I love the web series community. Love it. 99.9999% of people I’ve met in the past three years have been awesome; talented, brilliant, kind, supportive, inspiring and creative people. Web series have entertained me, inspired me, at times challenged me, and have definitely given me some lovely, cherished friends.
So, when someone messes with the community, I get a bit annoyed. And that is precisely what is going on right now in LA.
There are three web series events coming up in LA. LA Webfest, Hollyweb Festival and The Indies Series Awards. Hollyweb and LA Webfest are festivals, The Indie Series Awards is, as the name suggests, an awards show. I attended all three of these events last year – as luck would have it, they are all held at around the same time in late March/early April. This is wonderful for non-LA based web series creators, like me, who can then justify the expense of the trip with the triple whammy of events, meetings and networking.
So, I was pretty shocked to hear that, this year, LA Webfest decided to put in place an exclusivity clause, banning anyone from entering LA Webfest and also the ISAs and/or Hollyweb Festival.
I was even more shocked to hear from web series creators themselves that, following the ISA nomination announcements on Wednesday, emails were sent from LA Webfest to ISA nominees demanding that they withdraw from the ISAs within 48 hours, or be banned from not only LA Webfest, but also from KO Webfest, in Korea, which LA Webfest are programming.
Where did this bullying of web series creators come from?
My husband Elisar Cabrera, who is the founder and producer of Raindance Web Fest and who also runs MCM London Comic Con Vid Fest UK, was on the international web series festival panel at the 2014 LA Webfest. During the panel, he talked about the increasing numbers of Web Festivals across the globe and that, within twelve months, he foresaw competition among festivals for the best series. He was roundly shouted down by one or two people, including Michael Ajakwe, the owner of LA Webfest, moderating the panel, who stated his intention that web series festivals should all be working together for the greater good of the web series creator community.
In hindsight, these seem like hollow words.
Now, I understand that LA Webfest was the first web series festival – it launched in 2010 (the ISAs actually launched the same year, but were an online event in year one). I can appreciate that they want to protect their business, but penalising web series creators is not the way to go about things. Can you imagine if McDonalds put out an email stating that anyone who eats in Burger King is no longer welcome in their restaurants? Ludicrous.
All this situation does is hurt the web series community and, specifically, web series creators. Most creators work with little, or no, money and deciding to visit a festival is a big decision. Unlike the film industry, much of the web series industry is not based in LA, so undertaking a trip is a big commitment, both in time and expense. This often comes off the back of an even bigger commitment of time and expense in making a web series in the first place!
To get an individual series noticed in an increasingly crowded marketplace is a difficult job, and creators rely heavily on laurels as a testament to their show’s value. It seems unbelievable then that LA Webfest, so passionate about web series and the community that they took the time and trouble to set up the world’s first web series festival, now wants to close shop and are chucking their toys out the pram at anyone who doesn’t acquiesce.
It’s commonplace in the film industry to have exclusivity clauses on festival screenings, but, let’s be honest, this ain’t the film business. Web festivals are in their infancy, and although massive strides are being made, the industry is nowhere near that stage yet. Having several events in close proximity, like these, can only increase the number of attendees making the journey, and strengthen the community as a whole.
The big question is – why? Why put in an exclusivity clause at all? Why send emails demanding creators withdraw from the ISAs – again, not a festival folks, an awards ceremony. I assume the same will happen when Hollyweb announce their selections.
I don’t have a vested interest in any of these events. I’m just a web series creator who hates seeing what this is doing to our inclusive industry, and one who hates the fact that new creators, submitting to the LA festival scene for the first time in 2015, will find themselves in the middle of this terrible mess.
The team who run The ISAs and the team who run Hollyweb Festival are hardworking, brilliant, supportive members of the web series community who run two awesome events. The fact that they are caught up in this completely avoidable situation is no fault of their own. Unfortunately, it only takes one event to cause unending problems for everyone else.
So, LA Webfest, please rethink this policy. Please consider the damage you are doing to the community and to creators with this silly spat.
Please see sense.