The Web Files Pounds the L.A. Web Series Beat


[show=thewebfiles size=large]Today, NewTeeVee gets to do something we don’t normally get to do — review the competition. OK, technically The Web Files isn’t competition for us — we’re just covering the same beat using different mediums. In this web series about the making of web series, Files host Kristyn Burtt interviews various players in the online video space every week about the trials and tribulations of creating content for the Internet.

While the opening sequence — shot film noir-style, with Burtt playing the role of detective — seems to imply investigative journalism, Burtt’s focus is on personalities and content, with minimal scoops in sight. The interview with creators Kaily Smith and David Weidoff, for example, focuses more on their experiences at the NYTVF (where Smith won the best actress award) than on questions like how they were able to secure name cast members like Tony Hale and Tom Arnold, not to mention their $2,500-per-episode financing, though they do make an interesting point about the value of hiring a publicist.

But while the news component may be lacking, Burtt is still a capable host whose years of entertainment reporting make her very comfortable on camera — previously, she’d done hosting work with MSNBC and NBC, among other entities. And her approach isn’t always just a sit-down-and-chat one; when she interviewed the creators of Coma, Period, for example, she combined conversations with supporting crew members with a tour of the production company’s office.

In fact, probably the strongest aspect of The Web Files is that Burtt and director/producer Sandra Payne are constantly changing the format and location of the interviews in an effort to mirror the show being talked about. Examples include speaking with Cabonauts creator Hayden Black inside one of the futuristic cabs from the series (complete with outer space greenscreening) or hanging out with porn star Demi Delia at her house to discuss Mommy XXX.

The choice of subjects so far is pretty limited to the L.A. web series scene (at least 10 of the people who have appeared on Web Files, in fact, are Tubefilter meetup regulars), but so far there’s been enough variation within that community to keep the series from feeling stale. (A major recent get for them: an interview with the executives at Fox TV’s 15 Gigs studios.)

The only problem is that it’s a bit hard to gauge who the exact audience is for Web Files. The aspiring creator looking for tips on breaking into the space? Those already engaged with the web community? Whatever the answer might be, the fact that Files is taking this medium and those working in it seriously is just another step in the web series world attaining greater credibility. So I’m a fan — unless, of course, they scoop us. (Just kidding.) (Not really.)


Tom Konkle

Sandra and Kristyn are amassing one of the only video records of this industry’s show creators at this time at this level, actually. Both women, along with cameraman/editor Perry, are class acts.

As unbelievably simple as the idea of talking to everyone in a quiet interview setting where they are working is, it is actually the elephant in the room in that no other video show is really getting the creators on this level since Sunny Gault did her Viral Videos show for Veoh a few years ago and I dont mean the executive/ corporate/ rich mucky mucks like bless all their hearts if I ever get on there too, but this is a video document of “up from the ground” foot soldiers who are pioneering the form.

These interviews will become a valuable asset as time goes on and the genre matures if for no other reason than this is a snapshot of this important time. Imagine a real sit down collection of the radio pioneers in the 1920’s and 1930’s not the eventual company stars but the real firsts we don’t know about now, or TV in the 1940’s and 1950’s, who cares if they happened to get the one who went on to be the big mainstream breakout, though it would be a nice bonus, I’d take Ernie Kovacs interviewed then like The Web Files does any day.

Dave Beeler and I enjoyed talking with them about Safety Geeks and Invention with Brian Forbes and being treated as if we mattered without any publicist, financiers, brand managers and the like pushing and scheduling “press” for us with them.

No, they came because they liked our shows and they liked us and had a real curious nature instead of an assignment handed down from the promo media machine. The fact that Safety Geeks: SVI and Invention with Brian Forbes got Sandra and Kristyn’s attention is a testament to the fact that at least for now they level the field by selecting not who has the most resources and loudest PR machine but who Sandra wants to explore and present to an audience.

It is SO hard to get any press now, let alone good press for non-corporate web series, you only get so far when you don’t have dozens of invisible hands, money and companies ensuring it. We know. You get so far then your calls, emails and request go ignored by the big boys in TV, web and print media because they only want the shows THEY as companies have a financial stake in getting covered. It’s not evil, its just smart business to completely shape what the audience is told to care about, namely the shows on the web your production/marketing/distribution company is producing.

Press that isn’t about letting the subject have a chance to present themselves as we did is mostly about maintaining and making “names” and name brands, so that “name” can be the name that is the reason the next thing gets made with…that name. From gossip to editorials thats what’s happening. If they do that for us we would be grateful and if they don’t so be it, we know what’s going on here.

The Web Files is doing just that, seeking us out and asking what we do in a gracious, professional, no “gotcha!” journalistic way that is frankly refreshing. Their interviews are not morning radio mentality nor do they fancy themselves Cahier du Cinema for the web they are an appreciative audience giving us chance to talk about what we love to do whether it made us rich or not.

The lack of editorializing on The Web Files behalf actually lets the artists be judged by the viewer who may or may not be a fan without the pre-filtering of an editorial opinion of what is good for the audience or indeed what is “good” or “worthy” from the show. I applaud The Web Files generosity towards their subjects and the incredible service of documenting this moment in time without holding it to a singular personal criteria.

The VideoMakers

This show is a great way to stay on top of the happenings in the web series world. Kristyn Burtt is very comfortable in front of the camera and makes a great host. Being such an emerging form of entertainment, a web series talk show will also prove to be very successful. We will definitely stay tuned!

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