Our panel on Webseries and Transmedia played to a full house in the old Conga Room at Busby’s East this week.
The event kicked off with the announcement of our co-production (along with our friends at StoryCode and TransmediaSF)of the upcoming Story Hackathon at Createasphere and some information about Zahn Li’s “Future of Transmedia Strategy” research project. Then it was time for the main event.
Moderated by myself, the panel brought together the creative teams of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and The League of S.T.E.A.M. for a wide ranging discussion about the rapidly evolving worlds of webseries and transmedia. (Shock, I know.)
Director Stewart Hender and producer Joshua Feldman were on hand to represent Halo and actor-director Andrew Fogel actor-designer Kate Walsh and executive producer Trip Hope stood for The League of S.T.E.A.M..
The conversation began with the subject of the story worlds of both shows.
The Halo team stepped into big shoes when they were brought on board by Microsoft and 343 Industries to create a show that bridged the gap between Halo 3 and 4. Producer Feldman told the audience that 343 gave more or less free reign in the millennia long Halo timeline to craft a story so long as they didn’t violate canon.
Director Hendler pointed out that in some places the Halo canon violated itself. With that freedom, however, they were able to craft not only a story that they wanted to tell– complete with moral shades of gray– but as Feldman points out they were able to take that story and make it the background for one of the key supporting characters in both Halo 4 and its serialized extension “Spartan Ops”.
The Leaguers’ story is almost a mirror image. As Andrew Fogel tells it, the series began as an off-shoot of the cast and crew’s passion for the steampunk look and building elaborate props and costumes. That passion extends to the fan base, who helped turn the final episode of the second season into a zombie extravaganza. Producer Trip Hope notes that of the 70 fans who volunteered to come out and help, 40 of them actually pulled through. That’s dedication.
The Halo and League teams live on different ends of the budget spectrum. Hendler characterized the budget for Halo as being “the Avatar of web series budgets”, while the League’s Hope was proud of their shoestring cash outlay. Hendler did note, however, that while the budget looked big on paper it didn’t stop them from having to go the extra mile and get their hands dirty.
All About The Fans
Both series have intense relationships with their fans. Not only did the League rely on their fans to help with the finale of their season, but the entire second run was financed via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
Hendler and Feldman faced a different kind of fan issue: the sheer passion and involvement of Halo fans with that very elaborate universe. One interesting tidbit there: while the devil might be in the details, Feldman said that what the fans really care about it the story. You can get all the details of the universe right, but if the story isn’t any good it won’t matter.
Chasing That Dollar
During the Q&A segment of the evening the issue of money came up more than once. Transmedia LA is a gathering of media professionals, after all, many of whom are either trying to get their own pet projects off the ground or who spend their waking hours negotiating the choppy waters of the studio system.
Feldman and I talked about the influx of cash that is coming into the webseries world as big studios like Warner Bros. make investments in rising networks like Maker Studios. It’s a double edged sword, meaning that while there is more opportunity there’s also more of a demand for control. Hendler said that you’ll never have more control in a creative capacity than web series makers do right now.
The League’s Walsh lamneted that working on her series couldn’t be her day job, but was still committed enough to make the series her life. Hope and Fogel, meanwhile, let on that the series has led to opportunities for their production company. Not only does the League make live appearances at Conventions and corporate events, but they’ve begun to be hired to produce costumes and content for music videos. They’ve even been tapped by Justin Bieber’s team.
The full audio of the event will be available soon.
Portions of this article were previously published on Turnstyle News, used with permission.