In 1994, Austin, Texas’ seven-year-old South by Southwest Music Festival added Film and Interactive conferences.  Budding auteurs screened low-budget, indy flicks, and pros talked process on panels.  Media geeks showed what cool eye candy they could store on tiny Digital Video Discs.

I’m sure there was some talk of convergence back then, the fact that one day the next El Mariachi would be shot on a budget that would make Robert Rodriquez look like Peter Jackson.  That it would be distributed on little bits of data traveling in through a publicly accessible series of interconnected computer networks, or at least something not made of celluloid.  That people would consume it on-demand across a number of devices that included, but was not limited to, their home television sets.  But I’m guessing that’s all it was.  Talk. 

14 years later, we know it’s close to reality.  Although the product isn’t yet on par with Rodriguez’s charming actioneer, it’s clear the convergence of mediums new and old is imminent.  In fact, it’s such a given that at this year’s SXSW it wasn’t even a topic of conversation.  It’s just understood.  It’ll happen, the only question is when.   

One of the latest steps towards an answer came with SXSW and web distribution/production house, ON Networks‘ Greenlight Awards.  The two teamed up for an online video contest that collected submissions from hundreds of entrants who had hopes of receiving a cash prize, the opportunity for a distribution deal with ON, and some internet notoriety.  It’s interesting when you think about – what was originally a film festival spun an interactive arm and now that interactive arm has a film festival.

In any case, The Guild won.  It’s a sitdotcom created by former-gamer and Buffy the Vampire Slayer number Vi Felcia Day about "what happens when hardcore online gamers stop gazing into their laptops and cross into the messy territory of real life."  MMO freaks will appreciate the inside jokes, but the series doesn’t delve too far into the realm of gamer esoterica to make it unappealing to those who don’t know the name Leroy Jenkins.  It’s good.  Check it out:


The other four finalists are good too.

###Wingmen


A mockumentary about a group of University of Texas students whose popular campus radio show got 86ed after an on-air break-up incited a barrage of expletives that even Sirius would censor.  The FCC elicits fines and the kids solicit customers to their newfound, crafty dating service.

The Bobble Show


An interview show featuring animated celebrity bobble heads, that recycles hackneyed jokes into funny again.  It’s part excellent delivery, and part anyone-in-bobble-head-form-looks-ridiculous, but any show that can still elicit laughs from a Barbara Walters impersonation is worth a watch. 

Small Bits of Happiness


(The above is just an excerpt from the full 30-minute long first episode)

A dark comedy  about a suicide prevention company that coaches the morbidly helpless to happiness, 30 seconds at a time.  The anti-Kevorkian Ned Reynold thinks that, "if he can make you feel happy for 30 seconds, proving that you can feel happy, he can build on this moment, and eventually you can be happy for a minute, an hour, and maybe even the rest of your life," all the while dealing with his own loss issues.

You Can Awesome!


I used to like the intro only, but after giving this 80’s-variety-childrens’-program-gone-bad a second and third chance, it’s growing on me.  Its attention to the minutia of kids’ shows (like chalkboards, children noises, and actual kids) confines the insanity of the characters to a familiar place.  I still prefer the more palatable For Kids! by Dan Meth, but give this one a couple views and see if the escalating absurdity doesn’t make you click for more. 

To view all the ON Networks Greenlight Awards Finalists, click here.

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