How to Plan to Plan to Make a Web Series
Stareable’s Guide to Creating a Show (Part 2)
Plenty of screenwriters might go their whole careers without ever filming something themselves. But you, my friends, have chosen that web series way of life — indie film at its most indie. In general, making a film is broken up into three parts: pre-production (planning), production (filming), and post-production (editing). In reality, though, each of those parts is a process unto itself. So today, we’re going to talk about the pre-production you do BEFORE pre-production truly begins.
Pre-pre-production is essentially where you answer the question, “can we actually pull this off?” Spoiler alert: probably.
Since you’re fresh off your script writing, a good next step is doing breakdowns. Make a document or spreadsheet of every element of your script. This will then become your shopping list as you move forward in the production process. Elements include characters, locations, props, wardrobe, etc. For my breakdowns, I like to have the basic list, plus a version that’s organized by characters and locations. This will be super useful during real preproduction when you’re preparing your schedules, because you’re almost certainly not going to film in order of your script. In reality, film schedules are driven by when you can get the correct group of people in the designated location. Knowing who needs to be where for the whole story will be invaluable for those decisions.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process and at this point you’re going to want to start bringing more people on board. If you haven’t done much film production before, find a trusted person who has, and make them a producer. The producer’s job is to know what’s going on at every level of production and make sure each task gets completed. The most valuable quality in a producer is experience in film, even if they’ve never actually held the role of “producer” before. They’ll provide a vital perspective and knowledge-base for turning your awesome script into an awesome show. They’ll fill in blanks you might not even realize were there, and suggest shortcuts to make your life easier.
Most projects have multiple producers, all with different strengths. A dream team would consist of someone with film experience, someone who’s really organized, and someone who has a big network. Sometimes you’ll get an all-in-one, and sometimes you’ll mix-and-match. It really depends on who you know and how interested in the project they are. Your producer team is your lifeboat in a sea of uncertainty and stress, and you’re going to want to sign them on as early as possible.
You’re also going to want to find a director, because without them, there’s no one to actually film the thing. Maybe you’re considering directing the series yourself, and if that’s the case, good for you! Just know that directing consists of more than calling “action” and “cut” — it’s about visualizing every angle you need for each scene, paying attention to pacing and transitions, and coordinating and communicating every person on set. It’s also about having all the answers to everything happening at any given time. I don’t say this to deter you, just to clarify that being a director is a massive undertaking, and having someone confident in their film experience in this position is going to be invaluable.
Got your people? Great. Schedule a meeting, share your script, and collectively go through your breakdowns. The goal here,, remember, is to answer the question, “can we actually pull this off?”
This is when your more production-knowledgeable friends and partners will really help you out. They’ll be able to point out places where you’ve made the script too complicated, or why certain props and locations might be difficult to attain, and offer educated alternatives. A lot of the time, you can accomplish what you want with your story in simpler ways. You just need to understand what your options are, and having partners with more experience allow you to uncover those possibilities.
Now it’s time for what I’ll call “realistic rewrites” of your show, accounting for the resources you have available and the realities of what you can accomplish on a microbudget. This can be as simple as changing a location from a busy club to an apartment, or as drastic as cutting a character. Compromise is part of the process, so get used to killing your darlings and making sacrifices where you can in service of actually getting this project to the finish line. Once you make it big, you can plan to revisit those more ambitious ideas, and you’ll have the experience to know how to make them count.
Before you bring any more people on board, we have to talk about money, which we’ll do next week. To be clear, we don’t have any to give you. But we’ll help you understand your different options for funding or simply affording your production. See you then!