Second City goes digital: Partners with L.A.’s MRC to create short online pieces, bowing next month

The Second City is getting into the short film content business online, according to Andrew Alexander, Second City’s executive producer.

“We had been talking about it for at least two years and had been searching around for what we felt would be the right mix of partnership,” he said.

Second City will partner with Los Angeles-based Media Rights Capital (MRC), an independent film/television and digital studio, to create short pieces specifically geared for online distribution.

Second City made the connection with MRC through the Gersh Agency in New York.

At the same time, the theatre company announced it would also be launching a new site, The Second City’s Quarantine, to showcase the new creative output.

The initial outlay of cash on Second City’s part will be “a couple million dollars,” Alexander estimates, and the rights to the material would be retained by Second City and MRC.

Currently, the planned launch will be sometime in September.

Although the Quarantine site will be where the original online material resides, MRC will be looking at a variety of other sources for distribution, including YouTube, Alexander noted.

Current members of the Second City troupes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit, as well as alums, will be involved with the creation process, which Alexander says will be “very similar to how we produce a television show.

“There will be a head writer who is responsible for making things happen and moving the process along, and there will be producers who will say yea or nay.”

Alexander estimates that about four to five new full-time staff members will be on hand to help produce the work, with writers employed on a freelance basis. (Contracts with the actors’ unions and the Writers Guild are currently being hammered out.)

He indicated that Martin Short is one of the alums that have “expressed interest in an outlet for an idea that they might have.”

Alexander hopes to draw distinction between the work available through Quarantine and the more anything-goes ethos of the site FunnyorDie.com, the short video comedy site started a year ago by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

That’s where, says Alexander, “you get inconsistency of quality.” (Viewer-submitted videos, as well as those created by comedy professionals, are both available through the Funny or Die site.)

By contrast, the now-infamous “John.He.Is” campaign parody of John McCain, created by Los Angeles-based Second City alums, and based on the “Yes We Can” pro-Barack Obama video by will.I.am of the Black Eyed Peas, netted its creators nearly nothing, despite going viral almost immediately and hitting all the major media outlets.

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