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Guerrilla Screenwriting: Producing a Web TV Series

web TV series directing and producing

A radical shift in the way we tell stories and the way we consume them is happening under our very noses. As writers, we need to keep up with these rapid changes in technology in order to seize new opportunities to earn income and showcase our talents to the world.

One of the smartest things that a hopeful writer, director, producer or actor can do today to move their career forward in a significant way is to make an independent web TV series. Shooting and distributing a micro-budget web series is a great way to introduce your story to the marketplace for the first time, build a fan base, generate buzz, and ultimately attract the attention of Hollywood producers.

What is a Web Series?

A web series is a collection of short video episodes (called webisodes) that are produced and uploaded onto websites like YouTube and Vimeo. Other avenues of distribution that are opening up where you can make good money include Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.

A web series is similar in many ways to a TV show, but given the nature of online viewership and the shorter attention spans of Internet viewers, individual shows within a web series tend to run only 3 minutes to 7 minutes in length, with an entire season, from beginning to end, averaging 1 hour to 90 minutes of total content.

That’s both the appeal and the difficulty of the format: Trying to say something engaging in a matter of minutes. The hook, however, must come even sooner than that. According to the YouTube Creator Playbook, most viewers decide within 15 seconds whether they are going to continue watching your video or click something else to watch.

In this new paradigm of transmedia storytelling, the author becomes the symphony conductor who works with actors and crew to bring an imaginative story world to life and allows the audience to actively participate in that world via the web and mobile apps.

Just like with TV programming, there are many types of web series, including documentaries, reality shows, and how-to videos, but what you're probably most interested in is fictional scripted series. In other words, dramas and comedies.

One of the best things about doing a web series, even for big name actors, is the freedom to do something truly original, something a conservative studio or TV network might not dare to do. In the web series world, originality and diversity are encouraged. You can tell controversial stories and present characters that haven’t been seen before or rarely seen on network TV.

Once millions of people have their high speed Internet connected to their living room big screen HDTV, we will see a huge increase in web series audience numbers and advertising revenue for creators. People will be able to easily jump back and forth from traditional cable TV shows to web series. I, myself, already do this. Now, I can watch an episode of The Walking Dead, and without leaving my sofa I can hit a button on the remote control and start watching a horror web series on a YouTube channel.

Software developers have already started creating the equivalent of TV Guide and Tivo for web series to make it easier to find the type of shows and genres you like. Just type in what you want in the TV screen search box, such as "Navy SEALs" or "vampire detective," and up pops a list of show links.

If you want to learn how to produce your own low-budget web TV series, I encourage to register now for my upcoming seminar at The Writers Store. The name of the class is Transmedia – Producing a Web TV Series. Using real world examples of successful series I've been involved with and proven strategies you can implement right away with your own projects, I will teach you the important stuff you need to know to get started on the right foot and not make expensive mistakes.


Don't miss Martin Shapiro's upcoming webinar at The Writers Store!


Screenwriting Webinar from The Writers Store


At a Glance:

  • Use crowd funding and corporate sponsors to bankroll your web series
  • Real life lessons from the world of low-budget producing
  • Gain a working knowledge of the entire production process