Inside the CSA’s best web series category

As best web series made its broadcast-gala debut at the Canadian Screen Awards, Playback magazine breaks down the business behind them. (Space Riders: Division Earth pictured.)

With traditional broadcast still the main focus of the Canadian Screen Awards, it can be easy to overlook the growing budgets and success of indie scripted web series. This year, the best web series category made its broadcast-gala debut at the Canadian Screen Awards and was awarded to iThentic’s Space Riders: Division Earth (pictured, top right). Here, we take a business-focused snapshot of the five series that vied for best web series at the Screenies.

Space Riders: Division Earth (Winner)

Premise: Two “nobodies” are unwittingly enlisted to become Earth’s heroes after an intergalactic space villain escapes from Space Jail.
Producer: iThentic (Toronto, New York).
Goal/objective: Establish relationship with comedic writers.
Strategy: iThentic eagerly picked up a pitch from Mark Little (Picnicface) and Dan Beirne (The Bitter End), attracted to their unique idea that paid tribute to the still-popular Power Rangers. Thanks to a strong trailer, Bell Media and Hulu in the U.S. commissioned a first, and now second, season.
Series length and episodes: 13 x 4-8 minutes.
Distribution: CTV Extend in Canada, and Hulu in the U.S.
Budget: Approximately $300,000.
Financiers: IPF, Bell Media and OMDC.

Whatever Linda resizedWhatever, Linda

Premise: The 1970s-set Whatever, Linda follows a group of secretaries who are the real brains behind a Ponzi scheme investment scandal.
Producer: Secret Location, Touchpoint Films (both of Toronto).
Goal/objective: Create a high-quality, compelling series with a premium TV feel and storyline; partner with a distributor to secure future seasons and film/TV extensions.
Strategy: Secure top-notch talent (Hannah Cheesman, Martha MacIssac) in front of and behind the camera. Use cutting-edge tech to add interest/intrigue.
Series length and episodes: 10 x 5-6 minutes
Distribution: Fullscreen via ThisisDrama. Whatever, Linda is the first series to be broadcast under a new output and production agreement between TIS and Fullscreen, a joint venture of AT&T and The Chernin Group.
Budget: $300,000.
Financiers: Independent Production Fund (IPF), OMDC Interactive Digital Media Fund.

WEBFEST-THE AMAZING GAYL PILE-3The Amazing Gayl Pile

Premise: A dive into the “dark world” of home shopping via the life of home shopping salesman Gayl Pile.
Producer: LaRue Productions (Toronto).
Goal/objective: Create a cinematic and dark comedy series blending melodrama with “reality” elements; create an IP that could expand outside the web.
Strategy: Gain distribution through major channel, pitch Super Channel on financing/broadcasting a feature film based on the series. Enter TAGP in festivals for exposure.
Series length and episodes: Two seasons each 10 x 8-9 minutes; feature film: 80 minutes.
Distribution: YouTube channel JASH, the series’ own YouTube channel and Gaylpile.com; season 1 is also available on CBC Punchline. The Gayl Pile feature was financed and greenlit for Super Channel, broadcast date TBD.
Budget: Season 1: $200,000; Season 2: N/A.
Financiers: IPF and LaRue Entertainment. The feature was financed by Super Channel, Canada Media Fund (CMF) and LaRue.

OutWithDadOut with Dad

Premise: A dramedy following the coming out of Rose, a teen who lives with her single father Nathan.
Producer: JLeaver Presentations (Toronto).
Goal/objective: Creator/director Jason Leaver wanted to produce a series about a topic he was passionate about and thought that a web series was the most affordable and realistic option to get it out there.
Strategy: As the series speaks to a niche audience an intimate level, Leaver thought the series had a good chance of finding an organic audience.
Series length and episodes: Three seasons of 42 episodes, ranging between 4 to 18 minutes.
Distribution: YouTube, Dailymotion and on-air on France Television and via its digital video portal.
Budget: Budget for season three came in around $100,000.
Financiers: Seasons one and two self-financed; season three financed via private crowdfunding campaign. In 2013, OWD received a licence fee from France Television.

Copied from StreamDaily - guidestonesGuidestones: Sunflower Noir

Premise: A young woman is on the run from her past and a global organization intent on culling the human population.
Producers: iThentic (Toronto, New York), 3 o’clock.tv (Toronto).
Goal/objective: Create a web series equal to film or TV in creativity and production value, engage audiences in an interactive format and to make a monetizable series distributed mainly online.
Strategy: Gain promotion through global festivals, expand distribution globally and engage brand partners to help distribute and finance the series.
Series length and episodes: 18 x 10 minutes
Distribution: CTV Extend in Canada, and will soon be available on Hulu in the U.S.
Budget: $400,000 to $500,000.
Financiers: IPF, Bell Media, OMDC and brand sponsors including Pizza Pizza, Coke, Blackberry.