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November 07 2009

Fox to open online studio inspired by Joss Whedon and Dr Horrible. Fox Digital Studios cites Joss Whedon and Dr Horrible as an aspirational model for the venture.

This is pretty big. Props to FOX for making this happen-not to mention before any other company-and giving credit where credit is due.
I don't understand their point at all, the only common point they would have with Dr Horrible would be the sole point on being on the internet, and instead of having network execs telling them what to do and what not to do, they'll have to listen to the PR of whatever-company saying that they can't have their brand associated to do whatever they're doing, how is that free creativity ?
Translation: "We know this area is going to be huge, and we can't have anyone doing it for themselves and actually making a profit so we're moving in to do projects where we can sign talent up to our contracts and ensure they'll never see a penny of profit no matter how successful the project might be"

I've got nothing against Fox, they're a business and out to maximise their profit, but what's the point of a level playing field and individuals having the same potential viewership on the net if the big studios are going to move in and dominate?

If you have an idea or a project (such as Dr H or The Guild) then why the hell would you need Fox do do it? Why sign away your project when you can do it yourself and keep all the profit?
I reckon I'll be fighting for the Independents.
In what way was Dr. Horrilbe ad-supported?
I'm seeing a lot of cons that I agree with here, but the first thought through my head was: Could they use this for Dollhouse after if it gets cancelled?
Yeah, Echo would be walking with a barbie shirt and they'd put a samsung logo on the mind wipe chair :D
ad-supported, transactional and physical

I'm guessing this just means Hulu, iTunes(Amazon downloads) & DVDs?

@eincline - FOX isn't the first, the article states they are following NBC and ABC.

This isn't quite as exciting as Gossi's title indicates, especially compared to the title of the actual article. FOX is rebranding their failed Atomic studio, and got a guy who's awesome at branding and product placement?
Get The Guild on there. :|
If you have an idea or a project (such as Dr H or The Guild) then why the hell would you need Fox do do it? Why sign away your project when you can do it yourself and keep all the profit?


Because very few people have the resources and money to produce material like Dr Horrible and The Guild. Not everyone is rich and connected as Joss.
Plus, recession. 8|
Even Joss has said he called in a lot of favors to make Dr. Horrible and couldn't ask that of people again.
Well, Joss didn't really earn a lot of money from Buffy, Angel and Firefly. Additionally, Serenity didn't earn all its budget back. It was a few hundred thousand under, which is probably why he won't do a Buffy feature film.

[ edited by Frick on 2009-11-07 18:37 ]
Considering what Joss admitted the amount of money (or roughly) Dr. Horrible made, I wonder if these studios aren't more of a prestige issue and new talent recruitment method rather than a source of major revenue streams. After all, Dr. Horrible success would require the same kind of "catching fire" that Dr. Horrible did and that may be a bit much to ask.

I just can't see a huge number of projects with the same budget and the same number of identifiable actors being that attractive long term. I would suspect the studio's profit margin would be far too low.
Azzers: Where did he say this? ;o
Art transformed to Product, in order to sell another Product. An evil we must contend with in order to continue creating Art. *sigh*
I'd have to go back and check every interview again which I'm not going to do. He's been asked the difference between Television and internet production so many times it's going to be hard to find.

For point making purposes, strike it and I'll substitute this. If you look at something like "The Guild" which is going to be considered a "good" model, you can visually "see" the low budget with the small number of actors, number of shooting locations, and just how much of most sets you actually see. If these projects were assured of more money, you would see a LOT more diversity because usually the creative staff demands it unless they see the "low budget" part as part of the charm.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-11-07 18:48 ]
I'm thinking Samsung probably doesn't want its logo on the mindwipe chair.
Frick, joss is a multi-millionaire from B, A and Firefly with Fox. Additionally Serenity made back it's production budget on release, them went on to two DVD releases in multiple regions.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-11-07 18:48 ]
Seems a bit silly to cite Whedon's independent project that came about because of the writer's strike as an inspiration for a major network's expansion. Although, financially speaking, I suppose it was.
An evil we must contend with in order to continue creating Art. *sigh*


Nothing wrong with patronage. It is a time honoured tradition. Shakespeare needed it and his stuff turned out alright.
...Yeah. I said at the time of Horrible, Big Media would roll into this area as soon as they smell a profit. And, you know, that's the nature of business. I don't wanna comment on it until I see what they do in the biz. But, ya know. Start with a story, not with product placement.
In what way was Dr. Horrilbe ad-supported?

In the Hulu way.

Meanwhile: "HONDA PRESENTS Captain Hammer, Corporate Tool".
Yes, the realities of corporate sponsorship are sometimes real evils. But, honestly, I see this as a good thing. Even though creating for the internet is cheaper than creating for film or TV, there's still some serious money involved (increasing amounts depending on the production values and people involved). Lots of would-be creators can't afford that. It doesn't seem like a bad thing if some major studios started to get involved with financing and distributing more internet stuff.
Even though creating for the internet is cheaper than creating for film or TV

Curious, how is it cheaper? Less overhead? Less quality? No unions? Can a small staff get everything done properly? Just wondering...
Are the people name-dropping The Guild as the epitome of independent entertainment, unshackled by corporate greed or control aware that the makers of the Guild signed a deal with Microsoft to have it distributed via Xbox live?

I don't know how much money was involved or how much creative freedom was sacrificed, but I'm willing to bet >0 on both counts.

If nothing else there is a period where the new episodes appear exclusively on Live.

(I'm not judging btw.)
The entire reason Felicia took the Microsoft deal was because she didn't have to give up creative control.
Meh.

I don't see this as a good. Especially if it's Fox. I'd like to see a future where Joss is doing what he wants on the internet, but NOT making money for Rupert Murdoch. I know that everything has to be corporate in this world, but why go with one of the worst?

[ edited by ShanshuBugaboo on 2009-11-07 20:52 ]
There's no mention of Joss being a part of this new studio. As for The Guild, if I recall correctly, Felicia passed on other offers than didn't include retention of her creative control. Microsoft was not the first company interested in The Guild, just the one willing to work with her on her terms.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2009-11-07 20:57 ]
Double-checked my memory and found this on Felicia's site:

As you all know, Iíve been turning down deals for the show for over a year. Many great opportunities have presented themselves, but none of them felt right to me. There were several things I was looking for that werenít to be found in the deals offered: I wanted to retain ownership and control of the show, I wanted to have a partner that had a wide reach to our existing audience and potential audience who hadnít seen us, who would get behind us in a big way with outreach, who would translate the videos for international viewers, and most importantly someone who KNEW THE SPACE. A lot of companies want to get into web video, but only people who know the internet well will be able to get people to watch a show on the internet. At least for a while; at least thatís my opinion.


Keep in mind when they were trying to figure out how to distribute Dr. Horrible and talking to various interested parties, Joss has described her as the Buffy-like most knowledgeable and yet underestimated person in the room. If FOX has half her savvy they'll still be ahead of other big studios trying to do this.
Of course the studios are going to aggressively pursue this space. It would be idiotic for them not to. No one really knows what the industry is going to look like in 3, 5, 10 years. The studios are going to play in as many spaces as possible in order to not be left behind. I don't see this as something evil, I see this as covering the bases and being smart.

If 20th intends to be in the content creation business a decade from now, they will be in this space. The fascinating thing will be watching the evolution.

Not gonna argue about the evils of corporations, because none of the reasons I became a fan of Joss Whedon would exist without a whole bunch of for profit, capitalistic corporations. Shrug.
This is such a strange business. Why is financing the bottleneck? With most business loans, the borrower doesn't give up ownership. Only if she/he fails to pay it back.

Where's the independent studio that wants a cut without having to shout, "Mine! All mine!"

[ edited by Succatash on 2009-11-07 22:41 ]
With most business loans, the borrower doesn't give up ownership.

Most businesses don't involve creative intellectual property (and its ancillary product spin-offs) which continues to generate money for years and years and years and years. Few businesses financing creative IP are going to shut themselves off from that source of ongoing income.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-11-07 23:21 ]
Here's the ultimate solution to Product Placement:

Have every show, every storyline, no matter the genre, take place in a Shopping Mall. That way, you'll have Product Placement in every frame of every shot.

Can I patent this idea or something?
Isn't that basically what Chuck does?
Networks (and whoever else in the entertainment biz) getting into more online content (aside from just games and such related to their TV-aired shows) could be a good thing and is definitely smart for them to explore. But is product placement the most appealing way for them to try it out ? This article suggest that for Fox, it is. I don't know what's gone on at Fox, prior to this development. They've probably hammered out all sorts of plans and this was the one that looked the least risky. I guess the "hey internet, pay $1.99 or more off of Itunes for this episode/web-series" isn't a viable model ? It's my favorite one though--pay for what you get/want.

Product placement is often very clumsy. Look at Heroes, yikes.

Yep, brands exist in the real world and, since many dramas and comedies reflect the real world in a whole lotta other ways, why not brands on items we use/food we eat ? I never had an issue with Tony Soprano drinking Tropicana Orange Juice on The Sopranos, it wasn't focused on in such an obvious fashion as to be ridiculous, and it only makes sense that that family would drink it, since it's one of the best brands (or was considered so, at the time). It's only when it's integrated clumsily that it sucks. It's fine if every computer in the Dollhouse is a Dell (dunno if that's been the case in every shot), or for any office drama to have one-brand computers, it's normal for a workplace to have a deal with just one brand of PC (or alternatively, Macs). But if any time we go into someone's home or a non-Dollhouse office, you're still only seeing Dells...okay, I can suspend disbelief for that, it's not hard. But I've seen it executed poorly in other shows.

That they're putting brands into comics to sell ad space is kinda...eh...in a lot of ways, comics seemed more free from that, but I guess 'cause I read a lot of independants/have read a lot of independants I'm just more surprised that things are headed this way. Or maybe this has gone on for a while--I've seen brands before in comics lots of times, but usually it was only if the artist and/or writer liked that brand or wanted to flesh out their world to make it look more real, or do a visual joke. For example, way back in the mid-`90s, there was a scene in Joseph Michael Linsner's first Dawn mini-series that takes place in a fantasy version of New York's time square where a battle of swords and axes is raging. Coca-Cola was a mainstay on that big video screen in Times Square (are they still?), so Linsner incorporated that. He was a well-regarded artist/creator, but he was publishing really indie at the time and I seriously doubt Coke paid him for the inclusion (nor did DC pay him for cameo-ing Batman).

What Simon said about patronage is good to remember, but sometimes you just wanna get away from the obviousness of the ads/stuff being owned by corporations instead of individuals, y'know ? (that's not me being some indie-elitist, I love a ton of mainstream/common material) At least it seems like there'll always be independant content available to seek out. Folks can always DIY, especially when it comes to print, and those savvy and willing enough will be able to find and buy it/sample it. Film and television/web-series quality is a different matter due to comparatively higher costs, but what are you gonna do ?
Do you think they'd consider making Dollhouse Season 3 this way?
This is interesting, and kind of sad too because (face it) most studio web series - suck.
Are there a lot of studio made web series out there? Can you suggest a few? I'm not familiar with them.
This could be potentially awesome. Firefly webisodes? Eh? Eh?
Probably not. But still cool.
Isn't that basically what Chuck does?

Only if you think "Buy More" is a real store.
This would only be cool if Joss got complete creative control. The only web series I've gotten into are the Guild and RVB (And I'm not a halo fan, a friend got me rvb complete series for a birthday cuz I'd told him I wanted to get into web shows, and I like kevin smith.)
I'd prefer Joss's five year run (Will a back nine pick up bring it shorter, or will he stretch it out and have the series be five seasons no matter what?) of dollhouse to Firefly, because Dollhouse's arc is insanely good right now.
Books backstory will be in the comic, the BDM has shortened FF's hypothetical 7 year run coniderably, and the only arc I know about right now is which would probably be good for a movie or miniseries.
My point is, I want Dollhouse to finish, THEN Firefly. What I can see happening with this is Joss making a two hour-ish Dr Horrible movie, (COMPLETE CREATIVE CONTROL) which will be split into 12 8-12 minute chapters. Each chapter is released every month, and after a year the entire things come out online (for free, with itunes soundtracks, advertising a-la hulu and shirts, whatever for $) THEN the dvd comes out, with the entire thing in a movie format, because it'll be made (or filmed) AS a movie, as opposed to the Guild.
I guess it'll be similar the the first Dr. Horrible but longer. While I'm at it, Dr. Horrible dvd #1 had ten fan made videos on it. How awesome would it be if #2 had Horrible Turn?? (Only if it's good enough quality and all, and clearly stating it's fan made.) And I want the Emmy Dr. Horrible thing as an extra on the dvd too.
I can dream, can't I? ;) *Runs off to imagine a Sugarshock 25 issue run, five books total*
[Edited to make more readable]

[ edited by DeezyG on 2009-11-08 20:29 ]
The original branded marketing web series was way ahead of it's time. I don't know whether the auto company got their money's worth in sales and/or marketing, but did establish an historical precedent.

BMW Films was a series of short films distributed online featuring mainstream directors and star actors. The budgets were large and while the purpose was to showcase various BMW models in performance driving, the stories were solid. BMW Films were released in the era preceding video streaming. By all appearances, the directors had broad creative control.

Viewers downloaded a web-enabled multimedia application (created in Macromedia-now-Adobe Director, the same tool used for the fabulous 'Done the Impossible' Interactive DVD-ROM.) which would download each episode as it was released, and served as a player for the entire first series. A shorter second series was also released. DVDs containing all of the episodes were available at BMW dealerships upon completion of a test drive.
I loved those BMW Films! The Hire, starring Clive Owen consisted of 8 short films. I used to have the DVD, but unfortunately sold it. I wish I hadn't, as the disc is now rare, out of print and a major collector's item. There were even comic books of The Driver (Clive's character), written by Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid and Bruce Campbell!
The thing is, even the most devoted indie web person needs to eat. They need to pay rent. They need to exist.

And unfortunately that takes money. So at some point, any web series needs to make some cash. Nobody has consistently figured out how to do that. Horrible and The Guild (and to an extent RvB I think) are the exception right now.

Studios getting into space was going to happen (and has been happening albiet badly). The biggest hurdle has - and will be - HOW you approach it.

If Fox, or NBC or whomever, approaches it like any other TV/Movie concept it will fail. The cost and rigors are to great but more importantly the targets for TV (audience, ads ecetera) are not and shouldn't be the same.

In my opinion, the more niche your product, the more successful it is right now. I mean both the Guild and Dr. Horrible are pretty damned targeted at very specific groups. I mean, they pitched those shows at us right in our wheelhouse and that's why they suceeded.

TV functions most often in a space of 'what appeals to the most people'. I don 't think that works on the web.

Anyway, I'm babbling now. I'm curious to see what becomes of this. I think the web is an exciting new place full of opportunities and potential voices. But at some point someone needs to turn a profit.

If they can balance that with good content, yay!

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