Prologue: Saturday, January 23, 2010. The AZFAME convention at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel. Award winning cinematographer Webb Pickersgill takes the podium and begins his presentation: “Quality in Independent Film.” A concerned hush descends over the packed conference as Webb describes in the layest of laymen’s terms how camcorders, combined with Youtube, have created a generation of so-called “filmmakers.” One could almost hear the air being let out of the room as Webb concluded his segue by boldly announcing that, filmmakers shooting a project without any plans for marketing or distribution are, in essence, creating nothing more than an expensive Youtube video. Webb’s announcement is met with shock and appall. After all, this is coming from a person whose latest project; “PROBED: Signals” is made just for online viewing. But no matter how the message is delivered, Webb nailed it. That afternoon’s audience sat captivated as Webb introduced filmmakers to the mysteries and intricacies of the relatively new and emerging filmmaking market: The “Webisode.”
Fast-forward to Saturday, May 29th 2010. “PROBED: Signals” makes it’s live audience debut at Phoenix Comicon. The web series has been running since October 23rd 2009, and the season finale: “The Future is Now” has just finished screening. The lights are up and it’s time to learn the fate of this ambitious new project. The question of “PROBED: Signals” returning for a second season falls upon series writer Kevin Herrmann. “I’ve got a lot of ideas I’ve kept secret” Kevin began, “but the trick is, we want to really make sure that this is something people want to watch. If it’s just something our friends check out and say: ‘Hah, that’s great’ and it doesn’t go much farther than that, there’s really no point in us continuing to make it, with this much effort and time and out-of-pocket expense that went into it.” Hardly a definitive NO. But by no means an exuberant YES.
“PROBED: Signals” is a 9 part sci-fi web series that takes place in Phoenix. Using the infamous “Phoenix Lights” incident as it’s premise, “PROBED: Signals” is a high tech ‘Hardy Boys meets Xfiles.’ With excellent photography by Webb Pickersgill, lighting and FX are superb in this production and music is tailored to a ‘T’. It’s the whole Phoenix vibe you just can’t get over, and director Joel Cranson wisely capitalizes on this, taking viewers to familiar locations that now look like Area 51. A creepy believability pervades some scenes, considering that, perhaps, some yokel really DID get abducted by space aliens there and…probed. Acting is sufficient, with standout performances by Kane Black as Manuel, the hapless Native American who seems to have been tossed onto the set after “Twin Peaks” folded. Nichole Nance plays the adorable Fizzy, who is mute by choice. Fizzy communicates via raised eyebrow or arms crossed with concerned frown, and occasionally, with the Marlee Matlin Oscar winning “shoulder shrug with rolling eyes.” “PROBED: Signals” is definitely worth a look. All 9 episodes can be viewed online in little more than 1 hour, so a cubicle sneak-peek is well within reason.
As far as the future of “PROBED: Signals”… the truth is out there. Today, Director Cranson still leaves a season 2 up in the air. “A decision hasn’t been made yet as to whether or not Carter Fox and the PROBED: Signals gang will continue their adventures in a season 2 of the show” he said. Cranson reiterates that all of the required data needed to determine profitability and success simply isn’t in yet. “People think that you can just throw your series up online and the world will flock to it. It’s really not the case. We want as many people to see the show worldwide as possible, but it takes time to get the word out. Once the first season has reached its full audience, we’ll have a better idea.” As for the concept of Web Episodes becoming the ‘New Frontier’ for filmmakers, Cranson responds with reserved enthusiasm: “The market is still in its infancy. We are all from the world of TV where people will give 30-minutes to an hour for a show while sitting comfortably on their sofa. How much time are people willing to give while sitting at their desk or curled up with their laptop? The answer still isn’t clear.”
“PROBED: Signals” Season 1 can be viewed online at: www.probedsignals.com