It must have been the media response to the intial press release that tipped me off. Something called WIGS was a new channel on YouTube featuring women’s stories.
Part of me was all “yeah yeah hello Lifetime”, but another part was curious enough for a second look. Virginia Madsen was associated with the channel and Jon Avnet was heading it. Those are respectible indy names, certainly not the stuff of long-form soaps.
And too, I’ve had my eye out for some time on how YouTube was growing and what potential there might be for MidLifeBloggers and other boomer sites to get involved.
So I pointed and clicked on the link and ended up watching the first episode of a film called “Jan,” written and directed by Avnet, about the chaotic journey of a young photographer (Caitlin Gerard of “The Social Network”) who wins a chance-of-a-lifetime competition to assist the acclaimed photographer (Virginia Madsen “Sideways”) who inspires her. I loved it, enough that I immediately linked to it on my Facebook page.
What I had seen was the first of fifteen episodes that would run sequentially over the next few weeks on YouTube. Was I hooked enough to go back for more?
It wasn’t a matter of not being hooked as it was that the nature of the internet–and maybe my life and attention span–is such that I flit from thing to thing. Still, I thought of “Jan” over the following weeks and wondered how it was doing.
If this were a film, the camera direction would read CU PAGES OF CALENDAR FLIPPING SLOWLY BY. That’s movie-speak for “time passes” and it is now several months later when I get an email from the WIGS marketing people, announcing the premier of another film, this one called “Christine” starring America Ferrara, and wanting to know if I was interested in learning more.
I’m intrigued by anything that supports increased visibility in Hollywood for women, so I do a little digging and learn that WIGS is one of three YouTube channels dedicated to exploring the commercial capabilities of YouTube. It’s got big-bucks backing and the women-centered original series, short films, documentaries and other content boast some of the top names in the business above the line. As Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider put it in her comprehensive article on WIGS, ”See why WIGS will be the envy of TV: Customized original content for viewers, big name advertisers partnered, high quality videos shot in movie format. They’re bringing the silver-screen to the Web for free.”
I watched the first three episodes of “Christine” over the weekend. America Ferrera plays a teacher who is participating in one of those speeddating setups. That’s all we know, that her life is such that she thinks it’s worth it to put herself out there in such a tough situation. If one purpose of film is to enable those watching to experience situations even though they’re not actually in it, “Christine” certainly hits the mark. Her hope, her vulnerability, her wariness–the myriad of emotions that play out on America Ferrara’s face play out on mine as well. To allow those ghastly silences on film that we endure in real life–that takes some directorial courage, which Rodrigo Garia (“Carnivale,” “Big Love,” “In Treatment”) has in spades.
But it’s not for the artistic value of “Christine” or the entire WIGS roster that I want you to immediately go and watch and sign up for a subscription. It is because if we women (and our sympathetic menfolk) don’t support with all our might these nascent efforts to portray real women in real situations on film, then we have no one to blame but ourselves when popular culture focuses solely on the young and the male.
Take your pick of these sites: http://www.youtube.com/wigs, http://www.youtube.com/wigsespanol, and http://www.watchwigs.com. Watch the first episode of Christine here:
Then do what you can to make “Christine” and WIGS go viral.
In the future, I’ll be talking about the inclusion on the internet of storytelling in various genres. If WIGS is a road to the future for women’s programming, what might we have to learn and/or adjust to in order to ‘get it’?