LOS ANGELES: Shane Felux is an independent filmmaker whose Star Wars Revelations was seen by more than 4 million people in its first three months. His next project, Pitching George Lucas, reached even more.
But unless you've downloaded his online movies or are part of his fan legion at the comic book convention, Comic-Con it is likely you've never heard of him.
Felux is hoping that could change with Trenches, his 10-episode, short-form, sci-fi thriller coming to ABC.com and YouTube. It is among 20 online programs in development at Disney-ABC Television's new digital content studio, Stage 9.
''I'd been saying, 'I'm the little guy just making movies hoping that the industry raises its head to what the little guy can do and say, All right, we'll give the little guy a shot.' So my shot happened,'' says the 36-year-old writer-director, who produces films from the basement of his northern Virginia home.
Television studios like ABC Television, CBS, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Television are looking to partner with artists to produce online videos popular with young viewers and men who are abandoning traditional offerings.
Among the 18-34 set, the proportion who watch online videos on a weekly basis increased 42 percent, up from 28 percent last year, Leichtman Research Group reported in a study released in February.
''The consciousness of video on the Net has elevated pretty dramatically in the last year or so, and the next phase of that is really providing a higher quality video experience for that audience demand,'' says Sean Carey, senior vice president of Sony Pictures Television, which launched six comedy originals last month on its online comedy network CSpot via Crackle, YouTube, AOL Video and Hulu.
A growing number of independents, such as MyDamnChannel.com, have emerged, with backing from venture companies, to create original online shows.
So far, traditional media companies have ''been really conservative,'' says Todd Spangler, tech editor for Multichannel News, a trade magazine. ''They want to make sure that anything they do online isn't eroding or undercutting what their legacy business is.''
Dennis Miller, general partner in the Boston-based venture group Spark Capital, suggests that the studios will fail in this arena. ''They're in the business of making $4 million hour series and $3 million comedies. No one is highly motivated to be making shows for two thousand bucks for the digital division.''
Advertisers, however, are eager to find partners online with compatible content.
''It's like in the very early days of television (when) you had shows like Quiz Show or Twenty One brought to you by Texaco or Geritol,'' says Dina Kaplan, co-founder and COO of blip.tv. ''That's exactly how Web shows right now are being monetized.''