CliqueClack TV

Webisode Clack – Grape Jam and the LA Webfest

This week, with the help of our pal Brittney Powell, Webisode Clack hops into the wayback machine to take a look at where this whole web series craze started. It might be older than you think....

This week’s Webisode Clack comes to us thanks in large part to two of my most favorite people in the web series space, Brittney Powell (Safety Geeks: SVI) and Jennifer Dawson (Party Girl Plus One). Over the last week, Brittney has taken us on a trip down memory lane, as we look at just how far back this whole web series thing stretches. And Jen has highlighted the present, sending along the results of the recent LA Webfest. To begin, please join Brittney and me in the wayback machine.

With all of the growth and publicity we’ve seen from the various web shows over the last couple of years, it’s tempting to think of this as a very new thing. Truth be told, that’s not the case at all. Where were you in 1996? Were you even online? Because if you were, the web series was there, waiting to be discovered. Over the weekend, Brittney posted some scans from the Dec ’96 issue of Websight magazine. That’s her on the cover in the image you see above. The article inside is titled “Honey, what’s on the web tonight?” Reading through it, it’s amazing how familiar it all sounds. It’s talking about the merger of the web and television, and what that means for how we will watch things in the future. Really, if you omit a couple of the obviously dated references (IRC!, Real Audio), much of the article is still very relevant today.

You can check out the scans below. Or better yet, go find Brittney on facebook so you can also see the comments section. There are lots of interesting people joining the discussion, including Scott Zakarin. Not only did he create Grape Jam, he’s the guy who did The Spot. The Spot, man. That’s hardcore, old-school, web nerdery. When I decided to feature this article, and Grape Jam, this week, I sent a tweet along to Brittney and asked if she had anything to add. As expected, her response was better than anything I was going to say. So here it is….

“Art for the sake of Art. Art for the sake of Fun. Art for the sake of Money.” -Try to make sure that at least two of the three are present when choosing a project.

When I look back at the things I’ve chosen to do, I am most proud of the ones that followed that simple rule. Looking back at Grape Jam, it was no exception. From the day I met Scott Zakarin, the creator of Grape Jam, we just naturally did things that way. We had been friends for some time, and had worked on other projects together already, so I knew that working with him was always a pleasure, and for the most part, downright laugh-out-loud fun. When he pitched me the idea of doing this thing … that’s kind of like a TV show … but on the internet … and it involves interacting with the audience … and we’ll have days where we shoot pics of the characters that we’ll download in real-time, it’s called “streaming”… and your character is part of an improv troop … etc, etc,  this is how it translated to me … “I get to work with Scott again. Improv equals fun. I don’t understand all these technical words, but if I do this, he will teach me. I’M IN.” Shoot, I had never even used a chat room. I learned, on the fly, in the Grape Jam Production House.

Now we have web shows that employ “A- list” actors. We have web shows that can immediately incorporate, and build upon, the most cutting edge technology, as Safety Geeks: SVI proved when it used Light Wave, Maya, and Fusion (much of the same technology used in the Emmy Award Winning show John Adams) to create the setting where the show takes place in season one … moving into full stereoscopic, polarized 3D imaging (as created for and used by Avatar) for season 2. We now have entire web channels, such as Ustream, dedicated to real-time, live streaming video, where there are real conversations taking place between the people on camera and any number of folks at home, who are chillin’ in their jammies. We now have awards shows, like The Streamy Awards and The Webby Awards, to acknowledge all of this!

Grape Jam is a wonderful reminder to me that what we, as web series creators and providers, are doing in the space is having an incredible impact on the shape of things to come. We are a community of builders, paving the road with each choice we make, helping to guide the path as to how things can and most likely will progress … whether we are aware of it or not. I am rather awe-struck that as I delve deeper into the web world of today, I can look back and realize how fortunate I am to have been able to take part in the web world during its infancy.

It is all very cool. I find it fascinating to watch how all of this is devloping. It’s not happening as quickly as one  might have thought when they were turning the pages in their fresh new copy of Websight back in 1996, but it is happening. And after that blast from the past, I’m left thinking….

/me has a hankerin’ for some PB&J (Good lord, the hours I spent on IRC back in the day).

Back in the present day, the Los Angeles Web Series Festival took place recently. It’s worth noting for a few reasons. One, it is progress in the ongoing march that closes the gap between the web, television, and movies. Also, the Webfest has a unique approach to how they run their awards. It’s not just a one-winner-per-category system. You’ll find multiple winners in many of the categories. I was particularly happy to see Party Girl Plus One in two of those (Comedy Series, Lead Actress), as well as the Safety Geeks (Cinematography, Special Effects). And finally, if nothing else, the list of winners serves as a great list of shows to watch. There are a few on there that I’ve yet to see, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Past, present, and future … these are exciting times for the web series world. Thanks to Brittney and Jen for their help this week. If you would like to know more about them, check out the official sites for Safety Geeks: SVI and Party Girl Plus One (episode six just went live!), and follow them on twitter at @aBrittneyPowell and @partygirlplus1.

Photo Credit: Websight

Categories: | Clack | Columns | General | Webisode Clack |

5 Responses to “Webisode Clack – Grape Jam and the LA Webfest”

April 7, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Excellent article.

April 8, 2010 at 7:52 AM

Excellent stuff. Though I’d argue IRC is very much NOT outdated. I used it as early as yesterday to communicate with my buddies in the LonelyGirl15 community and have used it for years and years playing ARGs and still argue it is one of the strongest free chatting programs available, able to handle large amounts of traffic without issue. Sure, it doesn’t have fancy video and such, but boy have I had years of awesome conversations and adventures using it.

April 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Jenni, I said that IRC was a dated reference, not dated technology. Believe me, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that gets more mileage out of technology than I do. I’m typing this comment on one of my beloved Model Ms, which was made in the 80s. This weekend I’ll ride my 28 year old motorcycle over to Seattle to see a play. And you’ll find more records and VHS movies in my media collection than any reasonable person should probably have. I love old tech.

But the fact of the matter is that the general audience, and especially the general audience on the internet, doesn’t. You are obviously not the typical internet user, so something like IRC is perfectly normal. I would suspect though, that if you just asked normal, run-of-the-mill internet users what IRC is, they would have no clue. In that context, IRC is a dated reference. But as you’ve shown, it’s still certainly viable technology.

/me gets off his soapbox. :P

April 9, 2010 at 12:04 PM

*standing ovation*


April 9, 2010 at 12:11 PM

hahaha… well played Jenni!

And for anyone else stopping by, a shameless plug is probably in order. You should totally go check out Jenni’s posts at Tubefilter. She’s pretty awesome.

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