A while back I wondered which of the inaugural lineup of Strike.TV web series will be the standout, and I think we have our answer. With the Angels, the dramatic web series from creator (and former lonelygirl15 writer) Mary Feuer, released its season finale today, wrapping up an ambitious 36-episode first season. And in that time, the series has picked up a healthy following known to debate some hefty issues, everything from faith to existentialism and Kierkegaard.
Starring Jamie Tisdale as the young small town Arkansas ingenue Taffy, the With the Angels charts her arrival in Venice, California, thrusting her into an unfamiliar world surrounded by unfamiliar people. But through her vlogging we come to watch those strangers become friends—friends of our own even—closer and realer than what we’ve come to expect out in scripted entertainment. The unfamiliar becomes the familiar.
With an ensemble cast including Carly Jones (Mallory in lonelygirl15), René Alvarado, Timothy Lee DePriest, Sean Vincent Biggins (Dr. Calvin Hart on lonelygirl15) and Kay Ostrenko, With the Angels ventures into waters that few web series have been able to pull of – character driven drama. We had the chance to chat with Feuer who was literally dealing hands-on with YouTube uploading issues before we spoke, speaking to how intimately involved her project has been for the writer turned full-on new media maven. One of the things that sets her apart from other Strike.TV writers is her unwavering commitment to sharing the series with new people, wherever they may be.
Tubefilter: What drove you to personally take so much into your own hands rather than relying on the Strike.TV publicity push?
Mary Feuer: I just don’t know how to do it any other way. I’m a hands on person. It never occurred to me not to do it that way. Also, some of the other creators are not as comfortable to make that push on their own, whereas because of my background on the web I feel I am.
Tubefilter: One thing I noticed is that the show’s main site (withtheangels.com) redirects to your fairly active YouTube channel. What was the thinking behind this choice?
MF: I bought the domain before I started working on the show, but it seemed like more of a community was building around YouTube page. It’s been hard driving people over to the forums on StrikeTV, you can only push so hard and then have you go with it. I think the basic core of the fans are people that are YouTube centric and like to comment there.
There are two kinds of viewers, passive and active. Even the passive people want to talk to each other. A lot of the comments are people talking to each other.
Tubefilter: You’ve done an excellent job bringing out the supporting characters through Taffy’s video blogging. What the secret?
MF: Taffy’s the portal. Her story is reflected in what is happening to the people around her. She spends a lot of time watching the story unfold. Her story is interesting, but it’s really a story about the other characters. The viewers see themselves in her—she’s them in a way.
Tubefilter: Did you ever consider of presenting WtA as a rouse, as if it were real?
MF: Becuase of my past association with lonelygirl15, it was really important for me not to do that. I just don’t think you can get away with that anymore. Any sign that you are trying to get away with it now creates a lack of trust. It’s about trust. You have to trust this character.
The concept can really be tracked all the way back through history: War of the Worlds, Blair Witch. LG15 was not the first to do it. They were just the first to it in the context of vlogging.
TF: Did it spawn a negative reaction when people feel they’ve been duped?
Some people were surprised some were turned off, but people stayed because the story continued to be interesting. It’s a fiercely loyal bunch those LG15 viewers.
TF: Did you reach out and court that fiercely loyal bunch to watch WtA?
Yes, I did. There’s been a good amount of support coming out of the community. Blogs like lg15today which seems to find anything even remotely related to lonelygirl15. So I reached out to them and others.
Even within the LG15 community, there’s different factions—some who love the characters and others who love the darker mystery side of it all. So I think people on the character side really could get into [With the Angels] more.
Tubefilter: In other interviews, you’ve been asked about a second season, and it sounds like that’s going to be a group decision sometime early next year. What would be the clincher for you guys that gets another season going?
MF: It’s a huge endeavor. You have to make sure everyone is in it. The whole thing has to be pretty tightly orchestrated.
Tubefilter: Who’s the core team you rely on to make the series?
Well of course there’s Jamie Tisdale who plays Taffy and all the other actors as well. Behind the camera, there’s Neil De La Pena, the DP, and someone I’ve worked with a lot in the past.
Since a lot fo the series is told from Taffy’s camera, we like to joke that everyone has played Taffy at some point. But Neal plays Taffy more than anyone else since he’s the one that’s actually shooting Taffy’s video. He’s one of the few DP’s I know that are more concerned with the story than just making pretty pictures, which is vital to the show since this isn’t a pretty pictures kind of show.
And there’s Albert Cantu, the editor. What’s great abot workign with him, he really understands how to use music which is very important to me. And he’s very talented. It’s been a bit of an adjustment for him since Taffy’s character is the editor. Taffy’s actually a much better editor now than she was at the beginning of the season. Certain editing tricks that I didn’t want her to use at the beginning of the season we now use. [see Episode 2 below for comparison.]
Tubefilter: What other web series have you liked this past year?
MF: I love to find obscure web series, like Where are the Jonses?, an obscure British show that no one is watching. I think it gets like 700 views per episode. And being a drama writer, I like watching other web dramas like After Judgment and Anyone But Me. Also the Lexus [L Studio] web series like Web Therapy. And of course the Strike.TV series like Speedie Date, Faux Baby and Life in General—I grew up in a household of soap watchers.
UPDATE: It wasn’t initially in the article above, but as we noted earlier, With The Angels is also distributed by KoldCast TV, who has a terrific video player btw, and will be part of their partnership with TiVo.