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Beyond the mainstream

TO WebFest is the city’s first web-series-specific festival and features panels and events

The future of television isn’t even on television.

Whether it’s streaming content on Netflix, downloading episodes via iTunes or watching viral videos on YouTube, the internet now plays a huge role in the way people consume entertainment. But for some, the web isn’t just a convenient method of distribution.

“The internet has become a fantastic platform for independent creators to bring their projects to life,” says Regan Latimer, producer and creator of popular web series BJ Fletcher: Private Eye and Witch Like Me. “It allows creators a direct connection to their audience, and the space is teeming with talent.”

Latimer is also director of programming at this year’s TO WebFest, the city’s first web-series-specific festival. The three-day event features free screenings of web series from around the world. Latimer describes it as “a celebration and showcase of some of the amazing and unique narrative stories being told on the web. [It will] not only shine a spotlight on creators and their series, but also provide an open forum for industry, creators and audience alike to discuss and discover this growing and ever-evolving medium.”

Similar festivals have popped up across the globe, including in Los Angeles, London and Rome. But a unique component of Toronto’s festival is a dedicated conference track, featuring panels and events with topics that range from branded entertainment and product placement to audience development and digital distribution platforms.

Featured genres include kids and youth, drama, comedy, sci-fi and fantasy, LGBT, pulp and horror, and documentary and lifestyle.

“I am especially proud that we have a dedicated screening block for LGBT content,” Latimer says. “The web has always been an incredible outlet for bringing projects and stories of LGBT interest to an audience eager and hungry for it.” The LGBT series includes projects from the US (Producing Juliet), the UK (The Vessel) and Canada (Gay Nerds and Leslieville), to name a few.

“Queer storytellers are bringing characters to life that you don’t necessarily see in the mainstream. [The festival] is a great opportunity to sample what’s out there and available on the web,” Latimer says. ­