TV vets, Machinima laugh it up


A gaggle of seasoned TV comedy writers are signing on to create Web series for

Fifteen scribes including WGA West president Patric Verrone ("Futurama"), Bill Oakley ("The Simpsons") and Mike Rowe ("Family Guy") will write shortform episodes to be produced, marketed and distributed by the site, which also is a popular channel on YouTube. chairman and CEO Allen DeBevoise is looking to the TV pros to elevate machinima, a digital art form that appropriates existing or new video game characters as animation.

"We thought it would be an interesting opportunity to take comedy writers and have them play around with the online video model using computer-generated imagery," he said.

The writers will be paid a small, unspecified upfront fee to write pilots, which will be produced quickly and on the cheap for distribution as early as second-quarter 2009. All pilots produced will be posted online; successful ones that attract sponsorships will get additional episode orders — and if they're really lucky, cross over to television. Writers also will get a significant ownership stake in the intellectual property they create.

"This is the future of comedy in new media, a fast and low-cost way for writers to create shows that attract an existing audience," Verrone said. (partialdiff)