So you're planning a web series. Do you know what demographics you're going for? Have you figured out the perfect episode length that will keep viewers coming back for more? What about sponsors, how are you going to pitch the concept to them? In a rousing interview with Film Courage , filmmaker and Vampire Mob web series creator Joe Wilson explains why none of this matters and why you need to focus on the passion:
Here's the interview, it has lots of great advice and insights. (I should also mention, the language is NSFW so don't go blasting this on your speakers at the office):
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=L9pmnnQBEuQ
The on-line content creation industry is in its infancy, and there is a plethora of experiments to be done in figuring out how to best monetize this content. I'm not going to lie, that in itself can be a fascinating activity, and with more and more analytic tools at our disposal, along with resources like the YouTube Creator Playbook, it's easy to get caught up in the numbers game. But for most of us who are filmmakers and storytellers, that isn't why we got into this in the first place. At the end of the day, it's the desire to tell a story, and to express an exciting idea, that gets us and our criminally underpaid cast and crew to get up at 4am and shoot a sunrise shot. If the passion is there, it will come through in the end product, and if it comes through in the end product, the audience will sense it and reward it with their own passion.
In case you haven't watched the web series itself (I haven't...) here's a trailer, it looks pretty interesting:
So what do you think? Are you planning a web series? Have you thought of sponsorships and or demographics? Do you think there are better episode lengths than others?
[via Film Courage]
I completed presenting a webseries in February. People wanted the episodes to be longer, but I thought in the first place that shorter(15 mins) is better. I guess it all depends on the genre.
As far as sponsorship goes, it's not too difficult if the company has an online presence already and is looking to drive that more.
April 4, 2012 at 4:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Cheers, very inspiring
April 4, 2012 at 5:02PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thought the guy was kind of a d-bag. Seems so insecure. If a filmaker's goal is to get sponsorship so they can hire more people, get better equipment, or even film more, than so be it. Obviously he is entitled to his opinion, just seems like he was talking down on others.
April 4, 2012 at 11:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I think he's just riling against decades of trying to get a system that lets the writers get a bit of freedom from the "studio constraints". Today's web market allows that but everyone wants a budget so they're willingly throwing is freedom away before they even appreciate it. I can see where this angers him a little and I like his points.
I guess it's something to consider before you start cutting your stuff down to "make people happy" before making your piece really good.
Great clip though...
April 5, 2012 at 8:31AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
You are the wind beneath my wings.
April 7, 2012 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I like his enthusiasm!
April 5, 2012 at 7:54AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thanks for posting the interview. E.M.!
Miguel, Congrats on making you series. I don't think genre is what has to dictate length, I think some stories need more time, some less.
Araam, Thank you!
Cappy, You're the wind beneath my wings.
Darrell, Exactly! Thank you!
N.K., Thank you! It's coffee-powered.
April 5, 2012 at 8:59AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
" You’re the wind beneath my wings. "
:D:D:D no offense, but the right attitude!
April 5, 2012 at 10:21AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thanks for sharing your passion! Not only in the interview, but here in the comments as well.
April 12, 2012 at 4:11PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Love this, Joe!
We're 100% with you. We write and produce content for a site called tello films, whose web series are female-focused (big no-no), lesbian-focused (bigger, though hotter, no-no), across the genre spectrum (my eyes are bleeding), often longer than 3-5 min per episode (can't breathe), and (gasp) behind a paywall (stick a knife in us). But guess what: it's working. We're turning a profit, growing our audience through word of mouth and energetic online engagement, and giving them full power to greenlight or shut down our whole gig with their $3.99/month vote.
To everyone who's trying to figure out the perfect formula before they make their web series: F*ck the rules. There are no rules. Stop lollygagging, and make your sh*t. No - correction: make GOOD sh*t.
April 5, 2012 at 10:56AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Julie & Jessica, Thank you! I love to hear you are telling stories that are finding an audience and turning a profit! That's the perfect hat trick!
April 5, 2012 at 11:13AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
It's awesome to hear that you are doing well with a non standard business model. I actually think the future of web series will require payments because markets are so segmented and the noise is so high. I was actually blogging about this subject today - haven't posted it yet - I'll give your show a mention!
April 5, 2012 at 7:56PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I want to work for you Joe. Seriously. To hear my values come out of your mouth, twin sons of different mothers.
So many memorable cult series never lasted in production, but live forever with viewers for the reasons you mention (think Deadwood, Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, etc.). Maximum popularity is the wrong goal. Original work is so because it's developed from a unique perspective, that finds a unique audience at first. And we're out there. Your future zealots are desperately seeking personally unique storytelling, not the reconstituted commercial broadcast work (despite their budget). From this fan base does popularity spring, you find your own voice, and new and different work is created. Trust yourself. Work hard. See you out there...
April 5, 2012 at 10:57AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Michael, Thank you! Does your mom hate swearing, too?
If making stories with sponsors in mind made better stories, there would be more shows that don't suck.
Off to write some "Two and a Half Men" fan fic! ;-)
April 5, 2012 at 11:18AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Oh yeah. And I get intense. I now have a self-sensor where I mouth the f-bomb, but stop my breath, so it's not voiced ("...every -silence- time!"). When you're a bundle of extremes, it happens. And I wasn't kidding. I shoot and have gear, in the valley. Love to put it to good use (firstname.lastname@example.org). Do you dare...
April 5, 2012 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I haven't worked with anyone on a dare before.
April 5, 2012 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I love Joe's passion and his iconoclasm.
It's got me inspired: should I create a web series or maybe put my indie feature up on Youtube instead of just on Vimeo. If you want to check it out: http://vimeo.com/24578954
It's a Boston movie, coincidentally.
BTW, I *knew* I recognized Marcia Wallace in the Vampire Mob trailer! It looks great-- I just subscribed.
April 5, 2012 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thanks! I checked out the opening of Working Stiff and recognized that Boston scenery right away!
More people seeing it wouldn't be a bad thing, would it?
April 5, 2012 at 2:28PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I'll never make my money back, so yeah, I'd actually be happy to be paid back in viewers.
Joe, I love this line from your episode one: "Watching porn on a computer does not make that room an office." Great!
April 5, 2012 at 3:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
April 11, 2012 at 7:16AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Also, that *is* Emmy-award winning actor, Marcia Wallace (The Simpsons, The Bob Newhart Show)!
You also might recognize Tony-winner Rae Allen (The Sopranos), Kirsten Vangsness (Criminal Minds), Retta (Parks and Rec) and Chris Mulkey (Boardwalk Empire, Twin Peaks).
I got very lucky to work with this cast of 21 actors!
April 5, 2012 at 2:35PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I'm done with my webseries, and those of you who are on VBCtv.com, you would know that Day Zero won an award in January and we're now done with the first season pretty much (just a few scenes left to film), and episode 2 is coming out on April 25th so far (gotta get compositions). I did it with my own out-of-pocket expenses, everyone is a volunteer (they were auditioned of course).
Each episode averages out to be roughly 20 minutes or so, give or take a few, which is set to fit a half hour slot. We do not have vulgar profanity or anything like that, it's kind of spiritual so I want to make sure everyone can watch it (at least teens on up). Also, I'm still in talks with distributors, no luck so far, but once we have all the episodes out, it'll be great :) Most people don't do it this long because theirs are "comedies".
April 5, 2012 at 2:09PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Hey Joe, I love your spirit! I recently funded and directed a web series, but my producer convinced me to cut the pilot into 3 x 3 minute episodes. Eventually he mutinied and kicked me out of my own project so that he could release the last two episodes the way he wanted.
I'd just like to caution everyone to COPYRIGHT your material ASAP. Also, get CONTRACTS in place before any money changes hands. Trust me. I was working with friends and family, and things went bad, really bad. Now I've lost several thousand dollars, not to mention several months of work writing, directing, editing and even building websites and fan pages. All gone because I didn't claim ownership at the start.
But us artists never quit do we? Haha. On to the next project, this time all the wiser...
Thanks for the article Taboada, and thanks for the interview Joe!
April 5, 2012 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
That sucks to hear about your show. I've had lots of projects die at the hands of jackasses, it happens. On to the next project, indeed!
I believe if you wrote the script, you own the copyright regardless of any registration. Regarding action, that gets a little more complicated.
Sometimes it's just not worth the effort, but if you can prove you wrote it and invested in the project, maybe taking a look-see at small claims court (if you're in the U.S.) Do you know of a guy named Joe Escalante? Might be worth hitting him up - http://www.joeescalante.com.
April 5, 2012 at 3:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Very exciting! Thanks for posting this article; I had no idea this even existed... and thank you Joe for sharing your thoughts in the interview(s) and sharing your passion. I'm a new fan.
April 6, 2012 at 7:45AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thank you, Brian!
April 6, 2012 at 9:21AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Great vid! Couldn't agree with you more! Just do your thing and put it out there.
Do the hard work and research to get the look and sound and acting you want
all to support the story. the story is everything. Without it? Nobody on the cast and crew
have a gig. Really...just forget about the red carpet b.s., and on and on.
It's a shame..that this interview had to get out there.
It should just be simple common sense attitude. And this dude's got it.
April 6, 2012 at 4:41PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thanks, Mark! Glad you enjoyed my rant. I blame coffee.
April 7, 2012 at 10:19AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Hi intriguing videos however I am not quite sure how this creates revenue - perhaps this is a silly question - but how do these web propositions make money? Love to know more if you could enlighten me.
I notice VM is "audience funded" - does that mean people buy each episode?
Love someone to throw some light on this for me.Cheers.
April 7, 2012 at 5:04AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
We made the first season using cheap standard def video cameras I already owned (a VX-2000 and a VX-2100) and I funded it out of my pocket. T
he second season was shot mostly on 5D's and a 7D, we often used three cameras running simultaneously.
The audience donated over $10,000 (US) for us to shoot the second season and upgrade gear.
April 7, 2012 at 10:22AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Fascinating - I think over here (UK) - and this might be a generalisation or ignorance on my part - I don't think we are that switched on yet to the web series paradigm. I think we are still in the "short film as calling card" frame of mind.Certainly not many of the UK film schools promote this mode of production.However,I am intrigued by serial drama and the different possibilities thrown up by long form storytelling.But commercially, I wonder how advanced this entertainment form is with regard to product placement/branded content etc. Can anyone point me towards a web drama series that has really created a viable and measurable revenue stream or is that the holy grail?
Once again thanks Joe for your reply.
April 7, 2012 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I have read about U.S. film schools making serialized and other content specifically for the internet. I started out making shorts and find the idea of making a bunch of them as one longer story a lot of fun. It's also a great opportunity to learn even more about the filmmaking process than one short script.
Branded web series - Easy To Assemble - http://easytoassemble.tv/
Are you specifically looking for dramas?
Venice the Series is one drama I know of that uses a subscription model - http://www.venicetheseries.com/
April 7, 2012 at 3:45PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
That's really helpful and thanks
April 7, 2012 at 4:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Nice working philosophy, really inspiring...just doing what you want to do without having to wait for a greenlight from someone else. I think, if someone wants to make something happen, they'll do it no matter what. I think, creatively, this is liberating. My team and I have been working on a similar concept here in India but with shorts. We are almost done and will be launching the project in a couple of weeks or so after a year of work. But still trying to figure out the best way to get it out there. While film festivals have been a great vehicle for publicity and stuff, now it is slowly losing its relevance as they are mushrooming everywhere. Anyways, good to know there are people doing great work despite unimaginable odds. Good luck.
April 7, 2012 at 9:05PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Thanks Raghu and good luck with you new project!
April 8, 2012 at 8:41AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Hey Raghu, glad to see you guys working it out - Could I suggest a better interface for the website though? I found it difficult to gleam any amount of info out of it, notwithstanding the colors. Just a suggestion.
Good luck with your projects.
April 13, 2012 at 7:42AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Inspirational words to live by Joe! I'm a student, building my skills, while I learn the craft (While working as a recording engineer part time). http://full.sc/HzjeU6 . I'm always told to think about sponsorship, viewer's attention span, how to go viral, yadda yadda yadda. These points only create a distraction from the subject at hand, telling a good story within the limitations of my budget, equipment, and skill set. And while I guess those are things worth knowing, I totally agree that if you create good content, inspired from a burning passion, you will eventually build a audience that will be your own, and not at the whim of your sponsors...
April 8, 2012 at 4:40PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I always feel like I'm a student building my skills and that's part of the fun.
I think if we all bend our brains a little and approach storytelling from a slightly different angle, the stories that will result are going to be a lot more interesting. How could they not be?
Have fun telling great stories!
April 8, 2012 at 6:20PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
All good. All true. Love it.
April 9, 2012 at 11:34PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
April 10, 2012 at 11:12PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
This may seem a little off subject, but does anyone know of a good way to get actors besides craigslist?
April 10, 2012 at 8:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Mandy.com is a good one wherever you are
For New England, newenglandfilm.com and ourfilmspace.com are great.
April 10, 2012 at 9:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
You can also seek out theater companies and colleges as places to find actors.
I've cast a lot of actors from seeing them live on stage first.
April 10, 2012 at 11:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Looking for sponsors and promotors; any help or tips to create 3 episodes.
November 12, 2012 at 7:10PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Love the interview. Can't fault the passion. in fact felt like a shot in the arm, especially as I'm about to produce my own 6 part web seris in London. I was wondering whether 10-12 minute episodes were too long. Now I know. Just go fucking do it, lol.
June 25, 2013 at 5:18AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM