"None of us suddenly becomes something overnight. The preparations have been in the making for a lifetime.- Gail Goodwin
So you wanna make a webseries but have no idea where to begin? Well read on...

First Elizabeth prompted me to write a post about the whole production aspect of Diary of a Wedding Planner, then I started getting a few emails from actors wanting advice on how to start their webseries and just today someone left a message on the FANTASTIC message board at Hollywood Happy Hour asking this same thing so I've finally composed a list of  tips to help you get started. This is by no means exhaustive but hopefully it will be a guide that can give you the jumpstart you need.

1. If you already have an idea, start writing! So many of your decisions will be based on what your production needs so get started on your first draft as soon as possible and see how far it takes you. Some people have 5 episodes in their first season, some have 15. Put pen to pad and see how extensive your season will get. For those of you who are still searching for an idea, write what you know! What speaks to you? What do you love/hate/are passionate about? Start with that.

2. Speaking of seasons, what will happen in Season 2 or Season 3? What kind of journey is your hero embarking on? Not that these need to be written from the start but the more you know about your characters from the offset the easier it will be when/if you do pitch it to sponsors down the line.

3. Create a line item budget. You can either start with a fixed amount and figure out a way to stay within that figure or you can look at all of your production needs, estimate their costs and decide to go with whatever amount it adds up to. Of course, the former is better for your pocketbook, but either way you should try to get as high of a production value as possible. And don't forget to include the cost of post-production (editing, sound design, score, etc). I left that as an afterthought and it definitely hurt me for awhile so give this some considerable thought.

4. If you're a member of SAG or if you want to become a SAG Signatory the process is pretty simple. Instead of me walking you through those steps, Marilyn Anne Michaels, the creator of the series The Best Friend, has already done that here:

Part 1: http://thebestfriend.tv/tbfblog/?p=30
Part 2: http://thebestfriend.tv/tbfblog/?p=32
Part 3: http://thebestfriend.tv/tbfblog/?p=34

5. Crew- this was an area I was absolutely CLUELESS in but quickly learned (and am still learning) from others. Determine your crew needs. Can you afford a large crew? And honestly, do you even need one? Can people double up? Do you have friends who also work behind the cameras and can help you out here? If not, can you get referrals from friends regarding crew they've worked with and trust? If you're still coming up short you can always post a message on HHH, Mandy and Craigslist.

6. Pay- In your budget did you allocate money to pay your cast or will they be working on a deferred basis? What about your crew? Some crew positions are easy to fill even on a deferred basis, others (dp, sound mixer, etc.) you will probably have to pay. Of course, if you have friends who do this that's another story. But if not, expect to pay the key crew. Tip: If you can find a DP who has their OWN camera (or access to one) that's much better than paying both the DP and the camera rental. Definitely a lesson I learned after shooting my pilot!

7. Casting- Breakdown Express & LA Casting are both pretty simple to use. I personally prefer Breakdown Express now that I've tried both but either one will help you get the job done. There are plenty of places to hold auditions and CAZT is one of the places that will cost you nothing but your time as you'll have to leave feedback for those who auditioned for you.

8. Locations- This is where you beg, borrow and plead to get as many locations as you can for little to nothing. Are they interested in the exposure if you show their signage in your show? Is your show's target audience a big part of their customer base? If they still want you to pay them then negotiate as low as you can. EVERYTHING IS UP FOR NEGOTIATION!!! Tell them this is a production you are paying for completely out of pocket and how much you love their space but is there a way we can work this out so that it benefits both of us? The tricky part here is that some places will require insurance. If you have it (and honestly that's the BEST route to go) then great! If you don't, which I didn't, because you can't afford it then you may have to pay a little extra OR sign an agreement that makes you responsible for anything that goes wrong because of you, your cast or your crew.

9. Catering- Make sure your cast & crew are well fed ESPECIALLY if they're not getting paid. A full tummy keeps everyone happy and makes the day go by a little quicker. Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart are all great places to shop to get what you need. And don't forget about any vegetarians, vegans, or those with allergies. Ask beforehand lest you find out while you're on set.

10. Marketing- Once you've shot and edited it, what type of release schedule do you plan to have? Are you going to shoot and release as you go (which is what I'm doing until I get more $$$) or do you have enough funding to shoot them all at once and actually release the episodes once a week? How will you get the word out? Are there message boards & online groups who fit your niche who might be interested in watching? Will facebook ads or banner ads on the blogs of those who cater to your audience be worth the investment? Will you host a premiere or wrap party and invite, among others, bloggers in your niche industry who might provide you with coverage? Take advantage of Social Media! Get a facebook page and even a twitter account just for the show.

11. Crowdfunding- This is a great way to get funds for your project but I wouldn't suggest going this route until AFTER you have something to show people in order to attract more interest. For example, I raised about $800 from my IndieGoGo campaign with no video attached but I know people who've raised thousands for their show via IndieGoGo and Kickstarter because they waited until they had their first season up or at least a teaser to spark more interest.

12. IMDb- If you want to get it listed on IMDb check out Withoutabox and submit it to an imdb qualifying film festival that has a New Media or TV category. I haven't done this yet as the festival I'm interested in submitting to requires 3 episodes and right now we have 2 completed (yep, the 2nd episode is coming soon!), so I don't have firsthand experience with this one but I do know it's worked for others.

13. End Goal- What is the ultimate goal of this project? Do you want to sell it to a TV network? Get it on Crackle or Koldcast? Or just have an awesome project that shows what you can do? And if it doesn't get picked up by anyone will you still be happy and proud of what you've accomplished? Hopefully that answer is yes because otherwise don't bother getting started.

Ok, sorry so long but those are my tips. I'm still learning myself so follow what you agree with and discard the rest. As you can see, it is a LOT of work but it's also incredibly rewarding!

If this post helps you at all consider supporting my show, Diary of a Wedding Planner by liking our facebook page or subscribing to our youtube channel. And when you're ready to release YOUR show, let me know in the comments section below.

Best of luck to those of you out there who are making it happen and taking matters into your own hands!
3 Responses
  1. Carol Says:

    Very interesting and informative article!

    Thanks for sharing.

    And, keep up the great work!


  2. Anonymous Says:

    Very well-written, informative piece.

    Thanks so much for the mention of CAZT (www.cazt.com / www.caztstudios.com).

    Best of luck with all your webisode projects!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks that was helpful im helping a friend shot a short and think these tips will help us.

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