"THE SHOAKS" creator explains how to set goals for your web series

pre-production
getting-personal

(Alex G Smith) #1

"THE SHOAKS"- A Series Creator Gives You a Leg Up on the Web-itition!

“The Shoaks” is ‘A Series for those Who’ve Been Bent, but Not Broken,’ and is available to watch for free at www.TheShoaksLA.com

You have the idea- You’ve spent 2-4 years writing your script. You’ve never been more pumped and ready to do this in your life, the time is now! Here we go…So Motivated… So Excited… The world has Never seen something like this before!.. So…So what happens next?

Unlike most careers, which have a relatively obvious trajectory, the task of creating independent content is entirely different. Self-production is a slow burn, and there’s no algorithm for a ‘successful’ project. But there are two considerations you must confront before you begin. They are the foundation, the pathway, the guiding light that will keep you on track, within budget, and on time; Why do you want to make this, and what are the goals you can set to make it happen. Establish these, and you will avoid a world of pain and surrender. There is a difference between “why” you want to make this project, and the “goals” of the project. Think of “the why” as the heart & soul feel-good part. The “why” of the project should be personal and motivational. “The goals” of the project as concrete results that you must plan for and organize, solid and tangible. Right-brain versus left-brain kind of thing. If we could hit our goals, then that was how we could measure our success.

Our web series “The Shoaks” was a labor of love, a show my writing partner and I had been scripting for over 4 years. We created “The Shoaks” to investigate the struggles of addiction and mental illness. So many projects about addictions, compulsions, and mental health tend to be drab and dark, yet the people I know with these issues are some of the most funny, clever, and complex people you’ll meet. We wanted to show that no matter how dark life can be, a good sense of humor & laughing at the pain can alleviate it. “The Shoaks” takes place at a sober-living-facility run by Ophelia Endicott, a woman more apt to lead a cruise-line-limbo than the resident-addicts who live on her property. I play Allison Birch, a former-child-star who (in order to obtain her trust) must undergo 90-days of sobriety at the only sober-living facility that will take her: “The Shoaks.”

When the script was done and we saddled-up for preproduction, the first thing we did was make a list of why we wanted to make “The Shoaks.” Saige, my co-creator, and myself are both actresses, but the female characters we’d often read for were an amalgamation of whiny-passive-naggy-sex-toy- bimbo-hooker-girlfriend, man-obsessed with the personality of a carpet stain. This was a big factor for why we wanted to produce because 1.) We wanted to create exceptional, complicated characters, that as actresses, we were excited about playing and including in our body of work and 2.) We wanted to establish ourselves as professional union–level creators, writers, & producers in a male-dominated field.

These reasons led to our goals, which were 1.) Complete the SAG paperwork so our series (and myself) would be union, 2.) Hire a director who could shoot all 7 episodes (a-whopping 90 pages) within our budget 3.) Distribute postcards and emails to C.Ds, directors, agents, reviewers, and communities who would be interested in watching/ sharing and 4.) Do the whole thing under $5,000 without crowd funding. Notice I never mentioned as a goal “get 1,000,000 views.” Or even 1,000 views. Our reasons were never “to get rich and famous.” Both fame and a million views are outside of your control. I had my share of daydreaming about what could happen to “The Shoaks,” but I tried to emphasize what I could control and what realistic expectations I could anticipate.

“The Shoaks” is alive and well, and if you ask if we were ‘successful’ I’d say absolutely, based on what we set out to do. We created, wrote, produced, and starred in a magnificent series we can now claim in our body of work. We moved into the ranks of writer/ producers that get stuff done, and I am now SAG eligible. We were both signed by a talent and lit manager who had become a fan of “The Shoaks.”
So what does ‘Success’ for your project look like to you? Yours may be different than ours. You may want to make something just for fun on your phone. You may want to enter it in a specific festival, or make a sizzle so you can crowd fund. These are all very distinctive & specific, and will keep you from veering off into the no-mans land of being over-budget, overwhelmed, and often, giving up totally.

Of course goals can grow as you hit them (we still want to win some festivals and have Judd Apatow give us a call), but because we knew exactly what we wanted from the beginning, we rarely lost sight of what we needed to do. The one thing we didn’t accomplish was staying under budget- The production itself was under $5,000, but marketing and unpredicted factors sucked up a little more. Overall, it was a great success, personally & creatively, and I hope that you can use some of this as a guide for your own project!

Season 1 of “The Shoaks” is available online at www.TheShoaksLA.com, Facebook.com/TheShoaksSeries, And @TheShoaksLA. On a time crunch? Watch our trailer and of course our blooper reel to see what we didn’t always get right! www.TheShoaksLA.com


(William E. Spear) #2

Hello @Alex_G-Smith - I have read and reread your article four times and I still have not absorbed all its insight. What attracted me was the strong parallel between your stated purpose for making THE SHOAKS - “to investigate the struggles of addiction and mental illness” - and my project HOURS - “to bring to light the struggles of fighting chronic Lyme disease”. Although I’ve been lost in putting together goals for HOURS, your goals for THE SHOAKS is absolutely attainable. Please know this piece is now part of pre-production efforts. Best of luck with THE SHOAKS and beyond.