1. a person not suited in behavior or attitude to a particular social environment
2. something that does not fit or fits badly
To a larger extent, everyone is a misfit: at least, it’s what I like to think. Perfect social integration is a myth, and there’s usually an existing contrast between self perception and the image/behavior you’re supposed to keep in social environments. That’s understood. So, when I say “misfit”, here, I mean a case in which such unbalance and contrast are pretty explicit, if not declared.
Whatever their reason, misfits are pariahs, fishes out of water, incompliant for choice or inability. In their own way, they make a difference (even if only for their own benefit or self-destruction); they stand out (even if in a way that “regular” society finds annoying, offensive, unacceptable… you choose). And whatever the case, they’re perfect material for independent stories (or for mainstream maybe, but only at the condition to make them innocuously funny).
Being web series, at their best, primarily independent filmmaking on the web, I’m actually surprised not to have found out more stories centered on some kind of social misfits. Fine, there are a lot of comedies about awkward, clumsy, geeky/nerdy people more or less clashing with the real world, (seriously, are we still considering the latter not mainstream?), and miscellaneous “irregular” people, or belonging to minorities. But “real” drama? Not that much. Or maybe there is, but it’s difficult to get, submerged by the background noise of the overwhelming tasteless comedy (since “people go to Internet for a quick laugh” and other obnoxious and overcooked web dogmas). If you have some hints, please comment below.
So far, here are my picks.
As said, none of them is a pure drama but, at least, they’re dramedies; a hybrid genre quite plastic, allowing “to get serious” at will, about many topics.
Everything Will Be Fine
Dramedy, yes, but leaning strongly towards the drama side, Everything Will Be Fine (2011) it’s a sour-sweet tale of a couple of unrecoverable misfits literally finding themselves in the wrong place.
Created, written and directed in Portland (OR) by independent filmmaker Scott Tebeau (Seattle-born, with a career as special effects make-up artist in Hollywood, here at his first venture into on-line scripted series), produced by Heidi Schwegler, the series relies entirely on local talent (from the crew to the actors to the music compiled for the soundtrack).
It follows a couple of brit punks coming to USA to start anew, thanks to an American uncle’s help, but ending up in the wrong town (same name, different state), penniless, jobless and not exactly socially friendly.
Aside from the valid production values and the solid narrative density (after all, this is yet another movie sliced into web episodes, as far as narrative structure and length are concerned), from the good photography, livid and neat at the same time, and from the great execution, both in directing and in performing, it’s the human warmth that really makes the series stand out. While being different and reacting in very different ways to the unexpected situation, both these deranged blokes are lovable because of their evident frailty and constant confusion. At least, that’s how it works for me.
The writing is more sensitive and deep than you’d expect, carefully avoiding any easy exploitation of the material; and while not revealing much of the guy’s and gal’s background, neither the reasons that brought them to reject society, here and there some hints are thrown, with great discretion, showing that there’s more than meets the eye. Special praise for the ending, able to convey an entire flux of feelings and relationships with a couple of silent shots.
12 episodes, between 8 and 14 minutes. On YouTube.
Another dramedy about people on the fringe of society, Periferal City (2010) is a short show focusing on homeless and other “lost” people in the Williamsburg (NY) area.
Produced by StudioAutonomic Films (NY), it is created, written and directed by independent filmmaker Amanda Cole (also producer with Collin Carruthers, Gustavo Rebelo, John Kontoyannis).
It follows a young diabetic that, while taking a nap in the park, is mistaken for a homeless by a russian immigrant with a huge Jesus Complex, and dragged forcibly to a Christian shelter.
Here, he meets a collection of abandoned human beings that form a kind of community completely apart from the hectic rhythms of the city, seemingly living an existence of its own.
Once again, the show’s flavor is pretty peculiar and not so common even among web series. It smells indie; and has this sense of unique and crafty that you find in well done short films (and that’s what you have if you put the footage together: a 30-40 minutes short). Of course, the limited length doesn’t allow any deep introspection or character study; but at the same time it keeps the product fresh, with this general feeling of a brief journey through unknown (better: ignored) territories.
5 episodes, around 8 minutes average. On Vimeo.
There are many kinds of pariahs. Some are the socially excluded, or the outcasts. Some others can be either secretly accepted but openly subject to prejudice and kept at distance. Sex workers can easily fall in the latter kind.
That’s what happens in Hustling (2011), a solid drama (though sold as a dark comedy) where a male prostitute struggles to re-invent his life.
The series is actor Sebastian La Cause’s directorial debut (he also plays the lead and produces, for his NY based company Actorman Entertainment), made with the common “no budget and a little help from my friends” formula.
It follows a forty year old man, sex worker since his twenties, “specialized” in homosexual area (while not being it himself), that faces the inevitable passing of time and the business’ decline. And that, suddenly, starts to ask himself if he doesn’t want something more from his life, re-exploring some old and hidden passions.
Problem is: prejudice and social labels are hard burdens. To the point to really make this path of reinvention harder.
The central drama, and what makes this tale worthwhile, is exactly this struggle to be accepted just like a person, and to be given a second chance. There’s a little smell of the old redemption trope here; or, as La Cause calls it, “a journey of self-worth and discovery”. And it’s hooking. No pun intended.
Eight episodes for Season One, between 10 and 13 minutes.
The website says Season Two is currently in production.
On YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.
Here’s another really diverse one, featuring a pretty unique kind of misfits: addicted superheroes. Fine, maybe “misfits” it’s a little excessive, since some of them manage to have regular families and jobs; nevertheless, the solitude coming with the secrecy, and the shame of the addiction, puts them into a position quite close to that.
The Sanctum (2009) is written and produced by Megan J. Wilson (Dirt Totem Productions, LA) and directed by Michael W. Mayer.
Inside of a church, in the quiet of evening, the weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings see these “ordinary” super-heroes discussing their problems and searching for help. The session are, in fact, a pretext: each monologue (one for episode) actually is a mini-tale that sketches the character and gives us the basic elements of his personal drama (sometimes, addiction is not even specified).
Sure, super-heroes spoofs and therapy comedies are not exactly fresh stuff, inside or outside web video (even if, at the time, probably not as much as today); but the combination, here, works. And the result is, again, a sour-sweet tale, going a little beyond the simple laugh and creating more compelling and rounded characters.
The only downturn: when you’re getting into it, it’s over.
6 episodes, less than 7 minutes each. On YouTube or KoldCast.
And two more, if you please
Calling the lead of White Collar Poet (2011) a misfit is also, probably, a long shot. An insurance broker can be, in fact, the visual representation of social integration, at many levels. But if an artistic impulse comes to surface, and drives the man to a unpredicted new direction, forcing him to reconsider many aspects of his life, the contrast between the old and the new self is so striking to evocate a strong sense of not belonging.
Written and directed by Canadian indie filmmaker Michael Grand, the series is a striking mockumentary, that would even seem legit if the editing didn’t spoil it with some flash-backs sequences.
It features a pretty atypical “white collar” aiming to blend business with poetry, reading its verses in Vancouver financial district’s streets, during breaks.
While the series is really good and supported by the lead’s excellent acting, it kinda loses its strength when it is revealed that the whole change it’s a consequence of having been dumped by his wife. But it’s worthwhile, nevertheless.
On YouTube, KoldCast, I-Thenic.
Finally, I want to mention Fake Henrik Zetterberg (2011), for the peculiarity of the main character, a fish out of water constantly dressing as the title’s hockey champion (with full gear, ice skates and stick), and pretending to be Swedish himself.
Shot in New York, created/written by Greg DeLiso (director) and Jakob Hawkins (lead actor and producer), active mainly in the independent scene with shorts and documentaries, it’s produced by Experiment 108 and Munrovia Pictures (DeLiso’s company). The series is the evolution of some original shorts used as commercial spots for the NHL during the playoff run of 2009.
Dramedy, again, but more shallow and light (only a little drama towards the end) and close to an office comedy, it follows this eccentric guy while complying with a new job in a not-that-top-notch manual publishing company.
So, we have a different kind of misfit (not a pariah, more a guy with a deep complex – not revealed) that candidly steps into the world and gets surprisingly well accepted; but unfortunately, it’s all we’ve got, since sketchy and episodic nature of the show kills every possibility of that introspection and depth needed to really exploit its potential.
12 episodes, the series is on YouTube and Blip (where you can see the original five shorts, as well).