Web content paves new road for viewers

Tricia Alkmia Cochee | 10/26/2011, 5 p.m.

Have you ever turned on the television and flipped through the 200-plus channels on cable, and said to yourself, "I can't believe with all these channels there's nothing on?" Well, you need to know there is a revolution going on to fill in those gaps, and African American creativity, talent, resources and leadership is at the center of it.

This revolution is as near as your cell phone, laptop or desktop computer, and Los Angeles is the epicenter. Michael Ajakwe Jr. is its leader.

Ajakwe, an Emmy-winning television producer, NAACP Award-winning playwright, award-winning filmmaker, veteran comedy writer, and working writer ("Love That Girl," "UnSung"), is the founder and executive director of the Los Angeles Web Series Festival (LAWebFest).

LAWebFest is the first web festival of its kind in the world and was started in 2010.

"There is no narrative medium that excites me more than the entertainment revolution unfolding before my very eyes on the Internet," said Ajakwe, who in 2009, formed his own web channel, AjakweTV.com and launched his first web series "Who ..."

"When I noticed what television, cable and other web channels weren't doing for people of color, in terms of programming, I decided to do something about it. It's like 'Cosby' never existed.

There is no shortage of talent in front and behind the cameras, just a shortage of vision," said Ajakwe, who is poised to unveil his next web series, co-starring L.A. Sparks player Candace Parker in her first comedy acting role.

He created "Who . . ." to fill the gap.

Ajakwe says that the web series or short-form micro series, is its own genre of entertainment, not simply "chopped up TV, film or theater."

A web series is a serialized fiction or nonfiction show not only made specifically for presentation over the Internet, but adheres to the rules of made-for-Internet viewing--short and fast-moving content, that usually runs between three and 12 minutes per webisode (each episode of a web series is called a webisode).

A web series is a form of new media, which also includes online short films, online feature films, online TV dramas, online TV comedies, random online amateur videos, random online professional videos, V-logs, and blogs.

Ajakwe said one of the biggest myths about web series content, is that it's made by amateurs or "outsiders" who know nothing about producing quality work.

But quite to the contrary, Ajakwe said the majority of web series producers are established and working industry professionals--writers, producers, editors, directors, actors, designers--who tell stories that aren't being told in traditional media outlets.

"Goodnight Burbank," the first half-hour comedy made for the web, just became the first such work picked up by a television network and was called by USA Today "better than 99 percent of the stuff on TV."

Ajakwe said the web eliminates the "gatekeepers" and allows open access. This diversity of story and producers is evidenced by the submissions to Ajakwe's LAWebFest the past two years with products from around the globe, including Australia, India, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, as well as the United States.