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Binge Watching in Wi-Fidelity

Austin WebFest, Texas’ first webseries festival, kicks off tonight

By Fernie Martinez, 4:05PM, Thu. Jun. 26

Binge Watching in Wi-Fidelity

“There is a misconception about the quality of webseries,” says Rain Chavez, the Chief Information Officer of the inaugural Austin WebFest, which kicks off tonight. “We want to show that this is high caliber filmmaking.”

Austin WebFest becomes the latest addition to the capital city’s festival landscape. The first webseries festival in Texas is the brainchild of Eric Robbins and Joe Barajas. Robbins and Barajas, two veteran actors and filmmakers, conceived the idea of bringing a web-only event to Austin after having their own series showcased at other web festivals. Their mission is to provide a cultural alternative to the commercial film experience, and to celebrate and promote the artistic elements of the medium, and to nurture and promote the art of filmmaking itself. The event is a labor of love for Robbins, Barajas, and a self-proclaimed “Avengers” crew of board members, each of whom brings their own area of expertise to the festival.

The webseries movement is relatively new and still treading uncharted waters. Webseries are a great platform for emerging filmmakers and actors to cut their teeth and build an audience. In years past, novice filmmakers trotted their short films across festivals in hopes of launching their careers. Today’s calling card is bound only by a buffering rate. Webseries success stories such as Broad City, recently renewed for a second season on Comedy Central, demonstrate that having a strong Triple-A online presence can get you called up to the majors. As “watching television” on the internet becomes more and more commonplace, the web creates a mining ground for television producers. While the webseries movement is still in early stages, it is an exciting new frontier. Robbins compares it to the early days of cable television. “Back then, there was this new medium and people were unsure what to do with it, or how to make money off of it.” The potential of this young medium seems limitless.

Austin WebFest will provide ample opportunities for filmmakers, web creators, and fans to discuss these and other topics throughout the weekend. The three-day festival will include screenings, panel discussions, and networking parties. The festival brings together series from the US and throughout the world. Some notable series with Texas ties include Still, a chilling story about a mysterious infection that takes over a small town; Tailgate32, an RV road-trip documenting the tailgate parties at every NFL stadium; and From the Dust, a tale of survival following an apocalyptic virus.

These titles will join 47 others as part of the Official Selection competition. Awards will be given in a dozen categories including acting, writing, directing, cinematography, editing, animation, and best overall. The grand prize winner will receive a development deal with eUgotEntertainment, a cash prize, and a chance to proudly display the AWF Award laurels (the design of which boasts the cleverest use of a bat silhouette since Tim Burton launched the Batwing towards the full moon).

Austin WebFest takes place June 26-28. Tonight's opening night party is open to the public and will take place at HandleBar at 10pm. Screenings and panels will take place on Friday and Saturday.

For more information and to purchase badges, visit the official AWF site at www.austinwebfestival.com.

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