Now dear friends, we’ve all heard the word ‘webisode’ many times before now. And I’m guessing that many of you, like myself, aren’t massively inspired by it. And indeed who can blame us, for the humble webisode is now most often associated with assorted deleted scenes, off cuts and scrag ends that promise exclusive content but actually rarely soar above the level of custom made teaser material and even less frequently adding anything of value to the stories of their parent properties.
And therein lies the problem: so often in the micro world of webisodes, they are just promotional material for bigger old media formats like movies and TV series. As they are seen as such, rarely do they actually compliment the stories they are created to promote. Partly this is due to the fact that there is a perceived divide in the audience; it is believed that only a minority of those who will go to the theatre or tune in will be net-savvy and therefore no narrative content of any real consequence will be ‘wasted’ in the webisodes.
Generally these days, thanks to the persistent belief that we are all low attention span morons, TV in particular shies away from the serial format. Even in these days of shows regularly sporting season long story arcs, there’s still the belief that each episode must self contain so not to confuse the casual channel surfer and the hard of thinking. Cliff-hangers and multipart stories are often only allowed out to play for season finales.
However things weren’t always this way; indeed the very word ‘webisode’ was coined way back in 1995 – the pre-Cambrian Period of the Internet – by Scott Zakarin to describe the instalments of his story The Spot that was being serialised online. And it’s my great pleasure to tell you all about a new project 31 that’s reclaiming the webisode from the barren netherworlds that lie between trailers and product, and bringing it back to its roots as purely web-based serial format.
Here’s the official trailer –
And the story line for 31 is as follows –
She wakes up alone, trapped, surrounded by darkness, with no memory of how she got there or even who she is. Will she escape? And even more importantly, who or what awaits her outside her prison if she does?
Now those of you running away gibbering about ‘torture porn’, get back here right now! Thankfully 31 is not the latest tired echo of Hostel but is a supernatural thriller promising a great many twists and turns along the way and good solid mystery at its core.
And here’s the highly intriguing part, 31 will unfold in 31 episodes, each of 31 seconds, over 31 days, beginning today the 31st of March, debuting at 3.31 pm ET.
The project is being helmed by LC Cruell, Shriekfest award winner and author of numerous short tales, who says :
Never before has a story been told in such a way. It has the story arc of a film with the structure of television, told cliff-hanger by cliff-hanger, within the attention span of the Internet. It’s the best of all three worlds
Now that’s a bold claim, but as anyone conversant with the history of popular art forms will know, artists of every stripe often produce their best work when working within tight constraints, whether it be poets working in haiku and villanelle, musicians knocking out blistering albums in their bedrooms, or directors finding innovative artistic solutions to low budget problems.
For me personally, the lure of a serial built upon the time-honoured structure of a series of cliff-hangers is pretty irresistible in itself. It may well be wrapped up in the cyber glamour of the digital age but this a much needed return to one of the classic modes of story telling, and I’ll be faithfully tuning in every day to see how 31 weaves its spell.