'Resistance' Web series tests TV waters

8:00 PM PST 09/16/2010 by Georg Szalai, AP

EXCLUSIVE: Starz gives webisodes multiplatform launch

Starz Media is ready to test the waters for sci-fi action thriller "The Resistance" and will do so by taking advantage of the digital age.

The project, originally envisioned as a Web series, could blossom into a TV series or even a movie, depending on the reaction to a pilot of sorts that will be distributed through digital platforms and a one-night TV outing. It's an example for how the entertainment industry is experimenting with new models for the creation and testing of content.

To gauge "Resistance's" potential, Starz on Oct. 4 will take over the 11 p.m. hour of Syfy's two-hour Ani-Monday anime block, which is programmed by Starz's Japanese animation arm Manga Entertainment.

The "Resistance" story runs about 35 minutes as the producers have placed all webisodes back-to-back for the TV version. Added behind-the-scenes material makes for 44 minutes of content.

For digital distribution, the TV version will be split into two pieces for iTunes, Xbox, PlayStation Network, Amazon and other platforms. Hulu will get the advertising-supported Web run. The ad-supported four- to five-minute webisodes with animated intros will be available within a few weeks of the TV airing on YouTube, DailyMotion and MetaCafe.

"Resistance" is set in a world where brilliant chemist Syrus Primoris has taken control in the wake of a devastating virus that has killed 99% of the population. Only Primoris' suppressant keeps the survivors from succumbing to the plague. One group opposes his regime and fights to find another cure.

If audience reaction -- including buzz on social networks and the blogosphere -- seems promising, the partners will consider turning "Resistance" into more than a one-off.

"We wanted to see if we can launch something in a truly multiplatform, experimental way via TV and digital," said Marc DeBevoise, senior vp digital media, business development and strategy at Starz Media and the lead executive for Starz Digital Media. "We would like to see it blossom so we can do more with it."

Others are using digital as a test ground. MTV recently teamed with Eventful to launch a social-media campaign for its indie slasher film "Savage County" and gauge interest in a TV run.

"Resistance" came to Starz via Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, Starz's production partner on "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." In 2008, Ghost House executive Aaron Lam noticed the online trailers for the Web series project on YouTube and thought he may have found a "Spartacus" director. He looked up creator Adrian Picardi on Facebook -- only to find out he was a 21-year-old fresh out of film school.

But impressed by the vision of Picardi and his producing partner Eric Ro, Lam talked to Starz, which agreed to put up money -- believed to be in the low-six-figure range, or a minimal percentage of the cost of a TV show episode -- to put together an initial "Resistance" story.

Picardi served as director, cinematographer, writer and editor, and Ro was a producer and cinematographer.

One immediate benefit that Starz and Ghost House got out of it was that they liked the work of Katrina Law, who plays resistance leader Lana Strife. They cast her as Mira in "Spartacus."

If the buzz for "Resistance" is strong, a TV series is one option.

"That's what we had in mind, and that's where we still hope it will go," Lam said.
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