By Guest Contributor AJ Christian, originally published at Televisual
The vast majority of original, independent web series never make it to season two. Producing season one takes so much time and money, when the millions of viewers never materialize, creators can’t bring themselves to invest more precious time and money. (At this point, I’d almost prefer most market themselves as “miniseries until proven otherwise”!)
Drama Queenz, a show about three black gay men trying to make it in New York’s theatre world, and its creator Dane Joseph then deserve a huge pat on the back. It’s a Herculean effort.
Remarkably, Joseph edited and marketed the first season while in graduate school at Columbia University, then shot season two, which comes out today. Now that, as they say in theatre, is gumption!
What’s more, the second season promises lots of hijinks, along with guest appearances from some of my favorite YouTube personalities!
Drama Queenz is a campy — and sincere — look at trying to make it in New York. To satisfy its fans, it offers just enough man-meat and sexcapades to keep people interested, while satirizing the humiliation and drama its characters must endure in order to realize their dreams.
“I’m an independent person, maybe to a fault,” Joseph told me about creating the show. Drama Queenz arises from his experiences in theatre, but he says, “it’s definitely exaggerated.”
For the second season, he’s upped the ante, bringing in some stars familiar to black gay men who spend way too much time online.
From the season two trailer, I spotted dancer/performer Marcus Bellamy, who rose to Internet notoriety through black-gay idol B. Scott, runs both his own and a collab YouTube channel, and whom I interviewed for my research on black vloggers. I also noticed the fabulous Britney Houston, music video parodist extraordinaire, YouTube star, and mainstay performer in the New York bar scene who has been producing her own music and videos! My interview with Houston has inspired two papers, one on queer vloggers, another on music video remakes. Small world!
Back to Drama Queenz. Despite the obvious comparison to Logo’s Noah’s Arc, Joseph distances himself from the dominant black-gay-brand.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t ever trying to copy them,” he told me. Drama Queenz is “a very different show about three males who happen to be black and homosexual.”
The show exemplifies a whole slew of trends underway right now. One is how those shut out by traditional media and arts institutions have used the web to gain wider distribution and increase their clout (my previous posts about web shows by women of color, Kindred and Chick, further prove this). I know a number of indie theatre producers and aspiring actors in New York — most black and gay — who are striving to make it, and some are creating their own work.
Drama Queenz is also an excellent example of niche marketing. While the show doesn’t have the millions of followers top webisode series enjoy, it nonetheless has a loyal following of several thousand viewers, judging by its traffic numbers on YouTube (the show is also on MySpace and Facebook, so its audience is likely larger). The show is no doubt filling the void left by Noah’s Arc, a show itself rumored to have a third season or movie in the works after the relative success of its feature film.
Like many producers, Joseph is funding Drama Queenz out-of-pocket — “literally,” he told me. “It’s difficult to find a good business plan…Most people don’t want to pay for their Internet content.”
Still, within those constraints, he has produced lengthy episodes, giving people enough story to hang on to. To be sure, the show lacks some of the punch and sophistication of traditional television, but for 1/millionth the budget, these flaws could easily be forgiven.
Like the majority of black producers I’ve interviewed over the past months, Joseph is also responding to a perceived lack of black narratives on television.
“There is a serious lack of African American faces on TV right now,” he said. “On network TV there is nothing.”
Surely, Joseph is doing his part to change that. It’s an ambitious kind of advocacy.