Posts Tagged ‘web show’

New Media Narrative and Gemini Division (coming soon…)

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Last Friday, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Gemini Division preview screening and phone conference with executive producer and creator Brent Friedman. After watching the first two episodes (which are now posted on the website), I got a chance to ask Brent some questions about the show’s narrative structure and aesthetic value. More on that later.

Set five minutes into the future, Gemini Division is the story of Anna Diaz (Rosario Dawson), an NYPD undercover cop, who investigates a global conspiracy involving “simulated soldiers.”(kind of like replicants) These SIMs were created to fight in the Iraq war but then mysteriously went AWOL. The Gemini Division is an agency formed to hunt the renegade soldiers and destroy them…before it’s too late. Meanwhile Anna, after discovering her fiancé was not human, becomes caught in the middle of the war.

It is too soon to tell whether Gemini Division will actually be any good. The first two episodes had their highs – seamless product integration, stylized CGI effects, and of course the stunning Rosario Dawson – but also their lows – the cliché creepy-stalking-stranger and some objectionable acting from Justin Hartley. Gemini Division has been labeled the ultimate test of web video because it boasts all the ingredients for success – big time celebrities, high profile advertisers, and a major studio distributor. As NewTeeVee writes, “if a web show like Gemini Division fails, why bother investing in online video at all?”

Yet whether Gemini makes or breaks web video history will not come down to any of aforementioned ingredients, but something far more essential to the final product – the story. Without a compelling story, there is no breakout hit. And Brent is very conscientious of that.

In my next post, I’d like to focus on the Gemini Division’s narrative construction (it may be too early to do so, but I will update as the season moves forwards). Because web video is very much in experimental form, there is no precedent to follow. As a result, the show is a blend of old media and new media, a mixture of narrative ingredients already proven to be effective and new Internet-based elements yet to be mastered. Gemini Division can thus be seen as an amalgamation of narrative devices from a variety of media, including comics, video games, novels, and TV Shows, all of which allow the show to potentially branch out into any of those platforms. For Gemini Division, the web series could be the perfect incubator for a transmedia franchise. But like I say, it all comes down to story.

I’m going on vacation tomorrow so I won’t be able to return to this post for a little while. (Consider this the teaser trailer) Until then, if you want more info on Gemini Division, head over to Prime Time For Change, where Tim provides a nice summary of what went on in the Q&A with Brent.

On a completely different topic, I plan on blogging about this article from the Boston Globe, which I found quite interesting. Bye for now!

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Hollywood and Web Video Follow Up

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Soon after blogging about Hollyood’s potential to have a strong, profitable relationship with web video, I came across Beet TV, a video blog by Andy Plesser. Plesser posts interviews with media executives and clips from various conferences, focusing on the “rapid emergence of online video and its impact on industry and society.” As I browsed through the site, I found many videos which related to my previous arguments.

In the post “Creative Producers will Grab Advertisers with Original Sponsored Videos“, Saul Berman, strategy partner of IBM, discusses a few of the issues surrounding web video monetization. At one point he mentions IBM’s global CEO study, which found that outperforming CEOs have a knack for “disrupting the market before someone else disrupts it for them.” Now, a growing trend in the digital age is that consumers are expecting higher quality content on the web, in terms of production value and level of engagement. That is exactly why I argue Hollywood needs to be more aggressive in the web video marketplace. While the studios have begun experimenting with digital media creatively and economically, in general, they have yet to effectively distinguish their content as superior online entertainment. Here’s the interview:

Berman also talks about a product placement business model, which has become increasingly viable. I’m going to take a look at this in more detail as Gemini Division unfolds, but it seems like a popular approach for producers, advertisers, and consumers, as long as the brand is subtly integrated within the story as a realistic element, not a distraction. Jigar Thakarar of CBS Interactive sees this brand integration as a much more profitable business strategy than offering pre and post roll ads. Here’s his interview from “CBS Sees Sponsored Web Video Programming as Viable Model“:

Because viral videos don’t carry advertisements as they travel through YouTube and other video hosting sites, I can see why product integration would be a practical solution. But it will be interesting to monitor exactly how producers handle a brand’s identity within the context of a story. Will the narrative, mise en scene, and characters always be faithful to the integrity of the show, or will they be heavily adjusted and obscured to land sponsorship? Ultimately, it comes down to finding a balance, but I still wonder if both parties will always be open enough to compromise.

As far as the consumers go, on the one hand nobody wants to feel as though a studio’s production is an excuse to advertise. That perception ruins all credibility. But on the other hand, young adults (ages 18-34) have become trained to avoid and ignore brand messages. So often the best way to reach them is through highly innovative, seamless product placements, allowing a brand to be more easily absorbed. It’s just another example of convergence – branded content and unbranded content merging together. And hopefully, when done correctly, everyone involved will win.

Another interview comes from the Dmitry Shapiro, co-founder of the Internet TV site, veoh.com. Shapiro argues that the future of television is in fact Internet TV. Using veoh as a “virtual digital video recorder,” viewers can consume Internet TV as they do broadcast TV, sitting back on the couch eating potato chips. Take a look:

Shapiro contends that users can get the same experience from Internet TV as they do with broadcast TV. However, unlike TV programs, web shows typically do not enable viewers to sit back, relax, and watch. They are designed to be seen on the fly, as a daily installment. But what if they were both? If there is one complaint I had with Afterworld, it’s that I was not able to plow through the episodes quickly and easily, since every 3 minutes I had to select the next video. Given the show’s twists and turns, I wanted the option of getting comfortable and sinking into the story. It may sound ridiculously lazy, but returning to my computer so often detracted from my suspension of disbelief and the overall immersive experience. (Not to mention the annoyance of hearing, “My name is Russel Shoemaker, I sold technology to the world..” for 130 episodes.)

Web shows do need to be short in length, no doubt about that. For many people, after about four minutes, streaming quality diminishes and their attention dwindles. But I’m a viewer who wants to watch the story as a “couch potato.” That’s why I think it’d be useful to fuse 10 episodes or so together in a half an hour format so that I can have more options: watch it on the go or on the couch. In this way, web shows could function as a medium independent of TV (in terms of style, format, and distribution) but also function, courtesy of Shapiro’s veoh application, as an extension of TV, as Internet TV.

To date, there has not been a breakout mega hit in original web programming. Web content still only appeals to fragmented audiences and studio executives still worry web content will cannibalize their audiences and revenue. Perhaps those problems will be mitigated when more consumers watch Internet video on their 42 inch flat screen TV in addition to their iPods. The bottom line is this though: Hollywood should not be complacent and wait for the future – they must disrupt it before someone else disrupts it for them.