Marketing/production on a web series


(Emma Drewry) #1

hi all! i posted a few months ago about running a writer’s room for my queer spy school web series, recon— it went quite well and as we finish writing, we’re moving into production stages and i’m starting to think both about assembling a crew/cast and distribution. i have a couple questions:

  1. would you recommend trying to sell your show to a network/YouTube channel, or distribute it yourself? if the latter, how have you marketed?
  2. would you recommend having one director per episode/multiple directors a season or trying to keep it fairly consistent (i have 2 writer/producers also on board who know the show roughly as well as i do)?
  3. with casting, what types of scenes do you suggest having actors read?
  4. with not having to pay crew/actors for the most part, and having pretty decent access to equipment, how would you suggest budgeting/what would your estimated budget be?

(Bri Castellini) #2

Hey! Glad to hear it went well for you!!

  1. Resources for selling the show: #Film-School:lemay-makes-a-series (several blogs)
    Resource for distribution (both free and submissions)
    IMO, for your first series, unless you already have connections, I’d just distribute it yourself (or potentially with one of the indie streaming sites I mention in the distribution article above), especially since you’re producing it yourself. Most places that are buying aren’t buying full shows (correct me if I’m wrong, @Alex_LeMay) but are seeking pitches or sizzle reels. Plus, building an audience for yourself will make everything easier, from eventually finding places to pitch, to crowdfunding for further seasons, to crowdfunding for other projects, and more.
    @gmcalpin might have further distro thoughts since he’s kinda currently in the mud about that right now.
  2. Directing choices are up to you- how stylized will the series be, and how much of that style is based on a singular director’s taste/ vision? For web series it’s usually not as obvious when the directing changes between episodes, so it’s honestly whatever works best for you guys. Do you WANT to give multiple directors an opportunity, or do you want to just have one? How will that impact scheduling, especially if you’re shooting multiple scenes from multiple episodes in a day that all have different directors?
    @OSTSG @hermdelica @Thomas_Tulak @DarekKowal will probably have thoughts!
  3. Definitely check out @ghettonerdgirl’s article on casting, as well as this one from me/Stareable.
    Other people with opinions on casting might be @HackettKate @microbrien and @Marc
  4. Budgeting is a super personal thing, but in order to figure out what will cost money and how to puzzle it out/find places to cut check out these articles: How To Break Down A Script and then How To Make a Budget

I know that’s a lot of reading, but I promise they’ll take you less than an hour to read through and will SAVE you many hours of trying to reinvent the wheel! You can comment on individual articles for more info/ with more specifics about your project so that the author can notice and help from there.


(Herman Wang) #3

Because we shoot in location-based blocks, on any given shoot day we’re shooting scenes for multiple episodes, so it wouldn’t make sense for us to have multiple directors. We’re not like a TV series where we’re only shooting one episode at a time.


(Bri Castellini) #4

Yup it definitely depends on your schedule. We had four directors on Brains season 2 (my show)- our lead director who did 17, a cast member who did one, our other EP who did one, and me. Twice we had shoot days that overlapped between directors, and just scheduled it so that there was a clear handing of the baton from one to the other. I think both times we shot with one director, broke for lunch, then had the other director take over from there.


(Marc L) #5

Thank you for the tag, Bri. As an actor I have many thoughts on the subject of audition sides, and perhaps some of them will be helpful!

In the past, I have enjoyed sides that are less than a page per scene where my character’s motivations are simple and straightforward. It is confusing to come into a room with a script I have no information about and have to speak with jargon or about an emotional experience that isn’t contextually obvious in the sides. It is also useful to give an actor at least two different scenes for their audition, to capture different emotions the character will need to portray later.

Things I would avoid: not telling the actors when the expected shooting will occur. It will potentially waste everyone’s time. Also, having a reader who is too expressive (if they are not already the actor for the part). An audition is where an actor comes to shine and that is difficult if they are competing with the person reading the other half of the lines. Only if the reader is playing the opposite character is when it is alright to do that, and even then it can be distracting for a new person.

I hope that this helps, and good luck on your casting, Emma.


(Bri Castellini) #6

Co-signed! Even if you don’t have solid dates, telling potential cast members your expected shooting time (even a month or a season- August or “late summer”) will help a lot- it’ll weed out people who aren’t available OR it will let you know people who don’t read casting notices before applying for the part after you follow up and they say “whoops I’m not available actually.” Actors with poor reading comprehension who don’t actually pay attention to job postings are likely not actors that will be good to work with, especially on the indie level


(Gordon McAlpin) #7
  1. would you recommend trying to sell your show to a network/YouTube channel, or distribute it yourself? if the latter, how have you marketed?

Since Bri mentioned me here, I want to say that I have no clue what I’m doing.

My animated short/pilot isn’t free and online mostly because I’m hoping to find funding or distribution through the festival circuit. That may well prove to be a spectacular mistake.

It IS available for pre-order on Vimeo On Demand: http://vimeo.com/ondemand/multiplex10 (it comes out on January 29th)

After roughly six months (less if the sales or film festival run goes poorly), I’ll probably move it to Amazon Video Direct and other subscription-based places. And after that, it’ll go ad-supported online.

I think my situation is a little different than most people’s, though, because Multiplex 10 is based on a comic strip I did for 12 years — so I (or the comic, really) have an existing fanbase. But we’re also planning a series of much shorter, simpler “webisodes” that will complement the short/pilot AND help promote it over the next several months. Hopefully.

All that said: if you don’t have a large enough audience to fund and sustain your series, or amazing technical chops and an awesome premise that will make total strangers throw money at you through crowdfunding, you should probably just release it free and build an audience that way?


(Bri Castellini) #8

Haha this is exactly why I tagged you. I agree with all your points- without an audience already established, it’s going to be difficult to get noticed by people willing to buy content, even if the content is incredible. ESPECIALLY if you’re shooting it yourself. Best bet is to release it yourself, at least for this first time, and try to get momentum from film festivals, other streaming services picking you up (refer to that table in the distribution post I linked), and networking.


(Kate Hackett) #9
  1. would you recommend trying to sell your show to a network/YouTube channel, or distribute it yourself? if the latter, how have you marketed?

YouTube is terrible. Use Amazon as a self distribution platform. You probably will not sell your show; that doesn’t mean don’t try, but don’t delay a premiere for it.

  1. would you recommend having one director per episode/multiple directors a season or trying to keep it fairly consistent (i have 2 writer/producers also on board who know the show roughly as well as i do)?

TV shows have different directors. Movies have one. If you’re shooting all at once, it probably makes sense not to split it up too much, but if you’re more week to week, it may help with scheduling. It’s a personal choice.

  1. with casting, what types of scenes do you suggest having actors read?

Avoid action sequences. Find things that offer a chance to show the range of the character.

  1. with not having to pay crew/actors for the most part, and having pretty decent access to equipment, how would you suggest budgeting/what would your estimated budget be?

Nobody can answer that without reading your script!


(Kate Hackett) #10

To be fair, sometimes we book things in between submitting & receiving a call for a project. This is also a trick actors do use to back out of something they don’t like.


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #11

So much info in one place! Bri knows!


(Melissa Malone) #12

It depends on your series and how it’s laid out- shooting and script wise. If it’s on cohesive story it might be easier to have one director. I know when we film a season (usually there’s a total run time under 2 hours) we use one director and shoot it like a feature film instead of on an episode to episode basis. That way we have the whole season shot in a shorter amount of time and it makes our lives easier when scheduling. However, some series are on an episode to episode anthology basis. If that’s the case it can be better to bring in multiple directors so that each episode has it’s own unique feel. In the end, go with your gut and with what makes your life easier.

In my experience, less action and more interaction. Also make sure to give some sort of background on the character and story. You want to get the best performance possible out of actors at auditions to see full potential. It’s hard (speaking as an actor here) to read minds. If I don’t have backstory to the character or script it’s my job to make it up myself and perform as I see fit. If you have a specific idea and don’t relay that ahead of time, you’ve possibly lost the right actor for the job due to miscommunication.


(Jonathan Hardesty) #13

As someone with actor friends/acquaintances and who follows them all, I skip the casting step when it comes to my animated projects. So much of the character is made in the recording booth so I make sure I know what I want with a willingness to evolve and rework it with the actor’s collaboration. For live action I will probably do some degree of casting to get a sense of physicality and voice, so it will most certainly be a conversation scene.


(Emma Drewry) #14

thank you all so much for all this advice!! sorry it took me so long to respond, school just started for me and it’s been a whirlwind :slight_smile: we’re going into casting this week, so i’ll definitely make use of a lot of this!