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June 16 2009

Joss on making "new media" for studios. An article from The Hollywood Reporter discusses new media and major studios. Joss: "New media for 'Dollhouse' means (Fox) just gets free writing and free acting. ... I'm not interested in addendums to existing shows. Sometimes they're beautifully done, but I'm interested in people getting paid equitably for work like that."

I'm kinda fascinated by this whole subject at the moment.

There's a lot of producers out there who want to try this to some degree, despite the money factor.

But there isn't the infrastructure. The things people take for granted with a studio. Sure, you can try doing it all for yourself - but has anybody here actually tried to put out a professional looking DVD before on mass? It's incredibly complicated and time consuming.

Podcasting is easy, but it gets more interesting and accessible the bigger the scale of the production. But the bigger the scale, the more it outpaces the majority of creative types.

Big media is absolutely in the right position post strike to dominate this arena. Yet they're kinda... not. Yet, anyway. I find it curious.
How did they do it on BSG, does anyone know? They have some pretty darn good stuff that was released on the web, with episode quality special effects and stuff. I would assume that would have been paid for the network... why wouldn't other networks do the same thing? Because Sci-Fi (SyFy is just a stupid name) can't have more money to spare than say Fox to put into that sort of thing.

I find it sad that there will be no 'new media' or whatever for Dollhouse. I totally support Joss' decision, because obviously the actors and writers deserve to be paid for it, but who has more experience than he in this sort of thing? They are wasting a valuable asset.

[ edited by SteppeMerc on 2009-06-16 21:32 ]
Big media is absolutely in the right position post strike to dominate this arena. Yet they're kinda... not. Yet, anyway. I find it curious.


This has been the most fascinating (and I suspect accurate) analysis I have seen on this issue so far.
The writers didn't get nearly enough when they settled the strike, and what they did get isn't being honoured or paid!

When you have Eliza and Summer doing a promo saying "Watch Fox on Fridays!" that's clearly promotional.
But when the network asks you to make a fifteen minute episode and they're still calling it "promotional" that's really stretching it.
When the network streams the entire forty minute episode, with revenue generating ads, and tells everyone they're not getting a cent for that because that's "promotional" then you're getting screwed.
Having a quantity of resources available to you is a good thing, but it's not the only thing. Having the right human resources in place and a culture that enables a certain kind of productivity seem pretty essential too. Paying the writers and actors for the same work broadcast in different media seems like a good start for the studios to develop that. I totally understand why "Dollhouse" should remain webisode-free in the current climate.

Weren't the BSG writers and actors not paid for the webisodes? Or eventually paid but then not credited? I remember reading something along those lines.
Good link, brinderwalt! I was actually, just today, musing on how antiquated the cable model is getting -- the basic cable shows (whether the daily show or galactica or whatever) seem to be available legally by other means (hulu, itunes) for those of us w/out cable, but the pay channel products are in a phantom zone: I am not gonna pay for HBO or Showtime subscriptions for the one or two shows they each might have in a given week that I'm interested in (well, I might be if I could pay them direct rather than through the vile F%^&ing cable companies). And, since these networks depend on subscriptions above and beyond "basic cable" for income, it looks like they aren't currently comfortable doing things like putting the shows on itunes the next day. Seasons of things like "Weeds" don't show up on itunes, usually, until the whole season is done on cable. All of which seems like a way of raising rather than lowering the temptation of going to extralegal means to view these products.

As for Joss' situation, it's interesting how video media creators are in such a different place than audio -- lots of independent musicians seemed to quite comfortably move to a model of putting a lot of free (um, "non-monetized") product out there, despite the record companies' loathing of downloads, on the assumption that any interest they aroused this way would come back to them in future concert and record profits. But, in general, producing video content with decent production values even in short chunks (much less true "full episode" lengths) costs vastly more -- in terms of time, of money, of number of people involved from script to screen -- than producing straight audio content does. And there's no real equivalent of things like live concerts or most ancilliary sales(*) to use to recoup money for creators.

Joss, of course, did a version of the indie recording artist trick with Dr. Horrible, but, even with his much discussed ability, post-Horrible, to create season 2 Dollhouse material on a reduced budget, he still needs the network structure to pay for anything approaching ongoing episode-length production (heck, even feature films can, in the right hands, be more compact in use of resources than can TV series). So even this guy, who seems so close (in both experience and temperment) to going the true "indie" route, has to stay in the network barn and fight not to be taken advantage of by the possible extra content that might be asked of him. And, much as I respect what someone like Felicia Day is doing, a giggle from a 5 minute long decently-produced webisode lacks the immersive experience of watching a longer form piece.

(*)Rilo Kiley or Angie Hart can make some money off slipping one of their songs into the background of a Whedon TV show, but not much way to make money off of slipping old "Buffy" footage into the background of the next hit TV show or summer blockbuster. And Fox still hasn't figured out how to get comfortable with phenomena like the people who were staging sing-along viewings of OMWF, despite, as I understand it, the utter willingness of those people to pay royalties/fees, and the utter willingness of Joss & co. to let them do it. Can you imagine any of those High School productions of Dr. Horrible happening if a network held the rights, no matter how willing the high school was to pay?
I seem to remember BSG became a media wankfest. And, you know, rightly so for those involved. It still cracks me up The Office won - I think - an Emmy for their webisodes - but the writers (and cast) didn't get proper payment for them.
Here is a 2007 article talking to Ron Moore about BSG's webisodes. Given the timeframe, they're talking about The Resistance. I don't know how The Face of the Enemy was handled.
Big media is absolutely in the right position post strike to dominate this arena. Yet they're kinda... not. Yet, anyway. I find it curious.


And the little media's efforts are kinda wick for want of a better '80s phrase. I watch these new media efforts and they just make me cringe. It's amateur dramatics gone mad. I've got this awful feeling we're not going to see anything as good as Dr Horrible for a long time.
Indeed, Simon. Talent goes where the money is. Until there's money in the web, people aren't going to want to touch it. Catch 22, almost.
Money isn't required for talent, just for bigger production values. I enjoyed both With the Angels and 2009: A True Story, to name just two.
Money isn't, of course, a requirement for a talent - but talent goes to where the money is. (And rightly so). Part of the problem is there's so much crap online that it's very hard for average viewer to easily find quality, original content online to watch.
Money isn't, of course, a requirement for a talent - but talent goes to where the money is. (And rightly so). Part of the problem is there's so much crap online that it's very hard for average viewer to easily find quality, original content online to watch.


It's the same phase that every industry goes through whenever a new-fangled technology gets invented that actually has the potential to enhance the industry as a whole. Said concepts are initially treated as fun but useless gimmicks with little potential for serious use (the phonograph anyone?). It is only after this initial phase of prevailing gimmickry fades from the general public's consciousness that the medium can be successfully monopolized by serious artists because the viewing public needs to have had the time to absorb the medium itself in order to discern what separates quality programming from mediocre.
doubtful guest, it isn't just indie people who put up free things... Wilco is one of the best bands (period, but also when it comes to internet), with free streaming of albums, extra online downloads when you buy DVDs, etc. They famously allowed an album they finished, but didn't have a publisher yet due to issues with their old record company, to be freely downloaded. And then they sold a lot of albums once it actually came out. They continue to occasionally stream upcoming albums, but they can do so because they already have a rabid fan base that will actually buy albums.

But they, and other bands that I know that do similar things, can afford to do so because it doesn't cost any extra money, since the songs are already recorded, in general, rather than having to create new things, then not getting paid for them. It is obviously different than the whole 'new media' for TV thing.

And thanks for the info and links for BSG, I had no idea it was such a debacle, because I only recently watched the whole series in the fall.

[ edited by SteppeMerc on 2009-06-17 00:47 ]
this was a really good article for people like me who don't really know the insides of things and for whom legal lingo equals brain hurt making...

And personally as much as I love a good length webisode or artistic creation in any form to complement my television watching, I can most definitely do without it and would probably boycott it if I knew the actors or writers were being treated unfairly
Interesting times coming up, with rumblings already beginning to build about a possible SAG strike.
And something everyone seems to be forgetting is that the U.S. economy is still in a state of free-fall. I think this issue has the potential to slow down a lot of the projected moves, outlined in this article.

Not everyone has or can afford to buy, a TV with a USB port. Yes, a whole lot of us less affluent people have TV's that old, and no possibility on the horizon of being able to buy a newer one. So since my computer can't be hooked up to my TV and I'm not willing to relinquish the comfort of the couch and a large screen after a long day, I'm not going to be giving up my satellite service any time soon.

I can't even afford Blu-ray, and I'm far from alone, in this economy. Everyone I know, in the extremely hard-hit rural area of Hawaii where I live, is in the same position.

Just sayin' .... this is an issue that doesn't ever get addressed. Everything you read about all the new possibilities on the horizon, like this article, assumes that we consumers can afford to upgrade and make all kind of changes in our viewing/purchasing habits, on the same level as a year or two ago. Which simply isn't true.

Denial isn't just .... well, you know. ;)

ETA: Just realized that the article I'm referring to is the one linked by brinderwalt. Which is a really interesting read, for anyone who didn't check it out.

[ edited by Shey on 2009-06-17 12:48 ]
shey, I think the timeline put forth in that article is a little longer term than you're making it out to be. Also virtually every television made in the last fifteen years has, at the very least, what's called a composite video input which is the least you need to hook it up to a computer. Even modern TV's don't use USB ports.

ETA: BD hardware is vastly over-priced right now because it's so new. It'll come down soon because it has to.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-06-17 16:09 ]
SteppeMerc -- I used the generic idea of the "indie band" as an example, though the concept certainly isn't limited to bands of a certain size or with/without a major label (I'd say Wilco themselves would claim more links with certain indie strains of the last 20 years (alt country etc.) than with the traditional idea of mainstream bands (another generic fuzzy term)). I was trying to get at the idea that, for a musician or band, we're generally talking a half dozen or fewer people with a few hundred dollars of equipment, plus either a quicky trip to a "real" studio or a friend with talent on the available home studio computer programs. That's a much lower bar to hurdle if you decide to create additional material and get it to the public. Don't think we're disagreeing. Just clarifying.

ETA: FEWER people, not LESS people. Hate it when I catch myself doing that.

[ edited by doubtful guest on 2009-06-18 00:12 ]
I think we are agreeing doubtful guest, just wanted to point out it wasn't just the bands who hadn't already 'made it' doing so. ;)
Also virtually every television made in the last fifteen years has, at the very least, what's called a composite video input which is the least you need to hook it up to a computer. Even modern TV's don't use USB ports.
brinderwalt | June 17, 15:27 CET


Thanks for that info, I just learned something new. Obviously, I'm not the most tech savvy. ;)
Shey, my TV is circa 1990 and has the yellow RCA style video input (I think that is the composite referred to) and I have no problem hooking it to my computer -- did have to buy a 19.99 connector to hook my year old Macbook Pro to the TV, but it's totally plug and play, with no playing with computer settings necessary to make it work. I believe the computer interface is called DVI, and the connector actually converts to either this yellow RCA plug or to S-video, which, I believe is kinda old tech now but should allow me to connect to a lot of more recent TV's, should the opportunity arise. I'm sure there's a similar cheapy connector for windows boxes.
Thanks to both of you. I have a friend who used to work at a video store who also thought your TV needed a USB port for computer connectivity, so I don't feel quite so clueless. My TV is a big old style Sony (not a slimline) but it's only about five years old (Computer's an HP PC, less than two years old). So I should be able to figure this out.
Now I just need to find the time. ;)

And the topic was .... good for Joss, for sticking to his principles. I'm still interested in those potential SAG strike rumblings and I believe the economy will be a big factor in the struggle for creative talent to get an equitable slice of the "new pie", however that shapes up.

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