How To Do A Period Piece


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #1

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.

When making Ghetto Nerd Girl, I wanted to capture the late 90’s and early 2000’s as much as possible. It was a fun process doing the research and adding those tidbits within pre-production. A nice trip down memory lane if you will! If you’re considering doing a period piece for your web series, this is a good place to start.

1.) Research – I lived in the early 2000’s, but that doesn’t mean I remember everything that made it great. I went through my yearbooks and searched on the web. I found plenty of those nostalgic lists on Buzzfeed to be helpful.

2.) Copyrights – The last thing you want to do is steal someone else’s intellectual property. This can be a struggle, but allow yourself to think outside of the box. If you heard it on the radio or saw it on television, chances are it’s off limits.

3.) Pre-production – I suggest recruiting a set designer or including your MUA and/or wardrobe department in the discussion. They’ll help you re-create the world you’re looking for. Shout out to our set design, wardrobe, and makeup guru, Leslie Pinho!


Wardrobe is one of the most noticeable ways to capture the time. (from L to R) Megan McGullam, Jillian Eichler, & Shayna Schmidt in Ep. 1 - The End of Clique-Dom


Megan's hair, makeup and earrings scream early 2000's


Jewelry pieces from the era: Zach's ball chain, Melissa's handcuff necklace, and Roland's puka shells.


My most used prop to date was a pre-paid cell phone I bought from Walmart for $10. I only wish it had Snake!

4.) Shopping – Amazon was my best friend during pre-production. It was easy to get props from there fast and on the cheap. As a producer, we like those things!

5.) Music – I couldn’t use anything obvious, unfortunately. However, there are many independent artists out there who are inspired by a specific time period. Some of them happen to be my friends. Many of their tracks ended up being a good match. A good example is Boro and Saxon Blu.

6.) Vocabulary – This wasn’t as obvious to me since I still talk like I’m from this era, but there are some words I can point out in my script that I wouldn’t use today. As if!

7.) AOL Instant Messenger – This gets its own category because it’s too damn good. In one of our episodes, AIM is the main character. I included the sound effects from the good ol’ buddy list. RIP AIM.


This was as close I could get to including an AIM window in Ep. 3 - Smoking with Grandpa

Once all of these elements combined I noticed my series giving off a specific vibe. Viewers noticed the details and it made them feel nostalgic. The joys of our adolescence (some of us)! I do recognize that not everyone will want to make a period piece at a time that was lived in. In that case, I have a list for you too.

1.) Use Nature – Works for pretty much any century.
2.) Green Screen – Make your own world!
3.) Wardrobe – You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Second-hand shops are a great resource. Or you can contact your local theater house to see if you can borrow some costumes.

What time period does your web series take place? What steps did you take to make it like the era? I’d love to hear about it!

If you’re a fan of the early 2000’s check out Ghetto Nerd Girl!


I am Making a Period Piece. What is Protected by Copyright?
(Kyla) #2

love this!

the webseries I’m currently working on-- To The Max-- is set in the late 80s (hence the title). we relied heavily on hair/makeup/costumes to display that. hair & makeup has been difficult in that we have a limited time to film some days (1 hour and 15 minutes) and we’ve had to allot so much of that time to hair and makeup. for costumes, we hit up thrift shops, vintage shops, old holiday/birthday gifts, and my mother actually had crates of clothing from when she was in high school in the 80s. she kept her fave outfits and they’re our most iconic pieces (if I can figure out how to attach a photo I will).

we also used some good old 80s language, such as the classic “gag me with a spoon”!!


(Kyla) #3

it won’t let me upload another photo I have, but here’s the wonderful Kendall Prior as Patty Pickford in my mother’s authentic 80s blouse, blazer, and skirt (and my mother’s horrible shoes from the early 2000s).


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #4

Fantastic!


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #5

Thanks Kyla!

I love your web series title! What made you want to do a web series in the 80s? Wow that’s very little time to shoot, but I admire your perseverance. Sounds like you also have fun with the outfit shopping! That’s great!


(Bri Castellini) #6

I love this!! I would also absolutely never do a period piece but I love reading about other people doing it! For me, it’s because A. I hate writing for a period other than now (or one that I invent) because my writing style tends toward fugue state and having to stop to research terminology and if something was invented yet totally breaks my flow and B. Having to stick to a particular style is almost certainly more expensive and time-consuming and I just don’t have the budget or energy for that.

However! Since Brains was a genre show, I did have to do quite a bit of wardrobe work, specifically on the zombies. We tried to give each of our zombies a pre-death story/personality, instead of just ripping up generic clothing. So we ended up with a hippie zombie, with a bandana and tie die shirt, a barista zombie, with a cute coffee-patterned apron (made by my mom, actually!), a Christmas zombie (Christmas sweater/scarf, and the saddest of all zombies because he died at a holiday party!), a Seattle Mariners fan zombie (complete with team color face paint and a hat/jersey), and a hipster zombie (ironic tee shirt, plaid shirt on top, big glasses).


(Kyla) #7

thanks so much for your kind words! I find the 80s very similar to the time we live in now, and the original idea I had was like It without the spooky demon clown-- like the characters returning years later, where the political climate is seemingly different but at the same time nothing’s changed. that original idea was dropped because this is a very low-budget project run by teenagers and there’s no way we’d get adults to commit their time for a full season. so it tackles current social issues in a “fun” era and the whole social justice part of it is easier to digest than it would be had it been set today because bigotry and discrimination were much more prominent and clear in everyday circumstances back then, whereas today I find the internet channels everything to the point where this discrimination doesn’t feel real because it doesn’t happen in public and face to face. I don’t know if that makes any sense, sorry. but it’s been a lot of fun and the excessive makeup has been both a nightmare and a dream!!


(Kyla) #8

I adore this and my new dream role is “Christmas zombie”!


(Bri Castellini) #9

Christmas zombie before, during, and after makeup :joy: It was absolutely FREEZING this shoot date so all our poor zombies were miserable with their ripped clothing, especially when they had to sit still for makeup haha.


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #10

OMG I love this! It reminds me of a video game!


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #11

HAHAHA. I guess it was easy for them to turn into angry zombies!


(Bri Castellini) #12

And it was freaking April!! I hate outdoor shoots SO MUCH