Circle of EightOn the surface the Circle of Ei8ht premiere today on MySpace is just another cool looking web series with an exclusive distribution deal. Behind the scenes however, stands one of the most complex digital entertainment deals we’ve seen yet, with no fewer than six companies—MySpace, Paramount Digital, Milchan/Van Eyssen, Mountain Dew, Adobe, and even Blockbuster making the show’s official press release. There’s even a few more, William Morris Endeavor and Endemol that had a hand as well. We dedicated some serious pixel time in August to breaking down this well-oiled conference call machine of a project in our Anatomy of a Deal feature.

The business of this whole thing aside, it’s now time to figure out the big question that actually matters for viewers—is this thing any good? First, there’s the plot setup, which is horror flick ready with a spooky downtown LA loft building full of overly attractive twentysomething artists. There’s a new girl—(isn’t there always?)—a spunky young woman named Jessica (Austin Highsmith) who moves into The Dante as the impressively shot series begins.

DJ Qualls, the most recognizable of the cast from his Road Trip breakout, plays a nosy, handicam sporting neighbor working on a  documentary on the place. (We can’t help but notice his similarity to another downtown LA loft set web series, Woke Up Dead, with Josh Gad as Jon Heder’s Zi8-obsessed roommate.) And internet references are a plenty, with another neighbor, India (Natashia Williams) having made a name as a web series star hosting “a political talk show in her panties.”

Circle of Eight - MySpaceEveryone in the building, except our protag Jessica, seems to be hinting at what exactly is going on with the building and share an oddly clairvoyant awareness of things. Her potential love interest, a beefy nice guy Evan (Ryan Doom) who seems pulled right off the set of The Lake, appears to be Jessica’s best shot at some answers to this mystery. As viewers, we’re unsure why exactly Jessica would have moved into this dingy beatnik joint sight unseen, but somehow it seems like she didn’t have a choice in the matter.

Thankfully, the interactivity wasn’t an afterthought on Circle of Ei8ht, with four different interactive clues per episode, each activated within the custom Adobe Flash player by rolling your mouse over the frame. From there, the Mountain Dew integration comes to into focus as viewers are taken to a Green Label Art bottle with hidden messages burned into the labels. The product integration doesn’t stop there though, as one of the characters in the series joins the Dew’s Green Label Art community where selected art-inclined fans create custom collectible Dews bottles.

Web to DVD

This is Paramount Digital’s first official foray into web series, having had some success with a web release of Jackass 2.5 movie, the first studio-backed film release online. Following Sony/Crackle’s model of an online release driving DVD sales (Angel of Death, Star-ving, Woke up Dead), PDE has scored Blockbuster as an exclusive distribution partner for the full-length DVD of Circle of Eight—which includes a “surprise alternate ending” for an extra incentive for fans. By December, the DVD will be available to rent and download-to-own through Blockbuster stores and On Demand.

Three episodes are released so far on an impressive custom MySpace page, with two more coming next week. The full release schedule of the ten five-minute episodes is as follows:

  • October 27: Episodes 1-3
  • November 3: Episodes 4-5
  • November 10: Episode 6
  • November 17: Episode 7
  • November 24: Episode 8
  • December 1: Episode 9
  • December 8: Episode 10

We want to know what you think of this series—Are you going to keep watching? Did you track down any of the clues? Is the product integration too much?  Leave a comment below and we may use it in an upcoming review of the series.

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