My Approach to Webseries

So, for the first time in forever, I’m going to be posting about my film work!

I haven’t been saying a great deal about the work I do as a film maker for one very crucial reason…

Lately, I have been focussing on my writing so I haven’t actually been doing any major film work, with the exception of a few segment pieces for a TV series that will hopefully be released next year.

I had never worked on a TV series before this year, and once I started doing it, I started to realise that I really wanted to create a web series. Not a quickly made web series that looks like it was shot on your dad’s camera with a bunch of mates, no a proper McCoy web series with good stories, great actors and, obviously, some well worked scripts. Think more House of Cards type quality and then you start to get an idea of what I’m aiming for.

But creating a web series is no easy thing. Unlike a television series, where you can have anything from thirty minutes to an hour to flesh out your characters and have a punchy storyline, you will be lucky to get away with keeping your audience’s attention for five minutes with a web series.

So where do you start when writing a web series? Do you just abandon any notions of having complicated characters because you don’t have the time to explain them? Or do you sacrifice any form of plot so your characters can be interesting?

Of course not, you just have to really streamline your process and work ten times harder to make sure that script is killer. And that is what I am working on right now.

So how am I approaching creating this webseries?

Well, first and foremost, I’m not doing this on my own. As a writer/director I could attempt to craft a webseries entirely on my own and then go out and shoot it, but that would be very unwise. The series needs to be able to grab people’s attention straight from the pilot episode. If it fails to do that, then there is no point writing, let alone shooting, the rest of it. So, in collaboration with the writer of my previous short, Joshua Douglas-Walton, the overall story of the series is beginning to take shape and Josh is very kindly going to draft the episodes as well.

Secondly, we are not filming the entire series in one go…

It has become a habit with internet web series creators to film an entire series in one go and start releasing it after the final episode has been completed. You can understand the logic, if you promise fans that you will release an episode every week, you want to be sure that the episodes are all in the bag so all you have to do is upload them, rather than filming and editing them to a deadline. But this method does suffer from one fatal flaw…

If you are creating a webseries of fifteen episodes, each five minutes long, you will have a grand total of an hour and fifteen minutes worth of series to distribute on the internet over a set timeline. You market your webseries, create a buzz, maybe so and so who wrote an award winning screenplay wrote your webseries or something like that. People await the first episode in anticipation…

Then you release the first episode to general excitement. Maybe you clock a couple of thousand views and you start to pat yourself on the back as you anticipate the barnstorming success of your webseries!

Then you release episode two, and nobody is interested. You maybe get twenty views and you know that eighteen of those must be your mother and the other two are you! You don’t understand what’s gone wrong so you ask about and discover that everyone hated your lead actor, or your premise turned out to be a terrible version of Homeland, but because you may never have seen Homeland that fact had completely passed you by…

So what now? You have thirteen episodes left to release of a series that no one likes. But because you have that one devoted fan, eagerly awaiting to see her child’s brilliant series, you feel obliged to release the episodes as though nothing is wrong. Who knows? Maybe in a year, someone will stumble across it in the graveyard of unsuccessful webseries and your hard work will finally pay off…. Maybe….

Anyway, back to me. I’m eager to avoid this situation and, as I have already said before, I intend the produce this series properly. As such I have decided to only make the pilot episode to begin with.

There are two main reasons for this:

1. It will be a useful way to gauge whether my potential audience will be interested in the rest of my series – television productions do it, so why shouldn’t I?

2. It will be a useful asset when trying to secure funding to create the rest of my series with – television productions do it, so why shouldn’t I?

So there you have it, that is what I will be up to over the next few months… well, that and all the other stuff I’ve signed myself up for.

“But what will your webseries going to be about?” I hear you cry!

What indeed. I guess you’ll just have to wait and see…

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Midweek Tip: Keep Going

Let me set the scene.

You’ve been writing for some time now. You’ve started sending your articles and stories to magazines and, although they haven’t accepted any of it, they are giving you some useful feedback. Your managing to get some of your work published and, even though they are all freebies, you’re feeling pretty good about it. You’ve started at the bottom and now you’re ready to work your way up to the big leagues….

Brilliant.

You start sending off articles to big magazines. Maybe you had an amazing idea for an article about how dogs are really space cowboys from Venus and you send it off to one of the dozens of dogs magazines. Or maybe you’ve finally perfected that short story you have been working on and you’re ready to send it off.

“It doesn’t matter if they don’t want it,” you muse. “Even if they don’t want it, I’ll just offer it to someone else. It’s so good that someone is bound to want it!”

So, not concerned about the fate of your article or story, you start writing more to get sent off. You even start pitching article ideas to the big magazines, convinced that this is your time! Here and now is where your writing takes off!

Soon you have sent off a dozen stories, two dozen article pitches and one very confident book pitch to a well known publisher. But the waiting time for a response is three or four months…

“No matter,” you think. “I’ll go on holiday or something. Then when I return the magazines will be clambering at my door, desperate for my genius…”

So you take a nice trip.

Somewhere inspiring like Rome or Athens, maybe Vietnam or India. You really chill, and you even have a flurry of creativity whilst you’re out there. But when you return, there are no knocks on the door, no post in the hall, no excited emails waiting on your computer.

And all of a sudden, every ounce of enthusiasm that you ever had about writing professionally drains from you.

For weeks on end, you struggle to sit at your computer for more than a few minutes. The light of creativity has gone out….

If any of this sounds familiar, then you will know what I’m talking about. It is an unfortunate side effect of working as a writer; you have high days and you have low days. When you first get the buzz, you feel like nothing can stop you. You can work solidly for weeks on end, churning out piece after piece. But it is a common fact amongst all things that what goes up must come down, and whilst you steam roller your way through your own brilliance, you edge closer and closer to the precipice. And if you fall over the edge, you may never recover…

So here are my three top tips for navigating your way past the inevitable slump that every writer has once in a while.

1. The Ego Scrapbook

The Ego Scrapbook is one of the most important objects in my study. A black scrap book, tied closed with black ribbon, sits on the floor leaning up against my desk, chilling out like the cool kid in the school hall. Every single article or story or comment that has ever been published has been carefully stuck inside this book, and I mean everything. I’m talking letters, freebie articles, reader’s articles, stories, poems, the lot….Every single one has been meticulously cut out of the magazine and stuck firmly on one of the black pages of the scrapbook.

As a tool, it is invaluable. It contains everything that I ever achieved as a writer and there is nothing more uplifting that flicking through the Ego Scrapbook to look at my best work. Sure, you’re a writer. You remember everything you ever wrote, so why bother with a scrapbook? You bother because it is a record of who you are as a writer. A single session of flicking through that book is almost certainly guaranteed to revitalise your writing once more. And if the sight of your greatest exploits doesn’t, then it might be time to call it a day…

2. Try Something Different

It is infuriating how often I hear someone saying that they are suffering from writer’s block and yet they only ever attempt to write novels. Yes, fine, I get it. You are a novelist, or budding novelist, or novelist in waiting, or future Booker Prize Winner… I get it. But nowadays, it is very rare that you find someone who is just a novelist. Seriously, pick up a book and look at the author’s blurb page. For many of the most successful authors there are, you will find that their credits range from novels, to novellas, to short stories, to critical essays, to poetry, to non-fiction. And there is a very good reason for this.

As writers, we are incapable of writing solidly on one project, even if inspiration is guiding you through. A writer’s brain is something than needs to be cleansed with new ideas and projects and, whilst writing a novel is very commendable and brilliant, it is only one project. And it is one project that takes months and months to form. It is a very slow process… And as a result, novelists suffer horribly from writer’s block, even when their idea is fully formed. So, if you’re in that position, try something new. Write a sonnet. Or a piece of flash fiction. Or a letter to your local newspaper about an article you read. Give your brain a work-out every so often. I guarantee, it will make a difference.

3. Keep Going

Well…

Enough said….

Poetry Book Update: Nearly Half Way There

It has been a little while since I last updated how the Poetry Book was going for two main reasons:

First, I’m afraid work has rather overtaken my life in recent weeks (boo). As much as I would love to sit and have a good few days writing away to get it completed, it just hasn’t really been an option. Which leads me to…

Secondly, there really hasn’t been that much to report lately, particularly on the illustrations front. I started trying to draw an illustration for “Generally Speaking” a few weeks ago but found that I couldn’t find a suitable three hour gap that I could use to really do it justice.

However, progress has been made and I’m confidently working towards my Armistice Day deadline. I’m nearly half way there and, even if no one else wants to read my poetry, I’m glad that I’m writing it. I now find myself in the position of being able to write a poem about whatever seems to be on my mind, something I would never have dreamed of a few months ago. And it has helped my songwriting work as well. I am now more efficient than I have ever been.

It just goes to show, you should never fear the things you cannot do. For they may be the things that change your life…

Poems Written – 9/20

Illustrations Drawn – 3/20

Completed Poems with Illustrations – 0/20

Days Remaining – 56 Days

Another View

My Scottish friends, I ask of you, a moment of your time

not to argue or persuade

or tell you who is wrong and who is right,

for that is not my business.

Soon, the ballot papers of hopes and dreams,

ideals and what have beens,

will flutter through the sky,

flying towards the security of what is known

or flocking over the unknown horizon

to the promise of peace and

freedom.

My Scottish friends, I ask you not, to listen to this man’s opinion,

nor do I deny your claims

of depression and oppression

by the union created by the heirs of

Scottish Kings.

I’m sure your tales of oppression by

A united state

Are not without merit.

I’m sure the political prisoners of

Other Countries

have no patch on the terrible suffering

inflicted on you by those

you intend to break from.

How sadistic they were to give you the vote,

and freedom to work and play,

and live wherever you wish…

How terrible was the day when you

asked for referendums

and they granted it.

The oppression they wrought is the most cruel.

Oppression masquerading as freedom…

My Scottish friends, I do not wish to take away

the importance of such a historic day.

But if I could take

a moment

to point out

that your decision is about

more

than just independence.

On that fateful day,

you will decide

what it means to be British.

Will that include all the nations of these islands?

Or just some of them?

Will those of us left be able to hold our

heads up high

and be able to say in

proud voice

that we are part of a noble tradition

that predates the unions of

America and Europe.

Or will we have to skulk away

and say that no united mankind

is possible.

Peaceful union can never last.

“I am British.”

Without you the words seem

somewhat hollow.

So, my Scottish friends, I hope you will forgive

those times when the rest of us may

attempt

to stop your intent.

I hope you will forgive the anger we may have

if the idea of Britain is taken away

from the majority who have no say.

You see,

you have a choice to decide

what becomes of Britain.

You have the chance to determine

whether my cultural identity means

the same

in a few days time.

Whilst I do not.

And thus, my Scottish friends, remember,

that whilst you cry of oppression and cruelty,

of unfairness and disrespect,

spare a thought,

a moment, or brief sigh,

for those of us whose lives will

change

without the respect

or the fairness

to have our own say

about what it means

to be British

today.

Charge

Fingers squelch in the watery mud, as he struggles to wrench,

Bodies scramble up over the top to emerge from the trench.

Fearful screams are heard all around, sergeants order to fire.

Muscles tear and skin ripped apart as it snags on the wire.

Bullets wiz past and strike on the ground,

Artillery shells explode all around,

He coughs and he wheezes beginning to choke,

On air that is soon to be nothing but smoke.

Dodging shrapnel shards,

Only ten more yards,

Soon to flee from hell,

No more shot and shell.

Run hard.

Don’t Stop!

Soldiers stare from their taciturn ranks, as the prisoner stands tall,

Screaming loud that the general’s were wrong, he’d done nothing at all,

Firing squads stand ready to shoot, sergeants order to fire.

Morning Parade

“Squad, Attention!”

Neat little lines and yet something is not quite right.

“Now then, now then. That won’t do! I want tallest in the middle, everyone else spread out equally to the sides. GO!”

A flurry of commotion.

The white figures adorned in yellow scramble around, getting into position. The Colonel stands before them, examining each in turn. This time they’ve got it right.

“Right!” he says. “We’ve been selected for patrol. I daresay none of us will survive it! But that’s what you signed up for, right?”

“SIR, YES SIR!”

            “You there,” he gestures to the figure on his right. “You will go first! You’re the smallest!”

            “Sir, yes sir!”

            The Colonel smiles.

            “Well off you go then! And good luck!”

            The figure disappears off the end of the line. They listen as he marches out to the end of the circular parade ground and climbs up the tower at the end. A plop, a muffled scream and a crunch mark his passing.

            “Well then,” says the Colonel, devoid of any remorse. “Who’s next?”

 

            “Harry!”

            Mother was stood in the doorway of the kitchen, grasping hold of the heavy washing basket. Her stern eyes glared at me as I sat at the dinner table.

            “What have I told you about playing with your food?”

            I looked up from my toast soldiers. “Sorry, Mum!”

            I waited until she was completely gone around the corner before turning to the five remaining toast strips. I held up the eggcup threateningly at each one of them.

            “Well then. Who’s next?”