But you can tell the story you want to tell without the gatekeepers and network notes. And you can produce and distribute a web series way faster than a TV show or film, and reach a huge audience online. You might even get picked up by a network and paid to produce your series, à la Broad City. You can be more daring with web content and get important, underrepresented stories out there. You just need a good idea and your friend's DSLR.
But it still involves writing, which is still hard.
But the actual creating a web series part is easy. Jake Hurwitz, of Jake and Amir, that web series you watched when you were supposed to be studying for finals, told us about how easy it is. Jake talked about getting started with no money, how to make (some) money, the creative autonomy of the Internet and why you should create a web series (because it's easy).
And when you need a break from script writing and calling in favors, watch Jake's new web series, Lonely and Horny, on Vimeo. He co-created it and directed it and it's funny and smart and endearing like this run-on, crap-grammar sentence.
Why did you decide to create your own web series?
The truth is, I don't think I knew I was creating a web series when I started. My writing partner, Amir Blumenfeld, and I had a bunch of dumb ideas that didn't warrant a full on production, but made us laugh nonetheless. So we went about producing these ideas in a super low budget way. But generally, creating a web series is something you might do when you realize no one is going to produce your scripts. Writing is hard, it takes a lot of time and effort if you do it right, and at the end of the day you have to beg someone to make your thing. Making a web series is a lot more DIY, and allows you to show people your vision, rather than tell them about it.
With my latest series, Lonely and Horny, the reason we decided to create it was because we were excited about the autonomy that making internet content allows. We were lucky to partner with Vimeo who graciously gave us complete creative control. Also selling a TV show is hard and takes forever. Internet people get shit done.
How did you get started?
I got started by writing a freelance column for the comedy site CollegeHumor when I was in college. I transitioned that column into an internship and promptly dropped out of school. Once I had my foot in the door at the job I loved, I worked hard and eventually got hired full time.
What are the steps someone typically takes to create and produce a web series?
I believe web series have changed a lot since I started mine, but I think the first step is always having an idea that has the potential to grow. The internet is saturated with one off viral videos, it's slightly trickier to come up with something that can continually make you laugh week to week. In terms of production, that definitely takes some logistical planning- which not many writers are great at. The trick is to find other folks in a similar position, but with different passions. You can always find someone who is trying to hone their producing skills, or get some practice as a director, cut up some footage for an editing reel. Web series tend to not have super high budgets, so you have to be thrifty. The good news is that cameras are pretty amazing these days, you can basically shoot a web series on your phone and it will look beautiful. You just might wanna spring for a sound person.
What are the costs of making a web series?
It truly depends how much of the work you want to take on yourself for free. For starters, you don't have to pay the writer- that's you. You may want to act in, edit and direct as well, your rate for that should be zero dollars. Already your budget is looking great. It's really all dictated by the writing, writers don't like to be constricted, but I've found that keeping production in mind makes me think harder and ultimately be more creative. If your script starts off with EXT. MOONBASE - TWILIGHT. Then you should consider re-writing. Try something like INT. SMALL APARTMENT - DAY. That's better.
Depending on how many favors you can call in, you can potentially shoot the pilot episode of a web series for free. Just remember that if your silly idea turns into the next big thing, then you should start paying the people who had your back when you were getting started.
What are the ways someone can make an income off a web series?
There are a lot of ways web series make money, and a lot of ways they don't. If your series is on YouTube you can potentially make a little bit of money from pre-rolls and rev-share opportunities they provide. If you're lucky, you might get poached by one of the big Multi-Channel Networks and paid a salary to produce your web series. If you really blow up you might be approached by brands for potential partnerships and to produce branded content. There's the possibility of having your web series picked up by a production company or a network and adapted for TV. Or, like us with Lonely and Horny, you can partner with a dope site like Vimeo, where they fund your idea and split the revenue when/if people buy your show.
Though I will say that most web series are created for the love of the game. There is money, but usually it comes after making stuff for cheap or free for a long time. If your goal is to get rich, try lawyer.
What are the best parts of creating a web series?
The best part of creating a web series is that your vision is often uncompromised by network notes and FCC restrictions. Web series allow you to be fully creative and part of a small, dedicated team. You control everything from the scripts to the release schedule and promotion. It might be a shittier car, but you are DRIVING.
What are the biggest challenges?
Probably that as soon as people hear the words web series they kind of write you off as being a low budget pathetic nobody that can't sell a TV show. Which you are! But there's a great work around, just lose the "web." Say, "I created a new series." That sounds legit, right?
What advice would you give someone who wants to create their own web series?
Go for it. Web series are low stakes and low risk and just about no barrier to entry. Make something now, even if it sucks. It's better to practice in obscurity than wait to make your grand debut as an amateur.
Any helpful resources or links on this topic?
I wish I had some kind of astute literature to point to, but making a web series is just too easy. Go make a Vimeo or YouTube account, start watching some videos and find your favorites. And then just start doing it. That's really the take away here. Just start.