Bill Shaouy, have found a way to connect with audiences even without the boost of the major labels, and my friend Jim Gillaspy has just gone the self-e-publishing route for his hard science fiction/coming of age novel, A Larger Universe.
Now, “do-it-yourselfers” are creating, shooting, and distributing their own films and television episodics. I don’t think the major publishers, networks, and film studios are losing any sleep just yet, but for audiences and artists alike, this is an exciting time. And for the media giants with open eyes, there’s a minor league system developing and polishing major league-ready talent. Sure, we don’t have the filters that the major company’s offer—a book you see on the shelf and your favorite local bookstore has at very least been vetted by an agent and an editor. The next time you complain about the crap that you find on the shelfs or all 2000 of your cable channels, think about the stuff you’re not seeing.Even boutique publishers or niche cable channels have to appeal to at least somewhat broad audiences. That leaves all sorts of smaller demographics that are, at best, under-represented. All of them have stories with telling, and hearing, but anything that doesn’t fit neatly into a marketing box is all too likely to be ignored by even the most open-minded conglomerates. Meaning there is some terrific content out there that simply hasn’t found a home. At least not yet. Thankfully, we have the Internet. And while we might have to pan through a lot of sand to find it, there are some nuggets of absolute gold in them thar Webs.
Which brings me to My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation, a six-part Web series created by writer/filmmaker Alexis Niki. My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation follows a menopausal mother and her two daughters, one pregnant and one adolescent. It’s not really a drama, and it’s not really a comedy (although it has plenty of both to offer), which means it likely never would have found a home in the TV Guide grid. But the portraits it paints of three women at three very different and pivotal points in their lives, and their efforts to bond, are fascinating.I have no idea what the budget is, but the look and feel is surprisingly professional. The cast is sharp and engaging, and seems to grow as an ensemble with each episode (only the first episode has been posted so far, but I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview). The beauty of the Paris setting doesn’t hurt, either. In fact, the setting is almost a fourth character: the wide and magnificent expanse of urban Paris coupled with the vaguely ironic smallness of their crucible of an apartment.
Not confined to a network, the characters are allowed to be real … they are not glamorized or over sexed. They complain. One has hot flashes, one has all the unpleasant issues of pregnancy, one has all utterly unromantic issues of budding adolescence. In short, they are, well, human. As a male, I felt vaguely voyeuristic—this is a world we men don’t often see. And I say that as a man with the life experiences of a wife, sister, mother, and two semesters at an all-women’s college. The pure, raw, and seemingly unfiltered look at the experiences as they alternately define, divide, and (I’m guessing, since I haven’t seen the enter series yet) ultimately bind the characters is compelling. And utterly unlike anything else you’ll see.The only real problem is the nature of the medium itself. Right now, Web viewing is a more comfortable experience when taken in smaller chunks. My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation is told in five-minute mini-episodes—the first of which does little more than introduce the characters and tease the journey that’s ahead of them. The second begins the storytelling in earnest, although it too leaves you wanting more. Still, “I want more” is never a bad feeling to have after a chapter or episode closes.
In a year or two, most of us will think nothing of streaming Web content to our gianormous flatscreens, or catching an episode on our iPads or Smartphones. When that happens, the lines between networks and emerging new platforms will blur. The process is already underway, even if its still in its infancy. In the meantime, the content is already here. I hope you’ll spare five minutes to give My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation a try; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Alexis Niki and her team have voices that deserve to be heard.
Update: this blog post was picked up by Reelgrok. If you didn’t just come here from there, I hope you’ll give them a look. It’s a terrific resource.