How To Write A Web Series
Jake: This week we are on with Karin Partin, and we are going to be talking about Web Series, which is something I haven’t talked about yet on the podcast.
We’re going to be looking at Web Series from a creative point of view, and also talking about how you can use a Web Series and very little money to actually launch your career and get noticed– how a Web Series can become not only a calling card, but actually something that brings you money or something that builds your career.
So, Karin thank you so much for joining us.
Karin: Yeah, Hi! Thank you for having me. This is exciting to be sitting in on the podcast. I know so many of my students are just huge fans of the podcast and listening to the podcast, so it’s very exciting to be on the podcast.
Jake: When you think about Web Series writing, why do a Web Series? Why start with a Web Series?
Karin: You want to make a Web Series to break into the industry. If you write a script, you can pitch that script to managers and agents for six months or a year. And then, you get that one yes or five yeses and all five of those managers and producers and agents are putting that script on their desk, and may take six more months to read that script.
Once they love your script, let’s say of course you have the perfect script ever, it is the best script ever anyone has ever written and they love it, then it is going to take those people championing for you to get it made.
And it can take a very long time and the chances of its momentum falling off is high. That is why it takes a thousand no’s and one yes to break into this industry.
So if you make your own Web Series, you can send it to anyone you’ve ever met in the industry, and all of a sudden your chances just skyrocket of someone actually seeing your writing because it got made.
You can just send it out and say “hey, here is my five minutes”. And the chances are much higher that they are going to see your work.
And you can do it! You can make it affordable. You can make your Web Series affordable. That is the whole point: getting your work out there.
it is a very short form content that lets you highlight your skills. So, if you can pull off character development and an A to B of storytelling so your character goes from point A to point B, they change in a very, very short amount of time.
So, if you can change your characters in five minutes or less, people are going to be impressed.
So it is a way to impress managers and agents and producers that you can do short form of storytelling, and that translates to long form storytelling very easy.
If you can pull off a Web Series they will believe that you can write anything, because it is the most difficult thing to do: to tell a well-crafted, beautiful, impeccable story in five minutes or less.
Jake: So, you feel it is a way of demonstrating a higher level of craft or a level of compression?
Karin: Yes, making a Web Series that costs very little money with minimal characters in very few locations is constraint. And so, you want to be able to let these constraints work for you as a writer.
And with all those constraints on your back as a writer, and you still pull off great storytelling, people are going to be excited about your writing.
It used to be it cost you $50,000 to make a television pilot. Now, you can get a camera, you can shoot it with your iPhone and spend $500 or $50 if you have actor friends and you know somebody willing to cook for you for the day or the weekend. Then you can make your own Web Series.
Jake: The other really beautiful thing about being a Web Series writer is that you are your own producer. So you don’t have the limitations of someone telling you, “hey I don’t really like this character,” or “I don’t like the way this character is going.” You can push the envelope and you can write whatever you want.
As everyone knows, when you are a writer, you have 50 people that give you notes. You have your producers, and you have the other producers and you have financial people and the actors come in and they give you notes.
If you are the Web Series writer, you are going to be able to just make it yourself. So you have a better chance that your vision is going to get down and out to the world exactly as you thought.
Jake: One of the other things that I think is exciting about Web Series Writing is that the way media is consumed is changing.
Web Series is so darn clickable, you can send them an email and have it clicked in a link and they can decide if they like it or not.
Would you say that is a benefit? And how are executives and agents and managers responding to Web Series now?
Karin: Oh they are excited about it; everyone I talk to says, “please send me your work, please send me the actual work you’ve made.”
It is really, getting much, much harder to get noticed as an unproduced writer because there are so many people making things already.
So, how do we break in as people who are unknown? Well, you make your own work and you send it out and you show who you are, you show that your voice is special by making it.
Clickable content. I mean, would you rather read a 30 page script to a 90 page script or would you rather watch just a five minute film? If you can send someone your story and it takes them five minutes to watch and you blow them away, you are going to get a phone call.
Jake: Do you think that there is a prime length that Web Series writers should be targeting? Is it three minutes, is it five minutes, is it ten minutes, is it half an hour? Where should they be focusing?
Karin: I would go shorter the better. The shorter it is the more likely someone is going to watch it. If you send a 60 minute digital pilot, if you can get them to watch it, amazing, great. But if you can send them a five minute one, they are going to click on it. And if you hook them in the first minute with characters, they are going to watch the other five minutes, which then you can continue and make episodes 2-8 or 2-12 and they are going to watch the additional episodes.
I don’t know if it really matters whether it is five minutes or twelve minutes. Web Series are all over the place. But it is really about how fast can you tell a story and still keep character development?
That is the real key in the craft of writing: can you tell a short story and keep character development?
So, if you think of something like True Detective, you know how much time they have to develop those characters. Can you do that in a short amount of time? That is what people are looking for.
So, if you look at one of the very first Web Series, The Guild and it is one episode now you can watch it– Netflix took the entire first season and made it the first episode.
So, if you want to know how it was originally broken down you want to watch the episodes on YouTube, because those are actually broken down as the original five minute episodes.
And in The Guild, the very first episode is all about character; it is a vignette of who these people are. You’ve got the main character who is talking to her therapist on the phone about how she doesn’t play too much of this video game that she is addicted to.
And while she is talking to her therapist, she is on the phone playing the game, also crossing out on a posted note how many hours she has played that week and just it is getting higher and higher and higher in how many hours she played.
So her dominant trait is represented by the action of talking to her therapist about how she is going to quit playing while playing.
And the other people are also very quick vignettes, you’ve got one who is the dad, you’ve got one who is a teenage boy and he is totally in love with women and he is talking about boobs.
You’ve got a mom who plays so much she is ignoring her children, and then you’ve got another character who is missing and he has never not been online in this long.
You have a group of people who are kind of like a family who are always on this game and you have one who is missing and they are worried about him.
So, it is an online group of people who’ve never met and at the end of the episode the guy who is missing shows up at her house– the main character’s house– to tell her he loves her and so it goes from a group of people who’ve never met to real life.
And that is your A to B in a very short amount of time, while doing character. And that is the goal for any kind of storytelling, whether it is Web Series or TV or features or you know everything, podcast, everything storytelling.
So, if you can pull that off, you are gold. People will notice that you can write. That is the point of writing: can you show them you can write in something that is short enough that you can get them to watch?
Jake: So what if you are an emerging writer, and you’ve never done any production before? For a lot of writers that is scary– the thought of, “Oh my god I am going to have to do this myself!”
So, how do you start? If one of my students says, “Okay today I want to write a Web Series. I’ve been writing feature films, or I’ve been writing TV Series, maybe I’ve been in one of The Writer’s Room Classes at the studio, I’ve learned how to work in a writer’s room.”
When you think about, “Now I am going to make something that I can create myself,” how is that different, or how is that attainable?
How do you boil that down for someone who has no production experience into something that they feel like they can do right now?
Karin: To create a Web Series that is attainable and that is affordable, you need minimal actors and one or two locations. And it is harder than it sounds to come up with a story that is very contained and affordable to write.
And that is what I am here for. In the Web Series class that I teach, you have myself and you have a group of six to ten other writers, you have a hive mind of people who will push you and push you to go smaller and smaller and smaller while still doing big character and big development.
And so if you look at something like High Maintenance, you have one character—(I’m talking about High Maintenance the original Web Series rather than the High Maintenance that is on HBO).
High Maintenance, if you guys don’t know was originally a Web Series that Ben made himself. He would go to someone’s house and would interact with a couple characters in one location and that would be it.
In one of the episodes he goes to these people’s house to sell them weed and instead he has to kill a mouse for them, because they are too scared and too hippy to be able to do it.
And they end up smoking with themselves, and they get the mouse high and they think they are going to save the mouse and the weed dude ends up smashing the mouse with a cast iron pot, and that is the end of the episode.
So it is very small and very contained while coming up with an engine for the series: he is a weed dealer who goes to different person’s house in each episode.
So, you can come up with an engine that lets you make the thing affordable, you can find your friend’s apartment and you can get one actor and a couple of other guest actor to perform that weekend.
Karin: So, a couple of other examples you can look at for affordable Web Series that have a great engine:
James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke: This technically isn’t a Web Series but it is a series that is on the internet. Most people don’t watch it on television most people watch it on YouTube.
So he gets a guest on there, and they do a brief interview, and then they sing together… and that is it! That is the whole point of the storytelling and it is amazing.
My favorite example, if you are terrified of involving other people in your Web Series, is the Maria Bamford Show. And the Maria Bamford Show is Maria Bamford playing every single character, by herself, in her bedroom, filming herself talking about her life.
And the basic engine is she is a failed comedian who went home to live with her parents, and basically her life is falling apart and she is depressed and she is on medication and she is just trying to get her life back together.
And that Maria Bamford Show propels her to get her own show on Netflix called Lady Dynamite.
So, you want to be able to imagine that what you are making now can get you to your own production later.
Broad City started as a Web Series, Abby and Ilana were just two friends who knew they were actresses and they wanted to make their own content.
And you can watch their Web Series– I think they hit their stride by episode four– So I think Broad City is a great example of just get your feet on the ground and start making stuff. Even if you fail in episode one, two and three, you are going to figure it out pretty soon.
So, in Broad City episode one, two and three, I am not quite sure what the engine of the show is yet and the stories are not quite perfect. They are still really funny, because Broad City’s actors are amazing, but by episode four it very clearly establishes that Abby wants a boyfriend and Ilana wants Abby.
Abby is trying to kiss a guy under mistletoe, fails, fails, fails, and then finally at the end of the episode Ilana kisses Abby under the mistletoe.
That episode establishes who they are in a short amount of time and tells us what the entire series is going to look like.
Jake: When we think about traditional television series– whether it is TV Drama, TV Comedy– when we think about feature films or mini-series, there are certain confines of the narrative structure, because we have to be able to sustain a half-hour or an hour or two hours or twelve hours for a mini-series. There are certain kinds of narrative structure that we tend to depend on.
But one of the things that I think is really exciting about Web Series is, because Web Series are so short, you can kind of blow the roof off the house. It doesn’t have to be a traditional narrative, it just has to be something that will sustain for three minutes and that has an engine.
Karin: I think one of my favorite examples of blowing the roof off is a Web Series called The Eyeslicer. They had a Kickstarter campaign where you could get your eyes sliced if you donated.
And they would send you a photograph of yourself with eyeballs over your eyes sliced– and they showed a bunch of really crazy stuff that I have no idea what it means.
And I donated! I was like, “I want to see this,” and the only way you could watch it is if you donated to the Kickstarter campaign.
I haven’t gotten to see the pilot yet because it isn’t out, but it did premier at Tribeca Film Festival, which I think is amazing!
They are a collective group of people who brought together various filmmakers to make a Web Series.
It isn’t just one person making a Web Series. It is a bunch of people who wanted to do non-traditional storytelling, who decided to get together and make a channel of Web Series.
The fact that it was at Tribeca Film Festival as its premier is so exciting, because that is a place that is traditional, very, you know, these things are the Oscar winners and the Emmy’s and here we are, we have this like crazy thing that I don’t even know what it means in the trailer premiering in Tribeca.
Jake: So, you have this freedom, you have freedom of the kind of content, you have the freedom within the structure, and you have the freedom of not having to deal with so many levels of financiers and producers who all always want a new thing but are also afraid of it. You have the freedom to do it your way.
You know, one of the things I love about the way that you build your class is that it actually draws on some of the traditions of television writing that a lot of Web Series don’t really benefit from.
A lot of Web Series is one dude or one girl or two friends trying to figure it out together. But you’ve built your class in a more of a Writer’s Room structure which I think is really exciting.
So can you talk a little bit about how the Writer’s Room works and how does that benefit a Web Series writer?
Karin: Yeah absolutely. So in the Web Series writer’s room class what we do is we have six or eight or ten students who bring in an idea.
And you can bring in an idea like “it is just a character,” you know. “I have a character who really loves birding, and he always has his dates with old ladies who bird and I don’t know what it means,” maybe that is your idea for a Web Series.
And you can bring in a couple more and you have the collective group to tell you which one is fascinating for the whole group which one should you expand upon.
And then once you pick your idea, then you will come in with “okay, I think I want my pilot to be about a guy who is going on a date and he really wants to go on a date but he accidentally makes a date with an old lady”.
“And then he falls in love with the old lady, but then he meets the girl of his dreams and he has to pick between a Harold & Maude type situation, or raising a family”—I don’t know I am just making things up.
But basically we come up with three ideas for what your pilot might look like, and then we develop the favorite idea.
The benefit of taking a class to write your Web Series is we are emulating a writer’s room for television. And in television all series are written by a group of people, you know 10 people.
You might have one show runner but you have 10 people or more underneath them, and this is what makes television great. You have so many different voices merging and combining and colliding, slamming into each other and making utter hilarity or real darkness and drama.
It takes a collective group to be really, really great sometimes.
And I think as writers we don’t get that a lot of times, and especially in the Web Series world you know we are just on our own and we are trying to figure out how we are making something for free and we are by ourselves.
And as a Web Series writer you don’t have a budget to hire other people to help make your show great.
So being in a Web Series writer’s class gives you the benefit of working on your Web Series as if you had a staff of people.
What you have at your fingertips are eight to ten other writers who are going to give you ideas freely, they are going to give you the best ideas that are going to go into the show on structure and jokes and engine and character development.
And they are going to be just pushing and pushing how to make it smaller, how to make it more affordable, how to produce it, what is working, what isn’t working, what resonates with them.
And you will be able to make that final decision, but you are basically able to have this network of TV writers as if you were in a writer’s room—as if you were actually making a show for Netflix or Amazon or NBC or CBS.
But you are going to get the benefit of that right now as your own; you are going to be the boss.
And we don’t get that for a long time in the TV industry. When we go in as a writer’s assistant and then we kind of work our way up to where we are finally the Showrunner, hopefully, best case scenario some day we get to make our own show.
But for a Web Series, you get to make your own show now; you are the showrunner right now, right away.
You can prove that you can be the showrunner.
Jake: And you know Karin is very modest but I think it has also to be said that the benefit of having someone with that level of experience overseeing you so it helps you not be in the dark when you don’t know…
So it is helpful to have somebody of Karin’s level of experience (just like in our TV Comedy Class you would have someone of Jerry Perzigian’s level of experience or in TV Drama you would have Steve Molton).
Having people who have been there, who have done it before, who have made the mistakes that you are making and who can shape you to make sure that you are going to end up with a product that you can really shoot, that you can really distribute, and that is going to have an engine that is going to work.
Karin: Also a couple of times we’ve had producers take the Web Series class. They come in as a producer to see exactly what kind of writing they should be looking for in a Web Series for their own content they are producing, which is amazing because it connects the writers to producers that are looking to make Web Series together.
Jake: Yeah and I wanted to talk to you about that, because one of the things that you did with this class that I think is so exciting and makes so much sense for a digital writing class is that it is entirely online.
Jake: And I think one of the things that is so cool about that is that it gives people, it doesn’t matter, a lot of people talk about, like, what if I don’t have access?
You know it doesn’t matter if you are living in Albuquerque or if you are living in London or if you are living in South Africa, you can collaborate with these writers from all over the world and be part of that international vibe of what is happening right now.
Karin: Yes, it was amazing because we had London and Canada and San Francisco and Texas and New York of course.
And what I really loved is all of those writers became best friends.
And we didn’t know each other in person, but you really get to know someone very well when you read their work. Because when you write a Web Series it really comes from the unconscious sometimes. Because you don’t have producers to really force you to do something that they want, you get to do what you want and so you get to know these people really well.
And what I love so much is a lot of the people from the Web Series class opt into ITVFest, and so we got to know each other and meet each other and hug each other and drink beers together–
Jake: So, we should talk about ITVFest because we have the ITVFest Retreat coming up right now. So, if you don’t know about ITVFest– ITVFest is the second largest television and Web Series festival in the world.
They are a non-profit organization that we partner with. We really love them because their mission is to help new television writers, new Web Series writers, new short film writers–to help them connect with major producers, major studios. This year the president of Viacom is coming. Last year Bobby Farrelly ended up producing one of our writer’s, Jenna Laurenzo’s screenplay.
So it is this wonderful network of people. And because it takes place in Manchester, Vermont there is no VIP area. There are a couple of bars and a couple of restaurants and everyone is kind of in the same place and so it is really easy to connect with people.
And so, usually they get like 4,000-6,000 people flying in from all over the world—Los Angeles of course, New York, but also internationally. Netflix, HBO, all these wonderful studios are there.
And what we do at ITVFest is a TV Writing Retreat. And that is one of the exciting ways you can study not only with Karin but with our entire faculty. Because we bring the whole faculty of Jacob Krueger Studio.
So, we will have Steve Molton, who is a Pulitzer Prize Nominee, TV Writer, former TV Executive for HBO and ShowTime. He is also a very accomplished Feature Film Writer and Opera Writer. So, Steve Molton is there teaching TV Drama.
We have Jerry Perzigian who was a Showrunner on Married with Children, The Golden Girls, & The Jeffersons. We have me, we have Karin– we have our entire faculty there.
And the goal of that retreat is basically to spend our time focusing on engine– focusing on how you build the hook and the pitch of your series. How you build the Bible for your series.
How do you build your pilot in a way that, just seeing that one pilot, your reader is going to be able to say, “Oh I see how I can run this for 10 years!” Or even better, “I see how I can translate this into a TV Show.”
So, if you don’t know about ITV Fest, you should go to www.writeyourscreenplay.com/vermont and you should check out that retreat.
It also includes a one-on-one consultation which I think is really cool. So, basically in the morning you go to all the classes and then in the afternoon and evening you have a Content Creator pass included with the festival which is the same pass that the filmmakers there get.
You get to go to all the parties, we put together special pitch parties where we introduce agents and managers and producers to our students in a really unique setting–last year they stayed for about three hours, we had about 30 people just hanging out talking to our students about their scripts.
So, it is a really wonderful way to kind of develop the pitch side of your game and then to make the contacts that can actually help you.
So, you can study with Karin there, and then Karin also has the online class where you can really build the structure of your pilot, really build the writing of your pilot, and of your entire series.
And I believe– talk to me a little bit about this Karin, like do you recommend—I would always imagine that if I was going to make a Web Series, I wouldn’t want to just make the pilot, I would want to write the first season because you are talking like three to five minute episodes.
I would want to create the first season so I could shoot it all together, is that the way that you look at it?
Karin: Yeah absolutely. You want to shoot everything out of order because it’s cheaper– and I will actually teach production as well in the class, how to break down your script for production, what kind of forms you need, anything you need to know about production we do talk about that.
So, when you are ready to shoot it, we will get into the production side of it, but in terms of writing it, absolutely you want to just write all of it because you are going to be in the same few locations and you are going to shoot everything, let’s say in apartment A, from all six or eight episodes at once.
And then you are going to go to apartment B, and you are going to shoot everything from apartment B, or if you are outside–totally out of order.
It is something that is strange if you’ve never done it before, but you are going to shoot the location individually, totally out of order for storytelling.
So kind of a mind blowing thing if you didn’t know that, and you’ve watched television thinking, “okay so these actors have to act, it is totally out of order”, it is kind of amazing.
Jake: So what I think is really cool about that is this basically, if you can build everything in advance to get it right, first off it is going to save you a ton of money on your budget.
Because a lot of these shows go over budget because they haven’t actually got it right on the page, they are trying to figure it out the day of the shoot when everything is really expensive.
Karin: Yeah the whole goal is just to push and push and push for you to keep it cheaper and cheaper– and that you can do it. So, we will talk a little bit about what your goals are, what type of funding you may have or may think you can get and how big you think you can make it.
Jake: This is something that I love about you, and it is one of the reasons that I am so excited about having you teaching here at the studio is a lot of people, when they start to think about how to make something small, they end up thinking small.
In trying to go, “Oh I can only have one location, no I can’t possibly have someone from the Wild West, no I can’t possibly have a period car.” We start to limit and we end up with that inner censor that is going, “no, no, no…” and then what happens is our best work doesn’t make it onto the page.
And one of the things that I really admire about you is not only in your own writing but also in the way that you’ve helped so many of our students is your ability to think big, to think like, what is the dream of what this would be? And then scale it back in a practical way.
Karin: I think it is important to dream big always, because you need to make a splash with your voice and your voice needs to be big in this industry to get noticed. So, you are right, it is about making something big in a short amount of time with limitations.
And I think for me limitations have always been a helpful thing as an artist, as a writer, the more constraints you have it helps you make decisions, and I love things that help me make decisions faster.
And I think as a writer we can feel terrified, we have a blank page and it looks like the entire world is available but if you start to put limitations on what you can do, you can create something bigger because you focus in on what you really want to do and then you can make that one focused idea big.
If you are just starting with your idea, you don’t want to give yourself any limitations. You want to just write freely what is in your subconscious.
You want to put things on the page out of order, anything you want to say, any subject that comes to mind and just write it and write it and write it.
And I like to do that with the pen, because I feel like the pen is connected to my subconscious mind. So you know pen and paper, pen and notebook, you aren’t going to edit it.
If you are typing– typing is editing, so you have an impulse to edit the page. So I love to just freely write. You want to just get all of it down, get it out, what is it this inner story is trying to say, let it be free, let it be big.
And then you are going to put some constraints on it based on who you are as a writer, who you are as a producer, what your budget is and how much time you have.
And so it isn’t about limiting yourself before the writing, it is about writing whatever you want then looking at your limitations and doing an edit pass based on what you can do right now.
Web Series writing is about what you can do right now, right this second. Don’t let limitations stop you from making this, don’t let lack of money stop you from making this.
It can be poorly filmed, it can be poorly acted, it can be anything. Web Series is about getting the writing across and getting that into the right person’s hands.
I want to stress that, it is really important to make it and that is the point of making a Web Series is making your voice down on the page come to life on screen, and you can do that.
So whatever limitations you need to be able to make that happen are the limitations you must have.
To say it a different way, Web Series has limitations but the point of it is to get it made. So you need to really focus in and get something made right now, do it, just do it, do it, do it no matter what you—whatever money you can come up with, spend it, make your Web Series.
Jake: The other thing that I think is exciting about Web Series is sometimes you don’t even realize what you have access to.
So sometimes you have these big ideas—sometimes you don’t even realize what you have. So one of the ways you can kind of start is by thinking about, like, what do I have access to?
Jake: So, for example, one of our students, Caytha Jentis, has a Web Series on Amazon right now called The Other F Word. And I mean, she managed to get a huge actor to star– she actually got Steve Guttenberg to star in her Web Series– which is incredible.
But she had this crazy idea that she wanted the first scene to be skydiving. And this is almost impossible, almost impossible to do unless you happen to have a friend who runs a skydiving school.
And so because of this– she could never have gotten the insurance for it, but she was able to use her friends skydivers as the stunt doubles in order to create the feeling that she was throwing all of these huge actors off a plane.
Jake: And I am not even sure it was stunt doubles, it may actually have been the actual actors. But she basically, she used her connections.
So, one of the things to think about is; what do you have? Does your old creepy uncle have a weird shed out in the wilderness somewhere?
Does your mom have some room in the basement? Do you have a room that looks cool? Does your friend have an office? Is there a local bar where you hang out where they will let you shoot on a quiet day?
You can start to think about these places and, especially if you have the whole thing ready to go and you can get it all done in a couple of days, sometimes you can really take advantage of things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to take advantage of.
Karin: One of the things we haven’t talked about is the ability to use Web Series as a way of building an audience, and how that can lead to career.
That even the fundraising part, even if you don’t raise a lot of money with your fundraising, how this can lead to audience and how if you have 2 million followers, certainly it is really easy to get a meeting. I have a student and he made short films that were amazing, but that one short film that people loved didn’t necessarily give him followers on social media.
But then he made a Web Series, and people were really excited about it and so they watched more and more episodes, and he got a ton of followers, and that got him a manager.
Now he has a manager– a big giant manager that can help him get jobs because he made Web Series. So that is the entire goal for us: to make Web Series that will get us producers and agents and managers and big actors.
You know if you can make 25 minutes of content that is beautiful and it has five episodes, give or take, then you can use that to get big actors onto your next project or get a manager to get you a job in television, and that is so exciting.
We can do that right now and you can literally shoot it with your iPhone– my iPhone is 4K– I mean what in the world! I cannot imagine five years ago being able to shoot 4K on my iPhone, like you can absolutely shoot your Web Series with whatever you have.
Jake: Yeah we’ve even seen Tangerine a couple of years ago was a feature film shot on an iPhone.
And so what is so exciting and also you know when it comes to attracting big actors, it isn’t actually that hard, I mean attracting Brad Pitt is one thing but attracting a known actor for great material where they go, “Okay this is kind of cool.”
You know so like Catastrophe got Carrie Fisher. Because when you’re making a Web Series, the actor can look at it like, “Hey, this is small, I can show up for one weekend, it seems like fun, it is good material, it gives me a role that I don’t normally have,” and you can then use that person’s entire social media to help you.
Or alternatively we are seeing these Web Series creators turn themselves into stars. Actually build that name recognition or build their actor friends into stars so that suddenly the show isn’t just an engine for the show but it is also a way of building fans for you, people who really want to work with you.
Karin: If you can make a Web Series and you can get it out there and it is on YouTube and it gets 10,000 hits you are all of a sudden going to have a million followers on whatever social media platform you are on.
And big hitters in the industry, they know this. It is very easy to get noticed if you can have followers already: you come with a built-in audience.
In some ways that is the only way to get a job. That is just the nature of the industry these days.
There are big actors making Web Series of their own because they know that this is actually a way to even get better viewership than on network television.
So Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion are in Con Man, those are big actors and it is a great show, it is so fun to watch and they are having so much fun with it you can tell.
There is another show with a lot of people from Battlestar Galactica called Personal Space that is a Web Series. And these are big actors, they aren’t necessarily getting work, I mean, where are all those people from Battlestar Galactica?
They aren’t on television shows– those actors are amazing people but they are having to make their own content as well.
So why not help them as a Web Series writer, why not reach out to somebody that you look at in television and say you know I really love them in films, where is that person now? Get someone who has some media presence– find an actor who has not been on television in a while reach out to them give them a job, send it through their agent.
So let’s write something that is really, really good. When your writing is good, you can do whatever you want with that writing!. You can make it, you can get people to be in it, you could even get producers to make it for you.
If that writing is strong and stands out, and your voice is amazing and the characters and everybody is just living, jumping off the page, anyone who reads that wants to see that it gets made.
So, if you are terrified to make it by yourself, write it and then start reaching out to producers and actors to help you get it made.
Jake: Yeah I think that the thing is there is such a hunger for content right now. And you know it isn’t just producers who are hungry for this television content, for Web Series content that can be turned into television, it is also actors, it is also directors; it is all these people who all need great content, they can’t survive without it.
And it is just such an easy way– they aren’t committing to do a whole independent feature film that might take them away from another opportunity. They go, “Sure, let me give you a weekend.”
Wonderful, and if there was one last piece of advice– What is the one piece of advice that you wish more Web Series writers would think about?
Karin: Being business minded in the industry is always about your voice and filtering that through your own voice, you can’t write something well unless it is your voice.
There is no point in, like, writing a show about wrestling if you don’t care about wrestling.
But if you can come up with what it is that you love about wrestling and then you have something similar, like for me I think wrestling is like bowling, I am going to write a show about bowling.
And it is always filtering your own ideas through your own voice because otherwise there is no point in writing it, if you aren’t writing in your own voice it isn’t going to be any good anyway. There is literally zero point in trying to write something you aren’t interested in.
So it is just about finding the thing you could be interested in that you do see a need for in the industry.
So, you know for me I would suggest that you start with characters in a Web Series, but that doesn’t mean that that is your end point. You know you just want to get started.
A Web Series, we’ve said this before is about making it now, so just put pen to paper and that can be anything, and just remember that a Web Series is just a shorter way to tell a story, and so; beginning-middle-end, when-then-until.
When there is a guy who loves birding, then he meets an old lady who loves birding too, and until she introduces him to her granddaughter and they fall in love.
So to get started in writing your Web Series just make a character list, who are your main characters? What are their dominant traits? What do they want?
So it can just be like, “Hey I have this guy named Mike and he is a mechanic and he wants to drag race but it is illegal.” So you’ve got an obstacle in there too.
And then make a list of every character you think you might want to be in this Web Series. That is where I start. I start writing the list of my characters, so you’ve got Mike and then maybe you have Susanne who is a secretary and secretly wants to drag race as well but she thinks she isn’t cool enough.
So what you are doing is building wants and obstacles within their dominant traits. So just start by making a list of your characters and whatever it is that they want, whatever it is that you think is in their way.
Jake: And I think this kind of relates, like, all of this is driving from a want, all characters come from a want. So in a way this is also about connection to what you want.
And if you don’t know exactly where to start you want to ask yourself, like, what do I want? And give that want to your character, give that—or give a metaphor for that want to your character.
And allow them to really step in and allow yourself too to think about like, I love what you were saying Karin about just like, go do it, sit down with a pen and paper right now, start. I love that idea because it kind of relates to what you talked about, it is like just like we want our characters to get what they want really quick, we want us to get our wants really quick, we don’t want to sit around for a two hour movie in our own lives to get ourselves going, we want to get ourselves going now, we want to get ourselves changing now.
So I think it is exciting about going, like, let’s walk through this cast list and let’s get what the character wants and then let’s get what stands in the way. And let’s figure out where to weld these pieces.
Karin: Yeah anxiety is caused by not doing— so, writers block aka anxiety is caused by not doing it, it is caused by being stuck, being stuck is literally being static and not moving.
So the only way to get over anxiety about, “Am I good?” or, “How do I do this?” or, “Can I do this?” or, “What am I going to do?” or, “What am I going to write? What world am I going to build? What characters am I going to build?” It is just take pen and paper and start building.
So sometimes you can throw out the plan and just write what is in your subconscious, who is trying to bubble up, like who is screaming at you, what character is inside of you. This is where it is connected. Your voice is trying to talk. All the characters we build are ourselves it is like pretty difficult to separate ourselves from our characters we build.
So, just remember that if you feel stuck, any movement forward is getting unstuck. That is the only way to actually write the thing is to be moving. So in any way that you know how, start writing.
Jake: All right, well thank you, Karin, so much for agreeing to talk to us on the podcast and again if you want to study with Karin you can visit our website writeyourscreenplay.com, you can join her Web Series Writing Workshop, or you can study with all of us at the TV Writing Retreat in Manchester, Vermont, and that is October 11th – 15th , so you can find out about that at writeyourscreenplay.com/Vermont.
So thank you again Karin and to all of you get out there and take Karin’s advice and start your Web Series.
*Edited for length and clarity