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Queers conquer at the 2015 TO WebFest

LGBT content more popular than ever at the annual web series honours

Sam and some butts from I Luv U But. Credit: I Luv U But

If the only thing you’ve been watching online is the latest release from CockyBoys, you’re missing out. Web series are the wave of the future, and where better to dive in than at TO WebFest? Housed at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, this film festival brings web series from your laptop to the big screen. To discuss the festival — and its impressive amount of queer content — we caught up with Daily Xtra writer JP Larocque, a member of this year’s selection committee.

Daily Xtra: How did you first get involved in TO WebFest?

JP Larocque: Last year my web series Gay Nerds was an official selection in the festival, and this year I was asked to be a part of the jury that reviewed submissions. I’m also co-host of the festival’s big awards ceremony.

Can you tell us about some of the queer content at the festival?

There was a veritable deluge of queer-themed submissions — enough to place LGBT shows in the top three of submitted content this year. And the shows certainly reflect the diversity found within queer storytelling. There’s the comedy I Luv U But, the sci-fi lesbian drama Frequency, the documentary web series The Transgender Project, the fantastic French-Canadian drama series Coming Out and the immensely popular Out With Dad series, just to name a few.

It sounds like web series are really fucking gay.

Web series are so fucking gay! Online streaming platforms continue to be a viable route for many LGBT filmmakers because there are fewer gatekeepers and less pressure to appeal to a broad audience. Is it a surprise that queer-friendly shows like Transparent or Orange is the New Black found life outside of the traditional channels? Queer representation has certainly improved over the years, but network television would still rather include queerness as part of a larger tapestry than as the central focus of a series. And yet there are still so many queer-specific stories to tell, and so many opportunities to put that queerness right out in front. On the web, filmmakers can do that. You don’t have to be the supportive gay best friend or the ambiguous villain. You can be the protagonist of the show! And that’s exciting. 

What do you think the future holds for the web series?

I can only assume that the distinctions between film, television and the web will continue to erode. I mean, could you consider House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, or Daredevil web series? And what of shows like Broad City, which started as a web series and evolved into a traditional comedy half-hour? I think the web will continue to offer up a platform to independent filmmakers that will allow them to tell challenging and interactive stories. Plus, divorced of the gatekeepers, the quality of the content reigns supreme rather than industry connections, which isn’t always the case with network shows. So I think the web will continue to be an exciting opportunity for storytellers.