa”‘s responses to the YouTube haterz, as I noted in the review).

    My complaints about the show not being professional are down to the premise and execution — there’s plenty of professional-quality stuff being done by those who are technically amateurs. And I’ll definitely say that the level of work put into this show is impressive. It’s just a matter of moving to the next level, which is within their grasp.

  11. Great article, LIz. I often times struggle with how to review shows I don’t particularly enjoy, espcially when (as you said) it’s a passion project.

    modelmotion – Totally agree. It’s important to support young and developing talent and I think the majority of this community always does its best to do so. But part of that is also pointing out what’s not so good and saying how it could be better.

  12. I think you’re missing part of the joke. CBB is suppose to be funny/cheesy at times. It’s not perfect (and most shows aren’t) but that doesn’t mean its not entertaining.

    One point I’ll disagree with quite vehemently, is the interactivity. Yes, it’s not the most interactive series, but it’s A LOT more interactive than most of the series you review and promote. I’m known as a bit of a “super fan” and there have been some shows that I like, I comment on numerous videos and never get a response. CBB responds to almost every youtube comment (both in character and out of character) and had a death pool contest (winner gets a t-shirt).

    To criticize their interactivity is unfair when so many shows on the Internet are not at all interactive. I’ve enjoyed watching CBB, even though at first I didn’t know that I would. The people behind the show are really putting themselves out there and working hard. Its not really fair not to give them any credit because the show isn’t “professional.” Maybe that’s part of the point, they are trying and experimenting with youtube, just because they haven’t perfected the medium yet doesn’t mean they should be written off completely.

    So for people who read this article I suggest trying to experience Camp Bloody Beach yourself, you might like it a lot more than the article suggests.

  13. I have to admire CBB for their promotion and getting a story on NewTeeVee even if the author was not thrilled by the series. The recent tube filler article pointed out that producers cannot just sit around and expect people to watch. They have to work hard at promotion and that is exactly what CBB does. Perhaps they go over the top at times but their heart is in the right place so it is always good to support young and developing talent. They do their thing and they do it with passion. Can we really ask for more from a community video series? Now, we fully expect that these producers will continue to learn and grow but the important thing is that they are having a lot of fun with the “journey.

    Well done CBB!!!!