In 2009, News Corp. transformed the fledgling Fox Atomic into Fox Digital Studio. At that time, their mission wasn't merely to create quality streaming video, but actually to inject branded advertisers like Kia and Taco Bell into the stories. The idea seems to be an old one, harkening back to the days of Mercury Theatre and other programming from radio and the early days of television. Essentially, it's encasing entertainment in a brand instead of selling airtime to the highest bidder.
The magic combination: a seasoned, talented writer/director/producer in Whedon and an equally talented cast and crew. Although not easily replicated, Fox Digital Studio stands poised to duplicate this success with assets that include its parent company's diverse digital portfolio, including Myspace, Fox.com and a one-third stake in Hulu.
Now, in 2012, Fox Digital Studio has released its first web series, Wolfpack of Reseda. Wolfpack tells the story of Ben March, a 20-something seller of car insurance, whose mundane life is turned upside down when he's convinced he has been bitten by a werewolf. This synthesis of Office Space and True Blood is directed squarely at young consumers who live in a virtual world via their laptops, iPads and smartphones rather than the TV. Perhaps more interesting than the transformation of a werewolf is the transformation of Internet advertising that analysts predict will breach three billion dollars this year.
Initially a visual-effects artist, Leone began screenwriting for the sole purpose of having content to produce. "I like making things," he says. "I never wanted to be a writer just to write or sell scripts. I wanted to be a writer to direct my own projects and to see them through. That's why effects were always much more interesting to me because we were making something."
Although both writing and postproduction are full-time jobs in their own right, Leone made it work due to the inconsistent nature of production work. "Usually when we're in a crunch on a post schedule, there's no time to write," he says, "but because I was always freelance, I might work on a job for a few months, then be off for a couple weeks. I was able to juggle."