FORTUNE – Many of us are watching more videos online these days, but how do you pack all the gore and sexy graphics of a sci-fi action film onto a web-sized screen?
That is director Stewart Hendler's charge. He started out behind the camera, shooting horror flicks -- he directed 2009 slasher "Sorority Row," for example. Hendler then moved on to an experimental science fiction web series called H+ that was released in 2011. That led him to his latest project, a new live-action web series -- five episodes total -- based on Microsoft's wildly popular first-person shooter video game Halo. The series, called Halo 4: Forward Until Dawn, hit the Internet last week.
Hendler spoke with Fortune about how to crunch production value and rich mythology into an online video and a phenomenon he calls "the H word."
An edited transcript is below.
Fortune: What has your experience making films taught you about leadership?
Stewart Hendler: The most powerful force I've discovered in terms of getting people to do their best work is a passion and belief in the material. So I felt like my job was to remind everybody daily how awesome what we were doing was.
The amazing thing about working on a film is you're surrounded by 150 people who are some of the most talented in the world at their particular craft. I could never do most of those people's jobs. So my job is just to get them excited about doing their jobs, then step back and let the symphony begin. It's about maintaining the excitement while you're standing in the freezing cold, pretending there's an alien on a stick.
That sounds tough. Is it difficult to convince people to join a web project in the first place?
You know, when you're casting for a web series, there's absolutely a stigma for people who are established in the film and television industry. But you mention the word "Halo" to agents and actors and suddenly that stigma is quickly forgotten. We call it "the H word," and it's sort of magic, it just gets people energized.
What are some differences between shooting for the big screen and shooting for a web series?
At the end of the day, the fundamentals are the same: you get a camera and you get actors and you have them say words while you film them. I think the thing that's really different is what is missing behind the scenes in web series. There's a really big infrastructure that goes into making a studio movie, and that way of doing things is relatively inflexible and the amount of resources, energy and time put into servicing that machinery is sizable in terms of a proportion of the overall time or money you're spending on a project. More
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