Or So the Web Series Go(es): Working With What You Have


(Melissa Malone) #1

Hello lovely Stareable world! If you read my (very lengthy) previous post It Better Make Your Heart Sing- you got a pretty good introduction to who I am. For those that prefer a much briefer introduction here we go…

I’m the creator of the web series, “Or So the Story Goes,”- an anthology series that takes classic children’s literature and adapts it with a modern, horror twist. The series began as a project to teach teens about filmmaking and as such still uses teens in our cast and crew. In fact, our assistant director, Rainni Moran just turned 16 and her brain holds many of our greatest ideas… :wink:

My bi-monthly column ''Or So the Web Series Go(es)" will discuss all the things that we “work” with throughout the web series world and my experience/advice in each. Obviously take it with a grain of salt but… I’m happy to offer some insight! First up-

Working With What You Have

The great thing about living in today’s world is there’s very little excuse NOT to get out a create something. There’s a plethora of opportunities- as long as you have the time, patience and flexibility.

When we first started out, we had less than a shoestring budget. In fact, we had ZERO budget and therefore had to get creative (microphone rigged to a painter’s pole with nuts and bolts from Home Depot creative). Luckily, we have grown a bit since then and have been able to find the finances to purchase an actual boom pole, lighting equipment, etc but there’s a lot to be said for the fact that even without it, we were able to create.

When beginning pre-production the #1 most important thing to do is stop. Take a moment to write down a list of what you already have. The end result may surprise you. This goes for props, crew, cast, wardrobe- the whole shebang. It also applies to locations.

I always find it best to have locations in mind already when writing the script. However, sometimes the story doesn’t allow it and you have to think outside the box. Use one house for multiple locations, call that friend that is going away for a week long vacay, ask about your local bar that is closed until 4pm if you can shoot there in the morning. Most importantly, once they say ‘yes’ remember to leave everything as you found it (if not even cleaner), thank them profusely and offer anything you can in return- promotion on your website, credit in the series, etc.

Be willing to learn new things & do them the hard way.

When it comes to web series, most producers have to wear many hats. Luckily the internet exists to help with those things at which you don’t initially excel. As well as producing, writing and acting I have found myself with MANY other titles- social media manager, promotions, EDITOR (this was a big one and one that I’ve surprised myself the most by) and more. Often I learn I have done something the hard way- that editing technique that should have taken about 15 minutes, maybe took me hours- but by god with a lot patience, it’s possible.

Ask for help.

This is probably where I struggle the most. Asking for help isn’t easy. However, you will find there are things you simply cannot do, no matter how much patience and determination you have. Find someone that is willing to help you.

Often people within your circle are already masters as some of the things you will need done- things you didn’t even think about. Email marketing? Poster creation? Logo Design? Merchandise design? Craft services? SO many things I didn’t consider and have since realized are exceptionally important! Thankfully, there are people that are fantastic at it all around you and love the series enough to help. You can find those people within your circle, too- but you have to ask.

In the end, doing a lot with a limited budget comes down to working with what you have- at least as a starting point. There will be places you have to spend money, should spend money. But there are also many places where you can save and no excuse not to get out there and make something.

Here are some of the resources I found helpful along the way…

Premiere Pro Tutorials-

Fiverr for inexpensive solutions to outsourcing-

WebVee Guide-

Filmmaking Forms-

*Stareable (This is one of the best resources! Talk to eachother, learn from eachother. :slight_smile: )

Melissa Malone is the creator/producer/writer/cast member of the web series “Or So the Story Goes.”

(Jaime Lancaster) #2

Uuuungh but asking for help is haaaaard :wink:

(Melissa Malone) #3

I make it look physically painful… damn my Type A, Capricorn pride! It’s the biggest struggle for me right next to that other super important networking issue- talking to people in public… :wink:

(Jason) #4

This is so fascinating to me. Asking for help absolutely doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I probably ask too much of people (“hey, you can stay til 2am to strike and then be back on set at 7 tomorrow, right? Good, great. See ya!”).

(Bri Castellini) #5

I feel her pain to an extent, but a lot of that is imposter syndrome and general keeping-everyone-happy anxiety

(Jason) #6

I get that in principle but at a certain point you have to remind yourself that they are working for you. Even if you aren’t paying them in money, they committed to working on your production for the credit, experience, love of the material, etc. You have to trust that if somebody has an issue with being asked for too many favors they will communicate that with you. Obviously there’s a limit to it, of course.

(Bri Castellini) #7

A lady never tells [how many spouses she has acquired?]

Since I’ve only ever paid people on one project (and badly at that) I feel very uncomfortable asking people to do anything more than the bare minimum, because I cannot believe they ever showed up. I can push through normally, because shit needs to get done, but it’s still a mental wrestling match to get myself to do it.

(Jason) #8

Edited my response a bit since I sounded like a dick the first time around. See above.

(Bri Castellini) #9

Hahaha no I liked your original one because

tenor (1)

(Bri Castellini) #10

In response to your edits, I trust no one. Wonder if I should get that checked out? :stuck_out_tongue:

(Melissa Malone) #11

Don’t get me wrong, I ASK! lol. It’s just inner turmoil, generally speaking. Luckily I’ve found my tribe and it’s gotten much easier to understand they WANT to help. I’ve also learned time and time again that getting over myself and asking is almost ALWAYS for the better. Either they say ‘yes’ and my project (and sanity) is all the better for it, or they say ‘no’ and I move on with the knowledge that being told ‘no’ is leaving me no worse off than I was before asking…

Initially, however- asking for help was tough. And in life in general I tend to find it difficult to LET other people help me with things, even when they want to. It’s that awful control freak side that rears its ugly head from time to time.

(Jason) #12

I do totally get the imposter syndrome thing and not wanting to push people working for free. But I learned from experience that ultimately (some, not all, obviously) collaborators want to be utilized to maximize the potential of a project. On the first season of RAF I was tentative and a little afraid to ask extra of people and it showed in the final product that it was a one man show, more or less. The writing was good and the performances were good but we didn’t get the coverage we needed and didn’t take the time to light things better because I didn’t want to keep people late, etc. In between seasons the cast and crew had a post mortem on the season and the consensus was “let’s push each other more to make a better show.” I asked for more late nights and more hours in a shooting day but it made for a better finished product so it was a trade off the crew/cast was happy to make ultimately. Sleep can always be made up, your show lasts forever.