By Elia Esparza
Reviews by Mary Chuy
One of the most redeeming things about web video is that it gives the average person the same reach, influence, and opportunities previously enjoyed only by the big studios and media companies. And, for Latinos, now that web series are becoming a more mainstream form of entertainment, and is where they are cutting their teeth, it begs the question of how “successful” web series is defined and what made it a “success.”
Are web series crowned a success if they are profitable? Well, that is something that can be measured… you’re either making money or you’re not. However, to say you have a “successful web series” is just too subjective. Is success getting 5,000 viewers? Or 1,000,000 viewers? Is it achieving a sponsor… or winning an award at a festival?
There are no clear answers (yet) as to what justifies a successful web series, and the answers to how to effectively promote your web series are still out on hold. What we do know as fact is that according to Nielsen, 16% of total TV audience is Latino. That’s 47 million viewers! Univision and Telemundo provide content that is entirely in Spanish ignoring the nearly 50 million Latinos who speak English. These networks are failing to reach the new generation American Latinos.
Here are the most popular web series by Latino indie producers who through their creative vision are addressing this void by bringing us a new twist in entertainment with universal appeal:
EastWillyB is an innovative web series ala a Latino Cheers set in gentrifying Brooklyn. It is hugely popular and successful on both coasts, so say the thousands of viewers and so says their successful fund raising campaign with Kickstarter, which has come up with $50,000 in financing for new episodes.
EastWillyB has been able to reach 100,000 viewers to date, considered a social media hit and probably the reason they were able to succeed with Kickstarter. What is the secret to the EastWillyB success?
“At the heart of it, we created a series that had a unique voice and is unlike anything out there,” said Julie Ahumada Grob, one of the show creators and filmmakers. “I think that is what has made the series so popular—filling the void by creating quality entertainment for the New Generation Latino. We’ve received a lot of love from the press, which has definitely helped extend our reach. Last year, Jazmin Chavez joined our team, and she is a social media visionary. She helped get the word out around the Kickstarter and constantly has creative ideas on how to engage and grow our audience.”
The challenge, Ahumada Grob says, “is we have no marketing budget. Online media is often driven by ‘bought media’ like Facebook or Google ad buys which drive people to your site. We have never bought any media so our social media engagement is completely organic. I think the secret to creating a successful web series is having a strong creative vision and a strategy for release. Also, creating content for a niche audience should be a driving force for any web series. You don’t have to reach everyone like TV does, you can find a strong audience that is underserved.”
EastWillyB is made by Latinos that tell American Latino Stories with an overall universal appeal.
Mary Chuy Review:
No wonder this is one of the most successful web series! I have only watched 10 seconds of this colorful and spicy series, and I already paused to write this review! So far, I love the music intro, the good quality and the series vibrant colors! Upon seeing more… Ok, very realistic or better said, amazing actors! Me encanta el personage de la borrachita! and I want to married Willy! The problem with me reviewing anything, I get too personal… now I’m so mad at Willy’s ex girlfriend! Great job to everyone who is involved in the creation of East WillyB I think this series should be on HBO, and I would like to audition for this one as well, as Willy’s future wife, of course….
To read an exclusive interview with Julia Grob on East WillyB, click here: http://www.latinheat.com/2013/04/21/east-willyb-is-the-latino-cheers/
More on EastWillyB: http://www.eastwillyb.com/#sthash.3IcmgTub.dpbs
Justice Woman, the super heroine web series that has made major inroads with fans in the gay, Latino and female communities, has been accepted as an Official Selection of the LA Web Series Festival 2013 where Vanessa Verduga, creator/writer/producer/director and star of the show, was a fest web darling. Her participation at the festival brought her much-needed attention and her web series got a huge boost from the festival on Kickstarter, a campaign she is currently working (http://kck.st/YY0K4w).
As a Latina actor and lawyer, Verduga has had to struggle with fighting the typical stereotype of what a Latina should look like and how they should act. Justice Woman, like other web series are of quality production and the verdict is still out on attracting Latinas and gay communities because of the show’s colorful characters.
Episode 1 – Luck Be A Lady
Mary Chuy’s Review:
I’m so proud of the character of Sofia (Vanessa Verduga)! You don’t see many Latinas playing a sexy, smart district attorney on a TV series! The cast is not only talented, but they all look like super models! Who says you can’t be beautiful and great at what you do? I definitely will want to see what is going to happen in the next episode! I want to know if Sofia will resolve the murder case, if she is ever going to say yes to a date to that poor co-worker who is in love with her! He looks nice! Robert is adorable! We all should have at least one best friend and co-worker that looks like him! I just love him! I’m hooked to keep watching! Yes, I like Law and Order but I would love to see Justice Woman follow the NBC show every week! My question: when is the next episode? Can I audition? Why is this series not on TV?
Read more on Justice Woman on Latin Heat:
Here is another example of a quality production and a genuinely funny show. After a successful Kickstarter campaign helped them raise $10,000, Becoming Ricardo was off and running for season one.
The show has Jesenia Cruz (Jesenia The Comedienne), a talented actress who is at her wits’ end and will do just about anything to be successful. Frustrated with the lack of good parts for Latinas, her mother (Lisa Velez-Mello) tries to help and points out to her an open call audition for a popular TV series Crime Law and Justice, only the role is solely for Latino men. So with her crazy make-up artist friend Sonia Cruz (Sofia Rodriguez), she soon becomes “Ricardo Montalban” and she lands the part on the hit TV series and the roller coaster, gender-bending ride begins.
Mary Chuy’s Review:
Becoming Ricardo is hilarious! I can’t stop laughing… this woman who plays Jessenia (the Creator/ Writer/ Producer of this show) is simply a genus! This series is original, funny and with mucho sabor Latino! Que locura Dios mío! I love it! This is probably my favorite of all the web series I have watched today! I know, I know I keep saying the same thing about all of them! But seriously, Becoming Ricardo is much funnier that some of the TV series that are currently showing on the big networks! Jessenia if you reading this, I love, love it! When you sing as a Bunny in the first episode, and you are absolutely right…That director is hot! And the faux show Crime Law and Justice is very lucky to have you as the lead man, lady, which ever! And your makeup artist is wonderful! You did it girl! You got the part! See, I’m getting inside the show again! It’s just that these actors are so good! I can’t help it! Ok, one more thing, Jessenia if you have an extra ticket to the Golden Globes, I will be happy to be your date too!
Read more about Becoming Ricardo on Latin Heat:
Mr. Wang Goes To Hollywood
While Mr. Wang is a web series made by an Asian, it has a storyline that is very Latino and also, the maid is a Latina, so what else is new? We put the spotlight on this web series because it has a universal storyline with a diverse cast… it is funny, simple and made on a very low budget. The filmmakers tell us that once they had a director in place, they used IndieGoGo to raise funds… where they get to keep whatever they raise unlike Kickstarter where if you don’t meet your goal you don’t get the money.
The feedback has been 100% positive and even though Mr. Wang is Asian, he could very well be our Uncle Beto from Chihuahua! Latin Heat has a revealing interview stewing in the pot… stay tuned.
West Coast Pioneering Web Series: Encounters, Los Americans & Ylse
Last year’s Imagen Award Web Series competition was tough. Two time Imagen Award nominee Miguel Torres, creator of the web series Encounters, which he executive produces along with Mauricio Mendoza, did not take home the prize, but he is always a winner in our book! Encounters, is an addicting series with a Twilight Zone feel. Quality is first rate. Why hasn’t it been picked up by the networks or cable? In 2011, Encounters received its first Imagen nomination but literally the award was stolen from them by a “one episode” webseries entitled Chismex which was posted on the mun2 website. It featured a man in silhouette, dressed as a woman with nippled fake boobs – gossiping. And not even good chisme. Lame.
Read more on Encounters on Latin Heat:
Los Americans, a Dennis Leoni (Creator of Showtime’s Resurrection Blvd.) show which won the Imagen for Best Web Series in 2012. Los Americans is an eight-part series about a multi-generational, middle-income Latino family living in Los Angeles dealing with many issues facing American families today. It was up against Encounters for an Imagen in a different category last year, and like we said, a tough decision because both productions have great storylines, made by Latinos, interpreting American Latino stories as they really are.
Los Americans on Public Internet Television
No doubt one of the first web series made for and by a Latina is Ylse! Another example of a great production, casting, acting, writing, directing. TV networks should have their heads examined for not picking this web series for television! Ylse, created by actor/producer/writer Ruth Livier (Showtime’s Resurrection Blvd.) created a web sitcom that came close to a half-million viewers yet it continues to struggle to attract financing. Ylse is one of our favorite web series deserving of recognition and a re-boost in its campaign to attract more viewers to reach that 1,000,000 mark. Come on, Hollywood, Ylse even won a coveted Imagen Award in 2010!
Mary Chuy’s Review:
Let me start by saying that I have always loved Ruth Livier as an actress! And, in person, she is equally wonderful. I met her once. You may think it would be hard for me to be objective with my review, but guess what? I really got into the show! I instantly knew that Ylse was an extension of Ruth and the many frustrations she probably had during her acting career. Ylse is a show that set the standard high on what a quality series with an excellent storyline should look and feel like! All I can say is WOW! Ylse is hot! She is a perfect example of today’s Latina: Strong, smart, hard worker and very sexy woman! I invite everyone to join me in helping Ylse with a viewing boost to help her get to that coveted 1,000,000 viewers. Great job, Ruth Livier for creating this series, and please say hello to Ylse for me. I really love her. Understand her. She’s my inspiration.