Underground Film Journal

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Web Series Or Movie: Which Should You Make?

By Mike Everleth ⋅ January 20, 2014

Superhero looks through binoculars

All filmed content ends up on the Internet.

Whether it’s twenty seconds long or three hours, shot on a RED digital camera, Go Pro or a 16mm film camera, or viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, cell phone, AppleTV, a Kindle, or whatever — movies, music videos, TV shows, web videos are blasting their way across the Internet right this very second and being viewed by somebody somewhere in some location.

It’s a watchable entertainment overload!

Which is a great thing. More choices means more people can find videos that are specifically tailored to their individual taste and viewing habits.

The Internet has forced all transmittable moving image formats onto a level playing field. As consumers, we can now watch just about anything anywhere — granted, of course, that you’re either signed up with five different subscription services or are a devoted Internet pirate. But, that’s another story.

The only real difference between any video that’s being streamed or downloaded online these days is length. As a culture, we’re still pretty much stuck in traditional modes of thought regarding video length: A “movie” is anything that’s one to three hours (or more) long; a short film is approximately between five and 30 minutes, a TV show is either just under 30 or 60 minutes, music videos are approximately the length of the song, and a “webisode” is most likely anything that’s between 30 seconds and five minutes.

No filmmaker claims their feature-length film is only seven minutes and nobody is making 90 minute webisodes.

But, why the hell not?

Easy answer: Nobody else will think that’s an acceptable practice. And don’t we all just want to be accepted?

In being “accepted,” filmmakers will traditionally think about how they want to be accepted first. Do you want that movie to screen in a theater, either in a film festival or through regular distribution? That TV pilot to air on a broadcast or cable network? That webisode to transmit on a viewer’s cell phone?

But, really, any video or film made today eventually is going to end up on the great big dumping ground known as the Internet. Your feature film isn’t going to be competing for viewers only with every other feature film that has ever been made, but it’s also going to be competing with Roomba Cat videos, which is something to think about while you’re rehearsing your actors and setting up your Diva lights and RED camera. (Underground Film Journal caveat: We love Roomba Cat!)

These days, the entertainment trades are filled with stories about new webseries deals, mostly for short-form content that mimics the format of TV shows. And the underground film world is not immune from being involved in this new business landscape.

One of the more intriguing news items about the web video world the Underground Film Journal came across recently — i.e., “recently” meaning last November — was about underground cult film actor Will Keenan being hired to lead a new digital venture for broadcast television production company Endemol. Keenan previously starred in Troma films like Tromeo and Juliet and Terror Firmer and other indie horror movies like Chop before moving into acquiring content for online video company Maker Studios and now for Endemol.

Also, the following news didn’t make the trade papers, but Canadian filmmaking brothers Jason and Brett Butler of Substance Productions moved from making feature projects like Confusions of an Unmarried Couple to webseries like Larry & Burt’s Gut Rot and The Undrawn.

Issues of format typically have issues of identity, if one wants to think of oneself as a filmmaker, TV director, or web person first. However, the lines separating those identities are getting blurry beyond the point of being visible anymore and should probably be fully discarded by anyone looking to make moving images for fun or profit. The Butler brothers are the same hilarious dudes making the same kind of highly entertaining moving images, they’ve just re-jiggered their content length format.

The belief we should be operating under now is: We’re going to be seeing a lot more filmmakers making these kinds of alterations of their careers. And that’s a good thing.