Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Creator/Director Joshua Sikora Talks about Webserials.com and 'Project X'

Last week I posted about Webserials.com, a site that currently offers two web shows with weekly five minute installments. Project X is a sci-fi/horror story similar to Alien, and Cataclysmo and the Time Boys is a goofy sci-fi/comedy. Both shows have merit, and are just more proof that the short, serialized model is one way to get your work out there.

When compiling material for my original review, I emailed one of the Webserials guys who originally contacted me. He is Joshua Sikora, and Project X was his baby. I had a series of questions for Joshua, and he gave me some great, detailed answers. Very little of that exchange made it into the final product, so I thought I'd share it here. There is some great info that we can all benefit from, and I always like giving some attention to other filmmakers that are finding some success.

Film Flap: What was the genesis of Project X?

Joshua Sikora: Project X was conceived and produced as a feature film. It was my first feature and it was meant as a learning experience as much as anything else. It was a pet project of mine that I'd been working on for several years. We chose to do a creature film for a variety of reasons, but I think the main reason was simply that we had access to a power plant and it just seemed like the perfect location to stage a film of this sort. While I love suspense, horror and creature flicks aren't high on my favorites, and I think if I had to do it over again, I'd approach the story a lot differently.

My goal with the film was to produce a independent film that we could distribute directly to our audience using the web. This was back around 2004 and 2005, and at the time a lot of people were downloading films over Bittorrent and the studios hadn't really begun to start offering their films to online audiences in any legitimate ways. At the time, we felt that if we worked hard and made the best film we could, we could take advantage of that and give people a free alternative.

Film Flap: Is that what inspired you to serialize it and put it on the web?

Joshua Sikora: Well, time passed--we spent a long time in post-production and I focused a lot of time on other projects. YouTube came out around this time and very quickly we saw a shift towards short content. At first, I was disappointed that YouTube limited videos to ten minutes, but in retrospect I think that's how they beat their competition.

I think we consume media like we consume food--we have our meals, which are scheduled, and filling, and take time to sit down and eat. That's how TV and films have always been for us. We have our weekly diet of Lost or Battlestar Galactica or Grey's Anatomy and we look forward to those filling shows each week. Sometimes, we go out to eat for a nice meal--we catch a new film on Friday night. But there's also snack food in our diet. I think the web is still the place for "bite-size entertainment," which is ultimately what led us to WebSerials.com.

Our serials are snacks. Hopefully, they're tasty and addicting. But ultimately, I think they may serve a very different purpose than the traditional entertainment that we get from our TV or theaters. I see all of this coming together in five years, ten at the latest--TV streaming in over our internet, HD movies that you buy and download straight to your computer. I want WebSerials.com to adapt with those changes and always find ways to bring fresh content to audiences.

Film Flap: What do you see happening in the future?

Johsua Sikora: For me, the vision I have for the future is one where a lot more people will have the opportunity to make films and have them seen. I live in L.A. and I hate that people feel like they have to move here and work in Hollywood to make movies. L.A. isn't all that great, and when everyone who makes movies lives here, all the movies look and feel the same. I'm excited that the web offers people around the country and around the world the chance to make their own films, their own way, and have them seen. That's ultimately our goal--making it easier and easier for us and others to create new films for the world.

It's very exciting, as an independent filmmaker, to get the kind of response we've had with our web serials. Our audiences have really fallen in love with these stories and these characters. We have people counting down the days until the next episode. If we're even an hour or two late in posting an episode, we start getting complaints. And I can't believe how many people are watching! We haven't spent any money on marketing yet, but in the first twelve weeks of release, our videos have been watched more than 325,000 times! That's incredibly rewarding.

One of the best highlights was when YouTube listed our two shows alongside Michael Eisner's Prom Queen and Satacracy88, which one the Emmy for broadband entertainment last year--YouTube called our four shows "some of the best dramas the web has to offer." We took that as a pretty high compliment.

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