With Netflix originals Orange is the New Black and House of Cards collecting Emmys like Germany captured goals at the recent World Cup, it's appropriate to peek back into the past and see what came before in the original content streaming world. Let's go way back to 2007 when Netflix was trouncing Blockbuster in DVD rentals and YouTube's primary programming was adorable cats, stupid human tricks, or a combination of both.
Producing and writer partner Stew and I had the foresight to know that streamed content was on the horizon. We saw the convergence of greater access to broadband nationwide with said broadband moving digital bits faster and faster. And why shouldn't those bits be original programming? And why not OUR original series, the castaways?
We wrote a 60 page pilot script following the traditional cable TV hour 4-act structure. But we assumed our hour show would be segmented into ten webisodes at approximately six minutes each. While the 4-act structure gave us a frame to hang our story on, we actually wrote a beginning-middle-end with an ending hook for each webisode.
Stew and I also anticipated series funding via product placement partnerships, so we wrote each webisode with a range of wardrobe / vehicle / mobile phone possibilities. What exactly is the castaways, you ask?
"The Castaways is an original script featuring seventeen-year-old Marina “Ree” Thomas who creates a surrogate family on the streets with other abandon kids. Along with sidekicks Bridgett and Emmanuel, they recruit and help others like themselves and strive to provide the basics of a stable life – shelter, food, and an emotional support they never thought possible. Through their hi-tech underground network kids age 6 to 18 – funded by an anonymous high-tech entrepreneur turned advocate – the castaways take on a range of adult predators and dish out their unique breed of justice."
Pretty heady stuff for 2006-07. Or so we thought.
As you can guess from professional 'found footage' in the teaser, we never shot a frame of the castaways. We couldn't bring ourselves to shoestring the teaser on a tiny budget and have crappy production value. Needless to say, we didn't have the funds to bring our baby - the compelling, riveting 60 page script - to life.
Time passed. Pitch meetings were scheduled. LifeTime TV. MySpace. (Remember, this was before Netflix offered streaming and before Facebook hosted video). An established TV showrunner out of New York. Script rewrites and polishes were done. More time passed. And nothing happened. We eventually moved on to other projects. Other stories.
I now justify a binge of OITNB because, in the smallest, tiniest of ways, didn't I help pave the streaming path for Netflix and Hulu today? I like to think so.