Size doesn’t matter. Freddie Wong blazed the trail of web media to see his work on screen. Who cares if it’s a monitor or mobile device?
Video Game High School
...because now that we’re all streaming media through the same devices we use for video games, it’s only natural that gamer-oriented content thrives on digital media. The geeks have inherited the earth and the makers of the web series “Video Game High School” understood the crossover potential of their material. In fact, they believed there was so much of a hunger for a gamer-themed narrative series that they went to Kickstarter before Zach Braff and Spike Lee to become the then highest crowdfunded project. As digital distribution targets niche audiences, non-traditional genres can provide opportunities for filmmakers.
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In retrospect, it seems crazy that networks, studios and multi-media conglomerates wouldn’t see the appeal of a young adult action comedy set in a high school for video game nerds. Freddie Wong realized that this was a genre not really covered by any traditional media projects, so he developed his idea into a web series. While most network suits wouldn’t have listened to a film school grad without real credits to his name, Wong pitched the idea directly to fans via the internet. “Video Game High School” pioneered a new avenue of financing that combined marketing and funding directly into one. Of course, it helped that Wong was able to back up his promise by delivering a product that resembled what his fan-based backers imagined when they shelled out their dollars for the show.
Wong and his collaborators used the success of “Video Game High School” to launch the website RocketJump as a platform for new content and partnerships. Ultimately, relying on the ad revenue from even a successful web series is not a sustainable business model for much more than continuing to produce that same web series. For upstart filmmakers like Wong, short form web series offer a manageable project that can be produced on a relatively small budget (which, in the case of “Video Game High School,” was raised through small donations from fans). Rather than viewing these projects as an end, they can be a means to larger scale opportunities, which can range from expanding video content, making mega-bucks through merchandising or crossing over into the world of traditional film and television.
“Video Game High School” is a good example of developing new modes of storytelling online. While the show’s creators tailored their content for a digital audience, they were among the first to understand that there are more media consumers out there than ticket purchasers and Nielsen box owners. Most filmmakers either stick to feature film or the broadcast length television format for their projects, but these narrative structures aren’t set in stone anymore. “Video Game High School” demonstrated that a different type of story with a new distribution model could be profitable. However, even beyond the realm of branded content and sponsor partnerships, it also raises the possibility that online media can lead to creative and artistic breakthroughs for the next generation of auteurs.
The Streamy Awards (2014) - Best Action or Sci-Fi Series & Best Ensemble Cast // International Academy of Web Television Awards (2015) - Best Ensemble Cast
VGHS was one of the first shows to be shot using a mixed frame rate. Action sequences were shot at 48 frames per second while the rest of the series used the traditional 24 frames per second. "You know, a lot of the complaints about high frame rates is that it looks too much like a video game. But for us, we're like, 'Great! We need something that looks like a video game. We want something that looks like a video game, because part of the show takes place inside of video games.'" - Freddie Wong.
VGHS raised over $75k for season 1 in a single day. Subsequent seasons would go on to break crowdfunding records, showing that a loyal and enthusiastic online fan base will support high quality digital content. “The support we received was overwhelming,” said Freddie Wong. “I believe the ability for creators like ourselves to directly reach our audiences is the future of all independent creative endeavors – from film and video to music. It demonstrates how creators and audiences can collaborate and create something truly special.”
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