‘Our Cultural Center’ follows the exploits of a staff at a Chicago contemporary art gallery following the assumption of power by the current founders ex-husband. Episodes range from character based, like the first few episodes where we meet the staff, to situation based, like their newest episode “Flower Power” which centers around the delivery of flowers to the office. Many episodes are also centered around a piece of art like the episode “Dluzen Confusion” which features an odd cardboard sculpture.
Show runner MartinJon created the series as an advocate to the arts. The hope is to introduce the arts to people in a fun way, and to address the growing concern over a lack of funding to the arts. Artists, web producers and really any young person in the entertainment field can attest to the challenges associated with making money and getting paid, which makes for a nice segway into the next topic.
Can your production afford to learn on the job? That was a question I postulated during #webserieschat on twitter awhile back that is relevant to a lot of new creators making their way into the web series field. The resounding answer was ‘no.’ ‘Our Cultural Center’ is a great example of a series that is testing that theory. With twenty episodes in the can, seventeen released and another ten in production this week the growth between production cycles is readily apparent.
The first ten episodes are shot with a less than ideal camera and without lights. While the series is done in that documentary style that is so common these days the added ‘realism’ doesn’t pay off. For the most part the lack of lights isn’t directly noticeable, or at least it doesn’t create bad imagery, it just doesn’t help alleviate the sort of cheapish look of the production. The real benefit of adding the lights in the second set of ten is that the cheap camera becomes less noticeable and avoids distraction. While the benefit is noticeable I believe we’ll see the real value revealed in the next ten when the group can show off the knowledge they gained using them in the last cycle.
So the question remains. From my perspective the overall quality is there, especially by the end of the set of twenty, but will audiences starting from the beginning stick around? Maybe audiences aren’t starting from the beginning for a series like this. Every episode is in the two to three minute range and centers around a very specific, self contained joke. While the first few episodes were a bit too story and exposition heavy to work in this format without killing the momentum the later episodes balance things much better.
A viewer checking out episode thirteen might not have any real reference to the characters or the situation but I don’t believe that will hurt their viewing experience. In a lot of cases the show is seeing a much higher view count on the later episodes, which indicates that this view of the show might be the correct one.
Another thing that the show has going for it is its connection to artists, whose real actual work is displayed in the show. This adds in another stakeholder to the show and connects the series to a larger community. I believe that such symbiotic relationships are crucial to audience building and to a successful series.
For ‘Our Cultural Center’ to be successful they will need to continue their focus on collaboration. As they grow as creators they are also building connections and adding stakeholders to the show, which will only serve to grow their audience and influence.
So give ‘Our Cultural Center’ a look! You can find the show on their official website http://ourculturalcenter.com