Last weekend, in a large shed turned sound stage in a Central District backyard, a pack of fringe theater actors were filming the final scenes of the second season of an internet TV show. "Day 10," someone shouted. "Day 10!" a few others echoed. They had filmed 130 pages in 10 consecutive days, shooting around people's day-job schedules, which is a feat. The director, Scott O. Moore, was looking into a monitor. A grip steadied it. "I'm the grip!" the grip said. "I'm actually gripping!"
"Day 10," somebody repeated.
The show, called Cherub, is a free, downloadable parody of Angel, which is a spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel is a vampire with a soul who tries to help people; Cherub, played by actor Basil Harris, is a vampire with a soul and a pair of bunny slippers and a drinking problem. Each episode is between 7 and 10 minutes long.
"Rolling," said Scott O. Moore.
"Speed," said director of photography Michael White.
"Action," said Moore.
Cherub drunkenly leaned on a wall and flirted with a woman dressed like someone at a Renaissance fair. There were bottles on a shelf: Ye Olde Gin. Ye Olde Rum. She held a bottle of Ye Olde Pucker. They shot the scene two or three times and quickly moved on. "They're in the sprint part of the marathon," a woman next to me whispered. "Day 10?" I ventured. "Yup. Day 10." The nearby prop table deserved a slow pan of its own. It was like something from an archeological dig: the scattered detritus of a defunct civilization. There was a Twister board, a box of Cap'n Crunch, a Rubik's Cube, broken bottles, sock puppets, a cell phone, a plastic jug of fake blood, and a glass plate with neatly painted letters: IN CASE OF EVIL, BREAK GLASS.
"In the first two months, we had 30,000 downloads," said Cherub coproducer Steven McCandless. "In the next two weeks, we had 60,000 downloads. Three weeks later we crossed the 100,000 mark. It's the internet hockey stick," he said, tracing an upward arc with his finger. Later, during the wrap party, McCandless talked about his business, Caution Zero Network (www.cautionzero.net), where you can download Cherub, and the evaporation of "distribution bottlenecks." Arrested Development, he said, was an example we'll look back on: a great show with a devoted following and a network that canned it because they couldn't figure out how to schedule it. He talked about TiVo, convenience, DSL penetration, MySpace, "affinity clouds" in "self-selecting community networks." He talked about using the talents of local fringe artists and an upcoming project with playwright Wayne Rawley.
"The same people who would, right now, say it's too early for this kind of thing are the same people who would, in no time flat, turn around and tell me it's too late," McCandless said. "I just don't want to watch another internet revolution pass me by." Nearby, people were dancing, drinking, celebrating. "Ten days of hell!" somebody laughed. "But it's been a fun, amusing kind of hell."