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The Friends Approach to Creating Characters for Your Web Series

Author:

central perk So no one told you life was gonna be this way…

Every web series needs a great cast of characters. But developing believable, interesting characters is easier said than done. It’s the same across all fictional mediums, no matter why you’re writing characters. The process isn’t easy.

For character creation inspiration, I like to turn to one of my favorite television shows of all time: Friends

Web Series Characters: Start with a Trope

At first glance, the characters in Friends are extremely stereotypical and one-dimensional. For those of you who haven’t watched the show, it follows the lives of six friends living in Manhattan. Joey is the hot, stupid one. Rachel is the preppy cheerleader type. Ross is the nerd. Chandler is the class clown. Monica is the motherly, neurotic one. Phoebe is the free spirit.

Stock characters aren’t bad. They’re a starting point.

When you start by given your characters recognizable characteristics, you make it easier for the viewer to relate to them. At one point or another, we’ve all met a Phoebe. We’ve all gone to high school with a Rachel. We’ve dated a Joey and felt like a Ross. When a character is unfamiliar to us, we can’t relate, and thus, it is hard to get sucked into the story.

Starting with a cast of stock characters also allows you to ensure that your ensemble is balanced. Too many jokers leaves you no straight man to make the joke work. Too many brains can leave you without charm in the dialogue. Too many flighty characters leads to a script that is unfocused and a storyline that is confusing.

Think about your own group of friends. Everyone has a role, even if you are like-minded. That bit of variety is what helps you work as a group of friends, complementing one another instead of competing against one another.

Web Series Character Development: Adding the Layers

What you may fail to realize if you never watched more than an episode or two of Friends is that the six main characters are extremely developed. That’s part of the reason why the show worked so well. On the surface, they were caricatures, but each of the friends had a back story, deep motivations, weaknesses, flaws, and secrets (see my post about creating strong characters with secrets here). We saw them get hurt and we celebrated their triumphs.

Take Rachel, for example. She starts in the series as the typical “popular girl.” She’s the cute waitress who loves to shop and goes out on a million dates. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll suddenly find her insecurities about herself, her mixed feelings about relationships (especially with Ross), and her drive to be successful in her career. Her character can be funny, emotional, and caring, while still being the popular girl who was prom queen in high school.

When writing a web series, you have a unique challenge: making us understand a character’s layers in a limited time. Not every web series has short episodes, but even if you go for a longer episode length, the attention span of an Internet audience is extremely short. If they don’t see character development fairly quickly, they’ll be on to the next show, lickity-split.

Stock characteristics might make it easy for viewers to relate to a character, but layers make he character interesting. What can you do, from the very first scene a new character is introduced, to begin adding layers?

 Relationships Define Your Web Series Characters

What I like most about Friends is that this is truly a show about relationships. Rarely do we see characters alone or even in a scene where one of the other main characters isn’t also present. These relationships help to shape who the characters become.

Think of your character development process like the process of carving a marble statue. While you might be able to finish it 99% of the way, the relationships between characters are what smooth the edges and refine the statue. Have you ever gone back to re-watch a series you really like? Notice how the characters in the first episodes seem flat? That’s often because no relationships were developed yet. Every interaction a character has with another character adds a little something more to the story.

Again, as a web series writer, you have a unique challenge: building these relationships quickly before your viewers lose interest. So, make each interaction count. Be consistent with how your characters treat one another, always thinking about motivation. If Character A is nice to Character B, ask yourself why. By understanding the motivation behind relationships, it is easier to build relationships because your characters faster.

I personally believe that Friends is a unique example of writers hitting a sweet spot with characters. Other shows have tried to emulate this success (How I Met Your Mother is a prime example), and while I think some have succeeded, Friends is still my favorite example of strong character creation and development.

Image credit: Stuart Sevastos via Wikimedia Commons

The Chromecast Revolution: Web TV’s Move Toward Mainstream

Author:

chromecast At first, blogging was a brand new concept, but today, everyone and their grandmother has one, and most successful businesses use them as marketing tools. Then, podcasting was the new kid on the block, but a 2012 report shows that “as many as 40% percent of Americans now listen to audio on digital devices, and that is projected to double by 2015, while interest in traditional radio—even the HD option—is on the decline.”

Now, it is Web TV’s turn. The train is moving full steam ahead with companies like Microsoft catering to viewers with their latest gaming console, smart TVs being set up for watching video online, and companies like Netflix developing original online-only series like the latest season of Arrested Development and the extremely successful Orange is the New Black.

This revolution is perhaps defined by a new device called Chromecast, which is available from Google.

Chromecast: Web TV with Ease

One of the biggest problems with Web TV has always been the inconvenient nature of the Internet for viewing anything longer than a minute-long video. You can’t really enjoy a web series with your family huddled around a laptop or an iPad. Viewing on your television is possible, but only with the right devices, which are typically either expensive (like a gaming console) or inconvenient (like a cable you run from your computer to your TV).

Chromecast changes that. It costs just $35 and once you plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, you can send (“cast”) media directly from YouTube, Netflix, and the Google Play store from any Android or iOS device. Or, just pull up Chrome on your computer and cast anything in your browser window. While there are few apps with a cast button currently, the browser option means you can watch just about anything on your TV, using your computer as the remote controller.

Accessibility is an important step in making anything mainstream. With Chromecast and other devices like it that I’m store will be hitting in the market in the next few years, web series can compete with television shows.

Making Web Series More Social

Television has always been a social activity. You sit around the TV with your family to watch the latest episode of your favorite show, then you talk about it with your friends the next day. With the rise of social media, television has become even more social, especially with networks like Get Glue, which cater to fans who want to talk about specific shows.

Web series take this to a new level, since they live online, but the traditional social part, where watching episodes is an event, has always been missing, since it wasn’t convenient to to watch on a larger screen. So, although you could enjoy chatting online about your favorite shows, watching web series was more of a solo activity. With that changing, it is easier for web series to be more social in person, not just online.

With devices like Chromecast, will web series be pushed into the mainstream just like blogging and podcasting? The jury is out, but I think this is a major step in the right direction.

How to Promote Your Web Series with a Blog

Author:

promote your web series

Looking for new ways to promote your web series? A blog is one of your best options. Businesses use blogs as part of a larger content marketing strategy. This means that the blog itself doesn’t make money, but it brings traffic to a website so people become aware of what you’re promoting. There’s no reason you can’t do this for your web series.

Blogs are great for promotion because:

  1. They’re very inexpensive to start and maintain.
  2. Google and other search engines love regularly-updated blogs.
  3. Some of your fans may prefer subscribing to your blog over following your social accounts.

So once you’ve decided that it’s time to start a blog…how do you do it? And how do you make a blog manageable for you and your team? Here are a few tips:

Tip #1: Decide quickly what kind of content you want to have on your blog.

Your blog should be more than just posts containing embedded videos every time a new episode comes out. You can certainly to that, but your blog should have other posts as well. Here are some of the things you might want to consider having on your web series’ blog:

  • Pictures and backstage stories about your filming
  • Special content (like bloopers)
  • Interviews with the cast
  • Educational information about how to film a web series
  • Journal-like posts written by your chracters
  • Announcements (news about your web series, contests, etc.)
  • Transcripts of your show

Not every blog has to have all of these things. From the start, decide what you want to share on your blog and create a content schedule so you know when the blog is getting updated.

Tip #2: Have a plan for management.

If you’re on a shoestring budget, you might not have the cash on hand to pay a blogger to manage your blog. That’s okay. You and your team can run the blog if you work together, even if you are beginners. The key is to have a plan for updating the blog. Who will be in charge of writing posts? Who will be in change of updating posts when you have a new episode coming out? Who will be in charge of promoting the posts with your social accounts? Who will be in charge of responding to comments? Who will be in charge of back-end work, like updating your platform or installing new plugins?

The best choice is typically to spread the work across several people. Hold everyone accountable so each task gets done on time and the blog runs like clockwork. If you work as a team, it doesn’t add much work per week to your schedule.

Tip #3: Use your blog to connect with fans.

You probably already hear from fans directly on your videos, but on your blog you have a little more control of the conversation. It’s a great place to connect with your biggest fans through comments, and you can even consider starting a forum to go along with your blog. You blog is also a great place to poll your community to get their opinion.

Don’t start a blog if you aren’t going to update it regularly. No blog is better than a dead blog. But if you’re looking for new avenues of promoting your web series, definitely consider this option. It’s inexpensive and, with a little work, can be extremely effective for building buzz about your show.

Secrets to Web Series Success from Successful Producers [Video]

Author:

At the web series festival “HollyWeb 2013,” Web Series Channel took to the red carpet to ask successful producers, creators, and actors what it takes to have success in the web series world. Check out their advice:

Some highlights:

“The secret behind a successful web series is marketing it correctly. Seriously. You have to have all of the major things in order to make it look good, but beyond that, if you’re not spending any money advertising it on Facebook or anywhere else, nobody’s going to see it. So really get out there. Push it. Do an hour worth of social media a day and you can really get it going.”

“You know, a lot of people have said, I think it starts with story. It’s nice to have a lot of dollars for production value, but if you have an engaging story, interesting characters, you know, you’ll find your fans and they will follow you to the end.”

“If you make something that you would want to watch, you’re on the good path. Don’t worry about what you think people want to watch, as long as you make something you want to watch.”

“What’s the secret? Hard work.”

Check out the full video for even more great web series advice.

What Arrested Development’s Return Means for the Web TV Community

Author:

arrested development Recently, Arrested Development returned to the air after seven years of wearing the all-too-common “cult classic that was cancelled by Fox” badge. This riches-to-rags story follows the fictional Bluth family and the cast includes notables such as Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Portia de Rossi.

What’s notable about this release, however, is not only did the show come back with its original cast after being cancelled, but also that it was relaunched on Netflix. The streaming and DVD rental service licensed the rights to a fourth season for Arrested Development as part of their new push to include original programming as part of their offerings.

Like other Netflix-only series that were recently released, Arrested Development was offered to views in its entirety when launched. Viewers can binge-watch the entire season in one sitting or choose to spread out the episodes over time based on their own schedule. So far, fans are underwhelmed. Netflix’s stock has dropped, and critics have given the season mixed reviews.

But perhaps more importantly than the success of this one series is the notion that Netflix is changing how consumers think about TV, which has a ripple effect across all forms of entertainment. Certainly, this has implications for the Web TV community.

Thinking About Entertainment Advertising Differently

The traditional way of monetizing entertainment (specially anything episodic) is to have commercials throughout. Yes, some shows also do product placement and other forms of monetization, but commercials are the bread and butter.

With a show like Arrested Development steaming on Netflix, however, you don’t have those traditional commercial breaks. Let’s be honest, ever since the introduction of DVRs, commercials haven’t been reaching as many people anyway. But Netflix’s original program forces advertisers to think outside the box.

This is great news for web series producers. Some shows have “commercial breaks,” but online, people aren’t as tolerant of any kind of disruption in entertainment. So, producers have had to be creative with monetization – and ad companies aren’t always ready for that kind of thinking.

If more big-name shows like Arrested Development force advertisers to think outside the box, they may also be open to creative deals with others in the web TV community.

I Want What I Want and I Want it Now

One of the major criticisms I’ve seen about what Netflix is doing is that it takes the conversation out of television when entire series are presented at once. And it is true that after each episode of a popular TV show, the web is buzzing with fans talking about it on Twitter, Facebook, and platforms like GetGlue. The next day, the same is true at the water cooler at work. People are talking about the latest episode and anticipating next week’s developments.

You just don’t get this with Netflix. Some rabid fans of a popular series will watch over the course of a day or two, depending on how many episode are in the series and how long each episode lasts. A good majority will finish in the first week or two, and even more in the first few months. But everyone is on their own schedule. Fans might even refrain from talking about the series at all due to worries about spoilers.

But on the other side, people have an increasing “I want what I want and I want it now” type of attitude about all things. Allowing the consumer to dictate the speed at which a show’s series is watched plays into this hand.

This also allows more people to become fans. I don’t know about you, but I often watch the first episode or two of a series, then forget it’s on. If my DVR is full, I might never watch it again, even though I liked what I saw originally. This kind of “all at once” presentation avoid the problem of people forgetting about a show between weeks, so more fans may develop over time.

Is it the right choice? I’m not sure. But if you’re a web series producer, it’s a question you should be considering. Arrested Development has such a big built-in fan base that it’s a great case study for presentation methods.

Bigger Deals for Smaller Shows?

As Netflix continues to experiment with presenting shows in a non-traditional way, you can bet that everyone will be watching. Could this be the start of a wave of bigger deals for smaller shows?

Or, will it mean that big-budgets shows will invade the web space?

Or maybe a combination of both?

If you produce web series, be part of the conversation instead of just allowing it to happen around you. The silver screen entertainment world is changing drastically, so now’s the time to try new techniques for presenting your content and thinking outside the box when trying to attract both viewers and advertisers.

What do you think launches like Arrested Development mean for the web TV world? Leave a comment below.

Image: Netflix.com

NMX Speaker Paul Kontonis’ Predictions for Web TV in 2013 [Video]

Author:

“We’re beyond linear growth. We’re now at explosive growth.” – Paul Kontonis

During the IAWTV awards this past January, BeetTV got a chance to catch up with IAWTV Chair and NMX Speaker Paul Kontonis, who gave some predictions for the world of Web TV over the next year. Now that we’re almost two months into 2013, do you think his predictions are still on track?

If you want more from Paul about the future of Web TV, check out his NMX session, Where Is All Of This Headed? The Future Of Digital Entertianment, which is available to NMX University premium members.

How to Better Develop Your Web Series Characters using Secrets

Author:

If you’re producing a fictional web series, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time developing the story arcs. While I don’t personally produce web series, I have written my fair share of fiction, and today I wanted to share with you a character development technique that I learned from a fiction-writing class and that helped me create better characters for my fiction.

The One-Sheet

The first step of this character development technique is to write up a one-sheet for each main character, starting with your protagonist and expanding to include any character with a recurring role or any character who is important to a single episode. Essentially, if the character is given a name, you probably want to write up a one-sheet profile.

Each one-sheet includes as much information as possible about the character’s background, even when the details aren’t shared in your web series. When was your character born? How did he or she grow up? How does your character react to stressful situations? What does your character like to do on the weekends? Is your character healthy? Fill up the profile with details, details, and more details. Then, when you think you’ve written enough, add more details!

The Secret

Next, take a look at the one-sheet you wrote and give each character a secret that makes sense.

In life, we all have secrets. Even very innocent people have secrets. Maybe your character shoplifts. Or maybe he or she has a bank account the spouse doesn’t know about. Maybe your character cheats on his or her diet. You can make the secret as big or little as you want. If your character is likely to have several secrets, focus on the secret he or she finds most important and is least likely to tell anyone.

The Telling

Lastly, you want to write a quick scene where your character spills the beans. What would possibly get your character to tell someone else his or her secret? For a character who is pretty innocent, this might be as easy as admitting it to the person behind them in line for coffee. For someone more secretive, the answer might be that they tell someone while on their deathbed.

Again, this secret and the scene where they tell it do not have to be related to your web series at all (though it might give you some good ideas). You can get as detailed or be as vague with the scene as you want; just make sure you think it through. What would your character really keep secret and why would he or she ever tell someone?

What Have You Learned?

After completing the exercise, think about what you’ve learned about your character. You can incorporate this into the rest of your story to make a more realistic, cohesive character. For example, when I completed this exercise for a character in one of my short stories, my character was a mother who kept very little secret – other than the fact that she often got very bad headaches sometimes and was too afraid to see a doctor. This led me to thinking about how mothers, like the one in my story, often take care of themselves last and although they can seem superhuman at times, they have fears just like the rest of us. I incorporated what I learned into the story and it was much stronger than my first draft.

I hope this exercise helps you with your own character development. If you give it a try, leave a comment below letting me know if it worked for you!

Top Advice for Video Creators from IAWTV Award Winners

Author:

IAWTV sponsored an awesome video track at NMX 2013, and after the conference, they also hosted an awards ceremony for web TV content creators. NMX sponsor .tv got a chance to work the red carpet, interviewing some of the nominees and winners.

But in this case, the question wasn’t “Who are you wearing?” Instead, correspondent Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff asked these top content creators to share their very best tips for up-and-coming video creators. Check out what pros like Kristyn Burtt, Grace Helbig, Goldie Chen, Chris Hardwick, and Tim Street had to say:

Many winners and nominees at the IAWTV awards were actually speakers at NXM 2013. Want to see their presentations? You can get all of the conference recordings as a premium member of NMX University with our 2013 Virtual Ticket. Learn how to sign up here.

How to Turn ONE Piece of Content into an Online Marketing Marathon — Without Lifting a Finger!

Author:

What if you could create one piece of content, and then turn it into four completely separate pieces of fresh, original content to use all over the internet to help market and promote your online brand?

It’s doable. And way easier than most think, and it’s the topic that I’ll be covering at my presentation in Vegas this coming January, entitled “45 Things Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business.”

In the meantime, and to get you thinking about the topic and what it can mean to you, as an online content creator, here’s a rundown on how it works. You’ll see a bit of a pattern developing, which I’ll cover at the end of the post.

Step 1

Sit down in front of a video camera, with a like-minded person that you know your audience will love to hear from. If you can’t be with them in person, then get them on Skype and record a split-screen chat between the two of you. We’re talking 20-minutes of content, that’s all that’s needed.

Step 2

Send that video to an AV virtual assistant to have it converted into an audio podcast. They’ll clean it up and splice together a cool sounding intro and outro, too – to make it sound super professional.

You can also have that VA cut up the original video file into 5-minute clips, creating four original videos that can be uploaded to YouTube and used for keyword marketing, individually!

Step 3

Send the audio file to a transcriptionist virtual assistant (known universally nowadays as a “VA”) and have them convert it into a Word document. They will then draft and schedule the written content into your blogging software, which can be used as blog post content.

Step 4

Send that Word document to a graphic designer virtual assistant and have them layout it all out into a snazzy looking eBook, or PDF guide of some sort, which you can then use as a giveaway – such as an opt-in offer – or just a freebie for your community – they’ll love you for it, telling all their friends to go visit your blog!

Step 5

Have that same graphic designer VA convert certain quotes from the conversation into images that you can use on your social media channels. They’ll brand the image with your logo, a cool photo and a URL for people to remember to check out later on.

BOOM!

Five different pieces of original, branded content created out of just 20-minutes of work. Did you see the pattern? Yep – you got it. Utilize the power of virtual staff to build your content creation empire.

This is Just the Tip of the Content Marketing Iceberg!

There are so many more things you can get virtual assistants to do for you as a professional content creator. Membership sites, squeeze pages, full-blown online courses, Kindle books – you name it.

They can’t, however, do any babysitting, or pick up your dry cleaning!

The list goes on and on and I’ll be going into a LOT more detail on everything at New Media Expo in January. I’ll even touch base on the different tools you can use to work with VAs to have them become super productive, and for you to get the biggest bang for your buck as a virtual boss.

See you in Vegas, baby!

The NMX Web TV/Video Track

Author:

Video is growing by leaps and bounds. More and more people who create videos are ramping up their efforts; turning their content into compelling web series. Is that you? If not, would you like to learn how?

At New Media Expo, we have sensational sessions planned for web TV/video producers, podcasters, and bloggers. If you’re already a video or web TV producer, or want to get started, you’ll find fantastic educational sessions from some of the top leaders in the industry.

For an overview of our web TV/video track, see below. To learn more about the speakers and the session takeaways, visit our web TV/video page.  We hope to see you at NMX in Las Vegas, January 6-8!

 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

  • Legal Ease – What You Should Know To Stay On The Right Side Of The Law with Joe Warshaw, Shaun Spalding, and Art Neill
  • What’s The Latest As Web Series Go Mainstream with Shira Lazar, Zadi Diaz, and Rob Barnett
  • How To Get The Right Music For Your Web Series with Michelle Shocked and Cary LoGrande
  • Branded Entertainment: Is That An Oxymoron? with Kristyn Burtt
  • Directing Your Way Out Of A Paper Bag:  Advice From Award-Winning and Nominated Web Series Directors with Sandra Payne, Kai Soremekun, Brett Register, and Scott Brown
  • Is There An App For That? How Can Apps Help My Web Series? with Jeff Koenig, Gregory Storm, Marc Ostrick, Josh Levine, and Frank Sinton

 

Monday, January 7, 2013

  • Ready, Set, Shoot — A Beginner’s Guide with Stephanie Piche
  • Show Me The Money! Ways To Monetize Your Web Series with Kristyn Burtt, Andre Meadows, and Nancy Tamayo
  • Pitching Your Web Series with Tim Street
  • A Digital Agent Walks Into A Panel… with Kevin Winston, David Tochterman, and Eric Kuhn
  • Write Now! Advice from Award-Winning and Nominated Web Series Writers with Jorge Rivera, Bernie Su, David Nett, and Sandeep Parikh
  • In Search Of Super Fans with Andre Meadows, Tara Platt, Kristen Nedopak, and Casey McKinnon

 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

  • It’s aLive! Livestreaming Tactics for Success with Tim Street and Philip Nelson
  • Acting Up! How to Do Your Best Work for Any Screen — Advice from Award-Winning and Nominated Web Series Actors with Jo Bozarth, Mark Gantt, Al Thompson, and Annunziata Gianzero
  • Produce Like a Champ: Advice from Award-Winning and Nominated Web Series Producers with Benny Fine, Rafi Fine, Yuri Lowenthal, Kim Evey, and Susan Miller
  • Social Media and Web Series — Shouldn’t They Get Married Already? with Brian Rodda and Angelique Toschi
  • Union Eyes – Why, When And How To Work With The Guilds with Will Marshall
  • Where Is All Of This Headed? The Future Of Digital Entertainment with Paul Kontonis and Jim Louderback

 

There’s still time to join other video producers from across the globe at the world’s largest new media conference. Register today!

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