Let’s start with the number-one reason NOT to make a web series: To get famous. In spite of the fact that it seems like everyone you meet has one, creating a web series as a way to get a TV deal is like inventing Facebook as a way to meet women.
I should know. I had the web-series maker’s dream experience with Like So Many Things, created with Anslem Richardson:
· We made a short that was a finalist for an IFC Redbull contest.
· To capitalize on this, we made another 6 episodes.
· IFC licensed the series and it premiered online and on their linear channel.
· The reviews were positive.
· IFC rebranded to focus on comedies for men age 18-35.
· No Season 2.
So why in the world would we raise more than $5,000 on Kickstarter to make a Season 2 to put up on our own? Because there are good reasons to make a web series.
1. Learn and Practice New Skills. Anslem and I started our series as a way for a group of actors, writers, and directors to help each other learn new skills. Season 2 was my turn to be showrunner, so I took the lead this time. I created the story arc, wrote the outlines, assigned and edited scripts, directed two episodes, shot one episode, and edited 6 out of 7. The technical skills I acquired were great, but the best lessons came from getting the project to the finish line -- the kind of thing you can’t learn in a classroom.
2. Learn to Be a Hard-Ass Producer. The first days of shooting had to be rescheduled when Hurricane Irene blew a tree through our country-house location. Everyone wanted to cancel. (And by “everyone,” I mean the four of us making this at the time – Anslem Richardson, Ben Insler, Greg Keller, and me.) But I had spent weeks figuring out the Venn diagram of scheduling and knew it was now or never. So I insisted we shoot in my neighborhood in Gowanus instead. If we got the footage “in the can,” I could deal with the rest in post.
3. Learn to Let Go of Your Precious Writing Ideas. I had set the entirety of Season 2 in a truck. Partly because I had a truck, but mostly because I had a lot of writer-y ideas about a road trip story. Any experienced producer will tell you driving scenes are not only costly and difficult to shoot, but they are boring to watch. Unfortunately, I was the producer. A good percentage of our budget went to buying a camera rig for the truck. We hadn’t tested it until our first day of shooting.
So there was a lot of stress as Ben (serving as director, DP, and sound man) figured out how to rig the camera and then direct and record the scenes scrunched in the back seat with our friend Kia Barbee as PA. Also, I am not the world’s best driver, and I had to act and drive with a camera attached to the truck, having a panic attack every time a cop car drove by. Day One of shooting was written off to “practice.” We eventually got it. But after that, the Producer convinced the Writer of the wisdom of rewriting some episodes to NOT take place in the truck.
4. Revel in the Creative Control. Two years and ten months after those truck-driving scenes, I hit “publish” and launched Like So Many Things Season 2. Pushing through to finish the series not only made us proud, but was a satisfying commitment to our Kickstarter supporters – proof that we were worth the investment. Making your own web series, there are no outside producers telling you what to do. So enjoy being the auteur. This is your time to make every single decision and learn from the ones that work and the ones that fail. Enjoy it, because now that you’ve made a web series, you’ll be famous soon and there will be a slew of people weighing in on your TV show.
Watch the entire series here.
Marin Gazzaniga (@mgazz) is a writer for page, stage and screens and producer-director for digital. Most recently she was co-head writer for the Hulu version of One Life to Live.