So I watched a ton of web series in 2012, particularly on Wednesday’s where I watched and tweeted a show every week since the beginning of summer. It also happens to be that time of year where people enjoy looking back and making ‘best of’ lists, so I would like to take this opportunity to highlight once more the very best of that group of series featured on #WebSeriesWednesday in 2012.
The IAWTV awards will be announced tomorrow, and they will include a much more extensive list of shows and they are voted on by a bunch of people. This list is limited to the thirty two series I watched in full and featured on #WebSeriesWednesday this year. It does not include the myriad of other shows I watched in part or in their entirety throughout the year, and the actual dates of the shows release were not important. Many of these shows are nominated for IAWTV awards this year, some may have been last year and it is possible one or two could show up nominated next year.
If you want to have your show featured in 2013 please contact me!
This list is my best attempt at viewing each show completely objectively in each of these categories specifically. Now on to the awards!
Best Use of Music
What I had to say about it: “[The score is] quiet and moody, but almost always present with the ability to take over when needed. Most web series have scores of some sort but never has one felt as prominent as Brad Althouse’s score for Mythos. It’s clear that the series was written with music in mind. There are so many sequences that are simply images and music, and it can be quite moving. “
Scores are tricky – sometimes they go unnoticed to great effect, other times they can be quite noticeable but detract from the whole film experiences. Mythos score is arguably the backbone of the series, setting the mood in every scene and putting those little artistic touches on those extra special moments.
Runner up: Drifter: Broken Road
After The Beast (Rob York)
What I had to say about it: “The story is told really well visually. The first 9 minutes is without dialogue and its fantastic. A lot of that has to do with what I would describe as some of the very best editing I’ve seen in a web series. So many series are stagnant visually, lingering on unimpressive shots for far longer than needed. Here with After the Beast, the shows’ creators were making an action piece, which requires faster editing for more energy – they have no choice but to keep cutting, getting more shots and creating more angles.”
Maybe I am a product of the MTV generation and a graduate of the Darren Aronofsky Hip Hop MontageTM school of editing (who knows for sure) but the lack of cuts in web series is an epidemic. After the Beast is not an example of that style but it is an example of a series capable of telling a story visually without leaning on wide shots at every turn.
What I had to say about it: “Series creator and director Jay Ferguson has shown an incredible eye for composition and visual artistry, making even shots of people driving cars look great… I cannot stress enough how great the series looks and it is likely the result of an uncompromising vision. “
Guidestones might just be the best looking series on the internet, and while some of that can be attributed to the exotic locations and highly aesthetic architecture what really makes Guidestone stand apart is the camera work.
Runner Up: Blood & Bone China
Best Production Design
What I had to say about it: “What is super cool about using the green screen is that it allowed them to fill in the backgrounds with whatever they wanted. For the most part these are hand drawn pencil sketches – and there are tons of them. Generally the backgrounds are static but since this is video the creators take the opportunity to animate certain aspects of the backgrounds, occasionally allowing them to take center stage as stand-ins for big budget visual effects.”
Aidan 5 is somewhere between a graphic novel and a cartoon – and while I am not sure if pencil sketches really count as production design I had to give Aidan 5 the nod simply because the show was the most artistic production I saw all year. With a camera you frame your subject carefully. With a pencil you are responsible for every detail.
What I had to say about it: “Where the show really shines is with its main character, Allen, and his character arc. Web series writers should take note of how this series went about creating and telling this story – it’s classic screenwriting… ‘Pairings’ is one of THE best examples I have seen of writing a very tight, well structured screenplay for a web series, and pulling it off with all the depth of a well written feature.”
I am a sucker for depth in character, plot twists, subtle themes, and evolving characters – Ed Robinson’s script puts all of those together, throws in a bunch of good laughs and does so in what feels like a meticulously outlined and professionally structured screenplay.
Best Ensemble Cast
What I had to say about it: “Everyone is just so good in this -Mythos is a collection of amazing undiscovered talent. I have yet to see a web series dish out so many roles and have every single one hit the mark. Miriam Pultro (who I praised for her role in Casters) delivers another great performance here – although this time it was on both sides of the camera!”
Mythos has a lot of characters, more than most series do. I assume Mythos is the fruit of having a lot of actor friends willing to be owed a favor.
Best Acting Performance (Male or Female)
What I had to say about it: “Ed Robinson…breathed tons of life into the character while playing Allen. His subdued introversion came off as sort of sad early on, like there was some kind of pain or loneliness hidden under the surface. For him creating and tasting quality food seemed to quell some unseen fire inside.
This is something a writer can put in a script, but it’s up to an actor to really sell. I was absolutely delighted around episode 3 or 4 to see Allen give his little monologue about his father’s recent death and then seeing the family bonding in the kitchen – making food like their father had taught them. There really had been something beneath the surface.
What I had to say about it: “Many scenes are on the over the top graphic side – I’m thinking of a paintbrush through an eye specifically… but these moments help sell me on the world these characters live in and they help the show to stand out from a crowd of ‘PG’ shows where gangsters don’t swear too much and people don’t bleed when they get shot. “
Jonathan Robbins gets the best director nod for Clutch due to what I would describe as a singular, focused, vision for the series. Clutch was all about taking things to their gritty extremes in ways not yet seen in web series. Defining what makes someone a ‘best director’ can at times be difficult, but I do not think anyone would argue with a noticeable, strong vision being one criteria.
Best Use of the Internet as a Medium
I just kind of made this award up, but there needs to be some recognition for the differences between web productions and film productions, and this award exists to recognize one production for their use of the internet and their series in a way that is generally not thought of when discussing movies.
I went through each show and considered the things that set them apart from typical movies – most shows are released online because they couldn’t get a theatrical distribution, or because the creators didn’t have the budget to make a movie. A lot of shows are altered movie scripts. Some shows that were considered included Guidestones for all of the shows ARG elements, the game, the supplemental web pages among other things, as well as the show Tights & Fights for its social network character interaction and comic.
The League of Steam is the winner because they simply decided to put themselves online. They already exist in the real world. They do shows, events, weddings, music videos and are probably all in their workshops now, in character, creating new gadgets. For the group the web series is just an extension of their more theatrical elements, a view for the uninitiated into the characters they play in real life events. In a lot of ways the web series The League of Steam is the best commercial one could possibly make for the actual League of Steam.
We make a lot of fuss over the unique nature of web productions, be it the style of creating content that is digestible by online audiences with short attention spans and limitless options, or the ‘no-budget’ realities faced by creators. For all the significance of those differences we tend to praise the shows that remind us the most of Hollywood movies. Just look at the repeat nominees at the IAWTV Awards, it reads like a list of top spenders.
For myself, it all goes back to story – creating characters with depth and purpose and having actors make you believe in them. Great visuals and production values are nice and they certainly help, but filmmaking was an art form long before the age of computerized effects, or even color.
‘Pairings’ was the one show that really delivered in all of these areas, and deserved consideration in just about every category listed here. For all the reasons listed above, Pairings gets my nod for Best Screenplay, Best Actor as well as the Best Series featured on #WebSeriesWednesday in 2012.
So what do you guys think? What were your favorite series of the year? (Eligible or not)