Short film phenom Channel 101 begs question: Why not start a similar shorts show in Chicago?

Two distinct groups of questions are being asked by those who followed this series with any level of interest.

The first group wants to know about additional markets and venues, to which the answer is: yes, more short film distributor profiles are definitely on the way.

The second group of questions concern an issue that’s a bit more complicated, such as…

Is there any room left on the venue side of this new shorts business for ambitious newcomers? The answer again is yes, and if you don’t believe me, now would be the time to look at the story of an online cinema call to arms known as Channel 101.

Back in 2003, former Fox Network employees Dan Harmon and Rob Scrab got the idea to expand their private short film challenge parties into the “Super Midnight Movie Show.”

They moved out of Schrab’s living room into the Improv Olympic West and set up rules, including a monthly schedule, a 5-minute time limit on entries and opened the event to the public.

Before the end of the year, “Super Midnight” became, essentially an L.A.-based underground television network (sister network Channel 102 is New York-based) that gives participants the opportunity to create a show of their own and attract a fan base.

These days, Channel 101 is an almost-institution that attracts a slate of fun, creative and conspicuously well-made 5-minute “shows,” mostly by unknowns, although high profile guest stars?Drew Carey and Jack Black?have shown up.

It’s available on iTunes and that bills itself as the unavoidable future of entertainment. And they may just be right.

“We called 101 the ?Unavoidable Future of Entertainment’ because we saw this day coming,” said co-founder Dan Harmon. “Not only does podcasting make for a bandwidth-friendly way to enjoy our network, we like to think of its syndication via iTunes and Fireant as a way of taking a jackhammer to traditional television’s foundation. Never mind. Don’t hurt yourself. Just imagine being able to watch our stuff at the laundromat.”

The point is that you don’t have to imagine, as web surfers everywhere can visit, iTunes or Fireant and see for themselves.

More importantly, short form entertainment fans in New York or Los Angeles can stop by one of those live monthly screenings and see for themselves. “More importantly,” because that particular list of cities begs the question at the center of my musings this week: Why are you sending me questions instead of starting up a Channel 103 here in Chicago?

Simple rules for Channel 101 submissions
In the meantime, Channel 101 is open to submissions. The rules are pretty simple and their ten points of advice are truly a sight to see (“Follow the Hate,” “Deny Everything” and “Turn on the Air Conditioner,” to name a few). They are truly where the rubber meets the road.

If you’re interested, submit a 5-minute pilot, and Channel 101 may choose to show it at one of their increasingly popular and monthly screenings. The audience will vote, a la “Live at the Apollo,” to decide which pilots will be picked up for another episode. If yours is picked up, you can be part of the group that selects new pilots. It’s that simple.

The judgments are blunt, the lessons painful and even if a show’s “picked up,” the deadlines are perverse, the time limits are impractical and the pay for all but the site’s owners is non-existent.

But the shows on Channel 101 are almost painful reminders of just how much quality comedy isn’t on TV at the moment. And to say that the right people are noticed is an understatement.