It's an amazing world in which we live. Just a few years ago, aspiring musicians, filmmakers, writers and artists needed a faceless business interest sign off on their work before it could reach a large audience. Even a film like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, famously made for a modest $25,000 (depending on who you ask) required Artisan Entertainment to spend $1.1 million to acquire it ... and another $25 million to promote it.
Which brings me to RAGGED ISLE, an independent webseries produced by husband-and-wife team Barry Dodd and Karen L. Dodd. I've known about this show for a while, but wasn't able to muster the courage to visit it. Watching independent films can be an awkward experience. If you're lucky, you might discover something like Kevin Smith's first film, CLERKS, a cheaply made flick with weak acting that is ultimately worth more than the sum of its parts. On a bad day, you'll get something like Kevin's Smith's JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. Or DOGMA. Or ... well, you probably see my point.
RAGGED ISLE is certainly a mixed bag, but has far more working for it than against it. Based on the first 11-minute episode, it's a professionally made, gorgeously shot production that's free of the bleak narcissism seen too often in independent filmmaking. I'm stunned by the photography, which is beautifully framed and lit throughout. It might sound like a backhanded compliment to harp on a technical aspect of the show, but this is really good work. Movies and television are visual media, and its incredibly important how a story reaches the eye. The photography of this episode is more than just pretty; it's used to establish the setting as its own character, much in the same way TWIN PEAKS did decades ago. RAGGED ISLE isn't the work of hacks.
While there are a few visual nods to TWIN PEAKS in the first episode, it's safe to speculate that the spiritual inspiration for RAGGED ISLE is DARK SHADOWS. The series begins with the arrival of its heroine Vicki Burke (yes, really) to the rural town of "Ragged Isle," located 21 miles off the coast of Maine. A journalism student, Burke has taken a job with a newspaper at Ragged Isle. Her twin brother, Eric, also works in the town on a lobster boat. The first episode ends on a note of mystery when one of Eric's shipmates gets pulled overboard during a nighttime trawl, but appears changed after being rescued.
RAGGED ISLE isn't perfect, and suffers from the same problems as most independent productions ... specifically the acting. I'd be a lot harsher if the show was a mainstream television feature and the cast were getting $40,000 each an episode. I don't think anybody's getting rich off RAGGED ISLE at the moment, so there's no need for me to be an asshole. In short, the acting can be a little stiff and amateurish. That's not to say it's bad, but the cast's lack of experience shows. Hopefully, these kinks will work themselves out as the series progresses.
That being said, I liked what I saw in RAGGED ISLE. There's room for improvement, but that's true for everything.
RAGGED ISLE is now in it's third online season. The first season runs ten episodes, spanning 1 hour and 47 minutes, the length of a feature film. All 19 episodes are available at the show's official website, as well as YouTube.
The series theme is also available for sale on Amazon for 99 cents.