[Ed. note: From time to time we are highlighting talented, up and coming directors working in online video and web series. How often we do them is up to how much you like them, so if you want to see more, let us know in the comments below.]
Andy Landen hasn’t even graduated film school yet, but already has an impressive string of web series under his belt—Do Whatever, a branded comedy series for Subway that racked up around 500,000 views on My Damn Channel, and his most recent, After School Club, an indie dark comedy. That’s not to mention the string of videos and even a feature film, Carried in the Whale, that he has collaborated on.
Landen embodies the latest iteration of film school grads, a generation native to the internet, whose laboratory is an endless jungle of upvotes, likes and comment threads. The Ontario, Canada native—yes, Canadians do seem to be all over online video—picked up the filmmaking bug while making videos of his younger brother skateboarding. This even led to a documentary film on skate culture, Amateur, that made waves on the festival circuit scoring awards along the way.
With just a month left in his MFA program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Landen is about to join the ranks of film school grads in Los Angeles, only he just may have a leg up on some of his classmates. Already he’s successfully pitched a room full of brand executives to had over a five-figure check for his three episodes web series (Do Whateever) from just a treatment. That kind of experience can’t be simulated in a lecture hall.
We caught up with Landen as he muses on his film school experience, the imperative for new filmmakers to embrace the web, and the future of independent storytelling.
Tubefilter: What draws you creating stories for the web?
Andy Landen: I just love to make stuff, and the web is a perfect place to share it with people. Where else are you allowed to make whatever you want, however you want with very few restrictions? The web gives you an opportunity to show your style, voice and sense of humor. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t think it’s a great place to get noticed.
Tubefilter: And what is it about episodic that you like?
Landen: First off, I really love episodic TV, and making stuff for the web is like making mini TV episodes. So I think that’s why I’m drawn to it. But episodic also sets up a good challenge — to tell an entertaining story, in just 3-5 minutes, that has a beginning, middle and end, that makes viewers want to watch the next one.
Tubefilter: Do you think film schools should focus more of the curriculum on creating for the internet?
Landen:Totally. Granted online video content and streaming has changed so fast, but I still think film schools still need to catch up. In my opinion, creating any kind of video content for the internet is our generation’s “music video” The web gives filmmakers a place to develop, explore and show of their unique style, kind of like MTV and music videos were for guys like Spike Jonze and David Fincher.
When a kid named “Fred” from the mid-west is getting his own movie, and an Annoying Orange is getting a TV show, why shouldn’t film school prepare us for that?
Tubefilter: Has USC done a decent job at this?
Landen: USC’s beginning to open itself up to creating content for the internet, but they’re still very strict about allowing you to post your work online.
That said, only because of USC did I have had the opportunity to direct and co-write The Subway series, Do Whatever, and show it at SXSW. So they’re definitely prepared to move in that direction. But their focus is still very much on having students produce the classic 20-30 minute thesis film. Besides the few film festivals with expensive submission fees, I just don’t know where you expect people to watch those films. Just seems like an old model.
These days with the internet it seems like, unless it’s a TV show or feature length film, people refuse to watch anything over 10 minutes long. So I say the shorter the better. People will be more likely to watch.
Tubefilter: Once you graduate, what are your plans? Will you be pursuing the traditional route for film/TV directors, or continuing to create online? (or both?)
Landen: I definitely plan to do both. I have written a feature and TV pilot with the hopes of directing and/or finding writing jobs in the more traditional sense. But at the end of the day I just want to keep telling stories. So I’ll continue to write and shoot web series as a way to develop my TV ideas.
Also, I plan to purse more branded content work, with my USC classmates, Giles Andrew and Alice Mathias. They were the team I created the Subway branded Do Whatever series with. I think there is definitely a mutually beneficial opportunity with brands in creating online content. You get to tell your original, funny stories and they get to advertise their [insert product here].