Web TV Shows

The Growth of Online Drama

Online dramas come in many forms, series, serials and one-offs, and they offer everything a TV show can and more. Could they be the future of storytelling?

Storytelling has been embraced by each new technology, from theatre to radio to film and television, and now it’s the turn of the internet. It is still early days, but the last few years have seen a boom in dramas made specifically for the web.

The Origins of Internet Drama

Web drama was born way back in 1995 with the launch of US online soap opera, The Spot. Based around the lives of a group of Southern Californian twenty-somethings, The Spot accrued a massive following. What made it so popular was not the video content alone, but the social community surrounding it and the interactivity with characters through ‘character diaries’; all years before the rise of social networking and blogging.

YouTube, Video Blogs and Online Interactive Fiction

However, the current crop of online dramas descend not from The Spot but from the YouTube video-blog (or vlogs) of a sixteen year old girl, lonelygirl15. Or not, as it turned out. After months of speculation and controversy, it was revealed that lonelygirl15 was not a teenager named Bree, but an actress named Jessica Rose and the blog, not true-life confessions but an intricately written drama by three amateur filmmakers from LA.

After their fictional nature was revealed, the lonelygirl15 vlogs morphed from detailing ordinary teenage life to a multi-stranded plot dealing with the occult. They also went from self-funded to being financed by big name brands through advertising and product placement.

Television Drama on the Internet

The internet drama sphere is now extremely busy with examples from all over the world. Several have been transferred to television, often unsuccessfully, as with Quarterlife which NBC cancelled after one episode. Some television series have launched web spin-off series, such as the Battlestar Galactica web serials, The Resistance (2006) and The Face of the Enemy (2008), or in the UK, the animated serial, Doctor Who: Dreamland (2009).

The big Hollywood studios and internet businesses are pumping money into some. Yet, self-funded projects are still experiencing success, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon’s Emmy award winning web serial, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog (2008) and in the UK, Severance writer, James Moran’s Girl Number Nine (2009).

New Storytelling – Interactivity and Alternate Reality Gaming

New web drama is moving away from the video-blog format and is in some cases rivalling the quality of film and TV. Some shows utilise traditional writer-led storytelling, whilst others put audience interactivity at the forefront by allowing them to decide what happens next.

‘Alternate reality games’ (or ARGs) are taking the dramatic form in a new direction, with the Sherlock Holmes and The Dark Knight film tie-ins, 221b (2009) and Why So Serious? (2007) along with charity, the Red Cross’s Traces of Hope (2008), for instance, mixing traditional drama with interactive computer game elements.

Online Drama Series – The Future

As the failure of internet hits to transfer to television illustrates, it is often the interactivity and social aspects of online drama that make them popular. The key to the future success of web drama will be its ability to give us something new and different, to exploit the strengths of the internet as a medium and perhaps take some cues from the computer games industry. Whatever it does, online drama clearly is an exciting new market that is not a replacement of traditional drama, but a new stage in its evolution.

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The Joy of Collecting Soundtracks

Film Scores Are Fun For Movie and Music Lovers Alike

Star Wars. Gone With The Wind. Titanic. Unforgettable movies with unforgettable soundtracks. Great scores can elevate a good film to the level of masterpiece by adding a new level of emotional depth. The shower scene from Psycho would not be as violent and shocking without composer Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking strings, and Indiana Jones’ adventures would seem far more pedestrian without John Williams’ rousing march. Film music, at its best, can be the most exciting part of the movie.


Reliving The Movie Through Its Soundtrack

Purchasing the soundtrack album to a beloved movie is a great way for a fan to relive the excitement of the cinematic experience away from the movie theatre or television. Sometimes a score captures the essence of a film so well that the images on screen and the words spoken by the actors almost seem like a hindrance to the aural pleasures of the music.

Soundtracks allow movie fans to experience the emotion of a great scene over and over without being tied to watching the film itself. The excitement of James Horner’s Avatar or Jerry Goldsmith’s Patton can be appreciated while working out at the gym or completing a late-night essay. Soundtracks allow for a high level of intimacy between an individual and cinematic storytelling at its most visceral form – the symphonic form.

Escaping to Another Time and Place With Movie Music

To say that film score fans collect soundtracks just to relive their favourite scenes from movies is an oversimplification. One needs only to visit the online forums at Filmtracks and Film Score Monthly to see that many film score collectors regularly buy soundtrack albums to movies they’ve never seen before.

Listening to film scores, especially for movies not yet seen, allows the listener to embark on an aural journey of the imagination. Some film scores are very specific in terms of their historic millieu or cultural identity, which can transport the listener to a romantic period in the past or an exotic paradise on the other side of the world. Other scores are less specific in terms of era or geography and can transport the listener to imaginary realms that don’t exist anywhere in any time.

Orchestral film scores, particularly when written in the classical mode, tend to remain timeless and remain relatively immune to the ravages of ever-changing pop sensibility. Star Wars sounds as great today as it did in 1977, but will Britney Spears be as fondly remembered decades from now?


Collecting Soundtracks by Composer

One of the great joys of soundtrack collecting is falling in love with the work of specific composers. By the nature of their job, film composers must be chameleons to a certain degree, able to change styles according to the needs of different filmmakers’ visions. However, the most highly regarded composers of cinema manage to forge a distinct musical voice in their overall body of work.

Some collectors may love John Williams’ epic adventure themes for movies like Superman and Jurassic Park. Others may be fans of John Barry’s romantic work for films like Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. Soundtrack collecting begets more soundtrack collecting, and hardcore collectors may find themselves enthusiastically searching for lesser-known works by their favourite composers. Collecting by composer becomes a process of continual discovery as the casual fan becomes a dyed-in-the-wool completist. As with all things in life, the fun is in the journey.


Archiving a Piece of Cinematic History With Film Scores

Soundtrack albums allow cinephiles to keep a little piece of cinematic history for themselves, a memento of key moments in moviedom and their unique emotional contexts for the individual. Especially with soundtracks for older films and limited edition releases of scores, collectors play an active role in ensuring that a part of the movie lives on.

Film scores are an important part of cinema’s cultural heritage and deserve to be archived, and releasing soundtrack albums allows the public to become involved in artistic preservation. But above all else, great film scores will always fill the heart and transport the imagination to realms beyond the ordinary. Just dim the lights and press play. You’ll be glad you did.

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