Why screenwriters are going digital

BY Kellie Ann Benz

“If I was interested in working with the networks,” explains Jason Leaver, creator of the Award-winning web series Out With Dad, “I’d be making my series for them, their way. How could I give up my creation like that? I want to tell my story, my way, for my audience.”

Scott Albert, co-creator of Tights & Fights: Ashes, adds “the stuff we do for the web we do because we want to make something and have it seen by as many people as possible – that's it.”

No longer content to be TV’s bastard child, web series creators are not turning to the medium just to make showcase pieces for TV executives. The web series is making a claim to legitimacy in its own right, and Canadian screenwriters are leading the charge.

“We made an effort to come up with a show that we could affordably produce for online distribution – because we want to create,” says Albert.

It’s that impulse that remains the single highest incentive for all web series creators who, by the nature of the medium, become their projects’ chief cook and bottle washer.

For My Pal Satan creator Dennis Heaton “web stuff is much more about getting to play with my own show ideas. They're the equivalent of short films for me – no income, but a lot of fun to do, and I get to take some of the weirder ideas out for a walk.” His My Pal Satan was nominated for a WGC Screenwriting Award and went on to win Best Web Series at the New York Television Festival in 2009.

For Leaver, a broadcaster never figured into the thinking: “the thought seems laughable of pitching a broadcaster an idea that not only has varying durations of episodes but dramatizes teenage lesbians.” His Out With Dad is a lesbian daughter/straight father dramedy currently heading into its second season. It’s a series he claims would never appear on TV.

TV or no, Out With Dad has been picking up a raft of nominations and awards around the world. Funded purely out of pocket, the series is run like a mini-Corner Gas. Leaver manages a writing room in the creation of the season’s scripts then breaks down the shoot schedule like a studio. Working with a small cast and crew, he plots out the production as any TV show would.

Jennica Harper, co-creator of Naomi: The Show, also saw the potential of web series as a place to hone her skills as a creative driver: “I thought of Naomi: The Show as a kind of small-scale showrunner bootcamp.”

To read the entire article, please see the print edition of Canadian Screenwriter.

Canadian Screenwriter summer 2018 is on newsstands now. View excerpts, and subscribe here.

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NOVEMBER 29, 2018
  • Writers Talking TV

NOVEMBER 29, 2018

Writers Talking TV

Writers Talking TV, presented by the Writers Guild of Canada, is a writer-to-writer interview held at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

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