The Wigs Channel, available on YouTube, calls itself “the #1 channel for scripted drama, high-end original series, short films and documentaries.” This may not be an overstatement. “Kendra,” one of the latest offerings on Wigs, is gripping.
This “Kendra” is not to be confused with the Kendra of pop culture fame: not even remotely. This “Kendra” is wise and troubled, a strong yet vulnerable lesbian. She’s a post-op nurse who, according to YouTube, “experiences the world of the Twilight room where painful secrets of her patients under anesthesia are revealed, and the consequences, played out.”
Kendra, the character, is multi-faceted. She possesses depth that’s Grand Canyon deep. “Kendra,” the program, is infused with talent on every level: directing, editing and acting. Even the soundtrack by Bob Reynolds adds a layer of tension and anticipation that can’t be ignored but somehow doesn’t overwhelm.
The first episode is the hook, a very efficient hook. The piece is less than 6 minutes long. Brevity is king in web-based entertainment segments.
The episodes are short, pithy, lean and to the point. It’s as if the creators know that time is money and attention is fleeting.
Meet the creator of "Kendra"
Jon Avnet, in a telephone interview from his office in Culver City Los Angeles spoke of shorts, “Kendra” and the genesis of this Internet-based project.
“I’d have to back up a little if I may,” Avnet began.
“Rodrigo (Rodrigo Garcia) was the director in a movie I’d produced called ‘Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her.’ We had what we now refer to as the last lunch, like the Last Supper, and what came out of it was our desire to see if we could do something in short form, on the web, where we could bring in many of our friends, very talented filmmakers, actors and writers.
“We wanted to see if we could do a series of shorts that we could put together into a whole. And then when the iPad came out, we thought that was pretty exciting, and we challenged ourselves to write short form. I looked at what he did (Rodrigo) and he looked at what I did and we got pretty excited: certainly because it was fresh, and that’s good. It’s good for your artistic ‘chops’ to be challenged because if they’re not, I think you can get into very dangerous territory.”
“I’d read that Youtube had come up with the idea of doing these channels. They approached us and asked if we could do something a little more ambitious than what we were initially going to do. Whether it was reckless or ambitious and entrepreneurial, we said yes. As we started doing this we looked for things that would work into this form, and the Kendra story came about,” he said.
“In that context, I was very interested in a couple of things. One: What happens when a person works in a world where they see people as they actually are, as opposed to the dress that socialization puts on us all?
“This started on a personal note. I’d had a procedure; I’d had Verset (an anesthetic) and was on my way back to the office. I made about 10 or 15 calls and then promptly fell asleep when I got back. I slept for 2½ hours. I woke up and found I’d received 25 or 30 calls and I had no idea what they were talking about. The drug wipes out your memory,” Avnet said, laughing.
“That’s where it started, and my other interest is that I wanted to have this woman who’d served, a woman who’d served during the “don’t ask don’t tell” world because I was very, very … well I thought a great disservice had been done to this community, and this is a community that I personally like quite a bit. I wanted to put Kendra in this role. She’s a bisexual, a character type that doesn’t get explored as much as I’d like.”
Avnet shifted the conversation with a story about an incident in Omaha, Neb. He and a director friend were in a restaurant owned by two gay men. One of the men, an Iraq veteran, relayed a story of being stopped by a cop and asked for his driver’s license. The man responded, “I’ll produce a driver’s license when this state issues me a marriage license.”
The ensuing debate escalated to the fellow’s war injuries, his heroism, his patriotism and his dignity. Against all odds he won the argument and the flustered cop walked away in disgust.
“I liked that,” Avnet said. “I like that story a lot.”
Bill Brochtrup likes "byte size" drama
The gay, Omaha restaurateur was the inspiration for one of Kendra’s roommates, Arnold. Actor Bill Brochtrup plays Arnold and fans of “NYPD Blue” may recognize Brochtrup as PAA John Irvin.
Brochtrup, also speaking from Los Angeles, shares the director’s enthusiasm for “byte size” drama.
“This is the new model for distribution. It’s very exciting to be involved with ‘Wigs.’ I think this is the network of the future and where television is moving, and it’s exciting to be a part of that,” Brochtrup said.
“Kendra” sets a high bar for this new model of distribution.
As sociologists debate the pros and cons of what may be a growing collective, abbreviated attention span, it’s interesting to step back and view the arc of entertainment and theater.
200 years ago, opera was the peak of entertainment “technology,” and an opera could last hours, if not days. Wagner’s Ring Cycle clocks out at 18 hours. Now, it’s a rare few who’d choose to endure any single performance of that length.
The select and privileged opera-goers of two centuries ago have evolved to a worldwide audience of what could be called abbreviated attention.
It could just as easily be called compacted attention.
Perhaps, less truly is more. Jon Avnet’s work, “Kendra,” certainly bears out the supposition.
Kurt Niece writes about visual arts for SDGLN. He is a freelance journalist from Lakewood, Ohio. He is the author of "The Breath of Rapture" and an artist who sells his work on his website.