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From Snapchat Movies to Web Series: The ‘Sickhouse’ Team Plans ’60 Second Docs’

Established directors Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia team up with 28-year-old Emmet McDermott to make short, quality documentaries that appeal to the YouTube generation.

60 second docs

“60 Second Docs”


The first feature-length movie released on Snapchat was just the tip of the iceberg for Indigenous Media, which is following up “Sickhouse” — which it produced on the social media platform — by turning to documentaries. The aptly named “60 Second Docs” is a new web series profiling eccentric real-life characters in just one minute. Its tagline: “Life. One minute at a time.”

The first installment, which premiered on June 1, is available on FacebookYouTube and VidMe. The latest episode was released today. Already, the series has gained significant momentum, with over two million views to date.

READ MORE: Sundance Review: Rodrigo Garcia’s ‘Last Days In The Desert’ With Ewan McGregor As Both Jesus & The Devil

The company partnered with filmmaker Emmet McDermott to make the short-form documentaries. McDermott — who wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and produced shorts for FunnyOrDie (like this one, starring IndieWire contributor James Franco) — made the first ten episodes with his production company, Cannibal, before shopping the package to buyers. Indigenous jumped on the opportunity to harness the 28-year-old’s millennial sensibility.

The short, easily shareable format makes the series an ideal fit for younger audiences. “Since they’re so easy to consume, we found that people go down the rabbit hole,” said Indigenous COO Jake Avnet by phone. “Once they watch one, they watch the entire library of content.”

Avnet is the son of Indigenous co-founder Jon Avnet, director of “Fried Green Tomatoes” and producer of “Risky Business” and “Black Swan.” The elder Avnet co-founded the cutting edge digital media studio with filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia (“Albert Nobbs” and HBO’s “In Treatment”).

In 2012, Avnet and Garcia launched WIGS, a web channel producing short form content with only female leads. Originally part of the YouTube Original Channel Initiative, which pre-dates YouTube RED, WIGS has since sold its content to Hulu under Fox’s channel. Indigenous had success last year with “Sickhouse,” a thriller told in real time on Snapchat starring two young actresses with huge social media followings. “Sickhouse” gained notoriety for its clever marketing, which was especially effective with the coveted teen demographic.

The short portraits are more conventionally produced and have a polished aspect that differentiates them from more disposable online content. “Even if it’s short, even if the budgets are limited, the quality has to be good,” said Garcia.

READ MORE: Snapchat is Cannibalizing Theatrical Releases And 7 More Ways The Marketplace Is Changing

The short videos have received the bulk of their views on Facebook, with YouTube numbers trailing significantly. To date, “Grandma Gamer” has been the most widely shared, with 2.2 million views. It’s not hard to see why: with her passion for role-playing action game Skyrim, 79-year old Shirley Curry’s story is easy to encapsulate in a 60-second package. Curry loves the Xbox-360 game’s visual landscape, as well as the sense of adventure it affords.

“Where did he come from?” she exclaims in an unmistakably Grandma-like voice. “Give me the kill shot! The kill shot!”

The video hit a million views within its first few days of release. “It’s our first truly viral video,” said Avnet. While views are nice, they are not Garcia’s primary focus. “We like consistency of quality, taste, and vision” the filmmaker told IndieWire. “We’re not just throwing stuff against the wall and hoping it goes viral.”

To be sure, not every short tells such a complete and entertaining story like “Grandma Gamer.” The more salacious portraits have not surpassed 100,000 views, such as “I’m a Furry,” “I’m a Sugar Baby,” and “Used Panties For Sale.” These feel less like important stories and more like gratuitous attention-grabbers, and viewers aren’t buying it. On the plus side, that speaks to the intelligence of the “60 Second Docs” audience.

READ MORE: Why Snapchat Is The New Frontier For Independent Filmmaking 

The series officially launched on July 26th, and will release two videos a week, which the producers plan to continue for as long as possible. Their dream is to have a library of 500 short docs.

While most filmmakers may see a project languish in development limbo, McDermott — like many young creators — is using the tools at his disposal to explore new storytelling media. Older filmmakers, like Garcia, are taking note. “I have ideas for movies that are not movies,” he said. “And now I cannot wait to make them.”

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