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5 Rules for Doing a Web Series

5 Rules for Doing a Web Series

Web series are hot right now. Why? They’re a cheap, fast way to show what you can do. Not everyone can get a deal with a major network – but everyone can create a web series.

Well, hold on… they can… but it doesn’t mean it’ll be any good.

To help make yours the best it can be, follow these simple rules:

  1. Short and sweet
  2. Colorful and close
  3. Story and Structure
  4. Resourceful and Rare
  5. Quality and Quantity
2ndAvenue_L
Title image for DFA grad Mari Kawade’s web series, 2ndAve

1. Short and sweet

Web series means online means short attention spans.

Generally, most belong in the 5-10 minute range. Going longer will cost you viewers, unless the subject matter is absolutely RIVETING. The only types of web series that consistently get away with long episodes are educational programs people watch because they need the info – not for entertainment.

If you still think this is too constrictive, consider this – the average online video is 6.5 minutes, and most people prefer not to click on anything over 2 MINUTES long.

2ndAvenue_Apt
The colorful apartment of 2ndAve star, Mariko.

2. Colorful and close

Mari Kawade, the creator of the web series 2ndAve, points out that most people watch web series in places where they can be easily distracted. For this reason, it’s better to make your web series colorful, literally (or at least give it a strong  aesthetic), and avoid having too many wide shots. Close-ups will be more engaging to an iphone viewer on the go.

3. Story and Structure

Just because it’s a web series doesn’t mean your story is less important than it would be on a network show. Great visuals will get you far – but if they’re combined with a story or unifying concept, the series can develop a faithful audience and be sustained over a longer period of time.

Keep in mind: story and structure don’t just refer to individual episodes. They also refer to how the series unfolds over time. Plan a whole season’s worth of episodes, and structure each so it leaves the audience wanting more. A good tactic is to always end with a cliffhanger – and the link to the next episode!

2ndAvenue_Shock
The leads on 2ndAve get a shock.

4. Resourceful and Rare

Web series can be done cheaply, but that goes out the window if you write in a bunch of special effects and set pieces you can’t afford. When planning your series, think about resources you have at your disposal. How can you use them to create something special? With luck, this thinking will help you achieve the ‘rare’ status of a creative series that’s doing something original.

5. Quality and Quantity

A web series doesn’t have to look like a Hollywood blockbuster – but it should at least look like you know what you’re doing. Do amateur home videos sometimes go viral? Sure. But how many of those ‘filmmakers’ have the strength to pull views time and again when they post new content?

Do your homework. Assemble a team of people who want to make your series happen. Teams often come together at the DFA – students have the necessary knowledge and the school provides the equipment.

Finally, without hurting the quality, do a lot of episodes quickly. (This is another reason why it’s good to keep episodes short.) Put up a bunch at once so people can keep watching – and then keep ‘em coming. If you only put up one every 6 months, no matter how great, people will forget about you by the time you put up another.

This list doesn’t cover everything about web series – but it’s a great start. So go ahead and start planning your webisodes now!

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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