What Every Actor Should Know About Creating a Web Series:
How would you like to have complete control over your lines, your blocking, your wardrobe, your co-stars, and everything else you face when entering into a new acting project? With today’s technology, not only are all of these things possible, but the cost of doing so is lower than ever previously imagined. Now you can create and release a web series (or a web show or an online series) for very little money out-of-pocket using just a smartphone and some basic editing software. Though this isn’t generally considered the best way to make money, it can be a great way to gain experience and broaden your exposure. It’s also a good networking tool!
The first and most important task in creating a successful web series is getting your hands on a top-notch script. Whether you write it yourself or hire a writer, a good script is crucial. First, you need to decide what you want to say with this web series and how you want to say it. The most successful web projects have been fictional, and this is probably the best choice for an actor looking to demonstrate his or her acting abilities. Though one popular web series created by and starring Lisa Kudrow, called Web Therapy, began as a series of improvisations, this might be harder to master in the beginning—so scripted fiction might be the best route for those still starting out.
Another important factor in deciding what the web series will be about is the medium itself. Because this medium is still growing and is yet undefinable, there is a need for and an opportunity to create extremely unique, niche content. If the online audience wanted something typical, they would tune into prime time TV to find it. Instead, one of the main reasons people turn to the web for video content is to see something different and unique. They want to find content that is exclusive to the web. Similarly, people don’t expect Abrams-level production value on the web, so try to live within your means. YouTube isn’t Cannes, so don’t spend like it is. If you have a good story, people won’t care that you don’t have CGI. Limit your imagination to what’s feasible, and only include scenes that drive the plot forward. If you keep this in mind, all you’ll really need to get off the ground is a smartphone video-recorder and some basic software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.
Just as in any other movie, who you cast will inevitably have an effect on the outcome of the project. That’s why it’s important for you, the creator, to respect your cast and develop a plan with a quick turnaround time. A lot of actors are willing to work for free on these kinds of projects if they think they can get it produced relatively quickly and can add something to their reels. If you respect your actors, they’ll probably be willing to come back to work for you again in the future.
It’s a lot easier to respect your cast if you’re not tearing your hair out over technical problems or schedule conflicts, so remember to be organized. Have a plan, make a budget, and keep a schedule. If you’re the creator of a web series, everyone is going to be looking to you for direction, including your actors. If a bunch of people are contributing to your production for free, either out of the goodness of their hearts or to gain some experience, respect their contribution and try not to take advantage. If you say you’re going to begin filming at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, try not to go more than 10-15 minutes past that. Chances are the people you’re working with have jobs or outside commitments that require their time as well, so do everything in your power to properly manage time spent on-set and you’ll probably make your cast and crew much happier for it.
Next, you need to choose a platform like YouTube or Vimeo to host your web series. It’s probably best to choose one platform and stick with it versus trying to upload all these videos on a bunch of different platforms. Using one platform will give you better, more substantial data as to who is viewing your web series and how often. This information will become more valuable as your series gains traction, and it might be especially valuable to anyone looking to make money off your series in the future.
Lastly, it is important to market your web series where you think interested people can find it. Ask yourself: Who’s my audience? Be as specific as possible. If you were someone who wanted to watch your web series, where would you hang out online? Find out, and then go to them. Write a press release, make a website landing page for the project, pick up a domain name that is specific to your project, and dive into social media. Try not to overwhelm people with a lot of similar-sounding promotions. Be creative! Get people engaged by finding interesting ways to intersect your series with things that may already have grabbed their attention. For example, if there was a major news story involving a psychoanalyst, Lisa Kudrow could tie that into her Web Therapy promotion (if it’s appropriate). You might even consider reaching out to bloggers who are interested in your subject. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family, cast, and crew to help you promote this. Most of them would probably be happy to help!
When done right, a web series can be a great tool for actors to showcase their talents as well as make new connections in the industry. It could also be a good way to develop or expand upon a loyal fanbase, and it’s all relatively cheap and easy to produce. So, what’s stopping you from becoming the star of your very own series?