Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lazy Sunday # 145: Kat Dennings New Media Mogulette


All Art and most commerce is subjective.

Some people like the same TV shows, movies or music I do and some don't.

Some people love Fords or Chevrolets and others wouldn't be caught dead buying one.

When I was 8 years old, my friends and I would argue endlessly over who made the best pick-up truck, though none of us had ever actually driven one and we didn't have the first clue what we were talking about.

These days that depth of knowledge will qualify you as a color commentator on Hockey Night In Canada.

Or to have your own blog.

I seldom post reviews of what I like or don't like here. And when I do it's usually to make a point about something else.

A few weeks ago, I posted my dissatisfaction with the final episode of "Rubicon", mostly to illustrate my feeling that the audience didn't get what it had been promised. Somebody linked that post to a TIME magazine piece and I was flooded with hate filled diatribes from fans of the series.

Now that AMC has cancelled "Rubicon" does that make my opinion more valid than theirs? Of course not.

For all I know the show didn't go forward because it was too expensive, hadn't delivered a desired demographic or somebody threw up on somebody at the wrap party.

That's a long way of saying -- don't get too bent out of shape by what's coming next. I don't mean anything personal and I'm not questioning any fellow creative's professional skills or level of talent.

Over the last few weeks, a number of new Canadian made web series began to debut. They're the first wave of an initiative designed to assist new media.

In their own words, "The intent is to assist independent producers/creators to finance the production of original drama series created initially for the web. The Independent Production Fund intends to explore the potential for high quality, story-driven drama with new and innovative narrative forms."

All well and good and I'm sure those creating the various series all have a well defined target audience in mind. Story wise, what I've seen so far doesn't appeal to me and I doubt it was intended to. And that's all okay.

But what I'm noticing is that all of the series feel like either short form TV shows (a scripted TV pilot that has been reformatted into mini-episodes) or audition pieces designed to offer an arena or characters a broadcaster might like to further as hours or half hours.

But since the whole point of this exercise was to find "innovative narrative forms", I'm wondering why that's about the last thing I'm seeing.

And I've got to ask if the IPF is simply carrying more of the development load formerly shouldered by our broadcasters -- development we already fund through our taxes and cable fees.

Is the $1.2 Million from regular Canadians delivering anything that can establish any kind of new media presence or form of story telling? Or is it there to create a finished product that development execs not skilled enough to assess script and talent alone might more easily understand?

Most of what has debuted replicates what can also easily be found elsewhere on the web. Non-Canadian of course, but then, beyond the odd mention or mailbox, nothing about these new series feels like a uniquely Canadian perspective either. 

Is all this just another version of the (in)famous "create a Canadian copy of a foreign success" syndrome?

On the IPF website, each series lists its running times (between 3 and 10 minutes) and the number of episodes which will eventually be rolled out, usually on a weekly basis. Once again, that copies the TV model in micro form and replicates where the web was a couple of years ago, not where it is today.

TV established the weekly episodic format for most drama because it was cost effective and created a schedule most viewers could follow without needing much more than the odd promotional reminder  --  "Seinfeld -- Thursday at…".

But in a world of DVRs, full season DVDs and year round TV debuts, not to mention thousands of new Internet pages and links arriving daily, shouldn't these new Canadian offerings be trying something new rather than hoping their audience will stick around and/or maintain interest from week to week?

Similarly, Youtube established the "no longer than 10 minutes" rule when it debuted, and no doubt shorts remain the web's main form of video consumption. But there are many web series now that run 30 minutes or more and interact across multiple platforms.

Overall, it feels like anything innovative, experimental or explorational was tossed overboard in favor of another "make-work" Arts program built to serve a bureaucracy that values what fits on a comparative chart more than trying anything new or risky.

Or enormously enjoyably creative…

Which brings me to Kat Dennings.

Ms. Dennings is a talented Hollywood starlet who apparently registers high on the "hot" scale in her demographic. She's been blogging for some time and also has her own video channel on Youtube.

Since much celebrity generated Internet video is designed to enhance celebrity, most people probably dismiss her musings as just that. But I think if you look closely, you'll find somebody trying really hard to create a unique "Brand" and offer an original point of view.

What follows is a short, loopy riff on her 2008 film "Nick and Nora's Ultimate Playlist" a film barely different from most of the young urban angst regularly funded by Telefilm but which earned more than $33 Million on its far from extravagant budget.

The sound and picture quality aren't great. But I predict you'll find more originality in it than in the government approved Art we're making. And instead of costing $1.2 Million, it probably didn't set Ms. Dennings back more than a sheaf of craft paper and a box of Crayolas.

Dennings videos currently average 100 hits for every one garnered by the new Canadian videos. Maybe that's an obvious side-effect of celebrity but it may reflect a desire to view and share video that can't be found somewhere else.

I continue to believe that Canadians will never succeed in finding an audience on TV, in movies or on the web until the creative choices of bureaucrats and the need to meet their needs is removed from our production system.

Whether or not you agree -- Enjoy Your Sunday.

1 comment:

John McFetridge said...

It's tough to disagree, you do have history on your side. But I would like to point out that there are other places in the world that have a bureaucratic model and do find an audience.

And in Canada the publishing industry has to go through some similar bureaucratic meddling and manages to find an audience.

The system may be a big problem, but it isn't the only problem here.