Case Study

Playing God in the Web-Video World

'Mr. Diety' Makes Hay With Religion's Uncomfortable Inconsistencies

By Published on .

The Creator: Brian Dalton, founder of Lazy Eye Pictures. Mr. Dalton is a writer and filmmaker who created and stars in the comedic Web series "Mr. Deity" as the title character.

The Distributors: Sony-owned video destination Crackle is currently the home site for the show. In that role, Sony pays a production fee for "Mr. Deity" and distributes the show on Crackle, iTunes, Sony Bravia TVs, Adobe's Media Player and to Crackle's mobile partners, which include AT&T, Sprint & Verizon Wireless' VCAST video service. Sony and Mr. Dalton are currently working on casting the third season of the show and want to introduce a new character in each episode. Those new character parts create opportunities for celebrity walk-on roles, part of Crackle's push to land star power for its Web shows. The celebrity factor can drive press coverage and help a Web series break out from the clutter. The first two seasons of Mr. Deity have averaged 4.5 million viewers. That includes eight episodes in season one and the 10 episodes in season two.

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The Sponsors: Run of site advertisers for "Mr. Deity" on Crackle have included Honda, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and others.

The Content: "Mr. Deity" imagines God as a sort of Hollywood-esque studio executive as he manages the universe with his assistant "Jimbo." Each episode offers a comedic take on a story from the Bible or takes a humorous jab at the role of religion in modern situations, such as the war in Iraq. Episodes have covered the Christian belief that God asked Jesus to live as fully God and fully human and then to die for the sins of humanity. Another installment spoofed the creation of the world and all the problems that plague mankind. "I could imagine how this world we live in got to be the way it was: Seven days ... sort of like a slapdash movie and he's the guy who won't say no, who will say 'I can do it,'" Mr. Dalton said of his role as God. Each episode runs three to four minutes.

Backstory: As a self-described "Formon" (former Mormon) and a religious skeptic, Mr. Dalton has always been interested in religion. He conceived the idea for the show after the tsunami of 2004. "I wrote this little episode about if you are an all-knowing and powerful God, why do you need natural disasters? That turned into episode one of 'Mr. Deity,'" he said. For the next few years, Mr. Dalton reached out to friends and actors asking them to play the starring roles. When they turned him down, he cast himself and his friend Larry Marshall in the main roles. The first three episodes landed on YouTube in January 2007. One of those episodes was featured on YouTube's home page, which quickly drove views and an audience for the show. Sony took notice and struck a deal to carry the show.

Endgame: Mr. Dalton wants to turn "Mr. Deity" into a broadcast or cable show. "We'd really like to move this to TV because it's so rich for TV," he said. "There is a book with a lot of great material for me. What is it called again? Oh, the Bible!" His vision for a TV version of "Mr. Deity" is to borrow the stories from the Bible and turn them into "Mr. Deity" skits or episodes. "For me, it gets better when you go long form. You can take on these subjects in a bigger way. This thing has legs like nobody has seen," he said. Because the show pokes fun at religion, it could be a tough sell for all but the edgier cable networks.
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