It’s not easy getting noticed in the Internet age of shortened attention spans. A new local Web series, however, has managed to generate a fair amount of buzz. Riese has capitalized on geek culture’s hard-on for the steam-punk genre. It has also attracted the on-line masses with forums, an alternate reality game, and a forthcoming iPhone application.
The sci-fi show, which premiered on November 2, follows heroine Riese as she travels through the kingdom of Eleysia, pursued by a religious cult. The locally-shot show stars Christine Chatelain in the titular role, as well as Stargate alumni Sharon Taylor, Ben Cotton, and Patrick Gilmore.
“We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback from both fans and others in the industry actually. It’s funny, I got a call from YouTube, I think about five hours after we launched, saying that they wanted to make us one of their official shows so that was pretty exciting,” show creator and executive producer Ryan Copple told the Straight by phone.
The show initially drew attention for its steam-punk-inspired look. While the show’s costumes and props, like aviator goggles and clockwork pieces, are a nod to the genre, Copple says that the show isn't necessarily defined by it. “Steam-punk is generally considered to be the future envisioned by Victorians,” Copple explains. “In the world we’re creating, it’s much different. There’s still the sense of anachronism, but it’s almost more of a fusion of medieval and World War One era.”
The series’ extensive backstory and original mythology is only hinted at in the nine-minute pilot episode, but it can be further explored through the show’s various multiplatform tie-ins. A new installment of the series will be released on-line every two weeks.
“We kicked around the idea a lot of how we could do it. Initially we thought of maybe just doing a pilot, but our concern with that was if it didn’t fit with a network schedule it could have just ended up on a shelf somewhere,” Copple explained when asked why he chose to go with the Web, instead of a televised series. “Recently on-line web shows have become a more viable option—and a good option.”
He’s not kidding. Web series like The Guild and Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog have gained cult-like status among their fans. Locally shot series like Battlestar Galactica and Harper’s Island also used webisodes as promotional tools to drawn in more TV viewers.
Another Vancouver-based sci-fi series, Sanctuary, is often cited as proof of the potential for Web series to succeed. The Leo Award–winning show was originally aired on-line but not long after its first season, it was picked up by the Syfy channel for television distribution.
Copple, however, says ideally he’d like Riese to continue as a Web series, though he acknowledges that the show’s medium is largely dependent on fan support and revenue. “If it became something that was really popular but we weren’t making enough to sustain it, then we would definitely look into TV as an option. But at least as a Web series we remain in full control, whereas with a television show, we’d likely lose some of that input.”
Riese’s Web presence also allows for input from viewers who—through on-line forums, Facebook, and Twitter—can interact with the creators, cast, and crew and even have some say in how the show develops. “As we watch what happens and what the [audience] response is, it definitely influences how we construct further episodes,” Copple said.