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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