Web series have been around since the nineties, but only recently have they been lauded as a creative rebirth of television in the digital era.
These Internet-only shows are part of a growing global movement, giving viewers choice and diversity in what they watch.
To celebrate the emerging industry, web series festivals are being held around the world. These events aim to promote burgeoning talent, encourage participation in the industry and educate everyone from TV networks to creators and fans.
Australia will launch its first international web series festival in July. The Melbourne Web Series Festival recognises innovative creators that are transforming the world of entertainment.
While not yet as popular in Australia as other parts of the world, Melbourne WebFest Director Ashlee Thomas believes that web series are beginning to spark interest.
The festival aims to build a hub for fans and creators of web series, in Australia and internationally, to meet, interact and share ideas.
“I think creative people need an outlet and our online communities want a space to meet these creators,” says Thomas.
Another aim of the festival is to create a platform for emerging creators to share their work
“The barrier of entry into the media and entertainment industry is difficult, (but with web series) you can reach out to the community and before you know it, if it’s a good show, it will go viral,” says Thomas.
Thirty outstanding web series will be screened at the festival, with accolades to be awarded across five genres.
In addition, the Outstanding Diversity Award recognises a series where the director or lead characters are traditionally under-represented in film and television.
The Grand Jury Selection is awarded to the best series, with the winner receiving all-expenses-paid trips to Los Angeles and Marseilles to attend and screen their series at LA WebFest and Marseilles WebFest in 2014.
According to Thomas, all the web series so far have been of exceptional quality.
“We have received a very competitive number of submissions from almost every part of the globe,” says Thomas.
So what are the organisers of the festival looking for in a good web series?
“A panel of judges with a diverse background in media, entertainment and academia will choose our Official Selection. But personally, I want to see a connection with the characters, a range of emotions that we experience as humans,” says Thomas.
“If it’s a comedy I’d like to laugh. If it’s a drama, I want to see the character’s angst and pain. We’re looking for a real, authentic story that we can relate to.”
In addition to the screenings and awards, the festival also boasts an educational program, with panels dedicated to discussing the business, technical and creative aspects of web series.
The educational program gives people an opportunity to share with each other the progressions underway in digital entertainment.
And, to help the festival run smoothly, Melbourne Web Fest has enlisted a team of dedicated students as part of a comprehensive internship program.
The program gives students the opportunity to be involved in implementing innovative marketing and communication strategies while gaining valuable experience.
La Trobe University Media Studies student Olivia Whyte is a member of this year’s Video Production team.
“We’ll be shooting a lot of footage in the lead up to the festival and on the day,” says Whyte.
“We’re currently planning a behind the scenes look into how the festival is developing, to create a bit more interest in the festival.”
Thomas says the internship also gives students a “competitive advantage” when entering creative networks.
“I’m looking forward to soaking up as much information as possible and learning skills that I can take into future work,” says Whyte.
Melbourne WebFest is now accepting submissions. The festival will be held at Kindred Studios on 20 July 2013.