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The Audience Speaks Back: An Interview With Teen Web Series Fans

The Audience Speaks Back: An Interview With Teen Web Series Fans

Bri Castellini

April 26, 2017

The Audience Speaks Back: An Interview With Teen Web Series Fans

As with any new form of media, the earliest adopters tend to be the youths. Web series are no different, so today we talked to six young fans about their take on the emerging format.

Meaghan, 16, remembers watching LonelyGirl15 back when she was (gasp) ten years old, but didn't really get into web series fully until The Guild and Video Game High School, since she's "always been a gamer." Carter, 15, had seen GIFs of Carmilla on Tumblr around 2015, thought "that looks cool!," and then "binged all of season one and what was out of season two in one day." Rylan, 17, also discovered web series via Carmilla, after hearing about the positive queer representation. Eileen, 17, was introduced to web series a few years back after she joined the Jane Austen Club at her high school, saying she "picked up watching Emma Approved as it aired in December of 2013 and watched that religiously to its end, and in March of 2014 I spent a whole weekend binge-watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I was addicted!" Billie, 17, started their journey a couple years ago after discovering "the series Out With Dad on YouTube." Alex, 16, didn't really know that web series existed, let alone ones she enjoyed, up until a few years ago, but is now an avid fan.

All six of the teens primarily watch web series on their laptops, though on occasion they use their phones, either out of extreme anticipation for a new episode or for convenience. They predominantly watch on YouTube, Carter admitting they "didn't even consider anything like Vimeo might have web series." Billie, despite mostly watching on YouTube as well, adds that the series on Vimeo "are much higher quality for some reason."

Technical things aside, let's hear it from the teens!

Answers may have been shortened for clarity.

What are your favorite web series?

Meaghan: For sci-fi, my all time favorite is, of course, The Vault, which you'll know if you talk to me about web series for all of five minutes. Recently I've been super into Here We Wait. As for something more contemporary, I absolutely adore Wave Jacked, as well as High'rd Help and Words from Wilde. I'll always have a soft spot for VGHS and The Guild though.

Carter: My all time favorite web series are Haunted or Hoax and The Uncanny Upshurs. I'm also quite partial to Coupleish.

Rylan: High'rd Help and All For One...They're ones that I've watched multiple times, but I haven't really watched that many.

Eileen: I really, really love The Candle Wasters' Nothing Much to Do, based on my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing (they followed NMTD with its wonderful sequel, Lovely Little Losers, which is also near and dear to my heart). Another web series I love is the sitcom-ier Submissions Only which is also incredibly funny and wonderfully musical, about the behind-the-scenes of casting, auditioning, and acting for Broadway. I adore everything made by Shipwrecked Comedy the gorgeous and romantic Kissing in the Rain, the side-splitting and tragically brief A Tell-Tale Vlog, and their most recent venture Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Dinner Party, which is tremendously well-written, beautifully shot and designed, and acted brilliantly and hilariously.

Billie: I like Out With Dad, but through that series I found a really amazing show called Teenagers that stars some Degrassi actors... Bigger budget shows that I enjoy are Carmilla, which is something that I wish existed when I was a kid because it has a non binary character, LaFontaine, who I could have really benefitted from watching earlier in my youth.

Alex: Carmilla, The Vault, and High'rd help are probably my top three. I also really like The Guild and Wave Jacked.

Is there any level of production quality that would turn you off?

Meaghan: Bad sound. As long as I can hear and understand everything that people are saying I won't be turned off by video quality or, say, special effects quality, even if it'scheesy.

Carter: Production quality isn't really what I notice about a web series when I'm choosing what to watch. I understand that the work people put into it isn't always reflected through high quality because the equipment and wherewithal to get it is difficult.

Eileen: I've watched some things that were made on pretty tight budgets yet still really, really enjoyed them. Oftentimes, it adds to the homemade charm of a vlog-style literary adaptation. Some creators are really creative with a shoestring budget and can make awesome content despite limitations, and I find that even more compelling than something that might just look fancy on the surface. However, there have been some series that are just too rough quality-wise for me to continue watching. Really poor image quality is of course hard to watch, and bad sound quality makes it tough to follow stories. Good acting and writing can redeem pretty much anything, so if those things are absent, even in something that looks amazing, I can't bring myself to watch. it'sgot to be compelling.

Billie: In terms of production quality I don't mind if there are little errors or sound glitches here and there because I know it'stough but what bothers me the most is bad acting and bad cinematography. I don't think it'svery expensive to get a decent HD camera and a lot of web series are kind of lazy on that front I think. I like more cinematic web series, but some, like Out With Dad, which isn't very cinematic, I still enjoy because the acting is great. Bad acting is the worst. I think it'sprobably the biggest problem with web series casting. Sometimes it'sobvious when people cast their friends or whoever last minute and it really kills my interest when I don't believe a performance

What are your turn ons and turn offs for web content?

Meaghan: I'm generally not a big fan of LIWs [literary-inspired web series], so I'm often hesitant to start them. I've tried to start a ton, but only liked a few. I tend not to go for shows that focus on coming out or the queerness of the main character. There's definitely a need for these types of shows, but there's just so many that at this point it almost feels overdone. I just want casual LGBT+ characters in every type of show imaginable. Also, supernatural type sci-fi. Go cyberpunk or go home, kiddos.

Carter: Turn ons: anything with queer relationship, gender diversity, or race diversity representation.

Rylan: I like when I can get attached to the characters easily and the series is made up of a somewhat even mix of characters and plot, rather than focusing on almost all plot without revealing much about the characters. I also prefer when the storyline is easy to follow. A lot of the time I start a web series without finishing it because I get too lost in everything that's going on... Also, subtitles are really nice and I especially love when there are little bits of commentary thrown in!

Eileen: I really like literary adaptations and other quirky stuff, but I'm not super picky. If something looks mildly interesting, I'll probably at least give it a shot. I won't watch anything too gritty or gross or violent, and any kind of social insensitivity that isn't self-aware is an immediate turn-off for me. I don't have time for that kind of negativity or ignorance in my entertainment.

Alex: As far as genres I'm really into SciFi so shows like The Vault or H+ are really nice. A turn off I have is when episodes aren't in chronological order like H+; although the production value is amazing, the discontinuity between episodes makes the storyline almost impossible to follow.

What is there too much of/not enough of, in your opinion?

Meaghan: More sci-fi that isn't zombies, vampires, or supernatural! Or at least do something different with it (ala Here We Wait). Give me something like Dollhouse in a web series!

Carter: There's too much attention riveted on the more high-production web series produced by companies (i.e. Carmilla, All For One, etc). Not that web series made by companies like KindaTV weren't quintessential to how far web series culture has come, but many fans of those shows don't realize there are a multitude of other options if they'll give shows written by queer teens for queer teens a chance. As far as what there's not enough of, there's not nearly enough nonbinary representation in not only web series but the world in general. As a nonbinary person it'sextremely difficult to find characters I connect with. The only two nonbinary characters I can think of are Lafontaine (Carmilla) and Dee Warson (Coupleish), both played by the same actor (Kaitlyn Alexander).

Rylan: Personally, I'd love it if there was more representation for trans and neurodivergent people! I see a lot of queer representation which is amazing but there are still zero characters I've seen that I can fully/mostly relate to.

Eileen: There are a lot of books getting adapted over and over and over and over again that don't need to be, because a lot of the adaptations don't offer very fresh takes.

Billie: I don't think there can ever be too much queer content since we've been missing out for decades. Sometimes my friends complain about queerbaiting in web series but honestly as long as the queer characters aren't stereotypical, it'salways satisfying to see more and more, whether it'screated by a queer person or not. Give me more queer content!

Do you differentiate between web series and regular television? Are there certain things that web series do better?

Meaghan: Definitely... Compared to TV, web series usually do better at keeping viewers engaged, by not having lots of filler.

Carter: Web series are much better at including a more diverse cast and for the most part represent queer relationships in a healthy light.

Rylan: I tend to watch regular television a lot more. For me I find the plot can be easier to get into and follow with TV shows, but web series do a lot better with representation. I've seen actual unique, diverse characters in web series but in TV shows I feel like it'sall we get and a big deal to get a person with one identity that isn't straight/cis/abled/etc.

Eileen: The relationship between creators and audiences of TV and web series is very different. There's a gap that web series were able to bridge in that most of the content-creators were once content-consumers exactly like their audience members and they interact with their fans differently (and better) because of it. That makes for more well-informed, audience-sensitive content!

Are your friends web series fans?

Meaghan: Totally. Mostly due to my nagging them to watch my favorites.

Carter: My friends are definitely web series fans! I got my girlfriend and best friend into web series and my friend Jules writes her own web series.

Rylan: I have some friends that I've made through fandoms that are web series fans but for the most part not really. I do usually end up getting my friends to watch ones that I really like and they get

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