The month of April has become an important one for creators of web series. In both 2012 and 2013 a massive cinema in Raleigh Studios, Hollywood has played host to the HollyWeb awards: an event created to honour and appreciate the creators and performers of web series. We have given our approving thumbs up to their efforts previously.
Because we love to showcase the efforts of people working hard to further web series we contacted the people behind the HollyWeb awards in order to batter them into submission with our eager questioning. Jennifer and Daniel Doherty are already hard at work planning next year’s event but were happy to tell us more about how they came to create the focal point for the web series calendar.
Image above courtesy of Web Series Channel
Why did you pick the name HollyWeb? Where did it come from?
We wanted a catchy name that accurately portrayed what we were about. It didn’t take us long to connect the idea that we are based out of Hollywood with the fact that we wanted to be a web series exclusive festival. Thus, “HollyWeb” was born!
There’s been a very positive reaction by web series creators to the HollyWeb Festival. Why do you think that is?
We’re so glad that people are enjoying the HollyWeb experience. We wanted to really honor the web series creators by giving them a world-class festival experience. It’s not often that they get to see their work screened in a professional theatre. In addition to the screenings, they get to walk the “red” carpet, be interviewed by press, and have a really great awards ceremony. We think it’s only right to really put on a high-class event. We know how much effort they put into their work, and they certainly deserve to be celebrated.
How has the event progressed from Festival to Festival? How big is it now, and how fast is it growing?
We just finished our second year and we were so overwhelmed with the growth we achieved from our first year. Our first year took place over one day, at one venue. Our second year, we were three days and two separate venues. Once we started to receive feedback after our first year, and started receiving more and more submissions, we knew we had to expand. We’re very glad we did, and we anticipate even more growth for next year.
How did you go about promoting your event in the first year?
Neither of us had any specific experience in terms of event management or promotion. Daniel comes from a filmmaking background, and I come from a psychology background. We really had to do the work and get the word out there about the festival. We contacted web series blogs, as well as some trade publications in order to get some visibility. Social media was obviously a big push for us, and we worked very hard to maintain a presence online. We made ourselves available to answer questions, and I think creators appreciated having a direct line to us.
How much does it cost to take part in the event?
The maximum cost (i.e. submitting a long form web series during our late submission period, and subsequently purchasing an all-access pass) would be $140. The cheapest cost would be $50 (which is a short form web series submission during our early entry period, and just using the free limited-access passes provided to you as an Official Selection).
What do you think a web series creator would expect or want to get from your event?
I believe that a web series creator wants to be able to promote themselves and their show, and be celebrated for their achievements. We try our hardest to give every single creator at our festival this experience. We always listen to feedback during (and after) the event, and adjust accordingly.
How do you go about picking judges and what criteria do they use to decide?
We are very lucky that we have two very incredible judges who have been on board with HollyWeb since our inaugural edition. Their votes count the heaviest in terms of awards, though both Daniel and myself, as well as our festival programmers, also have feedback in the Official Selection and awards process. We feel like that is the fairest way to judge a web series. Each vote is weighted depending on who cast it, and we tally up all the votes and feedback to see our award winners.
What has been the best and worse feedback from the audiences?
This year, we were very lucky to receive lots of positive feedback from our audiences. I think our screening venue (Raleigh Studios) was exceptional, and we are very thankful to have been screening all of our web series there. I know some people mentioned that they wished they could’ve brought water bottles and/or food into the screening room (so do we!), but because of the high quality seating (it’s considerably better than your average movie theatre), the venue just couldn’t risk any accidental spills. We appreciate their rules, so we had to stick by them.
Who has been the most supportive partner of the HollyWeb awards?
We really want to give a shout-out to Web Series Channel. We reached out to them a couple months before the inaugural HollyWeb to see if they were interested in coming out and covering the event. They are such a pleasure to deal with, and they then came back for year two. They put up some really awesome videos from the blue carpet, and I know the creators appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed and promoted.
What did you learn from the first year of the awards that modified how you organised the second year?
Our biggest obstacle was the scheduling and logistics of the blue carpet and awards ceremony. We had pretty much no experience with running a blue carpet, so we ran into problems with running out of room, and out of time! We made sure to get help for our second year, and had Susan Bernhardt of Enve PR and her team help us out with the blue carpet. She took away all our stress and managed what turned out to be a VERY busy carpet, so many thanks to her.
How many people did you expect to join in the first year and how many in this year? How do you feel about the numbers you actually got?
We really had no idea what we’d get our first year. We knew that we were an entirely new entity, and didn’t know if people would respond initially. Luckily, we had a much bigger turn out than we even dreamed of. The success of our first year allowed us to better gauge our goals for the second year. We more than achieved our submission goal, and it was really hard having to choose the 100 or so web series that actually got to screen.
Have you found any of your winners proudly displaying HollyWeb badges or icons on their shows?
Yes! It is so exciting for us to go to a website and see our laurels on their home page. It makes us feel very proud of what we have created, and proud of the people that earn them. We want our laurels to mean something, to have a really significant achievement behind them. I believe we’re achieving this, so I’m glad that people are displaying them proudly.
Are the awards gaining gravitas in the industry? Have you seen any winners finding doors open for them as a result of a HollyWeb award?
We are very proud of all our winners, and it is exciting that they are going on to win more awards, and gain more publicity and recognition. Some highlights of our winners include:
Can you tell us something about the web series that you have worked on in the past, either separately or together?
Daniel and I have worked a few different web series. We were involved in them in different ways, whether it be creating, producing, or directing. They were all an amazing learning experience, and really helped us gain an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a web series. It was one of the main reasons we created HollyWeb. We realized that, at the time, there were very limited options in terms of showcasing your web series outside of just putting it online. Instead of waiting for someone else to do it, we took the initiative and created HollyWeb!
Which web series would you say has looked particularly slick up on the big screen?
Divine and Desenterrados are our two Cinematography winners, and they both looked incredible on the big screen. Not all of the great-looking web series were shot on fancy cameras, and some of the best looking ones have come from DSLR’s. We were surprised with how well all of the web series held up when blown up from a small computer screen to a theatre-sized screen. It was incredible.
Have you had any reactions to the HollyWeb Awards from more traditional entertainment award shows?
We are hoping that as we grow, our name will allow for more exposure for our creators. That is why we are so focused on growing the HollyWeb brand, and promoting it as a high-class event worthy of the web series world!
Have there been any hiccups so far in the organisation or the presentation of the awards to date?
It’s always stressful right up until the minute we step on stage to present the awards. You can never be 100% sure what will happen, but everything has run smoothly so far. I suppose our only hiccup was during our first year, when the highlight reel Blu-Ray that Daniel had poured WEEKS into just wouldn’t play. We were so upset! The minute we got home, we tested that disc on our own system and it played flawlessly. It remains a mystery to this day!
What would you say was the biggest obstacle to setting up the HollyWeb Awards?
Time! We always wish we had more time to make things even better, but I’m sure that’s a common sentiment for any business owner.
What advice would you give to would be web series creators out there?
Create! Seriously, that’s the best advice we can give. You can’t succeed if you don’t create! The beauty of the web is that you don’t have to sit and wait for someone to come along and give you a gig. You don’t need a ton of money to make a great web series. Both of our Best Web Series winners (Headshots and The Vault) were low-budget web series featuring limited locations. They were both very well written and performed, and we always wanted to see more. That’s what made them stand out to us.
What’s in the works for the 2014 HollyWeb awards?
We’re always planning and working ahead. We have added more trophies and cash prizes to our 2014 edition, and we’re always looking to see what else we can do. Stay tuned!