I have been interested in web series since developments in technologies enabled posting of short videos online. Two of the first series to catch my attention were Sanctuary (later to be shown on TV) and lonelygirl15. Both were ground-breaking in their own way.
Amanda Tapping’s Sanctuary used high definition technologies when they were first being used by significant numbers of people online, although, unfortunately not me. I was a mature postgraduate student on a limited budget. I also couldn’t afford the subscription for it. But I was impressed by the look after the hours it took to download the first free episode.
Lonelygirl15 excited me a lot because the producers attempted to slot it into the recent developments of youtube and personal vlogging. It caught people’s attention by linking to and commenting on other personal vlogs. The aim of the makers was to blur the boundaries between fiction and “real life” vlogging. It got a following for this lonely girl vlogging from her bedroom (Bree, played by Jessica Rose). In keeping with gender conventions, the voyeurism of such an intimate format is more often successful with a focus on a young attractive female.
Very quickly followers made good use of online technologies to discover that the Lonelygirl was played by an actress. This is not the hoax that mainstream news media often made it out to be (perhaps because they see the extensive potential of the internet as a threat). The creators, Miles Beckett, Mesh Flinders, Greg Goodfried, and Amanda were happy to be “outed” and welcomed the interactivity with fans, sometimes incorporating fan videos in the story, having online chat sessions with the shows “characters” and including clues into the show videos that the fans helped characters to solve.
KateModern spun off from LG15, extending the global reach of the LG15 fictional world to a London setting, and focusing on slightly older characters, with more of a woman-centred focus than LG15. By then LG15 had come to focus on male characters saving young girls from a vampirish cult, who needed transfusions of the specific kind of blood in the bodies of their victims.
I was excited about this new form of interactive storytelling and the way it adapted to the changing technologies of the Internet. My main criticism of most of the web series I saw at the time, was that they tended to be very heterosexual, focus on the very young, and conformed to fairly conventional gender conventions (though Sanctuary centred on some older characters).
Then I discovered that the afterellen website was hosting and/or posting about a range of screen stories online that either centred on a lesbian character/s or were lesbian-themed.
More to come on this and various other web series later.