Austin Film Festival 2015: Short Form Storytelling

Evan Bregman

Evan Bregman

Short Form Storytelling
12:30 p.m. Saturday, Driskill Hotel, Crystal Room

Panelists: Evan Bregman, Head of Original Content, Portal A; Rodrigo Garcia, writer/director of “Last Days in the Desert,” “Mother and Child” and “Nine Lives”; director of “Albert Nobbs”; executive producer of “In Treatment.” Julie Howe, executive producer/writer/co-creator of “The Adventures of Catty Wompus.” Craig Comstock, co-creator/producer/director of “The Adventures of Catty Wompus.”

Moderator: Linnea Toney

In short: The moderator and panelists discussed short form story-telling, specifically as it relates to web series and other forms of online distribution. Discussions included defining the term, distribution, project selection, ancillary efforts, finding an audience, and how to achieve growth and longevity. Panelists talked about short-form projects they’re working on including children’s series, reality programming and Spanish language efforts.

Highlights: The panelists agreed that “short-form” is kind of a loose term — content should be as short or long as necessary in order to be entertaining. There are so many outlets for distribution now that creators should focus on content first, then paper the distribution landscape and see what sticks. Howe noted that having a potential revenue stream in terms of ancillary product licensing, etc. could make a project more appealing to distributors.

Garcia contends that it is a great time to be creating quality content, since there is so much out there but “most content is still bad.” There is a voracious appetite, he said, for quality content.

In terms of choosing which content to produce, Bregman said there is no substitute for “having an idea that prevents you from sleeping because you can’t stop thinking about it.” He called the Internet the world’s largest research group and testing ground. Comparing Internet creation content to adding something to a game, he said content producers should “try to think how we can tap into interaction already happening between people.”

Garcia said that, generally, money has to be spent to fins an audience, mocking the mentality that says, “Go make me a viral video.” He pointed out that we are beginning to see billboards advertising YouTube, “which sounds so 19th century.” Bergman agreed that online outlets are starting to realize power and necessity of tradition advertising. he noted that Netflix erected a massive, 10-story picture of “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood sitting like Lincoln right in the heart of Hollywood.

As far as getting viewers for independent projects, the panelists suggested that it’s mostly a matter of hustle: knocking on doors; emailing everyone you know; posting on every blog you can think of; and asking your friends, your parents, and your friends’ parents do the same.

Quotes: “Stay grounded, keep focused, work hard. Everything happens for a reason.” — Comstock

“People don’t take short form content seriously enough when they are writing it.” — Garcia

“Put a link that says ‘if you do not click, we will unleash a virus on this computer.’ ” — Howe

“At end of day, make great big show you’re proud of that says something.” — Bregman

“Naked underwater basketweaving enthusiasts — they’re on internet and gathering around a shared passion.” — Bregman

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