Tuesday, November 19, 2013

RAINDANCE DAY 4 (part 1)

(which was September 28th)

No Class today, so it’s all movies...

Except for one small problem. The Festival has films on five screens, and in the past the starting times for the movies have been in some sort of sync, so you can see a movie on screen 1 and then see the next film on screen 2 and after that see what’s on screen 3, etc. But this year the start times are not in sync, so if you get on one track you may be stuck for the rest of the day. My plan was to see *movies* but I missed the noon movie by minutes and the next film began in an hour, so I got a ticket for what I thought were a program of shorts...

Webfest: UK Series: This year Raindance was ahead of the curve with a weekend series focusing on Web Series. What I thought was a program of shorts ended up being a program of webisodes followed by panels with the filmmakers. And because this thread was out of sync with all of the other films, I was stuck there until the evening...

And it was the greatest accidental choice I made at the fest. The webisodes were a mixed bag, but the panels were fascinating. These people had ideas for an online series... and then just did it. Some of the series were well written and crudely made, others were beautifully made and needed some script work... and some were just right. But all of them were inspiring because these folks didn’t wait for someone to hire them or give them permission, they just did it.

I AM TIM: A reality show about a slacker demon hunter, it was a little ragged in places but fun. There were several short episodes, some good and some okay.

DONALD NEWMAN: UNDERACHIEVER: In a post apocalyptic world where everyone wears period costumes and hangs out in a church, Donald Newman is the chosen one to save mankind. This had one longish episode with lots of great production value but a sketchy story. Maybe later episodes are more story oriented.

GRAVE DANGER WITH DAVE GRANGER: This was my favorite of the lot, and all of the episodes they showed plus the ones I later watched online were great. Dave Granger is an ultra macho thrill seeker survivalist type who has lessons in how to live off the land and defend yourself in case of bear attack or some other disaster. Of course, everything always seems to backfire on camera... and add to this that Dave has recently gone through a bad break up and sometimes bursts into very unmacho tears. Though the episodes follow a certain formula: Dave attempts something amazing and then things go wrong; watching them one a week would make the formula work to advantage.

3SOME: If only this had lived up to its title! But basically a soap about three twentysomething in London, kind of a FRIENDS sort of thing. The episodes shown were kind of talkie.

THE ART OF AWKWARD CONVERSATION: I have no memory of this one.

ALL IN THE METHOD: A pair of struggling actors try to land roles. I recently posted that I’m tired of screenplays about screenwriters or novelists... because they’re kind of incestuous. Instead of looking out at the world, they focus on a very narrow *mirror* reflection of the writer. And the same goes for stories of struggling actors. Instead of playing a character, they play themselves with a bit of fantasy success added. Kind of my pet peeve. The episode was all about auditions, etc. I could sit in my local Starbucks and watch this for real.

BLOODY MARY SHOW: Though supposed to be one of the most popular, I didn’t get it. The story takes place at a bar where vampires and witches and other mythical folks hang out and talk. Amazing make up and costumes, but people standing around talking. Many of the jokes were stale or just fell flat. I think the appeal may be a haven for nonconformists where they are not seen as freaks.

The panel after the webisodes was great. Whether I liked their shows or not, the creators were all clever people who had taken their fates in their own hands and made a show. The creator of I AM TIM talked about changing leads midstream, and the creator of DAVE GRANGER talked about writing several episodes, rehearsing in the car on the way to the location and shooting them one after another until they ran out of daylight. All of this reminded me of my days shooting Super 8mm shorts... and got me thinking about webisodes as the new do it yourself method to get something out there.

The quality issues: those shows with great production value and just okay writing and those with great writing and just okay production value is pretty much the norm in Indie filmmaking. Kevin Smith can write, but his films are crudely made. So this isn’t really much of an issue for material made outside a studio. And though *I* didn’t get BLOODY MARY, the filmmaker had obviously found a niche audience that couldn’t wait to see the next episode. The great part of a webseries is that it didn’t have to appeal to a mass audience, it could *really* narrowcast to a very small audience.

We no longer live in a world of Indie Films that get picked up by Miramax and given a wide release across the world... now we live in a world of Netflix streaming. Where only a couple of years ago, a show online would sound silly and amateur, today we watch movies and TV shows from big studios online... which means a webseries is no longer silly and amateur. I know some people here in the USA who make webseries that are like little movies: really well made with the production value you’d expect from a summer tentpole. And these folks at Raindance had just grabbed a camera and made their show. No one gave them permission.

Because I was still interested in the form, and because I was completely out of sync to see any movies, I stuck around for the next group of shows...

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