April 13, 2011

Web Series Review - The Dead Hour

Created by Daniel B. Iske & Scott Coleman
The Story: What scares you?  DJ Raven wants to know. She hosts The Dead Hour, a weekly radio program devoted to the shadows just beyond the streetlight's reach, the bumps you hear as you drift off to sleep, the nightmares that wake you up in a cold sweat, screaming. Each week she will bring us a new horrifying tale.

My Take: This is the first series I have had the chance to review that is of the anthology category. In retrospect, creating an anthology web series has its benefits, but also flaws. Positively, it gives the filmmakers creative freedom, being able to alter the storyline and technical style per episode (and you don’t have to work with poorly chosen actors ever again). On the other hand, you have to create a successful story in one episode, much like a short film. There is no room to let the characters and plot develop. The anthology has worked in the past with The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, among others. And now, with The Dead Hour, we can officially welcome the horror anthology to the web with open arms.

Much like Rod Serling, the Cryptkeeper or Forest Whitaker, The Dead Hour has DJ Raven, a gothic radio host who introduces each episode. What’s unique about her, however, is an apparent hidden mystery, as if she knows something that the audience has yet to find out. She welcomes us to the episode in her sultry, yet sinister voice, bringing us through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound -- but of mind……sorry, got carried away there.

The episodes themselves last roughly 15-20 minutes, which is rather long for the web series realm. It is tricky to get an audience to sit and watch something on their computers for that long, especially in the hit-or-miss horror genre. The Dead Hour does a fine job in keeping their audience engulfed their episodes, showcasing a “horror of the mind” vibe of yesteryear, as opposed to the slasher, blood and guts of today. Stories include ‘Alcoholic Vampire,’ about a vampire who attempts to break free of his multiple addictions; ‘Cannibal Girls,’ about two girls who will do anything to stay alive in post-apocalyptic America.

The Bottom Line: While the true uniqueness of The Dead Hour lies in the mysterious DJ Raven, the series holds true to its inspirations and makes a good time for anyone looking for a quick case of goose bumps.

Info: The five episode first season can be found at www.thedeadhour.com, along with information as to how to send your own ideas to the creative team. You can also follow Magnum Pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

Interview: I had a chance to ask co-creator Daniel B. Iske a few questions about his web series. Check it out below after watching the trailer:



How did you get into filmmaking/performing?
The Dead Hour team is comprised by a group of talented actors and filmmakers from Omaha, Nebraska, that have gotten into filmmaking in many different ways. We are currently producing the show on the lowest of budgets. But, we take great pride in the fact that we're producing something of this quality outside of Hollywood that people are responding to so positively.
How would you describe your style of storytelling? What are some of your previous projects?
Our last project was an indie horror film called The Wretched. It can be found at
www.thewretchedmovie.com. It made a limited festival run and kind of set the stage for the concept of The Dead Hour. I think our style of horror is a little different than most. We like to focus more on internal horror, social commentary fears and such. We actually tend to stay away from a lot of blood and gimmicks for the most part.
Who or what are your inspirations? How have they influenced you as filmmakers?
It's hard to narrow that down actually; we've been influenced by a wide range of films in the horror genre, from the 50s until today. Most of the Hitchcock and Castle films are big inspirations to us.
Why do you want to tell stories featured in ‘The Dead Hour'?
We're trying to tell basically short horror stories. Almost like urban legends or ghost stories you hear. We want to present something fresh and complex every time. And all of our stories are grounded in social commentaries, kind of our take on the world today, but through the horror genre.
Can you go in to detail about the radio broadcast of the show and how it correlates to the web series?
Only slightly as more about DJ Raven's role in The Dead Hour world will be revealed as the show progresses. For now, what I can say is the audience is seeing a visual representation of the late night stories DJ Raven is presenting on her radio broadcast.
What can we expect from future episodes? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?
Season 2 will debut this September. We begin filming in a few weeks. Our fans can expect the new season to be bigger and better in every way. We've spent the last five months writing and preparing new episodes to really take things up a notch. You won't want to miss it.
What means of marketing do you have in store for the series?
We've been trying to get the word out on a grassroots level. Sending press releases to any and every site we think might be interested. So far, we've received a great response with reviews and new fans. We'll be doing a marketing blitz this fall as the new season gets set to launch. But, we're still developing the game plan for that.
How will the show stand out amongst other series on the web?
Our goal is to be telling the best stories in the best possible way. We think we're doing things right and we're dedicated to making the best possible show. If we do that, the word will spread and things will take care of themselves.
What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series?
Be ready for the long haul. As this has been a grueling process. I've seen a lot of other indie web series only make it through one episode. It's a ton of work, you have to be dedicated to the process and see it through. And surround yourself with as many talented people as you can.
What other projects are you currently working on? Shameless plug time!
Right now, we're all about The Dead Hour. We feel we have momentum and we're just at the beginning. We are launching our fundraising efforts soon, if anyone wants to donate an arm and a leg to the cause. You get lots of goodies in return. Just go to our site at
www.thedeadhour.com and click on the donate page.

April 12, 2011

NEW WEB SERIES - Mortal Kombat: Legacy



Greetings fellow web series enthusiasts!

Though my next official review will not be posted until tomorrow, I wanted to share this amazing new series with you right now. The first episode of 'Mortal Kombat: Legacy' is currently streaming. It's a new, gritty, realistic-ish take on the popular video game. Have a look for yourself and see what you think.

FINISH HIM!!

April 6, 2011

Web Series Review – Hey Girl!

Created by Michael Forsythe & David J. Miller

The Story: When Julie says goodbye to her best friend Becka and moves to the big city, she must re-invent herself while sidestepping all the loser guys around her. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away in Wisconsin, Becka and her boyfriend Jason confront the boredom of the town and their relationship.

My Take: Once again, I find myself reviewing a series that, quite frankly, I would never really consider my cup of tea. This being the first show I checked out that asked if I was over the age of 18, I was almost frightened to click through. What I found was a sweet, funny, (yes, at points, a bit risqué), and sometimes sad look at a single girl in a new city, trying to find life and love.

The series starts off with Julie, a seemingly innocent out-of-towner, only trying to start a romantic relationship with a man. As she gets herself ready for a blind date, she contacts her best friend, Becka, whom she moved away from to start a new life of her own. Becka has a different viewpoint on the male species, using her attractiveness to get what she wants. Despite that, Becka is in a relationship of her own. Things seem to be going well, minus one crucial…malfunction in a barnyard. the remaining episodes, we see these two characters struggle with their various situations in the relationship realm. Julie, single and looking for ‘Mr. Right,’ finds herself on a date that ends poorly even before it begins. Frustrated by the outcome, she accepts a proposal from a man at a bar that, well, you’ll just have to watch to find out what exactly happens.

This is definitely not a series that many will want to watch for its adult content and situations. This has situations in the series that make me feel like a jerk for being a guy. Though this is definitely a comedic series, there are bouts with drama in it. You can sense the struggle Julie has to make when she is ditched on her first date (after being dropped off by the guy) and what she will do to pay the rent (again, don’t want to give it away). A special nod has to go to Alli Urbanik, who is successfully able to bring that dynamic of the girl trying to find love, while at the same time, trying to find affection in any form, including a one night encounter with a man she meets at a bar.

The Bottom Line: Though situations that may not be as comedic as the series is marketed to be, ‘Hey Girl’ is a sincere, mostly light-hearted look at the romantic struggles of two young women.

Info: ‘Hey Girl’ is currently being distributed on Koldcast, as well company websites Mindlight Films and Viral film Video.

Interview: I had a chance to interview David J. Miller, one of the creators of the show. Check it out below.

How did you get into filmmaking?I became interested in filmmaking in Jr. High School.  I was fortunate to have met a very creative and talented friend, Michael S. Ojeda who would become a director/cinematographer and we began working together and later started a production company Mindlight Films.  I started out as a producer before I knew what a producer was.  Back in the day (80's) we were shooting on Super8, loading everything in a shopping cart and pulling it with our bikes to the shooting location, which usually was a forest, field or an alley.  We would set up to shoot what usually was Horror Mystery Action Thriller of some kind and get close to calling action only to realize that we forgot the film.  It became my role to organize everything and it stuck.  We produced our first feature together in junior year of high school and after a year at Columbia College in Chicago focused on professional work. Michael moved to California and I stayed in Chicago and was fortunate to have been able to produce nine feature films since then (with varying results).   My first real creative involvement was in the writing process as a co-writer on two of the films I produced, "Once Upon A Time In the Hood" and "Welcome Back to the Barrio."  I enjoyed the process and eventually decided to produce my own work which led to my early web series comedies PITCHMAN, ASSISTED LIVING and now HEY GIRL.

How would you describe your style of storytelling? What are some of your previous projects?Most of my work so far as a writer/director has been comedic and dialog driven.  When I first developed the webseries PITCHMAN, it was for a commercial client LonelyBloggers.com which was an internet dating site so a big goal was to integrate their brand into the writing while also being entertaining.  We experimented a little bit back then with improvising but realized that despite the talents of the performers it was hard to stay focused.  By the time the second season of PITCHMAN rolled around I began writing better formatted shows that worked in the shorter format.  PITCHMAN had over 10 million views which was probably more than all of my features so I thought it was worth pursuing the genre a little more.

I started working on ASSISTED LIVING after working with Dustin White on one of my feature films and seeing his stand-up act.  He was very mellow and timid in person but had some over the top dirty content in his stand-up act.  I thought it would be funny to put him in a bunch of awkward situations and have fun with it.  The show started with his character getting dumped and having zero luck with the ladies but over time he transitioned through a bunch of crazy scenarios, which included working as an MC for a burlesque show.  At the end of the current season we'll have had over sixty episodes released which I think is a nice accomplishment for a narrative webseries. 

Who or what are your inspirations? How have they influenced you as filmmakers?
I'm sure I'm inspired by a lot of things but there usually aren't moments where I think "this is inspiration!"  The first time you experience someone sincerely laughing at your work is amazing.  I'm inspired every time we try something and it doesn't work out to try to do better the next time.  Over time I've become more confident and comfortable with the fact that not everyone is going to like my shows. Rather than try to please everyone, I focus on a certain demographic and run with it.  I've been compared in some ways to Judd Apatow and ASSISTED LIVING has been compared to "Arrested Development"  which I think is a nice compliment. 


Why do you want to tell a story like ‘Hey Girl'?HEY GIRL was a chance for me to experiment with female lead characters.  I'm still writing for a male audience so the pressure isn't to be authentic as much as it is to write females the way men fantasize they would talk.   I also was excited to be able to have more of an ensemble which was a change from ASSISTED LIVING (where Dustin's character is in almost every scene.)  

How will ‘Hey Girl' benefit on the web, as opposed to a short or feature film?HEY GIRL was written as a web series so I never gave it any thought as a feature or short film.  One benefit for me is that I take chances and try things that you can't do when you have sponsors or investors to answer to.  There are a few things that I would do differently but the scale of the show is actually very small so in that context I'm very proud of how it turned out. 

 What can we expect from future episodes? How will the story/characters evolve? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?Over the first four or five episodes we gradually get to know Julie, Becka, Jason and Mr. Willis' personalities.   Eventually, the reality of Julies financial situation pushes her to make some less than ideal decisions with her life while Becka grows tired of her boring life in the small town.  Eventually Becka does have an orgasm and there is some nudity but like everything else we have to wait a while for it. 

What means of marketing do you have in store for the series?Marketing a show is a challenge and it's a separate set of skills than producing a series, so I give a lot of credit to the people out there that can do both.  I was very fortunate to meet everyone at KoldCast who have been great partners for ASSISTED LIVING and now HEY GIRL.  For ASSISTED LIVING it took us a while to get our first million views so it's important to remember that these things can build over time.   We were eventually able to break through and build an audience, which encourages us with HEY GIRL.  Our marketing strategy is more long term and less immediate which is a huge benefit that a web series has over a feature film who's success or failure is judged based on its opening weekend numbers.

How will the show stand out amongst other series on the web?Time will tell if HEY GIRL can find an audience.  Based on the early response we're excited about the potential and hope that people will identify with the characters.  It doesn't hurt that the actors are easy on the eyes and that they spend a lot of time in their underwear.  
 
What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series?One thing that I would recommend is to shoot in order whenever you can.  People’s schedules and availability change despite everyone’s best intentions so it's great to have more options if you have to re-write something rather than having to tie something into what was already filmed.  In Assisted Living, Dustin’s guinea pig "Swayze" died suddenly and we had to re-write a few episodes.
 
I also think it's great to have someone that you can work with who compliments your skills.  On HEY GIRL I was fortunate to work with Michael Forsythe who helped take some of the pressure off of me.  I like to write around locations that I can secure and for actors who I know or meet along the way. 

What other projects are you currently working on? Shameless plug time!I have three new web series and a feature film that are ready to go for this summer.  I'm hoping to find an agent or partner for the new shows that can help with some of the more complex aspects of the shows.  Anybody interested in potentially working together should feel free to email me at Dave@ViralFilmVideo.com

Web Series Review – Hey Girl


Created by David J. Miller & Michael Forsythe

The Story: When Julie says goodbye to her best friend Becka and moves to the big city, she must re-invent herself while sidestepping all the loser guys around her. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away in Wisconsin, Becka and her boyfriend Jason confront the boredom of the town and their relationship.

My Take: Once again, I find myself reviewing a series that, quite frankly, I would never really consider my cup of tea. This being the first show I checked out that asked if I was over the age of 18, I was almost frightened to click through. What I found was a sweet, funny, (yes, at points, a bit risqué), and sometimes sad look at a single girl in a new city, trying to find life and love.

The series starts off with Julie, a seemingly innocent out-of-towner, only trying to start a romantic relationship with a man. As she gets herself ready for a blind date, she contacts her best friend, Becka, whom she moved away from to start a new life of her own. Becka has a different viewpoint on the male species, using her attractiveness to get what she wants. Despite that, Becka is in a relationship of her own. Things seem to be going well, minus one crucial…malfunction in a barnyard. the remaining episodes, we see these two characters struggle with their various situations in the relationship realm. Julie, single and looking for ‘Mr. Right,’ finds herself on a date that ends poorly even before it begins. Frustrated by the outcome, she accepts a proposal from a man at a bar that, well, you’ll just have to watch to find out what exactly happens.

This is definitely not a series that many will want to watch for its adult content and situations. This has situations in the series that make me feel like a jerk for being a guy. Though this is definitely a comedic series, there are bouts with drama in it. You can sense the struggle Julie has to make when she is ditched on her first date (after being dropped off by the guy) and what she will do to pay the rent (again, don’t want to give it away). A special nod has to go to Alli Urbanik, who is successfully able to bring that dynamic of the girl trying to find love, while at the same time, trying to find affection in any form, including a one night encounter with a man she meets at a bar.

The Bottom Line: Though situations that may not be as light-hearted as the series is marketed to be, ‘Hey Girl’ is a sincere, mostly light-hearted look at the romantic struggles of two young women.

Info: ‘Hey Girl’ is currently being distributed on Koldcast, as well company websites Mindlight Films and ViralFilmVideo. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.



Interview: I had a chance to interview David J. Miller, one of the creators of the show. Check it out below.

How did you get into filmmaking?I became interested in filmmaking in Jr. High School.  I was fortunate to have met a very creative and talented friend, Michael S. Ojeda who would become a director/cinematographer and we began working together and later started a production company Mindlight Films.  I started out as a producer before I knew what a producer was.  Back in the day (80's) we were shooting on Super8, loading everything in a shopping cart and pulling it with our bikes to the shooting location, which usually was a forest, field or an alley.  We would set up to shoot what usually was Horror Mystery Action Thriller of some kind and get close to calling action only to realize that we forgot the film.  It became my role to organize everything and it stuck.  We produced our first feature together in junior year of high school and after a year at Columbia College in Chicago focused on professional work. Michael moved to California and I stayed in Chicago and was fortunate to have been able to produce nine feature films since then (with varying results).   My first real creative involvement was in the writing process as a co-writer on two of the films I produced, "Once Upon A Time In the Hood" and "Welcome Back to the Barrio."  I enjoyed the process and eventually decided to produce my own work which led to my early web series comedies PITCHMAN, ASSISTED LIVING and now HEY GIRL.

How would you describe your style of storytelling? What are some of your previous projects?Most of my work so far as a writer/director has been comedic and dialog driven.  When I first developed the webseries PITCHMAN, it was for a commercial client LonelyBloggers.com which was an internet dating site so a big goal was to integrate their brand into the writing while also being entertaining.  We experimented a little bit back then with improvising but realized that despite the talents of the performers it was hard to stay focused.  By the time the second season of PITCHMAN rolled around I began writing better formatted shows that worked in the shorter format.  PITCHMAN had over 10 million views which was probably more than all of my features so I thought it was worth pursuing the genre a little more.

I started working on ASSISTED LIVING after working with Dustin White on one of my feature films and seeing his stand-up act.  He was very mellow and timid in person but had some over the top dirty content in his stand-up act.  I thought it would be funny to put him in a bunch of awkward situations and have fun with it.  The show started with his character getting dumped and having zero luck with the ladies but over time he transitioned through a bunch of crazy scenarios, which included working as an MC for a burlesque show.  At the end of the current season we'll have had over sixty episodes released which I think is a nice accomplishment for a narrative webseries. 

Who or what are your inspirations? How have they influenced you as filmmakers?
I'm sure I'm inspired by a lot of things but there usually aren't moments where I think "this is inspiration!"  The first time you experience someone sincerely laughing at your work is amazing.  I'm inspired every time we try something and it doesn't work out to try to do better the next time.  Over time I've become more confident and comfortable with the fact that not everyone is going to like my shows. Rather than try to please everyone, I focus on a certain demographic and run with it.  I've been compared in some ways to Judd Apatow and ASSISTED LIVING has been compared to "Arrested Development"  which I think is a nice compliment.
 
Why do you want to tell a story like ‘Hey Girl'?HEY GIRL was a chance for me to experiment with female lead characters.  I'm still writing for a male audience so the pressure isn't to be authentic as much as it is to write females the way men fantasize they would talk.   I also was excited to be able to have more of an ensemble which was a change from ASSISTED LIVING (where Dustin's character is in almost every scene.)  

How will ‘Hey Girl' benefit on the web, as opposed to a short or feature film?HEY GIRL was written as a web series so I never gave it any thought as a feature or short film.  One benefit for me is that I take chances and try things that you can't do when you have sponsors or investors to answer to.  There are a few things that I would do differently but the scale of the show is actually very small so in that context I'm very proud of how it turned out. 

 What can we expect from future episodes? How will the story/characters evolve? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?Over the first four or five episodes we gradually get to know Julie, Becka, Jason and Mr. Willis' personalities.   Eventually, the reality of Julies financial situation pushes her to make some less than ideal decisions with her life while Becka grows tired of her boring life in the small town.  Eventually Becka does have an orgasm and there is some nudity but like everything else we have to wait a while for it. 

What means of marketing do you have in store for the series?Marketing a show is a challenge and it's a separate set of skills than producing a series, so I give a lot of credit to the people out there that can do both.  I was very fortunate to meet everyone at KoldCast who have been great partners for ASSISTED LIVING and now HEY GIRL.  For ASSISTED LIVING it took us a while to get our first million views so it's important to remember that these things can build over time.   We were eventually able to break through and build an audience, which encourages us with HEY GIRL.  Our marketing strategy is more long term and less immediate which is a huge benefit that a web series has over a feature film who's success or failure is judged based on its opening weekend numbers.

How will the show stand out amongst other series on the web?Time will tell if HEY GIRL can find an audience.  Based on the early response we're excited about the potential and hope that people will identify with the characters.  It doesn't hurt that the actors are easy on the eyes and that they spend a lot of time in their underwear.   

What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series?One thing that I would recommend is to shoot in order whenever you can.  People’s schedules and availability change despite everyone’s best intentions so it's great to have more options if you have to re-write something rather than having to tie something into what was already filmed.  In Assisted Living, Dustin’s guinea pig "Swayze" died suddenly and we had to re-write a few episodes. 

I also think it's great to have someone that you can work with who compliments your skills.  On HEY GIRL I was fortunate to work with Michael Forsythe who helped take some of the pressure off of me.  I like to write around locations that I can secure and for actors who I know or meet along the way. 

What other projects are you currently working on? Shameless plug time!I have three new web series and a feature film that are ready to go for this summer.  I'm hoping to find an agent or partner for the new shows that can help with some of the more complex aspects of the shows.  Anybody interested in potentially working together should feel free to email me at Dave@ViralFilmVideo.com