This book tells the story of diverse online creators – women, ethnic and racial minorities, queer folk and those from hardscrabble backgrounds – producing low budget, high cultural impact web-series which have disrupted longstanding white male domination of the film and TV industries.
Author Guy Healy addresses four burning problems faced by creators in the context of digital disruption (along with potential solutions), namely: the sustainability of monetizing digital content and the rising possibility of middle-class artistic careers; algorithmic volatility; the difficulty of finding people to share jealously guarded industry knowledge as traditional craft-based mentoring and expertise-sharing mechanisms break down; and the lack of diversity and authenticity in high-profile storytelling. It includes nine case studies, five drawn from a second wave of outstanding YouTube-developed talent, transitioning to longer form narrative, most collaborating with established TV producers working across the divide between online and established television culture, and all from under-represented and/or minority backgrounds. The balance are film-school and industry professionals leveraging YouTube in the same way, including two Writers Guild of America new media award-winners. These storytellers leverage their social networks and chase sustainable careers by reaching audiences of subscription video-on-demand platforms and mainstream online broadcast in Australia and North America. The Production of Global Web-Series in a Networked Age is the first longitudinal study of this historic rapprochement between online and television cultures. Four of the cases are in Emmy-winning contexts, and one in an Emmy nominated context.
Covering 2005–2021, the book reveals distinctive new forms of screen industry convergence with profound implications for creators’ careers, the screen industry in general, new media theory, and broader cultural and social change. It is essential reading for students, academics and industry professionals working on the production and distribution of web series.
Table of Contents
Preface by Tina Cesa Ward
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2: Absurdist YouTube animator Chris Voigt’s journey to EMMY-winning, Bluey
Chapter 3: Rapprochement across the divides: the Saidden brothers aka Superwog and Emmy-nominated Princess Pictures
Chapter 4: The dark cinematic dreams of the Philippou twins, aka RackaRacka
Chapter 5: The world’s #3 online dessert chef, and developmental activist, Ann Reardon ‘stuck in the algorithms’
Chapter 6: The blood, sweat and tears of Shae-lee Shackleford and SketchSHE
Chapter 7: Emmy-Winner Julie Kalceff…not sitting in a room on her own
Chapter 8 : Erin Good, Taylor Litton-Strain and fantasy-noir web-pilot, Jade of Death
Chapter 9: Bending algorithmic culture to serve post-TV storytelling
Chapter 10 Tina Cesa Ward: The New York film director who fell into web-series
Chapter 11: the Garden in YouTube’s Machine
Appendix 1: Career mobility paths of Skip Ahead alumni, 2014–19
Appendix 2: Three keys to sustainability for web-series makers, 2005 to 2021, based on Murdock and Goldings’ (2016, 764) three economies
Dr Guy Healy works as a researcher on an Australian Research Council project investigating the role of the web-series globally. Healy worked for about a decade at The Australian newspaper, mainly as a higher education writer; and for BBC Wildlife magazine as a freelance correspondent investigating species-level threats to wildlife. His most important story reported on calls from zoologists warning that research funding into, and surveillance of bat-borne viruses in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, had to be prioritized, in 2009
Of chapter 2: The Networked Muse: Chris Voigt’s journey onto the EMMY-winning Bluey: "I read it, with so much joy! What rich detail, and so much insight. I really learned something here. A solid piece of work!"
Professor Mark Deuze, author, Media Work (2007); co-author with Henry Jenkins, Editorial: Convergence Culture (2008).
"This book provides an in-depth examination of what it is like to rely on a profit-geared, algorithm-driven, global platform for income (YouTube). Each case study is a fascinating journey into the working lives of those who dominate and influence internet culture. Healy proceeds with respect for the creatives and their audiences; I wanted to cheer their successes and felt disappointed when platform algorithms shifted against them. A fascinating investigation."
Professor Ellie Rennie, PhD Examiner, Principal Research Fellow in RMIT's Digital Ethnography Research Centre; author of Community Media: A Global Introduction (2006); and Using Media for Social Innovation (with Aneta Podkalicka, 2018).
"These original and rich longitudinal case studies offer a clear understanding of the knowledge transfer process between the ‘divided camps’ of experienced TV producers and social media creators, and the importance of the critical knowledge transfer across this industrial–cultural divide."
Associate Professor Cathy Henkel, PhD examiner, EMMY-nominated writer-director of The Burning Season (2008), and the multi-award-winning Laura’s Choice (2020).
"Healy balances the business of storytelling with the passion of the creator to tell stories, no matter the budget or obstructions. Not all creators have travelled the same path, but we all share the same desire to push forward our voices and for someone like Healy to examine and celebrate them."
Tina Cesa Ward co-writer and director of web-series, Anyone But Me (100 million views), and director of the second season of the multi-Emmy Award winning shortform series, After Forever.