5 Tips For Creating Your Web Series

A web series is a great way to make a project for yourself without the time and expense of a full feature film. How do I know this? Because I made one.

A few years ago, my friends and I created a web series called Acting School Academy. The show was about an out-of-control acting teacher and his students. It was loosely based on our experiences learning the Meisner Technique.

Some highlights:

  • We got a couple million total views on Youtube.
  • We had positive reviews in the NY Times, USA Today, Current TV, and other media outlets.

 

We also had Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding on "Saved By The Bell". It was as awesome as it sounds.

We also had Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding on “Saved By The Bell”. Yep, I know you’re jealous.

Anyway, enough back-patting. Let’s get to these web series tips. And I should note that most of the tips are the OPPOSITE of what we did—experience is sometimes the best teacher. If I had to do it all over again, here’s what I’d do:

1. MAKE IT CHEAPLY

Unless you’re getting sponsored by a major studio or brand, there is NO MONEY in making a web series. So don’t sink a ton of money into your project expecting to turn a huge profit.

(Note: You CAN make a lot of money on Youtube, provided you get a ton of views. But if you look at the top independent Youtubers, most of them are making one-off comedy sketches or just playing video games.)

And there’s really no need to spend a lot of dough on a web series, anyway. DSLR cameras are fantastic these days (and comparatively cheap).

Ways to keep the project under budget—

  • Few locations. Preferably FREE locations.
  • Shooting outside, during daylight hours.
  • Few props, stunts, or special effects

Theoretically, you could borrow a camera, call in some favors, and make your show for absolutely nothing. If you have friends who are directors, editors, actors, and writers—they might be willing to work on a project for free if it doesn’t take much of their time and would make a good addition for their reel.

Where you DO need to spend money is sound. Unless you’re friends with a fantastic sound mixer, pony up the cash for a good sound person. You definitely want to get it recorded and mixed properly.

2. ONLY USE A FEW ACTORS

Here’s one we didn’t follow. In Acting School Academy, we had ELEVEN main characters, as well as a number of minor characters and extras. That’s a lot of people to feed.

In addition to the expense, it’s also a pain to schedule. We had some scenes where we needed to have a couple of dozen people at a location.

Instead, try shooting with a cast of 3-4 people. Or if you have more actors, only have 2-3 of them in a scene at any given time.

 

3. SHOOT QUICKLY, RELEASE SLOWLY

This is another rule that we definitely violated. In addition to the main eight episodes, we shot NEARLY A HUNDRED ancillary videos. Music videos, commercials, vlogs—it was crazy. We ended up shooting off-and-on for over a YEAR to get all of the videos done.

Plus, it was a nightmare for Ian (our director) to edit all of that footage.

To add to the fun, we were releasing videos every single day. This made it tough to establish a rhythm and get the word out.

If I had to do it all over again, it would be a MUCH simpler process. Have your 5-6 episodes shot over a few days and be done with it. Then you can release each episode once a week and build your audience.

4. STICK TO ONE OR TWO PLATFORMS

In addition to Youtube, we had our show on Funny or Die, Blip.TV, Koldcast TV, and a number of other sites. But the vast majority of views came from Youtube and Funny or Die.

5. BECOME A SAG-AFTRA NEW MEDIA SIGNATORY

When you have a multi-episode web series, you can make it a SAG-AFTRA project. That way, you’ll be able to get union actors for your project. And if you don’t already have your SAG-AFTRA card, it’s a great way to get one.