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Web Series: Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Starting

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I get many many emails every week about people who are wanting to make web series. They want advice, which I would love to give, but there’s no way that I can address everyone individually or I’d have no time to keep up with my own obligations. So I’m going to post an occasional blog on the topic, because it’s important to me to help people make their stories.

First Post: Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Making a Web Series

1. How is My Project Unique to the Web?

Web series are all the rage lately, and yet, ironically, many Web Video production companies have shut down in the past 6 months. Why? I think one of the reasons, besides money, is that they were trying to make TV shows on the web. Their shows can’t get traction because the Web needs a different kind of storytelling.

Every time I see a web series about some funny, attractive white people, or a slick glossy man-spy-caper, I roll my eyes. Why? I’ve seen that on TV. Or in movies. With bigger budgets, and bigger stars. The web should be the place to tell stories and present characters that haven’t been seen; to cast actors in roles that would never get hired by a network. “Dr. Horrible” engaged it’s audience in an revolutionary way. Why? Because no studio executive would have greenlit a 45 minute musical-comedy about a supervillan. No one. And that’s why people clicked. And purchased. Because they’re craving originality and waiting for you to give it to them.

And the uniqueness doesn’t have to be with story or character. There is no rule as far as length or format. There is an amazing freedom on the web, why not create something that is non-traditional? Non-linear plot, audience input? Anything you can think of, try it out. Break the idea of traditional narrative and at least you have something new to present your audience. And you might invent a whole new genre of storytelling.

2. How is My Web Series Unique to ME?

Those great words of advice “write what you know” have never been truer than on the web. If you worked for a mortician in high school, or were a gymnastics prodigy, please write about that. Don’t think along the traditional lines of what Hollywood will buy and what they force us to consume. Not everyone lives in New York City and is an ad executive with perfect outfits and $2000 hair extensions. Humanity is so much richer than it is portrayed in mainstream media, and the web is the place to tell those stories. Because no matter what the subject, on the internet THE AUDIENCE IS THERE.

3. Who is My Audience and How Will I Reach Them?

I think a key to web series, that builds upon points #1 and #2, is that trying to please everyone will never work on the web. The Guild is popular because we started in a niche and grew out from there. The internet isn’t TV: It’s 20 million channels rather than 200. If you can’t sit down and easily identify what kind of person will like your show and name 5 places that person might go to on the internet, you will have a hard time getting the word out, no matter how good it is.

Of course, getting the word out is one of the biggest challenges in web video. The traditional way to market a product is to think, “How can I force someone to buy/watch/purchase this?” Personally, I think the opposite works better, especially on the internet. When I wanted to get the word out about The Guild, I thought like an audience member. “If I were someone who would like this show, where would I be on the web? What would I need in a web site? What would encourage me to link it to my friends?” I wanted to make it easy for a fan to enjoy my show and remember to come back for more. At their convenience. What do you hate as a fan and an audience member? Do the opposite. I bet it will work.

4. Do I Know What I’m Getting Into?

Name five web series off the top of your head. Chances are those people aren’t making a living off their series, and if they are, it’s not much. Personal experience talking here. :) Best advice I can give you, is to assume that your web project is a labor of love and your expectations will always be exceeded.

I don’t mean to be discouraging, but web video is a beast unto itself. Unlike TV you don’t get a hiatus. Web show exists 24/7 on the web and, as such, requires that much time to maintain. You will have to learn many MANY different skill sets, because there is no money to hire out the things you don’t know how to do. Along with Final Cut, Photoshop, After Effects, Excel, Powerpoint, WordPress, HTML, Garage Band, Music Editing and Composition, Production Design, etc etc I can come up with about 50 more skills that I know PASSABLY well, because at the end of the day someone had to do it. And it fell to me or my co-producer Kim Evey to get it done. (Hint: Video tutorials helped the most.) :)

Web video is still in it’s baby stages, and the big crossover that everyone is waiting for has yet to happen. Yes, it could be you. But at the same time, there is a good chance that very few people could see your video. You have to trust that that’s ok, because the confidence you get from making your own product is the most rewarding thing you can imagine. It helps you define who you are, who you want to be, and where you want to go. The internet is the Sundance of our time. Take advantage of it and don’t wait for permission to make your art.

  • http://www.leri.com.ar Leri

    Great post! Thanks so much for this, although I wasn’t one of the people asking you, I’ve been wanting to make a web series for quite some time and this post really helps. Thanks again =)

  • http://www.csdaley.com Christopher

    I appreciate all the hard work you put into the guild. My wife and I look forward to a guild season more than anything else on TV. While I have no aspirations to create a web series of my own this was a great look at what you might be in for.

    I once thought about recording my classroom and putting it up on the web but I was sure people would watch it and say, “Man this awful. Who writes this garbage.”

    Keep up the great work (no pressure there)!

  • http://newsphotojournalist.wordpress.com Spencer

    I accidently posted a response to this on the previous topic on Season 3 but I did like the advice you gave! I have been doing a vlog and though it does not aspire to be a web series I found your incites helpful. Keep up the great work!

  • http://www.danifigueiredo.shutterfly.com/ Dani

    You forgot number 5…

    #5. Cast Felicia Day.

    =D

    Great post!
    Not that I’ll ever do a webseries, but interesting post. It’s great that you’re always trying to help other people to succeed. =)

  • http://oscarrivas.com Oscar

    Great advice Felicia, thank you. It’s definitely a challenge to start a web project as a labor of love, while trying to keep a day job. I’m just happy to see that it can be done and you are a great example.

  • http://everydaygoddess.typepad.com lizriz

    Amen! Excellent points, especially #1. It’s a brave new world (I like this web! It’s exciting!) and the best web series, I think, strive to create something innovative in the space in voices we are dying to hear from because we can’t find them anywhere else.

    Congrats on Season 3 of The Guild; I can’t wait!

  • http://www.csdaley.com Christopher

    My 4 questions:

    1) Are you insane
    2) Are you fabulously wealthy and looking for a way to spend your money
    3) Do you require normal sleep patterns in order to function properly
    4) see 1

  • http://myspace.com/marshall_banana Craigination

    This is such a fortunate coincidence! Today I was just talking to my brother about the web series we’re developing (I’d love to give you the specifics, but not on the comment section of your blog, where everyone can read… and judge), and we both love The Guild, so I was telling him, “I follow Felicia Day on Twitter – she’s a smart cookie. I bet she’d have lots of really insightful advice about this kind of stuff.” Next thing I know, wiz-bang, you post a blog about developing your own web series:) Thanks Felicia – keep up the good work! I’d love to run the idea we’re working on by you, but I realize you probably get tons of email like that (hence this blog entry), so I’ll save myself the trouble, shoot the damn thing, and have you watch it hopefully!

  • http://www.caseymckinnon.com Casey McKinnon

    Number 2 is smart… expect a web series from me soon about underlings working at the UN and how shitty they get treated by the diplomats :P Hmm… I really should write that…

    • Kathryn

      You really should…I would watch it, and I have friends in Model UN who could probably benefit from it as well.

  • http://scottyblog.blip.tv Scotty

    What’s that they say? The funny thing about common sense is that it isn’t common? This is great advice. Thanks for putting it out there.

  • http://twitter.com/kingleonard Leonard

    >the big crossover that everyone is waiting for has yet to happen.

    What do you consider the big crossover to be? I’m assuming TV, but is there really a need? Or are you referring to the people involved being asked to stop making their low-budget, “labour of love” in favour of the high budget TV series from fawning producers enamoured by “this web thingy”?

    I sometimes feel like this area isn’t making content for itself, but as an avenue for producers towards being “accepted by the big kids”.

    • http://revolvingdoorcommune.wordpress.com Teresa Jusino

      Not that I want to put words in Felicia’s mouth, but I think what she meant by the big crossover not happening yet is that we haven’t yet had the web series that makes web series THE THING. Exactly what you said about this medium making content for itself. We haven’t yet had the web series that has become SO successful that it becomes a viable platform in its own right, able to compete with, or even eliminate (???) network TV.

      But I think we will. Dr. Horrible and The Guild have set the bar REALLY high, and both have encouraged people who might have never thought they could have a chance to have their stories told.

      I’m working on a web series now to enter into a contest, but whether it wins or not, I’m going to figure out how to sustain it and DO IT. Because whether it makes millions or not, it’s something that will get my story and the work of my talented friends out into the world. I could work my day job the rest of my life, and it would be OK, as long as I can get my stories out there SOMEHOW. :)

  • http://www.johnnyhugel.com Johnny Hugel

    Thanks for the wake up call, Felicia. It’s always helpful to get a dose of reality, even if it’s not what we want.

  • http://robertnbowen.blip.tv Robert N Bowen

    Thanks so much for this. I have to say that you have been an inspiration to me. Not the “all famous and with money” but the ” people really do this? Yeah, and it works.” You’ve confirmed things that I was starting to suspect, and also helped with some questions that I’d had. If I were to ask for a little more specific or elaborate information, it would be on marketing. My show will always be free online, so I’d like to find cheap (extremely cheap, or free) ways to get people to my site (and I don’t know what bothers me about ads right now, accept they assume their target audience is incompetent).

    How on earth did I write more than 140 characters? I think something’s wrong with your website…

  • http://neighborhoodwatchwebseries.blogspot.com/ Anthony DeLosa

    This is the most accurate article I’ve seen on the subject. Unless you have a generous benefactor, I would add have someone on your team who knows how to beg, borrow, haggle, defer and barter!

  • Riceballz

    This is why I love u…Marry me Felicia!!!11!!!!!11!!!!!!1!1!one!11!

    …maybe that’s moving too fast…nvm. :P

  • http://rorysfirstkiss.tv Sean Duran

    Thank you, Felicia.

    Web Series’ have a long way to go, but you definitely “get it”.

    I’m working on a series called “Rory’s First Kiss” (which was the working title for The Dark Knight).

    I’m doing my best to make it into something that will work on the net, and you’re definitely a huge help and inspiration.

  • http://icontroltheuniverse.org The Masked Roger

    To promote my web videos, I’ve started randomly insulting people. I also threaten to strangle cats. So far it’s working well. That’s what I call creative marketing!

    • Kathryn

      Please, give more detail. Who exactly did you insult, in what matter, and how did it get people to watch your show? Please, don’t say “I don’t discuss my process.” *starts taking notes*

  • http://epicfu.com Steve Woolf

    I love this post. Bravo. :)

  • http://www.ef-ent.com Brent Friedman

    Great points, Felicia. Thanks for sharing your hard-won experience. Not surprisingly, there is a lotta overlap with my own blog on this topic at http://www.ef-ent.com/blog/ What I learned producing AFTERWORLD and GEMINI DIVISION could fill a NYC phonebook. And I still feel like I know nothing, along with everyone else.

  • http://pcbritz.wordpress.com pc britz

    Great post! I like #3 especially. Never thought about where the audience would be on the web!

    I also very much like #1! I have some crazy ideas and people around me that nobody would ever bring out. They only end up in print, because we happen to have the facilities ourselves, but thus only reach a limited number of people. The ideas would well translate to the online sphere and even video though, so I think I’ll give that project a try.

    Try something new and weird and have the courage to bring it to a (your) large audience is what I’m taking from this article!

  • http://dailyrj.blogspot.com Robert-Jon

    Very valuable, thanks a lot!

  • James

    Sound advice, thx. :)

  • http://www.drawnbypain.com Jesse Cowell

    Agreed with all of the above. On the web – ya just gotta be you. If success is to come, it will by the heart and passion you put into it and certainly not by the expectations of others.

    Was great meeting ya at the Streamys.

    -Jes

  • http://twittervlog.tv Rupert

    Good thoughts – but I wonder how long this situation will last. Unfortunately or fortunately – depending on how you look at it – web tv will look just like TV, in time. When the crossover happens, people will still want to watch the same stuff they watch now (pretending they’re ad execs and have $2000 hair extensions). There’ll also be room for alternative/independent content in a way that there isn’t on TV now. But the big corps will lock up the content portals. When we get TVs that connect online and have funky remotes, the interfaces will be designed by Sony, Google/YouTube, Microsoft, etc – and they’ll be pushing only mainstream entertainment.
    So in addition to what you recommend here, I’d say to anyone who has a really great story they love that would work well on TV but has interactive or other elements that would work well online: wait a while. Then you can be first out of the traps when the crossover comes.

  • http://www.nytvf.com Ned Canty

    Excellent article, Felicia, and wonderful advice for all the artists flinging themselves into the brave new world. In 5 years of helping run the New York Television Festival I’ve seen a staggering number of talented storytellers looking for a way to pay their rent by doing what they love. The only real downside of my job is knowing that there will always be more talented people and great pilots than the festival can showcase. Almost as bad is seeing so many smart, talented people make exactly the mistakes you are warning against here.

    I think it is incredible that you are providing your insights with such generosity and clarity. As one of the pioneers in the artform, it only makes sense, but not everyone would step up to the plate. Brava.

    Ned Canty
    Festival Director
    New York Television Festival

  • http://emanagr.com John

    It’s worth mentioning that this is excellent advice for any sort of venture, not just entertainment–especially the last!

    The first, I think, is also noteworthy, but not just for the web. Every medium has its own feel, and adapting to what you have (rather than what you might want) is a big benefit to consumers like myself.

    Oh, and I’m throwing in a vote for Casey’s UN show.

  • http://www.itstoddsshow.com Todd

    Nice! I’m working on my own web only show at this point, and this is totally great advice. Don’t have to completely go back to the drawing board, but this should give some good tweaks. Totally appreciated!

  • http://www.zerkslog.com Steve Lettieri

    Where was this post 6 months ago?! ;) Definitely some sage advice in that post. Gives us some things to think about as we ramp up for Season 2 of Zerks Log and the other series we’re developing. All great questions that require answers. Thanks for articulating them Felicia.

  • Deepa

    Thanks for your generosity and thoughtfulness in posting these tips. I’ve been enjoying your tweets (still sounds naughty), and I’m making my way through The Guild, finally – looking forward to the rest. Noticing a lot of male posters over here. Lucky girl.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/SpatterTelevision Kelly Parks

    First the tube top advice and now this. Thanks again, Felicia!

    We shot the third episode of The Crusader last week and will shoot #4 soon.

    • http://www.feliciaday.com Felicia

      Congrats Kelly! I really liked the first two eps, looking forward to seeing it!

  • http://www.tailslating.com Andy Park

    Felicia, fantastic post! Thanks for your great insights.
    To build on your points above, I think there’s also the “experience” aspect that a filmmaker gains by doing a webseries (i.e., What do I personally gain if nobody watches my series?).

    When we filmed ours (the Hayley Project), we did it for the love of the story. But on top of that, we learned a TON about web video, including how to interact with an audience, incorporating feedback from viewers, and how to distribute. Point being, producing a webseries is like bootcamp for run ‘n gun filmmakers. And unlike traditional channels, we got instant feedback on the web (a mass focus group if you will). For us, that experience and education gained from starting a webseries was invaluable and will go along way in the future.

    • http://feliciaday.com felicia

      Thanks for the comment Andy! I love refuting the Hollywood idea that something only counts if THEY validate it. Experience in life and in your work is more important than outside validation, much more to learn from.

  • Particleman

    Having only about 10 hours behind a camera I have read a ton of books on the “how’s” of filmmaking. Far too many rules on what you should never do…

    As a noob I only have three personal rules:
    - Be free to break “the rules”. They aren’t _your_ rules.
    - Embrace the mistakes you make. You’ll make a lot of them and sometimes you get better results because they happened.
    - Enjoy the experience and the people you meet. There are no guarantees on the end result, but you’ll always have stories to share among friends.

    As a control freak I struggle with the second point, but finding a 10 second gem out of a sea of graininess and camera-jitter is just like hitting one pure golf shot of the round. I will never play in the Masters, but it keeps me coming back to the course.

    Thanks for the inspiration and the advice!

    And did I hear correctly while brushing my teeth that you’ll be on Attack of the Show this Monday? Hope it’s true…

    • http://emanagr.com John

      Rules really are meant to be broken, but I’d recommend (again, in any field) that you understand the rules first and have a reason for breaking them. Don’t just break them because they’re rules. Otherwise, it’s going to come off as incompetence or obnoxiousness.

      Think of it like driving. If I run a red light, it’s because I’m stupid or absurdly rebellious. If I’m doing it in an emergency and do everything as safely as possible (because I know why I’m not supposed to do it), then nobody’s going to argue.

      • Particleman

        Agreed. There needs to be a certain level of common sense and there is a difference between experimenting and being reckless.

        I think we are on the same page — all I was trying to say is that following rules blindly from a book can be counterproductive. If you are willing to openly experiment, you may find that the rules apply…or maybe they don’t. Either way you learn something.

        Maybe I’m warped but I find the mistakes more interesting than the footage that turns out as planned — so perhaps any comments I make should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • http://worldofhiglet.blogspot.com/ worldofhiglet

    That’s a really good way to look at starting any project – these are the vital questions you need to ask. As always, great advice, Felicia.

  • http://3donthewebcheap.blogspot.com len

    “Best advice I can give you, is to assume that your web project is a labor of love and your expectations will always be exceeded.”

    This reminds me a bit of the advice the Captain gives at the end of Serendipity when he tells his new co-pilot that only love will keep a ship in the air when by all rights it ought to have crashed.

    As I continue to sample out of my 3D work into video and post those to You Tube, watching the Insight statistics is illuminating as far as seeing where the audience for it is and how as they come for those pieces, they are downloading others and then spreading those. As the body of work builds, the audience shapes. I don’t expect big success. I want to keep doing it and improving it. At my age, I can look back a pretty good library of work and it very satisfying.

    I like the advice about not needing to be validated by Hollywood (a similar effect for Silly Valley BTW). If we let the money people decide, nothing of folk art ever thrives. It happens in the music business too. As to all of the skills one has to acquire, that is where they like to pin the criticism. “Well, your heart is in the right place but you video editing is lacking….”, “Great melody, but wouldn’t it be better if a woman sings it and is black,”, “Too orchestrated. Strip it down to guitar and voice and wouldn’t it be better if we bring in a kid to sing it, I’ve got this great client….”. But acquiring the skills and reblending them into ever better work is the fun. “Fortune and men’s eyes…”

    And so it goes. Blow them off and hoe to the end of the row cause that’s how vegetables grow. Excellent article.

    You’re one of the the good guys. May that always be so.

  • soph

    Thank you for your thoughts….really enjoyed it…I’m doing that with a feature..there are no rules….good fortune to you…

  • http://www.youtube.com/fatalpolitics Pointy

    If I may paraphrase:
    1. To thine own self be true.
    2. To thine own theme be true.
    3. To thine own medium be true.
    4. To thine own viewer be true.

    Keep up the good role modeling for my second season of Fatal Politics.

  • dana!

    is it a nerd badge-of-honor to comment on your grammatical errors?
    just a douchey thing to do?
    okay then.
    possessive of it = its

  • james_riley

    care to attend pitchforkfest with me this july? Beirut, Grizzly Bear, The Flaming Lips, etc are playing. Let me know.

    Yes this will be a date.
    ;)

  • http://maxqnzs.com/References.html Max

    Sadly, it seems that the Web is still not as “worldwide” as the name suggests. Up here in Aotearoa we were held back from watching The Guild Season 2 for quite some time, and because Dr Horrible is on Hulu, we still can’t watch it streamed. Perhaps that relates to your point No 3. Mainstream media and Web media in the US do seem firmly in synch on their “screw you” attitude to users outside the Benighted States. It is a pity, given that the majority of Web users are now resident in other countries.

    • http://emanagr.com John

      Actually, as I understand it, it has nothing to do with how much the companies care (or fail to care) about your country. It’s a matter of distribution rights. Generally speaking, you pay a fee for every place you want to access with somebody else’s product, so obviously Hulu isn’t going to pony up the licensing fee for distribution in Liliput unless they know there’s an audience and they have sponsors lined up to run commercials.

      They may also need legal representation in the target country, to make sure that the rights line up, they’ve cleared any censorship hurdles, and so on, but I know far less about that end of the business.

      It’s the same reason that I (living in New York) can’t get my hands on something like a Flying Pigeon bicycle without an enormous markup.

      That all said, have you tried accessing through a US-based proxy?

      • http://maxqnzs.com/References.html Max

        That all said, have you tried accessing through a US-based proxy?

        That’s my next step. It’s a last resort because I’ve always found doing so creates more lag issues that are particularly problematic when trying to view content online. It’s obvious that I have no choice now, though.

        • http://www.feliciaday.com Felicia

          So sorry you had problems accessing the show, could you not watch it through our website http://www.watchtheguild.com? I didn’t think that was region restricted. (of course, right now the player isn’t working right, so you can’t test it, haha)

        • http://maxqnzs.com/References.html Max

          Thanks for your concern. I was able to watch the entire series on Sunday night. When series 2 first aired via MSN it was blocked to NZ viewers for at least the first month or two after release, so I gave up. Then when I stumbled across your Twitter page, I checked out the watchtheguild page and all was well. So well that I am going to buy Seasons 1&2 to say thanks. As well as buying Dr Horrible, of course.

        • http://emanagr.com John

          Max, I don’t know if you’re still reading here, but I asked around and the consensus is “Tor and Vidalia,” with something called “FreeCap” to manage the traffic for you.

          I only have the vaguest idea of what all that means, however, beyond “install software and hope it works.”

  • http://3fatguys.info Tony Helms

    Excellent advice. Really helps me out for my webshow. Thanks, Felicia.

  • http://billcammack.com Bill Cammack

    Excellent points, Felicia. :)

    Another important consideration is whether or not your show is SUSTAINABLE.

    You mentioned how you don’t get a break on the net and you have to have episodes consistently. It’s one thing to have the ABILITY to output weekly shows, and it’s another to have the CONTENT to output in the first place.

    If you make a show about cars, for instance, plan ahead and make sure you can do 52 EPISODES about cars this year and another 52 episodes next year….

  • http://www.yahoo.com Ben

    I caught about 30 seconds of the movie Mean Girls last week and reading these comments made me think of that movie snippet. It was the scene were someone cut the breasts off Regina’s shirt but she wore it anyway and the rest of the student body cut their own shirts to be like the popular girl.

    With all of these webshows popping up, it seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to make their own shows…and I think its great! It’s a creative outlet and when people focus their energy on something positive, ANYTHING POSITIVE, I believe there are always good things that follow. Just putting all that positive energy out there has to have an impact on people and they may not even be aware of it.

    It’s so easy to just flop down on the couch and turn on the television instead of working on something that requires planning and vision. And not to get all cheesy but lets not forget what Maude said, “”. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room…”

  • http://twitter.com/geophro Geoff

    Thanks Felicia for this inspirational post. It’s great to see that you’re so true to your work and are happy to give out such valuable advice. THE GUILD FTW! :)

  • Jon

    I lol’ed when I saw your list of programs. I definitely thought I heard Garageband loops in the fight music for the very first episode when everyone was dying.

  • Jon

    Also have you ever considered applying some of your time into playing the violin for some of the music in season III? I think it would be really neat to incorporate that into the show. Just a thought I had :)

  • http://www.curtinparloe.co.uk Curtinparloe

    Nice article, Felicia.
    I’d add one thing, though.

    5. What do I have to work with and how can I make the most of it?
    Could be 4a, really, as it’s something of a sub-point, but it’s pretty important. For example, you can shoot on anything from a top of the range camera down to a camera phone, but they’ll look a little different! As such, the style you use should reflect that. The cast, crew and equipment available will dictate an awful lot, but you can still tell any story, and different constraints can become a major selling feature.

    By the way, I finally watched Dr. Horrible today. Good job! Unfortunately, I got something in my eye right near the end…

  • Bowen

    Keep up the great work, I belive you will be nice in doing anything as you have your own characteristic view of something.

  • Kelly

    I do wish that Web shows would not waste time on “what happened in the last episode” clips, especially since shows are so short to begin with. I find that I either watch a bunch of the episodes back to back, so I don’t need the recaps. Or I watch the last episode again before watching the new episode, so again, I don’t need the recap. I think the recapping will be especially annoying when it is on DVD where you are likely to watch the whole thing at once. Am I alone in this?

  • http://worldofhiglet.blogspot.com/ worldofhiglet

    I love the fact you’ve now put a snippet from your blog on the front/landing page – great idea! *runs off to steal it…* :)

  • http://www.PurseDogTV.com SPwrite

    “The internet is the Sundance of our time. Take advantage of it and don’t wait for permission to make your art.”

    Love that!

    Thank you for a big helping of inspiration topped off with a sprinkling of “Hell, yes!”

  • http://semiprosaic.blogspot.com Kristiana

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It answered questions that I as a writer have had about Web series, but I didn’t know who to ask. I think we’re all still all in a process of discovering what will and won’t work with Web series, and this post is a helpful step on that journey.

    I really appreciate that you’re sharing what you’ve learned from your own firsthand experience. I look forward to future posts on the topic.

  • http://www.dumbascii.com DumbAscii Files

    Great post! Your point in #4 about all the different skillsets is SO dead on! It can be fun learning new skills and tools, but not when you’re up against a deadline! Unless you can finagle people into helping you, you’re going to be the chief cook & bottle washer for a long time!

  • Angela T.

    Great post. I think Point #4 is great for expanding skills and creating portfolios and samples of work for those who are less well-known. I think another valid point for the production of web series is self-promotion and self-marketing. That sounds horrid, but frankly (no offense) I’d never heard of Felicia Day before Dr. Horrible came out. I missed the Buffy train and Dr. Horrible was a rallying point for post-Firefly fans going through new Whedon material withdrawal (I know, it’s really a horrible addiction).

    According to the news, there are already a lot of people out there trying to get famous or create their own personal brands via the internet. The real missing link from web series is marketing to the niche in the potential audience. I’m guessing there’s not necessarily a lot of data that can be collected from the watchers of “The Guild”, unless you start holding viewings and handing out surveys (or perhaps an online version of that). Based on the content, however, you could probably just target players of mass online role-playing games under the assumption that a comedy series about RPG players would have heavy overlap. But I don’t think that’s the kind of general assumption that could work with all other people who are attempting to create high-quality, viral web series.

  • Camilla Bryner

    I put considerable time into pre-production of a webtv show a few years ago, then gave it up because of time and budget issues. It always remained in the back of my mind, and then I watched the Guild. I am completely inspired again, and set on getting this thing done. Thank you for the advice and inspiration!

  • http://www.normallythisweird.com Stacy Layton

    Thank you so much, Felicia! It was awesome to meet you at Dragon*Con. I almost fainted when you held up the t-shirt I made for you, and told people to visit our website. I cannot even tell you how much I appreciate that! I’ve been sending everyone I know to watch The Guild, but to have that returned was an incredibly sweet gesture, and made my entire year. (Around 60 people from Atlanta watched our trailer right after your Q&A, and I’ve been getting great feedback on Facebook.)

    In October, we’ll be holding a contest with around $500 in prizes, to announce our pilot episode.

    I don’t know if you ever read this, but if you do… is it possible to enter episodes of a web series into film festivals? We had the honor of our short “Until the End of Everything” being call this year’s Signature Film at Dragon*Con, and I hope to continue going to conventions. Thanks again!

  • http://www.bobbydp.com Bobby

    I blasted through your first season with a friend tonight and am a new viewer to your show! We all thought it was hilarious (being gamers/filmmakers ourselves.) I wanted to know who the wizard behind the curtain was, came across your website and this blog post and it inspired me to share, and maybe, make you a deal -

    http://www.watchmountainman.com/

    Watch our web show and I’ll keep watching yours? (I’ll keep watching anyway lol) You really nailed it with your advice up top and I wanted to tell you how much I agreed.

    We’re still in our first season. I was the cinematographer on the series and we still have a few to release in the coming month. Let me know what you think!

  • http://www.zomblogalypse.com Miles

    Great post Felicia, you’ve been an inspiration to us while doing our web series Zomblogalypse (it’s a blog set during a zombie apocalypse, folks).

    We’ve leaned heavily on our own love of doing it, because it is tiring and hard work but soooo much fun, and now hundreds of other people seem to think so.

    Keep going, keep going, keep going would be my advice. And make something you’re crazy about :-D

  • http://www.feliciaday.com Felicia

    Awesome, please link me in a comment when you finally get it posted, love to see it! :)

  • http://www.zomblogalypse.com Miles

    Well our show’s actually been going a year now!

    Episodes 1-11 are at http://www.zomblogalypse.com and the finale will screen on Hallowe’en! Do hope you enjoy, I’d love to know what you think of it because we adore making it.

    Btw I finally got around to watching your episode of Dollhouse for the first time today, so awesome. All the best :-D

  • http://www.allwebusa.com Yuri Suarez

    Thank you Felicia for share this great advice. I think that everybody can do a great web series, just need take time and dream. Time to do the things well and dream to make the series special.

    Good luck everybody.

  • http://www.photoplayerhater.com/ Ashlley Elias

    It’s nice when people achieve a level of success they don’t build a fortress in a futile attempt to keep all the secrets to themselves but rather share and try to help others get a piece of the rock.

    Felicia Day is my hero… plain old hero, not heroine. The one out of both male and females that I look up to most. At least for now. We’ll see how it goes from there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1456512388 Adam

    wow. i loved this. informative and inspiring. two qualities very necessary in this business. :)

  • http://www.thomasabouksale.com/ thomas sabo uk

    you are good. you have done a good job. although not in details, i could catch the brief content. thanks for your effort.

  • Dahlia

    The L.A. Web Series 2011 is coming March 25-27, so please check it out; there will be panels, workshops and screenings: http://www.lawebfest.com

  • http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/crw/archives/07-08-champions.cfm Patrick Stox

    Your blog is being abused by spam…

  • http://www.outwithdad.com Jason Leaver

    Ms. Day,
    I read this article many moons ago, back when my web series was just an idea. You helped me, encouraged me and inspired me. You’ve pretty much laid out what’s key to a successful web series. Now, nearly two years later, I’m gearing up for production of Out With Dad’s second season.
    Thank you so much.

    To everyone else who’s had a dream of something you’d like to produce: you can do it.

    Jason Leaver
    creator of Out With Dad

  • http://zacuto.com Steve Weiss

    Felicia,
    I have been making web series since 2008 (FilmFellas, Critics, The Great Camera Shootout) and the key to me is monitization. That ugly thing that nobody wants to talk about. The film business is a business and needs to be looked at as such. I agree with you if you make a web series without a monitization plan it will eventually die when you run out of money or you get your mortgage bill and then it’s over. The reason our web series work for Zacuto is that we bring targeted people to our website for true and honest content that interests them and then we sell them our products. Some buy and some don’t but that’s expected. We never mention our brand or even talk about it in any of our webisodes because I feel that your content then becomes an ad and people are savvy to that. You have to give them something real and true. What people need to realize is that in order to have a successful web series you need a monitzation plan. I have stated this in my FilmFellas show and talked about this for years.

    What disturbs me more then anything is when I see websites with tons of views and then they don’t have anything to sell the people. When a lot of people get together at one place, I call it a gathering space. You gather people to a mall and you sell them stuff. In old days you gathered people to the town square and you sell them stuff. You gather people to your website and then you need to sell them stuff. This concept is as old as time and it never changes no matter what medium you are using.

    I think that young filmmakers need to go to General Motors or the Gap and tell them that they need to have a show that can compete with television or at least be good enough to keep an audience coming back for more every two weeks. Have them take some of their enormous ad budgets and put a tiny portion of it aside to finance this new show of theirs. Then when they run ads on television, reference their own show on their own website to drive people their to watch it. Really when you think about it, what is the reason I should go to the Gaps website every two weeks, assuming I even liked what they have to sell… no reason. What would it be worth to the Gap to have a massive audience coming to their site on a regular basis. Then they have the opportunity to sell them their shit.

    You either have an ad based model or a sell shit based model or a combo. It’s going to happen sooner or later big businesses will have web shows that can compete with TV on their own website. It’s kind of the reverse of TV. Who would have thought 4 years ago that little AMC network could have launched a original show like MadMen and now drive huge audiences to their re-run network. Would you rather have people watch your ad on TV and hope they go to your website or would you rather have people watch a show on your website and while they are there you have the opportunity to sell them shit? It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be a tough sell job to a major manufacturer.

    Monitization is always the key.

    Steve Weiss
    Zacuto

  • http://www.myghostsisterandme.net Jay aka Love4musicuk

    Thanks Felicia, everything mentioned is spot and and I found it helpful. I have a web series called My Ghost Sister & Me (http://www.myghstsisterandme.net) and it has become quite a hit thanks to YouTube. Here’s a little about it:
    The story of My Ghost Sister & Me follows a 13 year old girl named Rosie Jenkins who has always felt something was missing from her life…and one day she found out exactly what that ‘something’ was – her Sister. Rosie discovered she has a sister, a sister who was unlike any other: a Sister who is a Ghost.

    Right now it’s in it’s second season and I’ve also made DVD’s for season one which are on sale, and surprisingly people want to buy them!
    My web series has a very special meaning to me as like you say “write what you know” and I have done just that. My brother died in 2005, and the writing comes from what I’ve experienced and seen from those around me, of course there’s a little imagination thrown in for entertainment purposes, but so far the story arcs are based off my own life

    Please check it out if anyone is reading this and are interested. Technically the first season wasn’t as good as I can do now, and therefor season 2 has improved lots, but that is to be expected for a first timer…however I’ve had no complaints from the viewers :)

    Thanks for reading,
    Jay
    -x-
    http://www.myghostsisterandme.net
    http://www.youtube.com/love4musicuk (were episodes are first uploaded)
    http://www.youtube.com/heathenlyproductions
    http://www.youtube.com/myghostsisterandme

  • Mark

    Hey I’m watching a web series right now that just premiered in Los Angeles. It’s called “confessions of a nice guy” and it just premiered last week and a new episode just came out today. The guy who created is a recent graduate of UCLA. The topic of the web series is so meaningful to me. I Just read your article and I really feel like t meets those requirements you put forth. It’s tag line is “the nice guy- redefined” It’s a beautiful concept because in LA where it’s based so much of the time nice guys are just considered unattractive and weak. It’s a kind of revolutionary idea for the city of LA. But I have faith in it that I think it’ll be big.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/Confessionsofthenice

  • http://clutchtheseries.com Jonathan

    Felicia, you’re amazing. Thankyou for this. While there are elements here that I’m fully doing, I can certainly learn from these thoughts and shape the rest of my series with them in mind. You continue to be an inspiration.

    • http://clutchtheseries.com Jonathan

      PS – clutchtheseries.com

  • Kristin Cole

    Thank you so much Felicia for taking the time and answering people’s most pressing questions. It’s nice to see someone offer such encouraging and helpful advice. As someone in the beginning stages of creating a web series I have a couple of questions. What equipment to you use? Do you favor anything in particular when it comes to the camera, sound, lighting, editing software, etc.? Thanks again for the insight.

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  • Sharon

    THIS POST IS A GOD SEND! Im trying to convince some college friends of mine to do a web series and I really think this will help me convince them! If anything well just make some crazy videos for fun and to laugh over ourselves :D

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    Wow!!! Itâ??s always wonderful to hear from you.

  • http://Youtube.com/sixdaysremaining Rich

    Thanks for the post. I think you have some great advice to people looking to break through. I mostly look at the web series I have been in and am writing as a way to get reps in. To me, web series are an open mic, on the way to get 10,000 hours to be able to make something great.

    The creative web series process has put me in contact with a lot of intelligent people who may or may not be vibing on my frequency. If they are though, its something special when you get to collaborate on other projects. (Joss Whedon is a good example of that phenomenon.)

    Thanks again,
    Rich

  • JUMP!

    “Every time I see a web series about some funny, attractive white people, or a slick glossy man-spy-caper, I roll my eyes. Why? I’ve seen that on TV. Or in movies. With bigger budgets”

    Just admit you don’t like white people or is it just white males? Funny, I roll my eyes when I encounter miscreant radical left wingers who are typically big racists or bigots. Not much for a series about blacks or homos, maybe Latins if they’re hot. Just sayin’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WRNGInStudioCity Greg

    Great advice, Felicia. I’m in post on a webseries I co-created, WRNG In Studio City (target release date: This August!), and it’s taught me how to become a video/film producer. And yes, I’m now up to speed on Adobe Premiere (thankfully, my directors have edited most of their own episodes), SAG-AFTRA paperwork, locations scouting… and, of course, publicity!

  • RMH250

    Thanks – great tips.

  • Debt Free Divas

    Yes Thanks!

  • Socklock

    Felicia, girl, you so cool.

  • Pingback: Do's and Don'ts of Creating Your First Web Series | ATL WEBFESTATL WEBFEST

  • NEPTUNE

    Great advice from someone with a proven record, thank you!

  • Jean A.

    I’m still writing a plot, maybe get some of my friends and professors to read it. Thanks for the great advice, it’s super helpful!!! (^-^)

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