Last year I submitted “Nights at the Round Table” into several web festivals with high hopes, excitement and anticipation of the cast doing very well in nominations. As pleased as I am with the scripts and the editing work I did, I always believed that the real strength behind this project came from the cast. Four incredibly talented actors backed up by a fantastic supporting cast who brought remarkable energy and life to Max, Millie, Harmony, Sam and friends. I was almost certain that “best actor/actress” nominations were going to come in for these guys, and quietly hoped that I’d land a nomination or two for comedy writing. A man can dream!
Come the announcements we were out in the cold. Every single time, bar a nomination for “best ensemble” in the ISAs, but I’m not sure I can even count that as we were absent in video form from all the montages. Several festivals went by, each time the cold feeling of rejection creeping up my back. Doubt started to sink in. Had I screwed the cast over? Did my writing, editing or directing let them down? What wasn’t landing at all these festivals? Why didn’t we land nominations at Toronto, Vancouver, Marseille? Are people fed up of gaming comedy shows, even though these characters rarely play a game.
The reviews are very positive. We even got some praise from up high in the geek universe. Geek and Sundry showed us some love, and even Wil Wheaton enjoyed the series. Everyone who has discovered it had fallen in love with it. But for some reason, and without explanation, the show failed to make any impact at the festivals.
Now, here’s the controversial bit. I watch a LOT of web series. It’s my craft, and there’s no better way to learn than to study the work of others. I’ve seen great series, I’ve seen terrible series… and I have to say that I saw both ends of the spectrum do better that NATRT at every festival this year. There were shows that were funnier, better produced, with smarter writing landing nominations. But then there were shows with terrible writing, terrible production design and value that featured lifeless actors spewing cliches and tropes until the moon filled the sky weeping at the bad, soap opera reject dialogue winning all over the place.
I don’t understand. We produced a solid, funny and warm show and you… the festivals passed us over almost every time. When I asked for some feedback you simply said “we don’t give feedback”, but you quite happily take £30 from every entrant. For that fee, especially when the prize is often JPEG of some laurels you might want to look at your after service should you want people to enter again. Also, emailing out a rejection only to then send out an email asking for donations? I’m slightly baffled as to how you thought that would go down.
There’s no anger here, or resentment… just confusion. NATRT has it’s flaws, but the cast aren’t one of them, and the writing is certainly stronger than some of the shows nominated over us. I’d like to understand the selection process a little better as I’ve heard some pretty shady stories from past winners and losers who have stated that they would never enter a web festival again. Sad to say, I’m leaning towards joining them as £30 is a pretty high entry fee when the prize is nothing more than a stock email telling you that your series isn’t good enough.
I’ll be entering our series “Last Man Standing” into festivals next year, and I’m curious to see how it does. It’s a six part romantic comedy drama, which is a bit of a departure for us but still has a similar voice to NATRT, because I wrote it and I find it difficult to use anyone else’s voice when scribing this stuff. If it does well, suspicions of cast and crew that it was the genre that sank us (or rather lack of one… several cast have suggested that it’s the cross pollination of super geeky / romance / surrealism that’s the issue, others have concerns over the “Britishness”) will be confirmed and I’ll stop feeling like a great big bloody loser about it all.
Yours, with battered confidence.