By Rebecca Norris
I recently had the good fortune to be introduced to a wonderful new web series, Misdirected, which was an Official Selection of last month's HollyShorts Film Festival in Hollywood. Since my film On Becoming A Manwas also featured in the festival, I got to run into the show's writer and director, Marion Kerr, and its executive producer and star, Lauren Mora, at the red carpet for HollyShorts a few weeks back, which was a treat!
Misdirected is a comedic mystery web series about a young woman facing a life that is totally unfamiliar to her, and is relying on friends to help reintroduce her to it... although they might not be entirely truthful.
Marion Kerr is the award-winning writer & director of Misdirected. An actor herself, she's appeared in How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds, and the feature film Dark Skies, as well as won awards for her short & feature films (FAR, Golden Earrings).
Lauren Mora is the executive producer and star of Misdirected. She graduated from the University of California - Irvine with a bachelor's degree in drama, and has appeared in various independent movies & television, including General Hospital and Decoding the Past, and has hosted for YourLA and Sound & Picture.
The show also stars John T. Woods (V/H/S 2, Down and Dangerous), Ross Philips (Hart of Dixie's Tom Long) and Joel Kelley Dauten (Video Game High School). The series was edited by Emily Chiu (Don Jon, Her).
I interviewed Marion and Lauren about their strategy for Misdirected and their marketing and branding plan.
Rebecca: How did the concept for your series come about?
Marion: I had been thinking about the concept of being reintroduced to your life for a while. I just thought that so much of our life is perspective and the longer we are friends with the same people or are in long-term relationships, the more we lose perspective on these relationships. I think a lot of a person's identity is wrapped up in their history with people and their memories of them. So I had thought, if you were able to be introduced to your own life completely cold, not being familiar with anything or having that history with anyone, what would you really think? It just brought up a lot of interesting questions in my mind, a lot of which seemed quite scary. But of course, a lot of humorous possibilities as well. Especially if your group of friends didn't happen to be the best people in the world. So I thought the idea of something being both mysterious and funny could be a really interesting combination. I hadn't really conceived of it though in any particular format, just as a basic series.
Then I had a conversation with Lauren about some things that were going on in her life, professionally, and it suddenly struck me that she'd be perfect for this particular story. She has a great ability to play both comedy and drama very well and she has such a unique presence, I thought she'd be someone an audience could get behind and follow on this journey. Then turning it into a web series seemed the best way to slowly unveil the mystery angle of the show and do lots of fun things like cliff-hangers and tonal shifts, etc, so I decided to start writing it in a serialized format.
Rebecca: What would you say was the target audience you had in mind when you first started writing your series? Does that target market respond to the material, or are different audiences you weren't expecting responding to it?
Marion: I had thought initially the target audience would be younger people in their 20s and 30s. Most of the lead characters, aside from Freddie, are sort of these ridiculous friends that are clearly in this protracted state of adolescence and do lots of goofy, sometimes malevolent, stuff. And there's a fair amount of pop culture references and the show moves, at times, very quickly and the episodes are very short and this was all designed to grab and hold the attention of a Reddit-loving type crowd. And I think that audience has definitely responded very well to the show. But what's been surprising is how wide our audience has really been. We've had people of all ages, male and female, really have a strong positive reaction and a very quick connection to these characters and for lots of different reasons. Repeatedly, our younger audience often express to us that they wish the episodes were longer because they enjoy them so much -- which is crazy because no one ever wishes any web series episodes were longer!
Our older audience really responds to the humor and the relationships, especially between Josh and Freddie. I've had people tell me how much they love Melanie and her whole storyline having no idea what a Labyrinth Ball even is. So I guess, the biggest surprise is how much a wide ranging audience enjoys the show despite not knowing what's going on all the time.
Rebecca: What is your marketing strategy for the series? Did you plan a marketing strategy ahead of time or did you wait until the series was in production or completed?
Lauren: The great thing about starting your project via a Kickstarter campaign is that, should you be successful in raising funds, you already have a built in audience, by way of your backers. Of course we want to see that number grow, but at the beginning, I was focused on pleasing those who had faithfully given, as I felt I was accountable to them. Once we'd wrapped principal photography and the show was in the hands of Marion and our editor, Emily Chiu, I was free to focus on what was to become of it after it was picture locked. And for that I did a lot of online research, reading articles, looking up other shows, seeing what the successful ones were doing, and who online was interested in web series. Oh, that show has a tumblr? We can have a tumblr! This social media commentator says Pinterest is better for a show than Twitter? I'll make us a Pinterest page! It's exhausting, and I'm not so great in front of the computer for long hours; I get headachey, it's not for me.
When we had completed episodes, I made sure to reach out to certain sites that reviewed and/or cared about web series in particular. That part was actually pretty easy, as they usually have some way of contacting them/submitting your series for consideration listed on their page. And I've been very pleased with the response we've gotten from them. Giveaways are also a fun marketing tool, an idea that was born out of my love for game shows. Each week when we'd release an episode, I'd pose trivia questions about that particular one, which would cause people to rewatch it in order to find the answer. Genius! This thing's switched on (taps head).
Rebecca: What digital platforms are you currently showcasing the series on?
Lauren: We felt it was important to launch outside of YouTube, that endless wasteland of video content where the good is buried under piles of, perhaps, not so good. I really liked the look of Blip and their interface. So when we began releasing episodes, that's where we steered people. It had the cleanest and most professional appearance. They also don't broadcast the number of views a video has; that's something only the administrator can see. This was another factor I appreciated, as people do tend to make judgements based purely on how many have seen it before them. Lame, I know. Now that all episodes of Season 1 have been released, they can be found on YouTube and WebSeriesChannel.com.
Rebecca: What advice would you give to others looking to create a web series? What have you learned along the way?
Marion: The main piece of advice I have is take the time to do the best show you can. Really invest in a good looking camera and crew that knows how to operate it and light it and record it, so you have a great looking show. Fill your frame with the best actors you can get and make sure they are really doing their best work for your show. Don't let anything be 'good enough.' Try to create something that really represents your unique voice and point of view. There are a lot of shows out there but there are also lots of perspectives on the world out there. Your web series will become more unique the closer it comes to really representing you.
Lauren: I agree with Marion. Don't rush to create something just for the sake of it. We didn't put a deadline on our show, and it took as long as it needed to, in order to become something people would not only enjoy but admire. You don't have to know how to do everything, either, just so long as you find people who do, who can fill in those places that you're not familiar with. And for goodness sake, ask for advice! People usually like to give it, so there's no shame in asking for it. Don't let the fear of all you have to do, stop you from doing it. I know it's daunting, but that's where those professionals come in. They take the load off.
- More Writers on the Web articles by Rebecca Norris
- Writers on the Web: Mapping Your Destination and Branding a Web Series Before You Begin
- Writers on the Web: Developing Web Series Ideas, Part 1
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