So, Your Acclaimed Web Series About Gay Life Is Over—Now What?

The Outs started as an alternative to television's treatment of same-sex romance. With its final episode posted, can a show like this find a wider audience offline?
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The Outs / Vimeo

Finally, there's a moment of calm. No one is spilling drinks on the set. The worrying out loud about the car that just got towed has abated. And the cameraman's Fisherman's Friend lozenges are keeping his coughing at bay. Even with a crew of about a dozen people in this Brooklyn Navy Yard loft, the room feels intimate. Enrico Wey and Adam Goldman sit close together on a red couch. Wey looks into Goldman's eyes, touches his hand lovingly, and says:

"I dated a guy for a minute who asked me to spit on him during sex. Like, right in his face... Right at the moment of orgasm, he would Kate-Winslet-in-Titanic onto my face."

Goldman calls cut. Seconds earlier, the writer, director, and star of The Outs was in character, awkwardly asking his date if he'd like to be tucked into bed. Now he's giving stage directions.

"I really want you to emphasize during," he says to Wey. "It's that he spit on you during sex that's really surprising."

It's not the kind of conversation that happens often on TV, but The Outs isn't TV, per se. When the resulting scene hit the Internet a month ago, it ended the seven-episode run for the Kickstarter-funded web series that Interview Magazine called "the most accurate and essentially human portrayal of young gay men today." With the DIY filmmaking and distribution scramble done, Goldman now faces the question of what comes after online cult success for a show he started in part out of dissatisfaction with mainstream television.

While gay characters have been proliferating on TV (think Modern Family, The New Normal, or Happy Endings), their stories tended to all look similar to Goldman. He's quick to point out that there is no one definition of being gay, and that every depiction is valid. But, by way of example, he said he had vowed that he would watch the New Normal until it made a Madonna reference. It took less than 15 minutes into the pilot for that to happen.

"I'm not necessarily knocking what's on television," Goldman says. "I just think there is always room for more well-rounded stories."

So, with the help of a couple friends last year, he started telling those kinds of stories, in a Brooklyn-set dramedy (yes, there have been Girls comparisons) about two men moving on after breaking up with each other. Goldman plays Mitchell, battling loneliness with the help of his hard-drinking best friend Oona (Sasha Winters), and Hunter Canning plays his ex Jack, who enters "a slutty phase" after the split. It's a premise that perhaps wouldn't have been funded ($22,000 via Kickstarter) or found an audience (15,600 Facebook fans) without the Internet.

"The democratization of media is really exciting," Goldman says. "Particularly for minorities or underrepresented people. You don't have to wait for a studio to say now we are going to make your show. You can look to everyone and say, don't we need this? And if they say yes we do, then you get to make it."

During its 2012 run, gay sites like Towleroad, Out.com, and Queerty followed The Outs religiously. Time Out Chicago called it "addictive" and the Huffington Post said it was "poignant." Paper Magazine christened it "the best web series ever," not "the best gay web series ever." Tony-winning acting vet Alan Cumming became a fan, signing on for a bit part in the final episode ("At 10 o'clock in the morning I was making out with a 21-year-old boy in a wine shop," he told me over the phone. "It was really lovely."). The premiere episode racked up nearly 180,000 views on Vimeo.

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Ben Terris is a staff reporter for National Journal.

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