Vancouver Web Fest — can online entertainment be economically viable, too?

 Matthew MacCaull plays Dante on the B.C. web series Disrien

Whether watching or producing a web series — scripted entertainment released online as opposed to over TV — Suzette Laqua is constantly drawn in by a simple idea.

“A web series isn’t governed by the rules of your standard TV channels,” said the creator of the Vancouver-based series, Last Chance Casting.

“People can come in and they can do it the way they want it without any regulations or without any getting permission from the board, the producers, the directors, that sort of thing. They can go in and do what they see fit and be proud of it.”

When the second annual Vancouver Web Fest (VWF) returns to Granville Island March 6-8, Laqua will be there celebrating what other web series producers have developed.

“It was hard this year. We had 220 submissions from around the world,” VWF founder Laqua told Business In Vancouver.

“Expectations, again, are much higher this year.”

In addition to screenings of web series produced in Asia, Europe and North America, the 2015 VWF is adding workshops and panels throughout the weekend to teach producers everything from sound design to attaining rights and clearances.

B.C. productions that made the official selection include the sci-fi series Standard Action, Disrien and the reality series Garage Sale Diaries.

Meanwhile, panellists from U.S. entertainment website College Humor, Google Canada and Dailymotion will be on-hand to offer advice on how to make a web series successful.

Local telecom giant Telus (TSX:T) is offering one of its experts from Optik TV to present a case study on the creative process surrounding web series development.

One of the keynote speakers — Bernie Su, co-creator of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries — will be there to discuss what makes a show successful.

Lizzie Bennet Diaries is one of the few web series that has actually made money,” Laqua said, adding part of the festival’s goal is to prove these projects can be economically viable and more than just a labour of love for artists.

The festival is also featuring selections from Hollywood actors such as Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Independence Day) and Tom Skerritt (Alien, Top Gun), who were behind the web series Small Miracles and Stroller Gangs, respectively.

“(Last year) exceeded our expectations,” Laqua said.

“That’s why Telus came on board…because there is a demand for this and people are thrilled.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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