Telus wants to help you make a web series

With a new four-part "awkward" web series from Cossette, the telco wants to reach a younger creator audience to test out the storytelling space.

Telus wants to show content creators it is here to help in a series of branded videos that reflect the grassroots goals of its content-funding platform Storyhive.

Storyhive is run by Telus for creators in Alberta and British Columbia, where the company provides its Optik cable television service. After a smaller-scale pilot version of the program ran in Vancouver in May 2013, Storyhive launched in earnest this spring. The program awarded 20 $10,000 grants based on public voting to short filmmakers in Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton and Alberta, whose work was then shown on local Optik channels and made available through its on-demand service.

This time around, Storyhive is focusing on funding a web series, offering content creators in Alberta and British Columbia 15 $10,000 grants in each province to put towards a pilot. Those winners will then receive additional training, and voting will re-open to choose one pilot from each province that will receive an additional $50,000 prize to create a full season of their series.

To promote this season’s contest, Cossette Vancouver created a four-episode web series of its own. In it, a prospective web series creator learns the tools of the trade in hilariously awkward interviews with those in the know, including filmmaker Scooter Corkel, producer Karen Lam and online video makers Matthew Clarke and David Milchard.

“It’s a subtle thing, but I appreciate it as film dork, [the protagonist's] skills improve over the series,” says Michael Milardo, CD at Cossette Vancouver. “It starts out crappy with poor shots and poor lighting, but as we go along [videos] are higher quality, even though the interviews are still super awkward.”

As a cable provider, Telus has an obligation through its licence conditions to support local programming in the communities that it serves with Telus Optik. While many providers will fulfill the funding side of that obligation by contributing to pre-existing grant programs, Prem Gill, director of content at Telus, says the company wanted to find a way to reach a younger, aspirational sector of creators. Besides fulfilling part of its licensing agreements, Storyhive is a way for Telus, by providing as many tools as possible to support the work of local creators, to reinforce its brand message in Western Canada.

“We have a ‘give where we live’ reputation, especially in the West,” Gill says. “Storyhive shows this is part of what we do, empowering that millennial creator to tell their own story, and as a brand say, ‘we’ve built this program for you and its success is all because of you supporting it.’”

On the Storyhive website, Cossette has also provided resources for creators, including a social media toolkit, how-to videos for low-cost production “hacks” and links to other online learning resources. Gill adds that the platform as a whole acts like an incubator and accelerator for young creators to get support to try new things and learn about the web series space.

Gill says that Storyhive is meant to support creators of all disciplines.

“We want to make [Storyhive] accessible, not just for pros but for those who have an idea but don’t know where to start,”Milardo says. “If you’re a stand-up comedian for example, that could translate very well, which is why a big part of the videos we did was providing utility and showing this was a way to get the tools you need.”

“Everyone out there, whether it’s Telus or Red Bull, [and Canon] wants to get into storytelling. This is a way for us to test that space out, but also help creators work there themselves,” Gill says. “Maybe there are other people who see the projects on the site, be it a broadcaster or someone working on another platform. It is kind of a creative directory where people could find talent as well.”