*THIS POST IS RE-PUBLISHED FROM WEBSERIESTHEORIES.COM, A FORMER BLOG OF MINE.
WEBSERIES THEORY: Webseries culture celebrates self-reflexivity.
It’s fascinating how quickly new mediums and forms of expression become self-referential and/or self-reflexive. Whole sub-culture movements have started this way; the most famous of which was the French New Wave. The French New Wave consisted of a band of film critics and theorists, sure. But as you know, they also wanted to be filmmakers. Huge proponents of the auteur theory (the notion that the director is the author of a film), they set out to make their own films. These films heavily referenced and riffed on Hollywood, but introduced a new type of movie. Directors, like Truffaut and Godard, did everything in their power to remind audiences of the fact that they were watching a movie: self-reflexive.
Fast-forward some time, and you see the ripple effect of their work throughout the world’s film culture, for better (Quentin Tarantino) or worse (Disaster Movie). And now, our little sub-culture of webseries has latched onto this trend with lightning fast speed. It could even be argued that this self-reflexive behavior is directly tied to the medium’s successes. Look to The Guild (the most obvious example), who still even in their most recent season, Season 4, play out the majority of their scenes via webchat, even having their characters talk directly into the camera (many series have followed this example), which in film used to be called “breaking the fourth wall”, but now is simply another piece of visual language in our vlogging world. In addition to cinematic qualities, there are several series that reference the culture and themselves in it for comedic effect, most notably the wildy successful, but uninspired and underwhelming Webventures of Justin & Alden (Webventures).
Recently, a new series came to my attention, Little Cat Version of Me (Little Cat), that follows a similar concept to Webventures: two roommates set out to make a webseries, and “hilarity ensues”. But unlike Webventures, Little Cat doesn’t rely almost entirely on the creative teams’ previous successes, in-jokes, and a group of friends with minor celebrity status. Instead with Little Cat‘s first episode, Director, Daniel Reis, and his Director of Photography, Kian Marandi, skillfully and organically introduce us via mockumentary into the lives of our two heroes, roommates Adam (Adam Goldhammer) and Mitch (Mitch Boughs).
As you can see, the creative team behind this piece embraces the limitations of their budget. Most episodes take place within the one location and consist nearly entirely of back-and-forth dialogue, but due to consistent lighting and well-paced editing it rarely matters. The show takes the time to deliver a quality image, and I’m willing to bet that they don’t have a very sophisticated light kit, if any. But they make do. In an interview with blogTO, Goldhammer says, “the actually shooting of each episode will take on average an hour a minute of the final cut”. In Hollywood terms this isn’t very much, but for a webshow that relies on such a simple cinematic format and equipment, this is a good bit of time. I’ve seen students’ and independent productions breeze through a shoot at the sacrifice of quality. So it counts when time is all you really have.
There is a consistency to the Little Cat world that they’ve built, which is of paramount importance, because the show’s premise does everything in its power to draw attention to the fact that this is in fact, a webseries. The creators only strengthen and maintain the illusion with surprisingly sophisticated writing. In their first episode, we are greeted with two very well-defined characters and friends, already in conflict. Their dialogue and interaction delicately and humorously walks the viewer through key parts of their back story, easily leading to the need for these characters to come together in making a webseries. Then from episode to episode, the writers demonstrate the simplistic thinking behind many in our culture’s attempted exploitation of internet memes, only to turn around and exploit the memes themselves through the characters and their show. Personally, I think it’s brilliant.
Although on occasion, Goldhammer pushes the limits of his character’s absurdity, the acting is very good. Boughs and Goldhammer commit to their roles completely, making for a fun and again, surprisingly sophisticated watch, despite the silliness of it all. The show’s only major fault to date came when the show broke from it’s formula and introduced what can only be defined as a nerd characiture, Dave. The character is so over the top that he doesn’t really fit into the world. And I suppose that is the point, but the character lacks the charm of a Jaleel White, so we are left with only an annoying Urkel, who doesn’t actually type when he is typing, which momentarily destroys the well-preserved illusion of reality in the show.
Little Cat supports their content with a simple tumblr page, which is to-the-point and fitting. On Twitter, they are @TheRealMeowla, the title character of the show, who tweets gems, such as “meow meow meow”, “meowla haz a case of teh meowdayzz”, or “I is in webseriez? http://littlecatversionofme.com”.
Little Cat is a great example of how self-reflexive storytelling can work on an entertainment level, but also with a little bit of thought and social comment. The show is a great achievement and I hope you give it a chance, because for me, this series demonstrates the promise of web content.