In one of the articles I was reading, a line in the opening paragraph said:
"...Dollhouse, has convinced him to abandon TV for good. His alternative medium: Web serials."
Wow. Is that for real?
Wharton University of Pennsylvania was talking about how Joss Whedon wants to change the way Hollywood does business. As I've said before, he's working within the system when he doesn't balk at things like getting his new show shoved to Friday nights. Then again, maybe collectively FOX and Whedon knew something was up.
But it's hard to ignore the success of Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog on the internet. From the initial free release, to iTunes, to Hulu and then to DVD, the skit did well and Wharton Univ. called it "something of a case study for marketing independently produced content." Basically, Whedon spent $200k on the production and despite all the free avenues of release, he doubled his money... so far. But he also did it right. Unlike The Dark Knight, Whedon added a ton of extras to the DVD release, as it should be.
This success must be a real thorn in the side of the likes of Sony, Disney and Warner Brothers just to name a few. A few what? A few companies trying to make a go at it on the internet too.
In my mind, and I am seriously reading between the lines, Joss is tired of getting the runaround by the networks and he knows his content can be successful. I'm trying to ignore the Dollhouse premiere when I say that. Yet I can't help but note how he had to rewrite the premiere episode and he was quick to say it was his doing... but was he just playing within the system? Are the miserable ratings really the fault of FOX yet one more time? I feel your pain Joss.
With the Dr Horrible project he laid down a gross participation scheme for the key actors and writers. All the while the writers guild was negotiating for what he called "one-tenth of a yen."
I don't want to paraphrase his take, so let me put a quote out there:
"When the studios talk about the difficulty of monetizing the Internet, they're not lying. There are a lot of paradigms wherein you aren't making that much money. But it's all pure money for them because they have these libraries they can just put on. They're really not interested in putting on original stuff because they can just throw the libraries on and make free money off of that. None of us is in that position."
"For [the studios] not to offer the creative community a percentage of what they make -- they say, "oh, it's too difficult" and "we're not going to make any money" -- is disingenuous to the point of criminality. What they're making is pure profit. For them to shut out the people who actually created the content is something that should be looked into by a federal investigatory committee."
And right now, with Dr Horrible, he realizes it's a model he can build on. I had pointed out back in July of '08, that Joss said he’s not trying to bring down the studios but things are changing and they need to look at that evolution and not ignore it. As he puts it, if you've seen it on a movie screen, you'll see it on your phone. But he wants to see a system were independent production can thrive in this kind of environment which breeds creativity.
What does he really like about the internet? The idea that you can make things cheap with people you trust where you can do what you think is right and not have to worry. (Is it me, or am is there something to seriously read between the lines there?)
In a sidebar of a note, he reflected on his trying to write the script for a proposed Wonder Woman movie, Warner Brothers never told him exactly what they wanted in detail. By the time he rewrote a script, they told him not to.
In his unique and funny way of putting things, he said, "They didn't tell me to leave, but they showed me the door and how pretty it was. Would I like to touch the knob and maybe make it swing?"
I added this because I think it contributes to my suspicions.
But right now, he's got a deal going with a nameless Silicon Valley company to create more content for the internet... and I can't wait. Joss, being able to create his own vision without interference can be a wonderful thing.
When he did Dr. Horrible, he had a few other ideas. But he won't fess on those because he says he still might do them too.
You, the reader, may have found it apropos that I used the shot of the Firefly to head this article. That's about when things started to go south in network land for Joss and all of his fans. So to answer my opening question, is this for real? Is he looking at Web serials rather than TV series?
I didn't find anything saying otherwise. He may very well have given up on the standard restrictive nature of advertiser-run network situations.
When asked what he thinks the media landscape will look like in 5 years, he said "he's so brilliant, he doesn't dare say... or that he has no idea."
For you wanna be hopeful executive producers out there, here's a parting bit of wisdom or guidance from Joss Whedon himself:
"I can't stress enough that I believe the best thing in the world is for everybody who feels like they have a story to tell, to tell it."