Independent filmmakers always start their projects with an idea – that seed of creativity, an exciting combination of plot, character, and conflict. In 2015, they are not necessarily tied to one mode of storytelling – they have options and, thus, more paths to successful expression.
For instance, the web series model emerges as a fascinating and attainable form as more and more filmmakers are heading to the web to reach a wide audience. IndieWire recently published a piece with 10 Reasons You Should Make a Web Series (Instead of an Indie Film). Valid reasons and options noted in the article are persuading filmmakers everywhere and catching everyone’s attention – including the hard workers at the Seattle Web Fest.
Washington Filmworks sat down with Matt Longmire and Darlene Sellers from the Seattle Web Fest to get a local perspective on the article and picked their brains about what’s so exciting, valuable, and successful about the web series format.
Washington Filmworks (WF): As web professionals, what’s your response to the IndieWire article?
Matt Longmire (ML): I thought the article was well-written and covered many of the reasons filmmakers choose to go the web series route. For many people just getting started, it would be easy to see it as inspiring and a great source telling you that by making a web series, you’ll achieve your dreams. However, the flip side is that it didn’t quite express how difficult it can be to get your show seen by an audience. Where web series fall short most of the time is sadly in their viewership. There’s an internal world and an external world where series creators are mostly aware of lots of other shows and often watch and support their peers but getting John Q Everyman to watch your series is an uphill battle many aren’t ready for. All around, it was a great read with good reasons to make a web series.
Darlene Sellers (DS): When filmmakers express interest in creating a web series, the first question we ask is, “Why a web series over other formats?” This article does a bang-up job of surmising many of the best reasons to go the web series route. In particular, the author focuses on the story you want to tell, the people you want to work with, the opportunity to showcase cast and crew, and the reality of the time and energy required to generate an audience for a new series. Wisely, money and large view counts are not anywhere on the list. The two points from the article I would encourage potential webserians to review carefully:
7) You want to work with SAG actors but don’t have a lot of money. It is true that the SAG AFTRA New Media Agreement allows creators to work with Union actors at varied rates, however there are many requirements/ impacts of the contract that some producers are not aware of (And some of these impacts are greater in markets like Seattle). We suggest reviewing the frequently asked new media questions. And, make sure your actors, both Union and Non-Union are aware of the requirements and implications of the contract as well. http://www.sagaftra.org/production-center/new-media/faq *
10) You’re comfortable finding your own audience. Bold, underline and add an exclamation point to number ten. Next to generating revenue, most web series creators list building an audience as the biggest challenge in creating a web series.
WF: How is this new model valuable to both filmmakers and audiences – what are they each getting out of it?
ML: Web series are pretty incredible. The lack of established rules & structure gives filmmakers an enormous playground to experiment with their ideas. The downside is that for the majority of them, there isn’t much money made in the process except for a select few. That means audience’s benefit from a massive collection of free material to enjoy on their phone, computer, or television and cutting cable is easier than ever. Web series are one of the best ways for filmmakers to gain some experience working on larger projects than what they’d get making a short film and audiences get to binge-watch something almost as long.
DS: Web series allow the show creator to tell the story they want to tell (potentially across multiple platforms), to work with the people they want to work with (in a medium that celebrates unbiased casting), to work with the timeline they can meet (as resources allow) and to create a calling card for production companies, cast and crew. In addition, web series allow for audience engagement, interaction and ACCESS. If you want your viewer to be an active participant in your show, web series are the ideal format.
WF: What are some engaging and awesome locally-produced web series that people need to be watching? Why are they successful?
DS: One strength of the web series is that it can be incredibly specific. You can create a show for people that love zombies AND westerns and find an audience for it. You don’t have to cater to the broader network audience (and sponsors.) to that end, not every web series is for the general public. Many show creators try to get a feel for the interest of the viewer before making a recommendation. In my opinion, the show with the broadest appeal made (relatively) local is, “Convos with my 2 yr old.” It’s Canadian, and it’s hilarious. Other shows according to genre:
• For the tween or teen that can’t get enough of Hunger Games, try “Job Hunters.” (Seattle)
• For the Original Gamers out there (as in RPG not video games), try “JourneyQuest.” (Seattle)
• And for the new fangled Gamers (video games), try “Glitch.” (Seattle)
• For the twenty – thirty something looking for Adult Comedy, try “Wrecked.” (Bainbridge)
• For the zombie fan who also loves super heroes and wants an app, game and graphic novel along with the show, (episodes available soon) for “Phoenix Run.” (Tacoma)
• And for audience seeking a quirky comedy/dramedy, try “Manic Pixie Dream Wife.” (Seattle)
Washington Filmworks thanks Matt Longmire and Darlene Sellers for their time and insight.
The Seattle Web Fest provides web series creators with the resources & tools needed to help their projects succeed. It’s also aims to recognize excellence in web series filmmaking and introduce the public to the growing canon of quality web series available. Find out more about the Seattle Web Fest here.
*For more information on the SAG-AFTRA New Media Agreement and Unions, please visit SAG-AFTRA Seattle Local.
Matt Longmire is one of the founders of Seattle Web Fest and operates as the Technical Director. Matt created the web series “The River” about an underground poker game where only the winner survives which has played around the world in various web series film festivals. He also operates Northwest Films specializing in both original and client-based production work.
Communications Director Darlene Sellers is the co-creator of the beloved Kung-Fu spoof series “Chop Socky Boom.” She is also the host of the Seattle Web Series Meetup and a regular and welcome face at web series events around the country.