Looking for Something?
Posts Tagged for

web series

The Friends Approach to Creating Characters for Your Web Series


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


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.

Secrets to Web Series Success from Successful Producers [Video]


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:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPIInRHKB1Q[/youtube]

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.

How to Create a Web Series with a Small Film Crew


small film crew

So you want to create a web series, but your budget is too low to hire a full film crew? No problem. That’s the great thing about creating video content for the online space: you don’t need much money to get started! It’s okay if you have a very small film crew if you know a few tricks to making the most of the helping hands you have on set.

Here are a three tips to help you get started creating web series or videos with a small film crew:

Tip #1: Use tricky camera shots to make your crew seem bigger.

First, you can make your crew seem much larger by using some special camera shots. Vimeo created a really great tutorial on this topic that goes over how to film a swipe cut and how to film a split screen shot (as well as how to use your iPhone for audio). Check it out:

[vimeo width=”500″ height=”281″]http://vimeo.com/62365230[/vimeo]

Tip #2: Work with multi-talented people.

That diva actress friend of your who refuses to touch a camera and would rather spend time in her dressing room than helping on set is probably not someone you want as part of your crew. When you’re getting started, looking for people who can jump from role to role easily. Partner with a director who can also act. Hire the make-up artist who has experience with post-production work. The more people are willing and able to do, the fewer total people you need on your crew, at least at first.

Tip #3: Write scripts with your limitations in mind.

If you know you have a very small crew, cut out the scene you wrote where a crowd is chasing the main character. Having limitations stinks, but you’ll get there. Keep your scripts simple to start, and think about how you can change your initial vision to make it work even if you only have a two- or three-person crew. Get creative! It can be pretty fun to overcome challenges if you think outside of the box.

What tips do you have for creating awesome content for your web series, even if your crew is tiny?

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


“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


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!

How to Get More Fans for Your Web Series


No matter what kind of content you create online, it can be hard to find new fans who are interested in checking out what you’re offering. In this short video from Jonathan Robbins, creator of the dramatic web series Clutch, he gives some advice on how to reach a half a million views – without even giving up your creative license.

In this video, Robbins makes a good point: often, it is challenging to make strides growing your audience if you are also sticking true to the story you want to tell. It’s a balancing act between giving the people what they want and doing what you think is best. But as he points out, you don’t have to sacrifice your artistic freedom in order to get more fans. It’s about being smart with your resources.

Do you think you have to sell out to make money with your web series? Sound off in the comments below!

If you want more great advice straight from the experts about creating web series, check out the Web TV & Video track at NMX Las Vegas. See what the pros like Andre Meadows, Tara Platt, Kristen Nedopak, and Casey McKinnon have to say about finding your audience in their panel, In Search of Super Fans, just one of the sessions you can attend this January!

How to Keep Fans Interested in Your Web Series


I’d like to start this post by pointing out that I’m not a web series creator. I’m a blogger. That said, I am a huge fan of web series. I’m a huge geek, so some of my favorites include The Guild, My Drunk Kitchen, pretty much any series on That Guy With the Glasses. I also thought BBC’s The Pond Life leading up to the Doctor Who series 7 premier was brilliant.

That’s just scratching the surface of the web series I enjoy. Like most of you out there, however, my time is limited. You have to keep me interested with every episode or I’m probably going to forget about your series, instead moving on to find new series to enjoy. So how can you keep me (and other fans) interested? Here are my best tips:

1. Make some “special” episodes.

I absolutely love when web series producers includes some videos that are beyond the scope of the series itself. Behind-the-scenes footage, funny music videos, bloopers, and interviews with the cast are just a few examples of videos you can make that add a ton of value to your series. It’s like the special features disk when you buy a DVD. Fans who aren’t interested can just watch the series, but I think you’ll be surprised to know just how many viewers really do want extra footage.

2. Know your viewers – and make videos for them.

Without fail, the very best series always seem to be made for me. In other words, there’s a common theme, a thread that connects all of the videos so they’re made with a specific viewer in mind. Before you start filming the first episode or even getting too far along with the writing, think about the demographic you’re trying to target. Not everyone is going to like your web series, but that’s okay. You want to make rabid fans of the people who do like your series, not have a bunch of people who say “meh, it was okay” and never watch past the second or third episode.

3. Take your show on the road.

I never watched The Guild until I met some of the actors at a video game convention. At that point, the series was certainly popular, but it has only grown in popularity since then. Getting your actors out there, visible and promoting the show, is going to not only help you find new fans, but it is also going to feed your current hungry fans, keeping them interested in your series. Even if you can’t get a booth or speak on a panel at the show, just attending and networking with other attendees can help your fan base grow.

4. Don’t allow huge gaps between episodes or between seasons.

Just like bloggers need to be consistent with their posting schedule, it’s important for your web series episode to come out on a consistent basis. For most, this means every week during a season, with possible longer gaps between seasons. Once you have the millions of fans some series have, you can easily come back after six months or even a year of being off the air. If you’re new, though, or not yet super popular, this kind of gap can kill any momentum you have.

5. Get viewers involved.

Lastly, consider getting your viewers involved in some way. Hannah Harto from My Drunk Kitchen, Jenna Marbles, and lots of other web series creators take viewer questions and answer them on air. The Guild was initially funded by viewer donations, and today, you can start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. You can even consider getting a viewer to be part of an upcoming episode, and I’ve seen some series that allow viewers to vote in a poll regarding what should happen to characters. If I’m part of your web series in some way, I’m definitely going to be more interested to see what happens.

Using Flickr to Find Locations for Your Web Series


Sometimes, a natural location makes the most sense for a scene in your web series. When that is the case, what are your options?

  • Ask your friends for location recommendations?
  • Go back to a location you’ve shot at in the past?
  • Tweet to see if any of your followers have any ideas?

All of these methods for finding locations can work, but it’s kind of a crap-shoot.  You might get the perfect spot. You might be forced to compromise.

Want more options? This video from Izzy Video gives some awesome advice on how you can use Flickr when you’re hunting for that perfect location for your next video. Check it out:

Even if a special location isn’t necessarily for your video (for example, maybe you’re doing non-fiction work, where you’re just talking to the camera), shooting with a new, interesting location in the background can help give your videos that extra something special, setting you apart from others who are filming from their home offices. So don’t be afraid to get out there and experiment with different locations, especially now that you have a great way to find them!

Learn About NMX


Recent Comments