Monday, 9 May 2011

Webseries Review: Ragged Isle

Introduction


Ragged Isle is set as a remote island in the far North-Eastern corner of the US.


From the very first episode, you're taken by a real feeling of how remote the island is.  A narrative is told from the perspective of a newcomer to the island, Vickie Burke (Meghan Benton), who arrives at this desolate location to stay with her brother, Eric (Michael Dix Thomas), a current resident on the island.

From the image-rich title sequence to the well-selected, haunting, soundtrack, the scene is set for a thrilling tale and the viewer is not disappointed.  A series of mysterious deaths (presumed murders), secret meetings by the island's older residents and many unexplained by-laws surrounding the north end of the island keep you guessing.



Strength to Strength


Right from the beginning, I was struck by the depth to each character in the story.  Barry and Karen Dodd (Writers, Producers and husband and wife) and Greg Tulonen (Head Writer) have expertly painted the small island community down to its core, and it's the distinctive personality of each character that really makes this thriller stand out from the crowd.  Further to that, many of the island-dwellers seem to have a personal agenda that strengthens the viewer's impression and adds to the mystery.  I look forward to getting to the bottom of some of these hidden agendas in future episodes.


The well-developed characters aren't let down in the slightest by the engaging plot - I mentioned some of the aspects of the story in the introduction, and I won't give too much more away.  But I urge you to see for yourself.  At around 10 minutes each, the episodes are slightly longer than the average for webseries, but the story is definitely compelling enough to keep you interested and intrigued.


Finally, I believe I've left the best until last when I say I was blown away by the cinematography in this production.  You could argue that, with a remote setting like Ragged Isle, there's always going to be a nice wide-angle shot of a shoreline and a good sunset, but I have been really impressed throughout series 1 by the great use of the camera.  With only 10 minutes to play with each episode, it's imperative that each shot contains all the information required.  This has been achieved with exceptional results; the story might be haunting and the setting might be desolate, but a masterpiece has been brought to life in Ragged Isle.



Endearing Cast


In addition to the technicalities, the characters and the filming, the cast themselves have been well-selected for their roles.  From the brutish Todd Manter, who plays his role well as Harrison Shaw, the strong-willed landowner, to the highly animated April Joy Purinton, who plays Rachel Moody, manager of the local bar and singer in the talent contest (episode 9).


I think my favourite character (am I allowed a favourite?  Yes!  It's my blog, I'm giving myself permission...) has to be Sheriff Rick Dalton (played by Rick Dalton), not least because of his appearance in "Episode 5.5", which is one of the Extras on the Ragged Isle website, but which I've also included as an episode on my YouTube playlist.  It's great that a series like Ragged Isle, shrouded in much mystery and with a story filled with suspense and intrigue, don't take themselves too seriously between episodes.


"I can... without a scope and just open sights... I can put a bullet in your head at five hundred yards.  In your head - not your chest, or your leg..."
Sheriff Rick Dalton to Deputy Dan, Episode 5.5


The T-Shirt giveaways throughout the series reinforce this undertone of humour and light-heartedness, with in-character appearances from the Sheriff and his fresh-faced counterpart, Deputy Dan Therrian (Erik Moody).  These, coupled with the island community event in episode 9 (without giving too much away), say to the viewer "Yes, this is a disturbing story about some dirty deeds done in a remote island off the coast of Maine, but at the end of the day, we're all here to have some fun!"  I love it.


Left: Deputy Dan, Right: Sheriff Dalton



Rating

As this is the first review I've done for a webseries, I won't provide any numeric qualifiers, not least because I have no baseline to measure against.  Perhaps Ragged Isle will become that baseline - it's certainly a high bar to start with!


I will say that, over the course of the last three months, I've seen a lot of new and old webseries and Ragged Isle ranks pretty high on my personal list of favourites.



Postscript


If you haven't seen Ragged Isle yet, you can find it at raggedisle.com, at the really artfully-designed Ragged Isle website, along with full details on the characters, and much more. You can also see the entire series, plus the additional videos (available under "Extras" on the website), on the Ragged Isle YouTube channel (youtube.com/raggedisle).


I ought to say that the Ragged Isle website is one of the best I've seen in webseries. It's clean, straight to the point and well-laid out for ease of finding the latest episode. Coming from a web design background, these things throw a lot of weight with me, but also make a great first impression for your visitors.


At the time of writing, 9 out of 10 episodes for season 1 have been released. The first season finale is due out on the 11th May.



Useful Links


Ragged Isle Website - www.raggedisle.com
Ragged Isle YouTube channel - www.youtube.com/raggedisle
Ragged Isle Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/raggedisle
Ragged Isle on Twitter - www.twitter.com/raggedisle
My YouTube channel, which features webseries playlists - www.youtube.com/lordscree



~ A review by a webseries fan, viewer and unqualified internet pipsqueak.





Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What's in a Name? "Web Series" vs "Indie TV"

What's in a name?  Asked Juliet, innocently.  But the question had several key players in the world of web series stumbling about for an hour during today's #WebSeriesChat on Twitter.

First some background.  #WebSeriesChat is a Twitter channel founded by Patrick Bardwell and hosted by @Slebisodes and @MingleMediaTV.  It runs every Wednesday at 7pm GMT for an hour and, because of the nature of Twitter, generally starts early and overruns a bit.  You can find some more information here www.facebook.com/slebisodes and here www.facebook.com/WebSeriesChatonTwitter and you can get Twitter here: www.twitter.com.

The last few weeks in #WebSeriesChat have seen the same question crop up:

Should Web Series be referred to as Web Series, or something else?


There appear to be two main schools of thought:

  1. People who come from a TV background, or prefer conventional media strategy, seem to focus on renaming Web Series to include the "TV" acronym.  A particularly popular name is Indie TV, which essentially means Independent Television.  There is an argument that suggests sticking to the well-known TV acronym will help web series to take off (as opposed to having to sell the idea of web series as an entirely new concept to the masses)
  2. The rest are focussed on the medium, rather than the device, and wish to keep Web or Internet or some identifier to describe the medium through which web series are accessed.  I've the terms Web Show and Webisode (with a shudder) from this school, although I personally feel both these options narrow the original Web Series (a show is a subset of a series; a webisode (if such a thing should be allowed to exist) is, presumably an episode within a web show?).  Throughout, I do feel there is a definite resistance to losing the medium identity.  After all, Indie TV could be viewed on a conventional TV set, right?
So what's in a name?  Why all this fuss?  Well "Web Series" as a concept is relatively new.  Granted, people have been making online "series", be they audio shows converted from radio, flash animation series (everyone see Stick Death?), blogs or vlogs for many years.  And all of these can classify as web series, under the implied definition that a web series is a series of {some undefined entity} on the web.  But when I say, or hear, or read the term "Web Series" now, I think of actual shows, akin to the conventional TV shows, viewable solely on the web.

The key focus for me here is the word solely, which is sorely lacking in oratory and literary power (it just kinda flops out of your mouth).  But without the word "solely" here, I would be quite happy to lay down and let the School 1 people take over and rename Web Series to Indie TV.

Well, I wouldn't be that happy.  Let's be honest, Web Series is now a meme.  To rename it now would be foolish, counter-productive and tantamount to web series treason.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Allow me to explain, because I am conscious that you won't read much further, and I don't want to lose you before you understand where I'm coming from...

By focussing on the term solely, I'm merely referring to the difference between, say, Blood and Bone China (which is, incidentally, a very good British web series, set in 19th Century Stoke-on-Trent) and the TV series Lost, which, I've been assured, can be seen online on sites such as Hulu* and NetFlix*.  In my opinion, Lost is a TV Series, which has been made available on the web.  Blood and Bone China is a Web Series, which may, in the fullness of time, be made available on the TV or on film.

So I urge you: Drop the "TV".  TV suggests it can be viewed on a Television set, which it can't (yes, I know you can get web-enabled TVs now, but that's not the point I'm making).  The term also brings with it certain preconceptions, such as adverts - I could talk for a while about my views on advertising strategy in web series, but I'll save it for another day... (I heard that sigh of relief!).

What about the term Indie?  This one is tricky for me.  Yes, most web series today are produced by independent, non-studio, non-corporate bodies and people.  However, do you not agree that branding all current and future web series productions as "Indie" could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby all future web series are independent, non-studio, non-corporate bodies, too?

Don't get me wrong here, I'll happily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with most of you with a pitchfork pointed at corporate interference and "the man".  One only has to look at the censorship of Warner Brothers' Web Series "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" to see an example of what corporations can bring to the table - who censors a web series?  I mean, come on!  It's not like the internet has a watershed!

BUT!

I have to agree with @PurseDogTV's comment on this evening's #WebSeriesChat: 

"[The] longterm goal is to legitimize & expand this art form. It's not better/worse/bigger/smaller...just newer.".   

To legitimise web series is to embrace all forms of web series.  Independent and corporate.  With that in mind I urge you to reconsider using the term Indie.


And so we come back to the original question: What's in a name?  Well, quite a lot, it turns out.







* Please note that I don't include any links to either site because they are only "legally" available to residents of the USA and, therefore, go against my Net Neutrality ethic.


Last updated: 05/05/2011 13:01