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Online TV: The Road to Fame and Fortune

Updated on April 16, 2011



For twenty years, the Internet has provided the savvy user with new avenues of income. Businesses could sell things over the computer; people could run mail-order companies out of their own homes. And web page designers could make a small fortune designing and running the website of small and large businesses.

Money is not the only thing the Internet makes accessible. With a bit of talent and hard work, the average weekend Couch Warrior can earn acclaim worldwide by making something that gets the world’s attention. The Chuck Norris list, for example, was created by desperately lonely people like you and I who were only hoping for a few clicks on the website hit counter that weren’t our own.

In my last article, which I shamelessly promote here, I mentioned the long hard path of many web comic artists; writers who are skilled with the pen and the brush, working long hours to present their readers with a complex story and captivating artwork.

But another phenomenon has taken the Internet by storm. The goal is the same: to use the relatively uncensored nature of the Internet to entertain the masses with original and visually appealing stories. That phenomenon is heretofore referred to as the Online Show.

Just for clarification, this article does not refer to episodes of established TV shows like Firefly, Castle and Lie to Me, which you can watch on Hulu, YouTube and other sites. Nor does it refer to clips of comedy shows, like The Whitest Kids You Know, that are basically copied or recorded from the original recording or broadcast and posted online. This refers specifically to original shows made by everyday people, and posted exclusively online.

Which is Cooler, an online show or a webcomic?

See results

The Tools Are Different


With Web comics, you need an idea, pencils, pens and a scanner. And a computer. And some skills with photo shop could help too. With an online show you still need an idea and a computer. But the pen, pencil and scanners have been replaced by cameras, SD cards, video editing software and the most important tools of all: People.

Cameras and Equipment


Depending on what technology you have available to you, the camera can be an old school VHS recorder, or a simple point-and-shoot video camera. Since there’s likely to be little to no budget associated with the show the sky really is the limit on this one.

Robert Chapin, creator of the fictional reality TV show (Yes, I am aware of the Irony) The Hunted has crafted his show so that viewers of the series may make their own episodes without all of the major gear and crew.

The creator of Monster’s Anonymous, Joe Heath, recently told SciFinal that his weapons of choice are a Panasonic PV-GS300 and the editing software, Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 7.0. He also uses a mic for recording sound, which he then saves as a file on the computer.

Whatever you wind up using, whether it’s a point-and-shoot camera you got from Rite-Aid because it was on clearance for just thirty dollars, or a high tech movie studio camera, in the end it’s not nearly as important as your ability to make a great show. The equipment can only get you so far.

Story, Style and Sprinkles


Story is a major part of any show, unless you’re doing an informative “talk show” style piece, which is really a step above a v-blog. But even then there has to at least be a story behind the show.

Then of course the style is important. Is your show episodic and similar in format to the average sitcom? Is it a “reality” show? What kinds of camera, acting and setting techniques do you use to tell your story? Or in the case of the talk show, what overall theme are you trying to convey with each new episode?

Sprinkles are the laziest way I can come up with to describe the minor touches that make a huge difference. The background music, the special effects, title cards, and opening and closing credits can be considered “sprinkles”.

The Hunted

The Hunted: Tampa

The story of The Hunted is relatively simple. Vampires are real and they feed on the humans they bite, thus making their victims “The Hunted”. Some of those humans aren’t too happy about being walking and breathing 7-11’s and they can choose to pick up a sword and become a Slayer.

As the Hunted is an interactive series, anyone can contribute an episode, or a spin-off of episodes in their own respective areas. These spin-offs follow the same premise that creator Bob Chapin has set, with each series creator adding their own flare or their own spin on the internal mythology of The Hunted.

Each episode of The Hunted is typically presented as a reality show or documentary, filmed by a camera person (sometimes collectively referred to as Mikey) who follows the main characters, though this format changes depending on who is making the episode. Typically, though not all of the time, a well choreographed sword fight and/or staged martial arts battle takes place during, or at the climax of the episode.

Using post video editing techniques, the vampires are given “flashing” eyes. Simple trick photography gives vampires the illusion of disappearing when fleeing a fight and/or being beheaded. Ned Donovan, of The Hunted: Expulsion uses the whip of the camera to cut two scenes together, thus making it appear to be one single take as opposed to many individual scenes.

Monsters Anonymous

Halloween Episode of Monsters Anonymous

A recently turned werewolf becomes roommates with a vampire and invisible man. His next door neighbor is Death and his sister is a Goth who shares his love of garlic bread and becomes romantically attracted to Nick and later Bob.

Filmed in a traditional “fly-on-the wall” sitcom fashion, the characters never interact with the camera. Each episode opens and closes at a support group referred to as Monsters Anonymous where the characters basically set up and conclude their various storylines.

A series of promotional ads and holiday “specials” expand the Monsters Anonymous universe. Along with subtle (and not so subtle) nod offs to Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, and series creator Joe Heath’s own work. (Hey, if book writers can advertise their own work in their novels, film makers can too. Oh and see the original movie Life with Death)

Vincent E.L., the voice of Nick, tweaks the audio and ads music as well as the voice for his character. The three other actors: Ray Friesen, Jez Layman, and Lewis Lovhaug also lend their voice talents from a distance, as they do not live in the area where the show is filmed.

Alex Plank's Wrong Planet TV

Going with the aforementioned talk show format, Alex Plank discusses many issues and updates in the world of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The show includes clips, interviews with various people connected to or doing research on Autism and of course an intro by Alex himself.

It’s interesting to note that Alex Plank is the creator of one of the most successful websites dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome and various degrees of autism. He has become our (yes, remember, I carry the Asperger’s Diagnosis as well, whether I like it or not) unofficial spokesperson, a kind of liason between us and the realm of the neurotypicals. So it’s great to see that Alex is continuing to use that influence to inform the world by branching out into various formats.

Paranormal groups use a show format to present their investigations.


A number of paranormal groups are also creating their own shows by posting investigations, evidence and interviews in an episodic format. Using theme music, title cards and film clips, these groups are able to present TV quality investigations without the hassle of dealing with studio execs and questionable on screen antics.

People: This Time It's Personal


 If people are essential for the success of a web comic, then they’re definitely essential for the success of an online show. You have schedules to respect and coordinate. Travel distances and potential expenses like gas and food. If you’re filming in a location that is not your personal property or place of business, you may need to clear things out with security, the general public, and of course you have to make sure that you are not in violation of any ordinances.

All of these things require interaction with that rag tag fleet of six foot hairless apes known as mankind.

Mark Bedell

...And Team Ned

Are teaming up with this idiot...\/

Public park near two major tourist attractions and heavy traffic on all sides. What trouble could a bunch of sword wielding actors preparing to do stage combat possibly get into?
Public park near two major tourist attractions and heavy traffic on all sides. What trouble could a bunch of sword wielding actors preparing to do stage combat possibly get into?

How Not To Shoot An Episode of Your Show

Case in point, my own recent attempt to enter The Hunted universe involved planning. Poor planning for the most part, as I had months to secure a location and the necessary permissions to film and to engage in a coordinated stage fight using realistic looking swords, provided by Mark Bedell.

As I lived in Salem, Mass, I thought, what better place to film an episode of a series about vampires than in a place that’s associated with the paranormal…and freaks who carry swords?

Ned was heading to London and Charlie Forray, who plays the lead vampire villain in Expulsion was off to LA, we only one day to film. Ned and Mark brought the actors and Mark was also going to be to be bringing the swords, the trampoline and the stunt mats.

Alas, the best I could do was to offer up my place of residence as the opening scene of our episodes. They would start separately, Ned’s up stairs and mine in the kitchen and we would “bump” into each other. Our respective camera guys were even supposed to have a fight scene eventually, which is something that no other Hunted team has done yet. (To potential Hunted episode creators, I implore you, please don’t take that one. Let us do it first.)

The second location was the Washington Square Park, located near the Nathaniel Hawthorne Hotel and the Witch Dungeon Museum. I figured the nice open location in the town of Salem would be better than filming in a nondescript location.

Well, to make a long story short, we got the scenes at my house filmed without a hitch. The landlord was actually very understanding, considering there was a lot of shouting and the sound of swords clanging against one another and the walls were pretty much paper thin. Unfortunately the park proved problematic.

One, it’s a public location where plenty of people walk their dogs. And during the winter there is a little ice skating rink moved into the park. The parents who let their kids play on that ice have a tenancy of taking it the wrong way when sharp objects are involved at any point. (Mind you, our activities were largely focused on the gazebo but that’s beside the point)

The police were called and we were promptly asked to leave the premises. Fortunately Mark’s swords were not confiscated and everyone was really cool about it. I felt like an idiot because a few simple phone calls could have taken care of this whole matter easily.

This is just an example of how pear-shaped things can go when one person, namely myself isn’t on the ball. Or, consequently, when one person fails to take advantage of the time he has been given and just keeps praying to the fates that things don’t go wrong. They all brought the twelve course turkey dinner and all I had to do was bring chips and soda and I sucked at it.

Now imagine if no one was on the same page? Good. Now that you’ve imagined that, I won’t waste pages on examples of people who aren’t on the same page. Let us instead go onto some examples of teams where everyone is on the ball.

Nick is there but the voice actor isn't.

On the Same Page

As mentioned before, four of the actors in Monster’s Anonymous don’t even live in the same area as Joe Heath. That may not seem like such a huge deal when you consider three of them play minor parts. But Vincent E.L. plays a lead character and is frequently in the spotlight (ironically) and he doesn’t even live in the same country as the rest of the cast!

Now, if you’ll watch this promo ad featuring Nick as a major focal point, you’ll see how the timing and the skillful acting of Josh Spurgin (Seth) and Joe (Bob) not only makes it believable that there is an invisible man in the room, but that the actor is right there with them.

The second part of the second Halloween special, also seen here, required coordination to make sure all of the actors were in the right place at the right time as the episode moved from location to location.

Derek Connely of The Hunted: Tampa teamed up with Battlestar Galactica legend Richard Hatch to create yet another spinoff series called, The Hunted: Vindication. Now can you imagine how busy a guy like Richard Hatch is? To have his time and attention on your project (as well as the other projects that takes up Mr. Hatch’s time, including teaching acting classes to aspiring students) is basically a bolt from Olympus. If the above story occurred and Richard Hatch, Anthony De Longis, or any of the other talented professionals who have worked on The Hunted had been involved, I’d be committing honorable seppuku as of this article’s publication.

The Man Who won a Showdown with a Cylon...


Kendall Wells of Chronicles of Kendall sets an example for the rest of us by working so well with his sister, the camera girl turned Slayer, Audrey Wells. The second episode of his series took place at actor and professional weapons trainer Anthony De Longis’ ranch, and involved a well choreographed stunt and chase scene.

Whatever the goal of your show is, whether it is to entertain or to educate, communication and planning are key. And making sure everyone involved is on the same page and able to chip in their own ideas is the best way to make projects go as smoothly as possible.

Fame and Fortune

Just like with web comics, success on an online TV show has many different bars to measure. Are you doing it because you want to tell a story, but you don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a script approved by a major bigwig? Or are you trying to make millions of dollars in acting without the hard work?

Obviously, as before, you don’t want to quit your day job. And since there will be other people working with you on this project, you can bet that they don’t want to quit theirs either. But having a common goal to work towards can’t hurt your cause.

Sometimes the goal is as simple as showcasing your work. Having a ten minute to a half hour window to present comedy and acting can make for a good visual resume. The actors have the chance to show off their comedic skill and other talents. The camera guys and girls can advertise their services, as well as any third party editors and sound technicians.

Comedic Samplings from Evil Iguana Productions


And if you’ve gathered much of a fan base, there’s always the Cafepress route that allows you to slap a logo on a T-shirt and sell it to your fans. That’s more of an act of desperation, but it’s worth it if it works.


Kendall Wells enjoyed the perk of working with Anthony De Longis when he was offered a part in the third season episode of Leverage.

For Our Beloved Kendall, Doing This...

In conclusion...

 Are you still reading this? Get your camera and get out there!

There's a whole world of potential viewers waiting to see what you can do. Because after all, the the long road to fame and fortune begins with a single...

Lead to This.


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