After winning the webby, we had the opportunity to premiere a draft version of Episode Four of The West Side on the big screen at a panel put on by Filmmaker Magazine and IndieGoGo at the IFC Center in New York City. It was our good fortune that Scott Macaulay (editor of Filmmaker Magazine) was moderating the event; the big-screen version whet his appetite before checking out the rest of our series online, and we got the call soon after that he would like to feature us as part of their annual “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”
It was a tremendous opportunity and we’ll thank Scott eternally for the honor. Below is an excerpt from the piece Scott wrote for the magazine, and here it is in full (scroll towards the bottom of that first page and you’ll see our silly mugs).
“The first shot of the first episode of The West Side perfectly sums up the aesthetic of this striking Web serial. It’s a wide shot of the exterior of a city funeral home, and as the wind whistles on the soundtrack, a plastic bag — a piece of urban detritus — dances like a tumbleweed across the screen. Called an ‘urban Western’ by its creators, Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman, The West Side is ingenious low-budget independent filmmaking that just happens to be viewable only on the Web. Set in an alternate universe where a traditional tale of frontier justice plays out against a depopulated urban landscape (one that looks an awful lot like the rougher neighborhoods of New York City), The West Side recently won a Webby Award for Best Drama Series of 2008 and seems poised to bring greater attention to its resourceful and talented creators.
“Bilsborrow-Koo and Lieberman shoot The West Side with a DVX100 24p high-definition camera with a 35mm adapter and old SLR lenses, giving it a polished, stylized look that does indeed set it apart from most other Web video. The other thing that distinguishes it is its deliberate production schedule. There are 12 scripted episodes, of which just four have been finished in about 15 months. The filmmakers have resisted the urge to ‘go viral’ and have controlled the viewing experience by making The West Side available only on their own site. Explains Lieberman, ‘Ryan and I both work 40-hour weeks at MTV [where Lieberman is a producer and Bilsborrow-Koo a graphic designer]. So, we are doing this on nights and weekends. From the very beginning, we told our audience on our blog that we aren’t going for the most views, we’re just trying to create a quality story. And if we are going to take eight weeks [to complete an episode], we may as well take 10 to get it right.’”
Again, a great many thanks to Scott and his crew at Filmmaker Magazine.