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5 Questions With…Epic Fu‘s Zadi Diaz

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For today’s Five Questions With…, we get some insight from Zadi Diaz, the co-creator and host of Epic Fu, one of web video’s longest-running series. Diaz has been a prominent member of the web video world since its earliest days, and was recently elected to the IAWTV board of directors; below, she discusses the importance of net neutrality to online video creators and how HTML5 is helping move web video forward.

1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?

I think there are three main things holding back the industry as it is now:

  1. Technology. Technology needs to catch up with the amazing ideas that will allow creators to begin really showing what can be done on the web. HTML5 is a great step in the right direction: Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown was a terrific example of how we can begin taking storytelling on the web to the next level and make it uniquely different from other entertainment platforms.
  2. Promotion. Films have movie trailers; TV shows begin promoting their new shows months before they begin. Audiences are drilled to know when a film is premiering or when their favorite show will begin airing. There needs to be a better way for online audiences to find the shows they will enjoy.
  3. Laws. Show creators need to pay attention to what is happening with Net Neutrality and how it WILL affect their careers. We’re in it for the long haul; let’s make sure this amazing opportunity for independent storytelling and business isn’t taken away from us.

2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?

I’m not really a stickler about buzzwords. People who like them, use them. People who don’t like them find better words to articulate their thoughts, which then become buzzwords. It’s a repeating cycle. Though, they do make for good drinking games.

3. If someone gave you $50 million to invest in a company in this space, which one would it be? (Mentioning your own doesn’t count.)

It would be an even split between, Vimeo, Revision3, and Next New Networks. The more that independent video companies succeed, the better it is for everyone in online entertainment. To me, these four companies have been around long enough to have a great understanding of the web video community as well as how important technology is to the growth of this industry.

4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?

I have to share two videos made by the same guys, Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. The first one is a music video for the song Pigeons by The Hundred in the Hands.

The Hundred in the Hands – Pigeons (Music Video) from DANIELS on Vimeo.

The second one is a strange comedic short featuring Charlyne Yi.

FAST from Daniel Scheinert on Vimeo.

Actually, just check out all the videos on their site. They are amazing!

5. WILD-CARD: Epic Fu’s release schedule has been pretty erratic over the past year, though new weekly episodes are now appearing thanks to a new sponsor: How key is sponsorship to the future continuation of Epic Fu, and would you do it without that support?

Sponsorship and partnerships are great, but they are not integral to the continuation of Epic Fu. When we began the show in 2006, we knew the show would last as long as we wanted it to because we called the shots.

We’ve been very lucky to have had great sponsorships with Puma, Intel (s intc), Lions Gate (s lgf), Sony Pictures (s sne), GoDaddy, XBox (s msft), Carmex, Netflix (s nflx), and others. What’s so great about Epic Fu is that it’s on the web and there are no rules.

To us Epic Fu was always a grand experiment; a direct reflection of us and our interests. We may continue it, it may become something totally different, it may spin off into something else, or we may stop it and completely focus on the other projects we have in the pipeline. Whatever we do, the one thing I can promise is that this isn’t the end, it’s definitely just the very beginning.

Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required): Fact or Fiction: Where Is Branded Online Video Going?

6 Responses to “5 Questions With…Epic Fu‘s Zadi Diaz”

  1. I would say it is the content creators that need to catch up with the technology that already exists. Yes there are still incremental changes taking place but most of the core tools are there and very easy to use.

    But if content creators choose not to use them is it really fair to blame the technology. Just look at the amazing stuff that has been done already and look how many people have totally ignored the potential. That does not make their content bad, but it does make it less than it could be. Yes technology will continue to improve but unless those who create content choose to embrace it they will never learn how to use it in their story telling and marketing efforts.

  2. Todd, thank you for commenting.

    Political views aside, technology is what dictates how video producers show their content online as well as how they create it. I’m fully aware of how technology has enabled independent producers, digital storytellers and filmmakers to create content like never before. What I am talking about is the presentation of video on the web. We are still at a stage where we are replicating the television model. This is a conversation that has been heating up in the web video world for a few months. For the most part, we are creating linear, lean back experiences. In terms of interactivity, we have come as far as commenting, response videos, voting (thumbs up/thumbs down), and if the producer/creator has enough time or budget or production help, incorporating audience into the storyline. LonelyGirl15 was a great example of this. Valemont is another. There are others. This is what I’m talking about when I say that technology needs to catch up with the amazing ideas that I hear day in and day out – so that it’s as easy as an option or check box on the platform you’re using. I am immersed in this world, I meet with and talk to new media producers and web series creators every day. I am one of them. Right now we are as interactive as the tools on YouTube allow us to be. I offer up HTML5 as an example of how technology is moving in the right direction so we can tell our stories in new ways through interactivity – not just shoot them with RED cameras and make them look better or distribute them faster through broadband.

    Not everyone can afford a RED camera. I would cite a MinoHD as a disruptor to media production and advancement in technology that enables new stories to be told by new people before I cite a RED camera. For all it’s beauty – a kid in the South Bronx still can’t pick it up and tell the story s/he wants to tell.

    Also, I never said viewers shouldn’t pay for content if they want to. There are many models that can work. Don’t put words in my mouth.

  3. Great insight from a true content creator for online video. I think she hit the nail on the head regarding:
    -system for promotion of online shows
    -the freedom that the internet provides to content creators and how “net neutrality” could stymie this revolution
    I would like to hear more from online only content creators on this blog.
    @Todd’s comments seem so misplaced – this is not about whether you like her EpicFu show or agree with her political point of view!

  4. I like “the Epic Fu girl” and how “she” has put herself out there, searched for new business models, promoted other artists’ work, shared new technology, highlighted legislation issues, supported community, and most of all made independent content.

    I hope “this person” keeps entertaining anonymous first name commenters in the wrong way. It means she’s declared her independence and is exercising her unalienable rights of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Keep chasing your dreams Zadi!

  5. This person always entertains me in the wrong way. She is so out of touch and ignorant. What makes me laugh the most is her comments that make absolutely no sense or they are contradictory to a fault. Who buys this crap? Okay, let’s take Net Neutrality. Her big issue. Now she may not know this, but Net neutrality legislation is a brainchild of none other than Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Whether they got influence from Columbia or not doesn’t matter. Net neutrality is one of these new laws on Obama’s agenda. In fact, Obama already retained power to completely shut down the internet nationally. I thought the Epic Fu girl supported Obama in 2008… Hey that’s cool. I mean, vote for whoever. But why target issues like net neutrality, while at the same time, support and vote in your opponents to power?

    This weird mentality echoes in her opinion that all online content/video should be free by de facto, suggesting it be paid for by sponsors and advertisers– Not the viewers. But it seems to be coming more clear that sponsorships and advertising dollars do not offer original web content worth watching. Bateman/Orbitz comes to mind on that subject. And in contrast to this person’s position on ad freebies, Netflix started charging for content online and that model is doing very well. Viewers are paying.

    And what is she talking about with the technology garbage? I mean, where has she been in the past 5 years? What the heck is Avatar, or RED Cameras, Broadband, Adobe Software, SSD drives, or the i7 chip? I suppose they would inhibit creators in some other world somewhere– I can only guess. But what about all the web shows in the space today? They obviously have enough technology to bring fruits and vegetables to life, but maybe it’s the fact that most of these amateur shows are either adolescent, simplistic, or underdeveloped. We do have enough technology today to make a good movie or a good show. When I read this kind of stuff, an industry person (by proxy) pontificating about a lack of technology being the reason the space is failing, it hits my funny bone in the wrong way. In any event or opinion, it’s clearly could not be a lack of technology holding up the space. Maybe Epic Fu should take a look in the mirror, or look away from it from time to time.