When Netflix is a leading Emmy contender it looks like TV has been completely disrupted.
Thanks to subscribers, Netflix is already HBO. It can pull together generously budgeted dramas, something most other networks like YouTube, who rely on advertisers, don’t have the money to do.
But as multiple critics and scholars have pointed out, Netflix’s dominance in top categories overshadows the truly innovative work of short-format producers. The television Academy has honored web series for years but with minimal promotion. The bright young talents working in the indie-friendly format have been largely ignored by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the other big networks in their original programming strategies.
Undeterred, indie TV creators, armed with critical cachet and devoted fans, are taking on bigger projects.
Take Adam Goldman, creator of “The Outs,” which I named one of the best web dramas of 2012. Goldman is currently $60,000 into a $165,000 Kickstarter campaign for six, twenty-minute episodes of his new show, Whatever this is. (UPDATE: The campaign was successful). No stranger to Kickstarter, Goldman and his team raised over $20,000 for “The Outs.” This time he wants to shoot it faster and with an appropriately-paid crew. Two episodes are already shot, and the first premieres next week at a sold-out screening at the Knitting Factory. Most of ‘The Outs” key talent is back, including cinematographer Jay Gillespie and leading man Hunter Canning.
“That was really everybody’s passion project, and nobody got rich off ‘The Outs.’ Nobody really got paid for ‘The Outs,’ at all,” Goldman said during an interview at Tom’s Restaurant, featured in “The Outs”‘ “Chanukah Special.”
Whatever this is follows three twenty-somethings struggling to make ends meet in New York City. Sam (Canning), and Ari (Dylan Marron) have moved to New York to become creative professionals. But after three years they are still living job-to-job.
“There’s a lot of media about people our age who have safety nets…but we wanted to do a show about people without safety nets,” he said.
Lisa (Madeline Wise) rounds out the cast as Sam’s girlfriend, a teacher looking for a summer gig. After getting rejected by Starbucks — “even Starbucks doesn’t want to hire you anymore, unless you want a career at Starbucks” — she becomes the caretaker of a lesbian couple.
Every other episode, the rent is due. Ari and Sam take jobs — “Real Housewives”- and “Top Model”-like shoots, a Rebecca Black-style music video in Westchester — to get it paid. Goldman wanted to keep the plot as close to the real, increasingly unequal, New York as possible. In the script it says: “their apartment is small and cluttered and not in a cute romantic comedy way.”
“We wanted it to be about economic survival in New York. In the same way The Outs is about a breakup, and that doesn’t sound like an interesting show,” Goldman said. “If it’s dinnertime before your rent is due, and your rent is $900, and you have $901, then you’re going to split a Cup of Noodles.”