Since this is my first blog post on the conception of and processes involved in bringing Starting From … Now! to fruition, I thought I’d start by addressing the question I’ve probably been asked most about this project – why a web series?
One of the main advantages, I believe, in making a web series is that there are fewer limitations on who has access to your product. While we’d all love our work to be shown and celebrated by the mainstream media, the chances of that actually happening are very slim, especially if you’re new to the industry or don’t have a raft of award-winning feature films behind you. The same, to some extent, can be said about film festivals. The decision as to which films are accepted into any given festival is made by a handful of people. This means that, no matter how knowledgeable or well-intentioned these people are, the process is undoubtedly subjective. It has to be. No festival can possibly show every film submitted for consideration. What this means is that someone else is deciding who gets to see your film or television series. With a web series, however, filmmakers are able to bypass these gatekeepers. Anyone can put their product, whether it be a web series or a short film, on the internet. No-one is stopping them (but themselves). A web series, therefore, has the potential to reach a much wider audience. It’s then up to the audience to decide whether or not they want to watch your product – the democratisation of content. The follow-on from this is that the audience, should you find one, will leave you in no doubt as to what they think of your series. Their engagement is immediate, often passionate, and undoubtedly honest. If you don’t have a thick skin and are thinking about producing and distributing a web series, I suggest you either reconsider or start to toughen up.
This access to a potential audience is particularly important if the content you are producing happens to fall outside what is believed to be “mainstream” or “acceptable”. By this, I’m referring to content that offers an alternative to the homogenised representations of race, gender and sexuality that we receive from mainstream media. As a woman and a lesbian, I’m tired of seeing the same gender stereotypes played out over and over again on our television and movie screens. I’m tired of seeing women still, in this day and age, being cast as either the Madonna or the whore. I’m tired of not seeing lesbians on screen or, if they do happen to make it into a mainstream film or television series, they are, predominantly, cast as the victim or the villain. While I’m old enough to know that this isn’t the way it should be, what concerns me most is the message this sends to young girls, particularly those struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. We emulate what we see and what we’re exposed to. This is a major problem and while the odd web series here or there isn’t going to solve this, it at least offers a step in the right direction. One of the most rewarding aspects of this process has been receiving messages of gratitude and support from all over the world, from countries such as Norway, France, Brazil, Germany, Austria and the United States. I know what it’s like, both as an adult and a child, not to see yourself on screen. I know what it’s like to wonder if there’s something wrong with you or if you should just try and be like everyone else. I also know what it’s like to finally find something that offers an alternative. Something that is in no way perfect or an exact representation of who you are, but something that at least lets you know you’re not alone.
And that’s why a web series.
By Julie Kalceff