The IAWTV Is Figuring Out What It Wants To Be When It Grows Up

IAWTV-logo

UPDATED: Hey, what happened on America’s Next Top Model last night? ‘Cause I missed it. That’s because Wednesday evening, I joined approximately 85 IAWTV members as they gathered at the WGA West headquarters in Los Angeles for a “town hall” meeting to discuss the organization’s future, especially as it might affect the future of the Streamy Awards following this year’s disastrous ceremony.

While about half of the IAWTV Board of Directors were present, including Marc Hustvedt, George Ruiz, Michael Wayne, Brady Brim-Deforest and Drew Baldwin, it was Wayne, acting as Chairman of the Board, who took the lead in speaking for them. Meanwhile, Executive Director Elisabeth Flack — who is also the WGAW new media contracts administrator — will handle member suggestions and infrastructure issues moving forward.

One of the big revelations to come out of the meeting was the fact that the IAWTV simply hasn’t come together as an organization yet. For one thing, while the IAWTV is working with a lawyer to file for non-profit status, it has not yet done so and is thus not officially a non-profit organization. UPDATE: According to Brim-Deforest via email, “The IAWTV is a Nonprofit corporation registered with the State of California. While we have not yet filed our application for federal tax-exempt status (the IRS gives non-profit organizations up to 24 months to file) the application is currently in progress.”

In addition, the $90 membership fee collected from each member over the past year is currently “sitting in a Paypal account,” according to Wayne, and not “one penny” has been spent. A member of the audience joked about whether or not it was earning interest, which Wayne said it was not — but given that there are over 200 IAWTV members, that means at least $18,000 should have been collected and is now sitting around unused.

This all came out during a relatively civil but passionate discussion about both past events and the organization’s future, in which only a few moments hit a truly negative tone. The proceedings might have had more focus with a set agenda, but a number of issues that were raised as a result of the free-form format, included some interesting revelations.

Brim-Deforest and Wayne acknowledged that while there had been “some drama” over the last few weeks with regards to the Streamys’ future — externalized by the Tubefilter-backed Rebuild the Trust initiative that accused unnamed board members of a “hostile takeover” effort — they had moved past it and were now committed to working together to come up with a solution. When asked, Brim-Deforest said that the Rebuild the Trust website would be taken down. It’s still online as I write this, but that may change soon. UPDATE: Rebuildthetrust.org now redirects to IAWTV.org.

While an effort was made to avoid rehashing the problems with this year’s Streamys, the awards show’s relationship to the IAWTV was a chief concern of the evening. While there is currently no legal relationship between the two organizations and Tubefilter remains the outright owner of the show, the front page of the IAWTV site at this moment reads:

The principle mandate of the organization is to oversee the selection of nominees and winners for the annual Streamy Awards™ which recognize outstanding achievement in episodic shows produced originally for broadband distribution.

The consensus of the room seemed to be that this principle mandate is a core problem; because a non-profit group was created to support a for-profit awards show — not the other way around, as is traditional — the priorities have become skewed.

Many, including Easy to Assemble creator Illeana Douglas, said that they didn’t know what the organization was supposed to stand for, to which Wayne responded that plans to revise the IAWTV mission statement were in place. A few people, including EQAL CEO Miles Beckett, even suggested that the Streamys should be ditched entirely, and that the IAWTV should instead focus on being an organization that supports the development of web content. Hustvedt said that he’d hoped the IAWTV would be an organization that could focus on industry issues like view count fraud. “That’s where I thought the Academy was going to head,” he said.

“Absolutely we need to have a vision,” Ruiz said. “We’re showing the industry that we’re growing up. But we got sidetracked by the awards show — it’s the tail wagging the dog. The fact we’re all talking about an awards show is ridiculous. [Ruiz’s client and co-board member] Felicia Day is not on an awards show academy, I’m not on an awards show academy. I’m on a board to grow and support the industry.” Day was not present due to shooting commitments on The Guild.

What the IAWTV might be beyond “an awards show academy” lacks definition at this stage, but one benefit that got people excited was this: in theory, the IAWTV could offer grants and otherwise funnel money to the community through fundraising initiatives.

Wayne’s response to many issues brought up was to refer people to the newly established members-only forum, which was added yesterday to the IAWTV site and in theory will be a place for members to discuss these topics and suggest changes. There was also a promise that the IAWTV by-laws and an org chart would be added to the site last night — as of this morning, only the org chart (in PDF form) is currently available.

Another thing revealed last night was that the current board’s terms expire on December 3, 2010. But while five of the 11 seats are currently held by Tubefilter principles Drew Baldwin, Brady Brim-Deforest, Josh Cohen, Marc Hustvedt and Jamison Tilsner, Wayne said last night that “Even the Tubefilter guys think having five guys from one company is too much.” In addition, people such as Epic Fu host Zadi Diaz raised concerns that there wasn’t any creator representation on the board beyond Day.

The meeting concluded with Wayne and Flack announcing that on June 15 in New York and on June 17 in Los Angeles, the IAWTV board would present a proposal to the membership for what kind of relationship would exist between the Streamys and the IAWTV going forward, as well as a “road map” for the future development of the IAWTV. That plan will hopefully provide infrastructure to get the membership involved with helping the organization grow. The IAWTV membership, at least those who were present last night, might still have questions, but seems ready and eager to get involved.

Related GigaOm Pro content (subscription required): By The Numbers: Budget Analysis of a Web Series

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