Congratulations, you made a web series! Now that the success is in your system, despite the long days and sleepless nights and constant stressing about schedules, I’m gonna wager that you want to do it all over again. Pro: you have a better handle on what goes into making a series. Con: you pulled most of your available favors for season one.
Not to fear, though! A second season, or a new project, is entirely possible. This is a list of 7 ways to level up your second season production, because growth is vital to continued success.
1. Plan further in advance.
Let’s be real: every single one of us tried to schedule things too soon during our first seasons. It’s not our fault! We didn’t know what we were doing! But now that you’re older and (hopefully) wiser, it’s time to get your act together. Plan your production meetings, shoots, and release dates much further in advance than you think is necessary- preferably a month beforehand.
This means not starting a crowdfunding campaign before you have a full social media and email outreach schedule in place, scheduling shoots in blocks instead of one day at a time, and actually scouting all your locations instead of visiting once, shrugging, and thinking to yourself, yeah that’ll work.
2. Better food
Sometime I can’t believe I forgot to prioritize during my first project was food. I’d already gone through my meager crowdfunding cash with props, costumes, and transportation, and then while on set with twenty people, I realized the error of my ways. A box of donuts to the rescue!
While I know the cast and crew appreciated the gesture, a box of donuts doesn’t cut it for a 4+ hour shoot, and I should have known better. So season 2, I brought sandwich-making materials, with pre-sliced cheese, a variety of cold cuts, and even peanut butter, and made sure to give everyone a 45-minute break with which to construct and eat. I also made sure to have snacks throughout the day so tide people over, snacks more substantive than an assortment of donuts. If you’re looking for craft service inspiration, check out this post by the folks over at Or So The Story Goes. Also, consider trying to get free food from local businesses! It’ll feel like a major step up for everyone involved, trust me.
3. Increase production value
There’s nothing less satisfying than getting the whole gang back together and then making a season that looks and feels exactly the same as season one. Not to say that you can’t love your first season, or feel proud of it, but everything you make should hopefully be better than what you’ve made before. That’s progress, and in the web series world, we could use all the production value jumps we can get.
Production value doesn’t have to just mean a nicer camera, though I’m sure most of us would love that. It could also mean more time spent with your art department, designing a wardrobe and production design look, or tighter editing, or more interesting shots, or more varied locations, or better writing and more confident directing of actors. Whatever your particular show requires, make it better the second time around. Otherwise, what’s the point?
4. Improve communication
Another thing I know I failed at pretty hard my first season was communication. Having never worked on a film set before, I did a lot of assuming. I assumed people would know what to bring to set, I assumed if I asked someone to research something, they’d have it done by the next meeting. I assumed I didn’t need to do X, Y, or Z to prepare my cast and crew for the day ahead. Almost every single time, well, you know what they say about assuming.
Communication on a group project as massive as making a web series is vital and absolutely can’t be overlooked, especially during your second season, where many collaborators might be falling into habits that hold you back. Keep these time management tips in mind and streamline the way your team keeps in touch. Not only will the whole process feel more professional, but it will be more productive as a result, and you won’t end up on set with no camera, no SD card, and half your props missing.
5. Have contracts
Contracts sound scary and lawyer-y, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have them, because you never know what will come up in the future. Perhaps you’ll have a falling out with your co-producer and they’ll try to claim ownership of the project. Perhaps an actor doesn’t want to be associated with the show anymore and halts your distribution deal because you don’t actually have the rights to their image in the project. Or maybe it’s as simple as using your contracts as proof that a crew member agreed to certain things and aren’t holding up their end of the deal. Bottom line: contracts are insurance for the unexpected.
Here are two great articles (x, x) about contracting that will help you get started. For my sets, I have two contracts per person- one is a deal memo that lays out expected days of work, expected compensation (if applicable- if not, that’s detailed as well), and any other things expected of them (social media shares, taking BTS photos while on set, etc). The other is a standard talent release, releasing their image as it appears in the show and all promotional materials for the show legally to me and me alone.
Keep these contracts organized somewhere you can easily find and refer to them as needed.
6. Get a photographer
A big failing on my first two projects was not having a dedicated photographer on set, thus making it difficult to promote the series with more than just screenshots. In my defense, one of those projects had literally six people working on it total, but recently I shot a short film with that same number and came out with over 200 photos from our weekend production.
Of course, if you can get a friend or crew member dedicated to behind the scenes photography, great! Do that! If you’re in school, maybe recruit a younger student to do this. But often, scheduling the people who absolutely have to be on set will be tough enough. In this case, deputize different cast and crew members throughout the shoot. Don’t make the same person photographer the whole time; spread the responsibility around so no one feels more overworked than they already are. It also gives you a wider variety of photos, which will be useful later on.
Deputize crew members who have their hands free while cameras are rolling and cast members on their lighter days. So ask your AD or PA before you ask your sound tech, and ask your supporting actors before you ask your lead. This practice alone will triple your opportunities during your marketing campaign.
7. Pay something
I know you’re broke. We’re independent filmmakers- we’re all broke. But if you’re asking people to work on the same project a second time, if you can, pay something. A second season may be the only thing you can dream about, but your cast isn’t really getting new, unique reel footage, and neither is your crew, because they’ve done this before. Even if the production value has increased, it’s still less valuable to them than a new project altogether, and even if your cast and crew are excited to revisit the project, be aware of what you’re asking.
They are giving up their weekends and potentially giving up other job opportunities to be on set with you, and if they’re driving themselves, they might actually be losing money by working on your project. Be sensitive to that, and set aside something for them. Maybe it’s paying for everyone’s transportation and giving out gift cards at the wrap party, or maybe it’s paying $50/day (far below the industry minimum). Maybe it’s committing to helping them on their own projects. If you’re open and honest with your cast and crew, any amount of money or labor trade will be greatly appreciated.