Scout (Julian Panetta). 

Aussie web series Scout follows a security guard (Tony Nixon) whose obsession with surveillance puts his life in danger when he uncovers police corruption and murder.

The 7 x 10-minute crime drama, a finalist at last year’s Melbourne Web Fest, is the brainchild of Brisbane-based Tom Francis, who wrote, directed and produced.

Francis has spent recent years producing corporate work for his company KilnScout was born from an itch to get back into drama, the filmmaker told IF.

He was attracted to the web series format because of accessibility: to audiences and distribution. The different kind of storytelling that online requires also appealed.

“It was a really interesting way to approach short format storytelling,” said Francis. “We attempt to make lots of hooks happen in each episode and [have] short, sharp scenes… I wanted to make sure that things were nice and snappy, because we all know about people’s attention spans when they’re consuming things online.”

The series was shot by cinematographer Mark Broadbent, who recently worked on the Kriv Stenders documentary Right Here: The Go Betweens. 

Francis had worked with Broadbent on corporate videos in the past, and the DP was also keen to do drama. “We both agreed we’d get the ball rolling on a project together,” said Francis. “Without Mark sparking that discussion, it probably wouldn’t have happened.”

Filmed in Queensland, Scout features a large cast of over 25 actors and was shot on a slim budget that Francis estimates at between $15-20,000.

Picture was locked just in time for Melbourne Web Fest, where it ended up nominated for Best Australian Drama, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Sound Design. Scout‘s success there has seen the drama find its way to ABC iview, as part of a Melbourne Web Fest Showcase.

“I’ve got a broadcast credit to be able to put in for future funding,” said Francis. “So I’m really chuffed.”

Since Melbourne, Scout has travelled to the KWebFest in Korea, where it was nominated for Best Drama, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Supporting Actress, as well as New York Web Fest, where it took out Best Mystery Thriller.

Next up is this month’s Vancouver Web Fest, where Scout is up for Best Director, Best Drama, Best Actor and Best Score.

“It’s really good to compete in an interesting arena, and it works to keep fine-tuning your skills,” said Francis.

“I’ve made some fantastic contacts in Melbourne and abroad with the festivals it’s shown in, and gotten some great feedback.”

Francis has recently cut Scout into a 53 minute feature, which he has uploaded to Amazon as well as Vimeo on Demand.

The director sees opportunities for emerging filmmakers within the online landscape and the new “age of self-distribution.”

“You can create your own product, you can distribute it, you can promote it. And if it’s got that interesting seed of a concept, it can get picked up,” he said.

“The great thing about a web series is that it’s ageless, in that it’s online, it can be discovered at any time, by any viewer, and the views continue to slowly tick up.”