Tag Archives: Mari Kawade

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
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.

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!

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

Return to blog homepage.

Digital Film Academy New Filmmakers Screening

October 23rd was the most recent in a proud history of evenings that celebrate DFA graduates’ work. As each semester draws to a close, the Digital Film Academy screens student projects at the Film Anthology Archives, an impressive venue in NYC whose name also carries quite a bit of weight.

The experience of getting to see their work on the big screen is often mind-blowing for students.

These nights typically feature a wide range of work across different genres, and the 23rd was no exception. The audience was treated to a documentary trailer, the first episode in a new web series, a video Kickstarter campaign, two innovative short films, and a music video.

Three of the filmmakers were in attendance, so I got to chat with them after the show.

First up for my Q&As was Rich Lanzillotto, the creator of the short film Stood Up. The film, which goes inside the troubled relationship of two New Yorkers, offers viewers an unsettling ending. Unlike the other filmmakers in attendance, Lanzillotto shied away from directing his own piece. His long-term goal is to become an editor, so he focused on the editing and producing of Stood Up, which he co-wrote with his step-brother. The directing reins were handed over to another DFA student, Joseph Leon Stein.

Next up on my journey through filmmakers was Mari Kawade, whose web series 2ndAve is garnering lots of well-deserved attention. Three episodes are already online and have received more that 17,000 views, no small accomplishment. Maho Honda and Tsukasa Kondo, Kawade’s two lead actors and co-producers, were also in attendance.

2ndAve Team
Tsukasa Kondo, Maho Honda, Sara McDermott Jain, and Mari Kawade talk about 2ndAve.

The show, which features a new-to-NYC Japanese actress (Honda) and her homo-sexual roommate (Kondo), has developed a strong following of immigrants. “We knew the show would have a strong reaction from other Japanese,” Kawade says, “But we didn’t expect the massive reaction from other immigrants.” 2ndAve’s storyline, which features, among other things, the struggle of living in a foreign country and trying to build a creative career, showcases characters that anyone can relate to.

2ndAve Mari
Tsukasa Kondo and Mari Kawade give Sara McDermott Jain the low-down on 2nd Ave’s audience.

The third filmmaker was Linda Ainouche, an Anthropology PhD with a passion for documentaries. Her documentary-in-the-making, Dreadlocks Story, was presented in the form of a trailer. The subject is fascinating: the documentary explores the connection between India and Jamaica, how India influenced Jamaica’s Rastafari, and the movement which led to the proliferation of dreadlocks. The finished film will delve into how this is a result of India and Jamaica both being oppressed by Britain at the same time, and how their resulting connection is one positive thing to emerge from this oppression.

Documentarian Linda Ainouche discusses Dreadlocks Story with Sara McDermott Jain.

Ainouche is currently organizing a crowd-funding campaign to help finance the next stages of her research. Of the DFA, all the filmmakers stressed how the support and experience offered during their classes made their films possible. The DFA membership, which allows free access to film equipment, also made it possible to do these films with little to no budget. Those filmmakers who were unfortunately unable to attend were Jamaal Green, whose Kickstarer campaign trailer for the dramatic, psychological web series Chronicles of a Profiler was screened; Christopher Delao, who directed the surprising short film The Room Next Door; and Jimmy Negron, whose music video “Anthem” for the group Chameleon packed a powerful punch. The following projects are available to view online:

Happy viewing!

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

Return to blog homepage.

® GI Bill® Is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill