How Short Films and Web Series Are Better than Cable and Network Television

In this day and age of technology, there is quite the abundance of television shows being created: shows from the broadcast networks (CBS), the cable nets (AMC, FX), the premium channels (HBO), and the multitude of shows from streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime). But what about the short films and web series found on YouTube, Vimeo, or any other website of that nature? In this piece, I shall take time to go through the differences and explain why I believe short films and web series can actually be better than cable and network television.

Over the weekend, I attended the Five Points Festival, a smaller-scaled comic convention, featuring both big-name and lesser-known writers and artists. I spent time meeting and talking with so many fantastic creators, mostly about their stories or drawings and how they came to be. The general consensus was all the work I saw were essentially passion projects for the creators. The work I got to see and look through had so much heart and soul in every page, in every drawing. And even though many of them weren’t from the big-name comic distributors like DC, Marvel, or Dark Horse Comics, they were still works of art just as good as any Batman or Spiderman story. This is what short films and web series are: they are passion projects, just as good as television shows in one way or another, with the heart and soul of the people involved with its inception. Not to say cable and network shows don’t, but I’m making a case for web series and short films receiving the same recognition.

The cast of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the first digital series to win an Emmy.

Now, I get it, the quality of short films and web series differ from TV shows. Network or cable series have bigger budgets for a reason, including unions making sure everyone is compensated. The same can’t be said for short films and web series, often with a tiny budget, if one at all. But when I see people creating small projects with even smaller budgets, I’m more interested because those people care more about making solid content than being compensated for it. Especially when content also involves amazing visuals, sound quality, and special effects.

It takes a certain amount of passion and care to get a creator to do all this amount of work. Without the support of a studio, these projects can be seen as risky from the outside: all that time and effort (and money) you won’t get back. That’s why cable and network shows have to limit their risk, unable to afford losing a chunk of their audience and getting cancelled. That’s why their shows are often safe, or comfortable. I’ve watched so many television shows, so I can start predicting where the story will go, when characters will get killed off, and other procedural behaviors. However, this same risk pushes creators to write unique stories rarely seen on today’s television programs. Short films and web series can afford these risks because creators often have nothing to lose because there is nothing to lose. If people don’t like your content, all they’d have to do is stop viewing the content. But it’s the risk creators take which often pull me further into the story. I usually can’t predict where short films and web series will go with their stories, and it’s so fantastic! A really good story is the one I don’t see coming.

That’s why I love fan films or web series based off comic book characters. These films, filled with the heart and souls of the creating fan, can range from hilarious parodies to very serious stories.

Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman V Superman. Image courtesy of Warner Brothers

A more serious creator can even take a well-established comic book character, such as Batman, Superman, or Spiderman, and add an interesting layer, making viewers (and myself) see that character from different, unique angle. But the creators also take great care of the stories as well. There are many fans of the comic book world, and fan-creators want to do the comic book world and its characters justice.

As an actor and writer myself, I find it really inspiring watching this kind of content. And I’ll admit some of the content can be fan service. But what can I say? I’m a fan of this world. I’m a fan of this work.

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