HBO's "John From Cincinnati" wraps its bizarro 10-episode run on Sunday, but the show's devotees will still be able to feast in the coming weeks on fresh viral Internet video connected to the show and its weird cast of characters.
Just as the series has taken absurdist storytelling to new heights for mainstream TV, so too did co-creator/executive producer David Milch set out to harness the "long tail" functionality of the Internet to extend the "JFC" saga in original, mysterious ways (the only way Milch likes to work these days, apparently.)
The man behind the curtain of all the Internet vids that have trickled out on the Web since shortly before the show bowed in June has been Marc Ostrick, a distant relative of Milch's who was brought on in the pre-production stage and encouraged to run free with his DV and Super 8 cameras. As the John Monad character keeps observing, "the Internet is big." And a filmmaker couldn't ask for a more vibrant setting than the border beach town of Imperial Beach, Calif., and its fertile surf culture.
(Ostrick is pictured above on location in Imperial Beach with two colorful grapplers who briefly but memorably made their way into an early "JFC" seg.)
"David wanted the Internet to be a big part of this series from the start. He wanted it to transcend to something more than just a one-hour TV series," says Ostrick (pictured holding camera at right his associate producer Julian Pozzi.) "But he didn't want the stuff I was doing to have an overt marketing campaign. He wanted people to find it.
"What's been amazing for me is to have been brought in early and having the trust of the actors and the ability to develop this wealth of cross-platform material that tells more of the stories of the show and also figures into the show," he says. "We've all been in experimental-land on this show, and this (Internet video) has been part of what David wanted to explore on the show. It's not like we had all the answers when we started, but he wanted to create a real feeling of creativity and community about this show on the Web."
Ostrick has spearheaded the production of a slew of original-content clips involving the main characters, particularly the Tiger Beat-demo friendly Greyson Fletcher (a real life surfing savant who plays the pivotal teenage character Shaun Yost), to seed YouTube and other sites with homevid and low-end-looking vids designed to intrigue and engage, (a la the PSAs that Bruce Greenwood's Mitch Yost did for a coastal cleanup initiative. Check 'em out here).
But most of all they've been designed to feel like their grassroots fanboy (and girl) stuff involving the legendary surfer characters at the heart of the show. Ostrick also created the more elaborate websites http://www.yostclan.com and http://stinkweedusa.com to extend the mythos of the family and the apparel firm that figures heavily into the storyline. (He also shot most of the docu footage seen in the series as coming from the character of Cass, and a bunch of the clips featured in "JFC's" gnarly opening credit sequence.)
On the surface the YostClan site looks like a low-rent tribute site but keep digging, there's plenty there, including a couple of puzzles that need to be solved to open the gateway to "the Pipeline," a cornucopia of high-end "JFC" related vids, clips and assorted oddities. There are also tools for fans to assemble their own vid-creations and whatnot.
It's all been an eye-opening experience into the power of multi-platform content for Ostrick, who was already pretty deep into the digital content biz, having directed some of the pioneering "24: Conspiracy" webisodes for 20th Century Fox TV two years ago. Ostrick's resume also includes the 2001 feature docu "Without a Net: Creating 'NYPD Blue," which chronicled Milch's difficult final few weeks at the helm of his groundbreaking ABC cop show.
Ostrick says he has tons more footage that will dribble out in the coming weeks, for those who seek it.
"What David has tried to do here is not marketing, not an ancillary thing to promote the TV show," he says. "It's a visionary way to integrate the Internet into the show and the show into the Internet. The whole time he's told us and the cast to have fun exploring and pushing the envelope, to immerse themselves in this culture of surfing and spirituality."