EDITOR’S NOTE: Toldja TVWriter™ would have more from Laura Conway. Welcome to the first in Laura’s series on the making of her very, very, very popular interweb series hit.
Choosing the Script to Get Your Web Series Rolling
by Laura Conway
I’m not a professional writer. I never went to film school. And I write and produce my own web series, The Vamps Next Door. Guess you could say I’m a perpetual amateur running amok with a camera. It’s my strange kind of hobby and, for a raving writer like myself, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re a new writer and it’s your first time producing your own script, all these words are for you.
I’ve been writing stories ever since I could write and I write comedy because I love making people laugh. But seven pilots and six screenplays later, sure all that writing was fun, but something was always missing. There was no audience laughing. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Every new writer should make a web series. Even if no one watches it. Even if no one likes it. Even if it sucks so bad that your only viewer is your mom and she says, “good job, honey.” Why? For me, because it makes me a better writer. Because it teaches me about filmmaking. Because there’s nothing like the thrill of seeing my words on paper come to life. Or the pain of my words’ death. It happens. A lot. So don’t let the fear of fucking up stop you from fucking up… and learning something great in the process.
You’re not gonna believe this, but when you make a low budget web episode, your script becomes three different stories. What you wrote, what you shot and what you edit. It’s just shocking that they are not the same things. So pucker up and kiss your vision goodbye. Now put away the tissues and get over it because, although the finished episode won’t quite match your vision, the good news is that in a collaboration, talented actors and a good director can make that vision even better. Everything else is a lesson learned.
The first step is writing a script to produce. All of my TV pilot scripts are written in 1/2 hour format or one hour format, but a low budget web series is just for the web, which means shorter episodes that cost less to make. Before I knew better, I shot 1/2 hour “TV” scripts. Then I split the video into four parts after I already shot it.
I learned the hard way that my half hour scripts with eight characters, an A Story, a B story, and maybe even a C story, don’t split well, it makes the pace slow and hard to follow. Try either converting one of your half hour scripts into something shorter or write new, shorter scripts just for your web series.
I’m a DIY kind of girl who learns things the hard way so here’s my…
Hard Way Lesson #1: Keep your first web episode down to a 5 minute script because it’s your first web episode. You’re going to make mistakes and be better the next time. Save your money and make those mistakes on a one day shoot instead of a 2 or 3 day shoot. Don’t believe me? Check out Season 1 of The Vamps Next Door. I wish I had re-written that half hour script down to 5 minutes.
On the bright side, here’s an example of a 7 page, 7 minute, single spaced script for a web episode I wrote and produced called Vampire Virgin. I took two of my best characters and wrote them just an A story that was 7 minutes long with a beginning, middle and end so that it could stand on its own.
It took me and a small crew 8 hours to shoot it and the total cost for this episode was $1500. It would have cost less, but I absolutely had to rent the bloody, dead body props, and as you can see, they were totally worth it. Here’s the episode:
Or you can watch it HERE
Stay tuned for the next installment about how I make my budgets (and how I blow them) and how I finance my projects.
Laura Conway is the writer and producer of The Vamps Next Door web series, directed by Phil Ramuno. Subscribe to the Vamps’ YouTube channel to get notifications about new episodes.