Tag Archives: web marketing

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​I guess this flips screenwriting to a more literal term than ever before…considering now your writing will never leave the computer screen. That is, unless your audience upgrades to stream videos straight through their TV.

Now that we’ve shot our pilot episode for our webseries, I decided to step back a moment and read all that I can dig up about writing for the internet. Needless to say, I still need to finish the full script for the series. Procrastination is my ultimate enemy when it comes to writing screenplays.

I’m reading a book called, “The Script Selling Game: 2nd Edition” by Kathy Fond Yoneda. It has a new section in the 2nd edition about writing for the web, specifically for web series.

Laurie Scheer says, “The Web audience has a much shorter attention space. Anyone who wants to write Web content has to understand the web audience wants convenience…they want everything in short bites or segments.” What a straight forward and awesome quote to sum up everything you need to know about writing for the web. KISS works here too…keep it simple stupid. Very few hunt for videos online to sit around and watch on their computer for 30 minutes or an hour like they would for television. Not to mention, you have to consider that a 30 minute TV show is actually only 22 minutes. Those breaks in between allow us to get up and do something else that our mind won’t stop pestering us about. Think about how all of us joke that we’re all a little ADD. Our busy lifestyles are flooded with media that pushes us to be scatter brained. Think about how hard it is to convince yourself to sit still for a long period of time…and when we’re talking about 10 minutes watching a single video on the internet, it feels like 30 minutes. Just something to think about when deciding how long to make your episodes…

I’ve been watching a ton of webseries to get to know what’s available on the internet. One thing I’ve noticed is that if I don’t like it within the first 10 or 15 seconds, switch. Onto the next one. Hook your audience, in some form. Many times awesome opening graphics will hook me into at least watching the first 10 or 15 seconds of live action videography before I switch. BUT, if there are opening graphics, and they are terrible, switch. Those first 10 or 15 seconds are SO important when hooking your audience. It is much simpler for me to move on than to sit around and watch another 15 seconds to give it a second chance. There are no second chances on the internet.

In the book I am reading, they discuss the structure of a webisode. “Each webisode much have the following: A beginning (set-up), A middle (conflict or challenge), and an end (in a comedy, it is usually a humorous resolution to a discussion or situation; in a drama it is generally a cliffhanger designed to have the viewer return for the next installment). It is important to remember that the web audience wants to forget where they are and wants to be taken somewhere, even if it is just for that small amount of time while watching a webisode or short. This is what separates a successful web series from being no more than simply random video.”

The book relates the relationship of strong character development importance for a television show to that of a webseries, “…having interesting characters with a unique, quirky or outrageous point of view is every bit as important to a web short, and especially a web series over the course of a season.”

Other points made in the book for writing suggestions are: Comedies are generally less expensive and time consuming to stage and shoot than dramas. Typically webisodes are restricted to one or two scenes that usually take place indoors or a public place that is free to shoot in. They lack large crowds, complex action scenes or battle scenes due to budget. Watch a ton of webseries…good and bad…to get a feel of what works and what doesn’t work. Most successful shows have their own unique pacing and rhythm. Look at webseries to understand their device or hooks. Also ask yourself, what isn’t our there? What needs to be said that isn’t on the television?

Some more suggestions are think economically when you write. What do you have access to? What does your family or friends have access to? Ask local businesses to sponsor you by asking to shoot at their location after hours to not disturb business, or ask a local boutique to supply clothing for an ending sponsorship credit. Go for product placement. Youtube has a partners’ program that you can easily sign up for to earn some kind of money for your viewership. It may not pay your bills, but it may pay for your some of the props in your next episode. Announce on facebook or craigslist for local actors that will work for food and credit only. Go for a kickstarter if you have enough of an online following or media exposure.

Something that I had not considered is, how many episodes should a webseries contain? This book suggests between 8 and 12 episodes, which seems reasonable. If you are releasing them weekly, that keeps you at the same pace as any television show. Something my company has been considering is whether we should shoot the first four episodes, air those to see how they do, and then continue filming the rest after the first two or so air. The only problem with that idea to me is what if…and this is considering the fact that everyone is working for free….we can’t get everyone to get together to film in time for the next one to air. Then all of a sudden we don’t release a week. There goes our viewership!

As of right now, this is how we are working our plan: We shoot on Sundays. We now have the pilot episode shot, and are planning on shooting a couple other videos (separate from the webseries) and a commercial in September. By that time, we should have the pilot episode in its finished state. While we are busy filming the other episodes, we can send the pilot episode to people we believe will give us a truthful critique. IF they like it but say, “I’m not intrigued enough to watch another episode” or “I don’t know that I would remember to watch the next episode next week” then we will drop the show, air the pilot and move on to another webseries. BUT IF people love the idea and are eager to see another episode, then we will go into production for the rest of the fall to finish out the season. As soon as all of the episodes are finished in post, we will air it online with as much media coverage as we can muster. We will even try to figure out if we should have a premiere in a theater or some other idea that we can muster out of our crazy minds. As you can tell, our distribution phase is still in the making, which is why we have several months to prepare it.

And just to say this ahead of time, we are not making a webseries with the future outlook of money. We are making it to establish our company’s abilities at visual storytelling and solidify our team. We see this as the perfect way to start it all. If you are creating a webseries, ask yourself why? You should have a better reason than money or getting discovered. Yes both can happen, but setting your expectations a little lower will help you from getting crushed or give you an uber amazing surprise if it does happen. A web series can be a great calling card. It can be a huge inspiration for yourself to get you out of the drab work of your 9to5. If you have spent countless hours and years working on other people’s projects, here ya go! Webseries it up! It can be the perfect way to learn for a cheap budget. It can be a great way to create a demo reel for yourself for raising money for a future project. Webseries can be great….use them wisely. The best thing you can possibly do as a filmmaker is get out there and make something.

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The Online Presence

I’m going to change gears a little bit with DIY distribution to talk more about online presence. At Ingen Pictures, we are filming our first web series now. It has been an exciting process, and we hope that it will better our company. We will be airing it on youtube, but decided to do a hybrid between youtube styled video and a television show to accommodate our mixed targeted audience of youtubers and traditionals. So, I decided to not only write about our experience of making this new series and how it works out in the long run but to also write about all of the research I will be doing regarding that series. So here it goes…

I think one of the greatest things about making online content is you are not controlled by the network OR by distributors OR by the market. If you’ve ever worked with a television network, you know that they have the final say and will manipulate the content however they please. It is a VERY frustrating process for the artist. It’s about what will sell for the highest ratings. With the internet, all of sudden we have a freedom to develop content that no one has ever seen before…ORIGINAL. If you are passionate about one thing in particular, create content around that. Go with what you know and what you love when you write the story.

Next, who is your audience? It’s always best to have a niche audience to target. You can start with that niche audience and then hope it grows outward from there. Come up with a plan before you start filming….or as soon as possible.

The Tom Cruise blog is a great read. When talking about how important the story is, it states:

Mike Ajakwe jr, founder and Executive Director of The LA Web Series Festival, has watched more than 500 web series. He’s endured and enjoyed more web originals than most mortals, and he is unequivocal about what works: “The story has to move. The same rules of film, television and theater apply. You want a three-act structure—a beginning, a middle and an end. Every scene must mean something, must drive the story forward,” he says. ”You can have a show that looks great, but if it’s not about anything, then it’s not taking your audience anywhere.”

Felicia Day is the creator of probably the most successful webseries to date, the Guild. In her blog  she writes that four questions should be asked before you start. How is my project unique to the Web? How is my series unique to ME? Who is my audience and how will I reach them? Do I Know what I’m getting into?

A great quote clarifying just how important the audience is from Felicia Day’s blog: “If you can’t sit down and easily identify what kind of person will like your show and name 5 places that person might go to on the internet, you will have a hard time getting the word out, no matter how good it is.”

Two great guides are: How to Build An Audience For Your Web Series and Youtube Creator Playbook. You can download both of these books. I will write separate articles about these reads coming up.

Michael Henry’s blog post about the formation of his production company Quandary Productions and the making/promotion of his latest film “I Work” is a great read about the importance of online presence and the importance of getting creative with your advertisement. They took their advertising to another level of creativity. And…it seemed to work. He made a great point: he took a much needed break after filming to travel. It gave him some time to gain inspiration and motivation again to push through post production. After he finished post, he had a one time premiere at a local school. At that point, he had only promoted the film locally, but directly after the screening, he set off to travel Southeast Asia for 7 months. He was able to build his plan over those 7 months, not to mention the reach expanded to worldwide while he met people from all over the world on his trip. Michael Henry posts, “Over the course of the seven months I slowly built a strong Twitter following, set up the Quandary Productions Filmmaker Support Scheme, made the decision to support charities around the world which we had visited, with 5% of all our profits, and made a thorough list of promotional material I would release in order to get the film the attention we felt it deserved. When we returned, all the hard work paid off. We made back the (modest) budget in the first ten minutes of release, and ‘I WORK’ has started to receive something of a cult-following online.”

Now they are using their online following to support a kickstarter (but on their personal website) for their future projects. In this article, he writes about utilizing social media at every step of production. People love to watch behind the scenes, so even before filming begins, flood (or generously post) about casting announcements, crew announcements, thoughts, or any message pertaining to the film. During production, keeping an on-set blog up-to-date peaking interests. Post messages, announcements, pictures, anecdotes, actor and crew profiles or even short clips of video. Make sure to have varieties of high resolution press photos, allowing the media to easily write up a story about the production. Remember publicity is free advertisement!

Coming to the bottom line, online presence is what will propel your filmmaking products beyond anything in the past. If you utilize to its potential, you can truly make something powerful move. Remember as filmmakers, all we dream for is to get as many people as possible to view our work. Now we have the opportunity via the world wide web. Let’s figure out how to make it work for us.

Have you had the web help you with your film? Or have you heard of it hurting someone’s film? Do you know of any success stories? Looking forward to your comments below.

Next Up for DIY Distribution

Last week I touched on an article written by Jon Reiss to follow my discussion on DIY distribution through theatrical, online, and DVD release. I continued researching him this week, finding many more articles about his experiences.

One at filmmakermagazine.com goes a little more in depth about DVD distribution. He was lucky to find a reliable company for DVD distribution rights ONLY, fully allowing him to continue selling his film online and do the theatrical distribution route….although most of his theatrical showings were prior to releasing the DVD. Definitely check out this article if you will be negotiating DVD distribution deals in the future.

He recommends asking yourself these questions before you begin preparation for DIY distribution. “What is its best market? Who is its audience? How are you best going to reach them? Will you potentially sell to libraries and universities as much as or more than you will to individuals? Is there pressure to release your film in a timely way (will it be dated, is there another film you are racing to beat to market)? Answering these questions will help to fashion your DVD release strategy.”

Note: In these articles he used the company Neoflix. This distribution company has shut down due to not paying filmmakers.

This week, to dive deeper, I’d like to discuss DIY web marketing to support your film distribution. In another article by Jon Reiss, he recommends creating your presence on the web by starting a basis with your website. Constantly update your website with intriguing information that is similar to your films or to the audience you are looking to reach. By consistently blogging, you can easily keep traffic frequenting your site. Make sure to tag your blogs. Embed links to your site in your social networks. Also, create relationships with other sites that would find interest in your film or in your blogging. He gives his students this assignment:

Ways to create a relationship with other sites/organizations:

Next he says to create a marketing strategy early, even while you are in the script stage. This is when you have the most energy and are not burnt out on the film.

To read this full article, go here:http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/issues/spring2009/bombit-part3.php

Utilize your social media networks, which seems obvious, but many people do not create a facebook page for their work. Friends and family can be huge advocates for your film. Hit up film bloggers online for reviews of your film. Or even hit up other non-film sites that are related to your subject material for reviews or press. Find a way to cross-promote with other companies. Put a trailer up on youtube or a sample of the material on youtube with a link to buy it. Provide an incentive for people to sign up for your email list. Email them weekly or bi-weekly with updates on new articles or pictures, clips, whatever may be interesting for your audience. Be careful how often you email them. If emails come too often, they will quickly unsubscribe. Then there’s always advertising on the web or through affiliate marketing. Do your research to figure out what routes are best for you.

All of this information is a bit dated, but it provides great ground work to get someone started. Do you have any experience with indie distribution? How did it work or not work for you?