This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
This past April I had the pleasure of attending Miami Web Fest. It holds a special place in my heart because it’s my first festival experience where I won Audience Choice Award for Ghetto Nerd Girl. Just like our show, MWF has evolved since its inauguration. Miami is a great place for a festival because of its rich culture, nightlife, and their film/tv industry is on the rise. I also wanted to share some tips on how to make the best of your time at a film festival. It can be a long journey to official selection so plan the trip and make sure you’re prepared. The event will fly by.
Panel It Up
It was difficult for me to forgo the sightseeing, but it’s necessary to learn some expertise from experienced folks in the industry. Their advice is invaluable and can help you in your career. Here are some tidbits I learned from Miami Web Fest speakers.
1.) Directing is rewriting.
2.) Cast thoroughly because once you hire the wrong person you’re f*cked.
3.) Don’t underestimate a rehearsal. Allow your actors to get comfortable with each other.
4.) You should like your actors, learn from them and treat them well.
5.) Be sensitive to your actors’ needs because what they do is difficult. Give them an optimal environment to thrive in.
6.) Think about what you say to your actors beforehand.
7.) Whatever you do don’t film other than on the first floor. (This has to be hard for city folks.)
8.) Don’t choose a location with parking that’s 3 blocks away. This will kill your shooting schedule.
9.) If you’re not confident in your directing, be as prepared as possible. For example, know where the camera should be before you get to set.
10.) Find people who are natural storytellers for your team.
11.) If you can afford it, take unpaid work to get your name out there.
1.) Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Have multiple ideas for your projects.
2.) If you’re planning to ‘shop around’ have legal representation i.e agent or manager.
3.) When sending e-mails, follow up after a few days.
4.) Become a slasher! ex. Writer/Director/Producer
5.) Relationships are the foundation of getting ahead in this industry. Don’t expect a favor if you’re not willing to do one in return.
6.) Most people’s success does not happen overnight. In this business, most people go through a 10-year curve (minimum) before ‘making it.’
7.) Make sure there’s a reason for all camera movement and/or lack of movement to move the story forward.
With practice, this is something I’ve been getting better at. I have my moments, but luckily I sought out some peeps I got to know through Stareable. It was nice meeting and getting to know @hermdelica and @spectatorspork. We were able to talk shop and congratulate each other on our wins. Yay! Another way I approached people was watching their series during the screenings and complimenting them on what they did well with their show. From there you should be able to at least build your network. Don’t forget to follow them on social media after the event!
Winning Best Screenplay
I used to get upset if I didn’t win if I was nominated in a certain category. The truth is that’s not what festivals are about. Festivals are about celebrating the humanity and commending the artists behind the project. If you are selected and get to experience the festival, that is a win in itself. I remember the first Miami Web Fest back in 2014 when I met the writer of San Fran Land after she won for Best Screenplay. I congratulated her on her win and asked her some tips for writing. I remember at that moment I aspired to one day be nominated in that category. Once it happened I found myself facing some stiff competition. After they called my project out I almost died. I didn’t want to go up and speak but alas there I was. I’m clearly a better writer than a speaker so it amazes me that I didn’t fumble my words.
Festivals are an unforgettable experience and you want to take it all in the little time you have. Plan accordingly to attend all the events and have some fun too. Festivals are necessary for us as artists to recognize we are not alone and other people enjoy our content. Remember the feeling while you are there and take it home with you. Let it motivate you to keep going when the times are rough. And if you take an award home don’t forget to share that win with your team. They’re the ones who helped you from Day 1.