The concept behind goth web series Drawn By Pain came to writer/producer/director Jesse Cowell nine years before the technology – the prosumer version anyway – would catch up with his vision. “I came up with a short story about a young girl whose drawings could come to life to defend her. But over the years, I got more interested in what would happen to that same girl once she grew into adulthood. Would she be normal or be a product of her environment?”
After graduating USC Film School and spending several years trying to break into Hollywood, Cowell returned home to New York City and began putting his work online (including his feature length comedy Shades of Gray). Since his day job was “Director of Encoding” for a large streaming company, Cowell became more than familiar with the web and the amount of people he could access. So, of course, he put his stuff online.
“It seriously was best thing I ever did, as the thing I wanted most – people to see my stuff – was finally happening. I can’t tell you how good it felt to read the first reactions to my film. Let’s just say it made all those years of trying to make things and the entire struggle worth it.”
But create the world of Drawn by Pain, a visual landscape somewhere between reality and animation, Cowell needed help.
###“The look I was going for was something akin to the 80’s A-Ha Take On Me video, but minus the shading. But I had zero ability to draw it.” He scoured animation web forums for talent, and didn’t have to look far before finding what he wanted. “Posted all over Erica Langworthy’s forum profile were these sick – in the awesome sense – drawings of women wielding swords and kicking ass. It turned out she went to school for Animation at the Columbus School for Art and Design, and loved my idea! A year later, after many long distance tests, she moved to NYC from Ohio and we started work on the project.”
Drawn by Pain has been downloaded 400,000 times, billing itself as both a series and a feature film experience that has potential for cross-platform distribution. “In writing it, the feature structure was always in mind, but 12 very specific character points were also created to make for a friendlier web viewing experience. Episodes are not all completely stand alone. What’s happens in moments in episode one will have payoffs throughout the rest of the series. We have found that those that take the time to watch it all the way through enjoy it much more than those that watch an episode or two.”
Despite visual innovations, the series tends to be a bit heavy-handed in its depiction of a monstrous father, a brutalized mother and Emily, the abused young girl turned cold vigilante. Drawn by Pain takes itself quite seriously, not unlike its Anime influences, but carries more weight because it tries to exist in the “real world.” Don’t expect to strike a smirk. Between swordfights and spiky-haired animated protectors, the series could use a joke or two to give the audience a chance to breathe.