What is it?
The LA Web Festival was started by Michael Ajakwe Jr. in 2010 as a means to bring those working in the industry together for a few days under one roof. The festival is a three day-long workshop, panel and screening event that culminates in a lengthy award ceremony on the final day. Tickets to the gathering will set you back $49 (for an all inclusive day pass) or $120 for access to the entire 4-day event. If you’d prefer to just attend the award ceremony, you’re looking at a more affordable $20 fee, and likewise, individual screenings, workshops and panels cost $10 each to attend.
The award ceremony itself – arguably the highlight of the event – is unusual in its focus. Eschewing the competitive spirit of other ceremonies such as the ISA’s Streamy’s or Shorty’s, the LA Webfest Awards are instead a celebration of the industry. This means that technically, there are no overall winners at the event, but in reality it feels more like there are no losers.
Entrants submit their series for judging (submission fees ranging from $50 to $90) and all series entered are judged anonymously by a clandestine panel of “industry and non-industry pros”. Interestingly enough, LA Webfest founder Michael Ajakwe Jr. is the only person who knows the identities of all the judges. It’s a decision made in order to “preserve the integrity of the awards process” that feels a little over the top. Beyond the secretive panel, Ajakwe Jr. himself has some input in the decision making – according to the LA Webfest official site, Ajakwe Jr. “weighs in on the judging, since he is the only one in the festival who has watched every episode of every show submitted, taking copious notes on each entry.”
Once the judging is over, shows are awarded merit style “Outstanding Achievement” awards in a wide variety of categories.
Since there is no nomination process, and no limit on the amount of awards a single entrant can win “a lot of people go home happy” – something of an understatement given the sheer number of awards doled out this year – over six hundred in fact.
The Extra Special, Super Duper Awards
Once the regular awards are handed out, the closest thing to a handful of winners are then selected, in the final “Grand Jury Prize” announcements. Each year, between 6-12 producers are awarded the “LAWEBFEST-MARSEILLE WEBFEST” prize, which nets them a free trip to France where they’ll take part in the Marseille Webfest. An incredible prize no doubt, but one that feels like something of a golden carrot – dangling just enough out of reach to justify the events hefty submission and entrance fees.
What to Make of it All?
If you’re a budding web series producer local to LA then attendance is pretty much a no-brainer. You’ll meet plenty of likeminded people throughout the day (and at the award ceremony and afterparty, which if you’re feeling thrifty you can get into for $40). If on the other hand, you think your show has what it takes to win you that free ticket to Marseille and you’re dead set on throwing your hat into the ring, then be sure to submit your series early to get the most discount, and consider tracking down and blackmailing the panel of mysterious and shadowy judges to up your winning chances.
Finally, if you’re outside LA or on a tighter budget, I’d consider visiting for a day and making the most of the panels, workshops and screenings that run from 10AM to midnight – it’ll be a long day, so don’t forget to bring a lunch. Or not. I’m not your dietician (but for only $300 a year I could be)
As a networking opportunity the LA Webfest might be worth your time and money, especially if you’re smart about how and where you spend it. As an awards ceremony, it’s a positive, if slightly empty celebration of all things web series.