Webseries

Checking out Checked Out

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How many times have I averred on my own blog that the Internet is the TV of the future? Our Nerd Lord and Master Chris Hardwick has given similar advice to young folks on the Nerdist podcast: just do it. Nike knows what they’re doing with their slogan. Well my friends, the future is here, now.

Checked Out is a new webseries that is some of the best TV I have ever seen. It centers around a couple of slackers (and some of their co-workers) as they interact in the dingy-looking break room of a grocery store. Our main character actually looks as though he never leaves the break room (and probably doesn’t, judging from dialogue in later episodes). It’s stellar sketch comedy, in that it takes place in just that one little room, and all the hilarity and tension is all about the characters. We are introduced to the characters in Episode 1, and it only gets weirder and funnier as the episodes progress. Who knew customer service was so soul-sucking and weird? Actually *all* of us who have ever worked in customer service know…

Here’s why:
1) It’s hilarious.
2) It is extremely well acted. By this I mean: the actors are all playing objectives, strongly, with no vestige of ironic postmodern winking at the audience. Every performance is earnest, precise, and gorgeous. I have a BFA in acting, I know what I’m talking about.
3) The characters! The one particular character flaw that made me laugh every time it appeared was the fact that the assistant manager is afraid of cardboard. I mean… What??! But it’s brilliant, and Mr. Gupta plays it so perfectly, I can’t. I just can’t. Watch it.
4) Look, I am running out of things to say. This is a wonderfully funny, extremely well done web series that you all must go watch, now. Below, embedded, is why.
5) I was going to bring this up as a negative, but now I think of it, it isn’t. Here’s my observation: Vicki Lewis’ character in this web series is exactly like her character Beth from Newsradio. But you know what? I can see that after that radio station closed, Beth may have had to get a job in a grocery store. So…it fits.

Bottom Line: This is your next comedy to watch regularly. Do it.

Okay, look: the stars of Checked Out are all recognizable from various other things. I’m not even going to bring their other credentials up. You know why? Because this is so awesome in its own right. You can see where you know them from online. All I am going to say is that it’s worth watching. More than that–I encourage you to watch. That is all.

~Prof. Jenn

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Divine: The Series

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Divine: The Series, created by Ivan Hayden and Kirk Jacques

A little over two months ago I was asked to review a relatively new web series that had recently finished its first season run. Yes. Two months ago. Sorry about that Swoots. Normally I relish the challenge of watching and analyzing a show oriented around the supernatural, especially one that has the casting coup of everyone’s favorite Angel/God, Misha Collins. Yet in this case, something was keeping me from feeling the urge to devour the episodes, as I would, say, with a new season of the Guild.

I finally figured out what it was and can thankfully say: don’t do as I did. Fire up your browser and tear your way through the six episodes on offer until season two rolls around.

Divine: The Series was written by Ivan Hayden (visual effects supervisor on Supernatural) and Kirk Jacques, directed by Hayden, and created and produced by Hayden, Jacques, Collins, and Jason Fischer (production coordinator on Supernatural).

The story follows the travails of three priests in a run-down mission on the wrong side of the tracks, who endeavor to care for a being (angel? miracle?) named Divine, who walks the streets protecting the innocent (and penitent) from the demonic creatures who threaten humanity. The narrative employs a modernist (and post-modernist) conceit of non-linear storytelling, dropping the viewer in the midst of a plot stream, with few clear indicators throughout the series as to the chronological orientation of each episode. Hayden, in one of the making of videos, asserts that time is of no consequence, with each episode dropping more clues about who these people are, what brought them to this religious outpost, and what the mission of the divine creature really entails.

Misha Collins as Father Christopher

Before I detail the things the series does well, let me first tackle that which kept me procrastinating the task at hand. The series is incredibly smart to drop Misha Collins into the first episode, ensuring that the rabid Castiel/Supernatural fan base will be hooked from the outset. It is unfortunately in this initial episode that the miscast character of Jin first appears. Actress Chasty Ballesteros sets the mood as the episode’s first speaker and it is so tonally ill judged that if it wasn’t for the presence of Collins you might be tempted to simply leave at the outset. The typical Jin line delivery is to scream, and said delivery is so wooden, for a character that seems such a cliché, that it takes a monumental effort to get past it and to keep watching. I am loath to call out just one person as the primary problem with a show, but every time Ballesteros is on-screen the story withers. Even the scenery chewing character of Jack in episode 2 can’t steal her crown. What makes it all the worse is that, for the most part, she is surrounded by people who can act, which makes the character stand out in ways that it simply wasn’t meant to.

However, there are enough things done well in the series that you shouldn’t let Jin keep you from watching. Granted, it took me two months to reach that point.

The visual effects are rather stunning for a web series, especially in episode two. It’s not at all surprising to discover that many of the cast and crew have worked on Supernatural because this series feels like an offshoot of that. Hayden has said that he wanted the series to feel like a graphic novel and it does – the atmosphere, the characters, the narrative could all easily grace the pages of a comic book that explores demons and divinity.

Ben Hollingsworth as Father Andrew

The three actors who play the priests (Misha Collins, Allen Sawkins, and Ben Hollingsworth) are the strongest of the ensemble and ensure that the episodes tie together in a way that keeps audience interest. In fact, I would argue that Hollingsworth’s arrival in episode three, as Father Andrew, is the moment that the storyline becomes more than supernatural special effects and actually begins to explore the mythology and purpose behind the show. It was episode three that changed my mind about the series and led me to watch the rest posthaste.

However, season one is not going to tie things together in a neat bow – if you’re looking for answers you’re going to need to wait for season two.  Season one delivers many mysteries, which are augmented by the non-linear approach to storytelling.  It’s a bold move, spending a season of episodes establishing a foundation, unsure of what will happen with the viewership, but I guess that’s a benefit to a web series – you’re not tied to a network and its rating requirements.

So my overall verdict: definitely watchable, if you can get past the initial acting hitch at the outset. If you’re not convinced by the first two episodes, hang in there for episode three and the narrative development. The special effects are fantastic, as is the music, and if you can get hooked by the storyline, then you’ll look forward to the next season.

 

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Spending time with Villains

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Do you like comics? Want to feel like you are move involved in them? Then 4villains is for you! 4Villains.org is offering to help you become the best villain or hero you can be. 4Villians meets the challenge of keeping of web series interesting by involving the viewers to join in on the fun. By building your own character and interacting in their companion social hub, viewers can play and earn points, unlock achievements and if they really make a name for themselves be part of the background in the web series. The web series is a humorous, fun blend of comic book homage, humor and an invite to become part of the fun online. On top of the web series 4 villains releases side stories through their entertaining web comic featuring the main villains and some of the viewer’s characters. The network also features specialty groups that offer monthly prizes of character artwork as a reward for the most active users.

As a hero or a villain, at the 4Villains social network you can even create your own lair. Leveling up by infiltrating your nemesis defense systems, role playing, attaining points helps your character to become part of the community. 4Villains viewers earn infamy point by playing various games and by betting on prospective winners who enter the arena where viewers face off with a fellow hero or villains and role the dice for a chance at victory.

Overall the interactive web series, comic and social network are engaging, filled with humor and fun. This passionately created series and site is the child of writer, director, actor and former D&D Dungeon master Jeff Saamanen. He uses his love of role playing games, comic books and writing to create a world where the viewers truly have a voice as to where the series goes next. The interactive viewer is welcomed into his world and in the process makes it a world where she or he can truly become the next walk on villain or hero.  Check out the fun at http://4villains.org/

New Animated Comedy Web Series ‘Girl and Boy’ Has Farts and Smarts!

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HOLLYWOOD, CA – Available NOW!

 

When farts meet smarts, it’s high brow potty humor, for the low brow comedy lover.

 

Created by award winning indie film and animation director, Barry W. Levy (Spook, The Ex-Convict’s Guide To Surviving House Arrest, Division Denim) and new media producer, Helenna Santos Levy (The Day Player, Songs From…, Helenna’s Tinseltown Tuesdays) comes the animated series Girl and Boy which takes a hilarious poke at what’s going on around us.

 

Whether it’s celebrity, conspiracy, the economy, makeovers, or the origin of the word ‘sh*tter’, Girl and Boy, (the famous icons from the bathroom door), get right down to the nitty gritty.  If there’s something juicy going on, they’ll be shooting the sh*t about it.  Plus, they always have a special guest drop by at the end of the show to say hello, and let one fly.

 

The South Park style animation is deftly provided by Tai Keattivanichvily, who helped Levy mastermind the award winning animated short Division Denim and The Hollywood Adventures of Freedom the Polar Bear, now in development as a kids TV series.

 

Helenna, whose acting credits include American Reunion and Black Box TV, voices the character of Girl; and Barry who has been seen in Hawaii 5-0, Flight 93, and The X-Files, voices Boy.  They are joined by Kristen Nedopak (Skyrim: To Lydia With Love, Think Hero TV) as the announcer for the series’ sponsor, ‘Johnny’s Condoms’ (It’s Johnny’s for Your Johnson!), and Brian Rodda (Learn It In An Hour, Songs From…) playing ‘Mr. Broadway’.

 

Other animated celebrities who stop by include Rupert Murdoch, No Smoking, Paris Hilton, Men at Work, and the occasional star from the web.

 

All nine episodes of Season One will be available March 15th at:  http://www.girlandboy.tv/

 

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Girl and Boy launches all nine Season One episodes on March 15th at http://www.girlandboy.tv

 

About Girl and Boy:  “Girl and Boy” stars Helenna Santos Levy as Girl (American Reunion, Black Box TV), Barry W. Levy (Hawaii 5-0, Flight 93, The X-Files) as Boy.  It is written and directed by Barry W. Levy, and animated by Tai Keattivanichvily

 

Follow the series on Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/girlandboytv

#fartsandsmarts

Like them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/girlandboytv

The web:  http://www.girlandboy.tv/

Mastermind

Mastermind

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Mastermind, a concept that started as a one act play and then a short film (which premiered at Comic-Con in 2010) has now turned into a web series with graphic novel tie-in. The “masterminds” behind this whole project are Susan Lee (Producer/Director) and Michael Patrick Sullivan (Writer). The series starts off with the introduction to Mastermind and plot set-up. It then switches to our main characters Liz Lassiter, a reporter who has been covering Mastermind, and her boyfriend, JD. Things get really interesting with the cliffhanger ending, which I won’t spoil for those interested in watching for themselves. When talking to Lee, she hoped the second episode would be ready by Feb 1. This is also when she wants the first page of the graphic novel to be ready by. The graphic novel will be released online one page at a time, probably every two weeks. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing this story unfold, but you be the judge. The first episode can be found on YouTube and the website.

 

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Review: Standard Action

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There is one new web series you should check out in the New Year: Standard Action. It’s based on Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy RPGs, but incorporates all kinds of pop culture. In D&D terms a “standard action” is an action that allows you to do something, i.e. attack or cast a spell. Standard Action was created by Joanna Gaskall and is shot in Vancouver. It has a small main cast, with many guest actors as the series goes on.

 

The cast stars Joanna Gaskall as Edda, an Elven Barbarian, Daniel Johnston as Martin, a Druid allergic to trees and who won’t heal, Edwin Perez as Fernando, an eternally optimistic half-Halfling Bard, and Tara Pratt as Wendy who prefers to be called Gwenevere and is more concerned with her looks and reputation than most other things. The series’ first four episodes are to introduce the characters to the viewers and to each other. The show then moves onto a quest to save Wendy’s and Fernando’s friends which morphs into saving the area.

 

 

Standard Action has 13 episodes (plus episode 6.5), which are all short and easily watchable in one day. The production value of the episodes are excellent. Everything from the costumes, makeup and setting are very well put together and believable. The writing is some of the funniest I’ve heard in a long time, web series or not. The dialogue is snappy and clever. There are many references to D&D, modern music, and more. If you don’t play D&D or any other type of fantasy RPGs, then some of the jokes might not make sense to you, but I don’t think that will detract from any enjoyment of the show. Each of the characters has a distinctive voice, all the while mocking (in a lovingly way) the tropes of their characters.

 

Speaking of characters, for a short web series the characters start off well developed and continue to evolve as the show goes on. They don’t get along at first and fumble their way through to the end, but at the end the group comes together to defeat the villain.

 

 

There were a few issues I had. First, in a few episodes the visual (mouth movements and prop sounds) didn’t match up to the audio. Secondly, I had some video stuttering where the audio kept going while the visuals were frozen. However, I am willing to blame those two things on Youtube, my internet connection, and my choice in watching it in 1080p. Perhaps with a better connection or a smaller size, those issues would not occur. My other minor problems was that sometimes the actor’s dialogue was hard to hear and the music got a little loud. Those are minor like I said and can be overlooked.

 

If you’d like to watch Standard Action you can watch it at the website http://watchstandardaction.com/ (which is linked above as well) which links to the videos at Youtube. Here’s the first episode to see if you want to watch the show:

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Web Series Review: Zombie Hunter

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There’s a new mockumentary on the web and it involves zombies. Zombie Hunter follows Nathan Greene as he attempts to show his abilities when up against zombies in the wild. Along the way, he takes time to advertise zombie repellants so that you, too, can become a hunter just like him. The episodes run around 3-6 minutes each, so it’s not a big time commitment. And if the website’s design doesn’t please you, you can access all the episodes on YouTube.

This is a fun, backyard project. It’s not as professionally done as many web series offerings, so please be aware of that going in. The sound drops out frequently, the lighting is bad, and the editing is rough. I understand why the scripts are written in the language that they are, considering Nathan and company appear to be the stereotypes of rednecks, but I found the episodes themselves to not be very smooth in conveying that goal. That may be because of its coupling with the acting, which seems to be more at a beginner than a professional web series level. I’m not sure how much experience the creators have, or whether this is indeed Dedman Productions’ first full length production, so I’ll assume it’s a first-offering from a budding group of actors and directors. If the series is recut and re-edited to become more professional, I’d suggest working on the opening because I found it to be repetitive by taking cuts of the first episode and leading into the credits. I think it would be more accessible to just start the episodes with the credit and then lead into the new content. Even at three minutes apiece, the repetition began to wear on me. However, for a first offering of zombie storytelling, the series is inventive.

If you’re a fan of zombies, and are aware of the caveats mentioned, be sure to check out Zombie Hunter. I’m interested to see where Dedman Productions goes in a couple of years. The creativity is certainly evident, which could lead to bigger and better things.

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Web Series Announcement: Home At Last

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Home at Last is a new web series that has yet to premiere. However, the lead-up has got fans buzzing. You might recognize some of the cast, since they’re very recognizable from other projects. William Russ, who plays the father and is also the co-producer, is best known for his role on Boy Meets World. Mike Bash, another co-producer who plays the son, was a series regular on the show Common Avenue. Lisa Kellerman, who plays Kim, has been a series regular on both the Pushing Twilight series, as well as the series Six Figures.

The premise is simple. Mike’s father is homeless, so like a good son he invites dear old dad to come stay with him. That’s when the trouble begins. Mike’s roommate isn’t on board with the plan, and neither are his other friends and loved ones, but what may seem like a bad idea is fodder for a comedic good time for audiences.

You can see the series trailer on their website and it’s evident even from that short clip that the project has professional editing and acting going for it. Each episode will span 4-6 minutes and air every other week for six episodes. That means three months of fun for viewers, interspersed with other behind the scenes videos. Stay tuned for the series!

 

Episode List:

  • Episode 1: “Pee Paw”
  • Episode 2: “Welcome Home, Dad”
  • Episode 3: “The Bag Business”
  • Episode 4: “An Inconvenient Burden”
  • Episode 5: “Violently Loved Under a Pile of Bricks”
  • Episode 6: “Episode 7″

 

Guest Blogger: Interview with John Deryl from Overturn

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Guest Post/Interview conducted by Chelsee Yee.  Yee is a marketing intern with Overturn. She is a sophomore at Seattle University majoring in Journalism, with an additional interest in Criminal Justice. She enjoys reading Stephen King novels and watching horror flicks on the weekends.

 

Chelsee Yee: How do you manage playing the multi-role of being the director, producer, actor,
screenwriter, and composer for Overturn? It seems like a difficult and stressful task to
accomplish. Do you have a secret to facing this challenge?

John Deryl: There is no secret. But there is something very important. It is a real passion. My passion is to
make Overturn a high quality project. That is why I do so many different jobs. Every day I face
many challenges, but I know that eventually I will win because only I can limit myself. Other
people, no matter what they say or think, do not really influence my decisions. I do not like to
waste time on something cheap or trivial, and being the leading actor, screenwriter, director,
producer, and composer helps me control every aspect of the series and make sure that it
satisfies my demands for high quality.

CY: What can fans expect from Season 2? How does it compare to Season 1? How many
more seasons will Overturn run for?

JD: Overturn is unpredictable. There will be many surprises in Season 2. Undoubtedly, fans will
feel the same captivating atmosphere from Season 1, but in the new season, Overturn changes
dramatically. New characters, unexpected plot turns, beautiful fighting scenes and much
more will absorb them deeper into the world of our story. As for the number of seasons, I can’t
tell you exactly how many of them we will create. But I can say that the concept of Overturn is
so global that the series will have a multitude of subsequent seasons.

CY: Overturn holds the title of being “the first international sci-fi mystery web series.” Do
you plan on using other languages or subtitles in your show?

JD: Yes, our show is unique for having a cast and crew from different countries. We are using
other languages in it as well. For example, in the first season, Philippa Peter who plays Lisha,
spoke some phrases in one of the Nigerian languages. In Season 2, our audience will hear
Russian. Of course, we are planning to dub the show in other languages. We currently have
subtitles available for the audience. By the way, our fans help us a lot. They volunteer their
time to translate subtitles into their own languages, so that people of their countries can
watch the show on our website.

CY: As the cast and crew are all representatives of different countries, have their been any
language barriers or obstacles on set?

JD: Good question! There have been many quite amusing situations. A big part of our crew
is Russian speaking since we are filming in Ukraine, but many of our actors do not speak
Russian. Sometimes they cannot understand each other, but eventually, somehow they are
able to cooperate and listen to each other. By the way, I can open a big secret! One of our
leading actors, Konstantin Gerasimuk who plays the Servant, is Ukrainian. He does not know
English at all, but in the second season, you will see many scenes where he does speak English.
It is not a voice-over! Our crew is amazed! We translate his lines into Russian. He understands
their meaning, memorizes English lines and without knowing the language speaks them. He
looks like a person who knows English! It is magic!

CY: How did you come up with Christopher Gabriel’s character? Do you relate to him in
many ways? How would you overcome the fear he faces?

JD: I look at Christopher as a part of the story. He is deeply connected with everything in the
world of Overturn. As the show goes forward, the audience will realize how logical his life is
in the context of the story. I can understand his feelings of being not apt to this society. He is
deeply honest and vulnerable, but in this society people like him suffer because of the lie and
cold they see everywhere. Ordinary people use those things to protect themselves, but he is
far from being ordinary, so he cannot do the same thing. He is a mystery to others because
his inner world is very rich. On the other hand, he really has his inner fears which have deep
roots. I would say you cannot overcome your fears, but you can use them. By that, I mean you
have to face your fears. There is no other way.

CY: The caption for the show is, “His dreams are the key to the answer.” Do answers usually
come to you in dreams? How much trust and dependence can we really have with our
dreams?

JD: Sometimes answers or at least clues come to me in dreams. It does not happen very often, but
when it does, I am glad. As for trust and dependence, I think everyone has to decide on their
own.

CY: Are there any other side projects that you are participating in? If not, do you plan on
creating another web series?

JD: Currently, Overturn is my only project, but I have done other things in the past as well. Those
have been parts on film, TV, and stage. I am not planning on creating another web series right
now, but I am always open to well-developed, high quality projects.

CY: What has been the best experience so far in filming Overturn?

JD: I think the best experience happened last Tuesday when we were shooting in Feofania Park.
It is one of the many beautiful places in Kiev, the city where we are filming Overturn. The
atmosphere of the place was so calm and different from that of the city. There was no wind
and everything was foggy, so the whole crew felt like they were in another world. It was a
magical place and magical moment, and we filmed two charming scenes. Those kinds of
moments make you want to keep going no matter what!

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Web Series Review: Oblivion

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Oblivion is, unlike most web series, a full-length show with each episode logging in around 22 minutes. This plays well for it in certain situations, but is a bit detrimental in others. Created by Mike Cuenca, the series is meant to be a spin-off of his film Scenes from Oblivion. I have not seen the movie, so I wanted to make sure the series could be picked up as an independent project with no reliance on the former. I’m not quite sure it achieves that feat.

The series is meant to shed light on a group of rockers, punks, and mods in the city of Holwenstall. While the summary held great promise, there were noted situations where I as an audience member was totally lost. Certain characters seem to be from the 60s, but the exterior shots place the series in current times. So, are the characters out of place or the environment? And with 14 main characters, the storyline is extremely hard to follow without cheat notes.

I found the voiceover scenes, which summarized the characters, to be very well-done. The editing was stellar in these instances and the artistic quality set them apart from typical web series fare. However, the live-action acting scenes were very rough and detracted from the storyline. I felt like I was being thrown into the deep end and expected to swim with no help of easing me into whatever the story might be.

The cast list for the series contain virtual unknowns, but there were a few stand-outs. Sara Camille Riviello as Fay plays the rocker type very well. Jennifer Higgins as Louise plays a character that feels much older than mid-30s, but it also makes her stand out. And Rachel Castillo as Joy does well with the oblivion of drug abuse and deadbeat partners.

Oblivion has the potential to be great once the rough spots get ironed out. If you want to give the series a try, head over to their web site where you can watch six episodes and a Halloween special. There’s also four podcasts to download, promos to watch, and publicity stills to see.

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