As the primary show approver on Stareable.com and now as the professor of a web series production class, I have a front row seat to hundreds of new web series producers. I love my jobs, and I love seeing the breadth of creativity and scrappiness, but I’ve also started picking up on certain patterns of similar mistakes. Mistakes that, while important to address, don’t actually require that much work to fix. That’s the good news, so let’s talk, new web series creators.
Mistake: Not doing your research
No shade, but a significant portion of web series (my own included) have at least two of the following characteristics:
Series takes place almost entirely in an apartment
Series takes place in New York or Los Angeles
Characters are struggling artists (actors, writers, filmmakers, etc)
Characters are struggling with adult responsibilities
Characters are struggling with dating
Furthermore, a significant portion of web series have ALL of the above characteristics. Listen- I’m not saying that these stories aren’t valid, and that there’s no new combination therein to be explored. But I am saying that if you’re going to spend time casting, producing, and marketing a web series with little-to-no opportunity for a return on investment (especially not at first), do your research and make sure you’re either making the best version of the apartment-stuck struggling actor in LA who also can’t get a date show, or you’re finding a unique angle that no other series has explored before.
What makes your show different from all the others out there, and why, with the knowledge that there are near-infinite options for content to consume, do we need to watch it? If you can’t answer those questions without someone recommending three other similar concepts, dig deeper during development and hold off on investing time and money and favors until you’re sure this is the story that needs to be told and hasn’t been told before.
Mistake- Describing your show too vaguely
This mistake is similar to above, but is much easier to fix. Part of approving shows on Stareable.com (submit your web series for FREE if you haven’t already at stareable.com/submit!) is writing a tweet welcoming them to the community with a link to the newly approved page, and the writing of those tweets is a frequent struggle of mine. The most common reasons for the struggle:
- Instead of including a real logline, a creator has written a tagline* with no descriptive information whatsoever OR
- The creator has chosen the most generic summary imaginable
I have seen countless interesting and unique series sum themselves up like this: “Character A lives in a location and is struggling. Follow their adventure of self-discovery.” That description could apply to almost every contemporary piece of media, from indie web series to TV shows on actual TV. Don’t sell yourself or your story short; get specific about what makes your show that you’ve put so much love into special. A generic description is a lazy argument to a viewer as to why they should give you their limited time and energy. Check out this article for tips on how to strengthen your show description.
*Logline: “A narrative vlog series set on a post-apocalyptic college campus about love, friendship, neuropsychology, and zombies.” Tagline: “It’s never over. Until it is.”
Mistake: a disconnected online presence
In the simplest of terms, your social media should all have the same branding and as-close-to-the-same usernames as you can claim. Also, please make sure your bio always includes a link to watch the show- otherwise, what are we doing here? Read more about creating a consistent brand here.
Mistake: wanting to only do the fun stuff
I sympathize with this mistake, because I make it about twice a day. In an ideal world, I’d be a writer/director, maybe an executive producer if that just means I get to make decisions but the responsibility of carrying those out lies elsewhere. In reality, I have very little money and if I want to continue creating and finishing projects, I’m gonna have to roll up my sleeves and do some of the dirty work.
I consider this a mistake rather than a misconception because by wanting to only do the fun stuff, whatever that means to you, you’re inherently going to view the frequently challenging and frequently irritating work of independent producing more negatively and that’s absolutely going to hurt your project. If you’re broke but also don’t want to scout locations, organize contracts, write shot lists, deal with casting, or whatever your “unfun” tasks are, you probably shouldn’t be making independent content. That’s ok! Maybe you shift your focus elsewhere, submitting to script contests instead of trying to produce, or looking to get hired on a larger project in a highly-specialized position. But don’t come into web series creation refusing or unwilling to get logistical now and then, because you’re going to be miserable, and that’s not fair to your team or your project.
Mistake- appearing out of thin air
Unless you’re Beyonce or Netflix, you can’t start your marketing campaign on the same day as you release a surprise piece of content and also find success. No one knows who you are. Even your friends and family have no reason to be excited about a piece of content they didn’t know you were making that you’ve never mentioned beforehand. It only works for Beyonce because she’s been consistently making content and building a ravenous audience for literal decades.
You can’t just decide to be Beyonce. You need to work for it. Check out our marketing articles or our marketing webinars for advice on how to build credibility and excitement for your project without also losing your mind.