You no longer need Hollywood to get your work distributed and seen. Thanks to the internet you have a readily accessible option for creating a web series and reaching a global audience. All you need is a camera, some creativity and internet access.
The internet provides an undeniably viable option for independent filmmakers is to exhibit their work online. There are plenty of great sites available to do this (and even a few ways to make some money from it). Why would you want to distribute online? Well, there are plenty of pros and cons, but a more effective question might be: how can distributing online make your work better?
From Audience to Community
Imagine an art film, playing to a small audience in an obscure theater. They watch in silence, then, when the movie is over, leave quietly and never talk about the experience again. The filmmaker exhibits in a vacuum, receives no feedback, and moves on to the next project.
That’s one end of the spectrum. The other, I think, must be creating and releasing a web series. By the nature of the internet, your audience will not be passive. People will leave comments. Hopefully a few will share with their friends. Because as a viewer it’s fun to (a) find something new, (b) tell people about your discovery, and (c) talk directly to whomever made it.
As a filmmaker, then, you have the opportunity to cultivate an online audience into a dedicated and reliable community of fans. Begin by acknowledging some of your commenters. (Some YouTubers, for example, do this by replying directly to user comments, or mentioning them in forthcoming videos.) Viewers are more likely to leave messages if they know someone is listening.
Lead the discussion
Many YouTube channels spark audience feedback by ending with a question or topic to begin the conversation. (People can post online about movies and TV shows, of course, but the convenience and immediacy of leaving a comment directly beneath a web series video you watched is unmatched.) Interacting and engaging with viewers often can inspire them to spread the word about your series, and encourages them to come back for the next installments.
Creating a place where your work can be exhibited, enjoyed, and analyzed is a dream for any filmmaker. You are no longer releasing your videos in a vacuum; instead, you can receive almost instantaneous feedback from viewers all over the world. That’s tremendous motivation. Use it to fuel your next creations.
But, as a word of caution, take all critiques with a grain of salt. The anonymity of the web elicits harsh comments sometimes. And even positive reviews can be unhelpful to your growth as a storyteller. As with any feedback, trust your instincts and make what you really want to make. A web series, though, can be a great sounding board to test new ideas, techniques, jokes, characters, styles, and formats to see how people respond.
Here are some examples of successful web series:
Anyone But Me
Susan Miller and Tina Cesa Ward created the award-winning drama Anyone But Me in 2008, about a group of teenagers dealing with sexuality and identity in post-9/11 New York City. The show’s producers did a wonderful job connecting with their niche audience, telling stories that mattered to them, and engaging in conversations with their dedicated fans.
“Anyone But Me” — www.anyonebutmeseries.com
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
More recently, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – a video-blog inspired by Pride and Prejudice – also found a fiercely loyal and enthusiastic demographic, invited them into the world of their story, and gave them an opportunity to be heard. The show has spawned fan sites and filled a room at Comic Con. Dozens of episodes into the series, the project continues to inspire its viewers, talk to them about the filmmaking process, and build something more than its first handful of episodes could have ever delivered.
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” – www.youtube.com/LizzieBennet
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Additional Web Series Resources
(These are affiliate links – we get paid to promote.)
- Web TV Series How to Make and Market Them
- How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck
- Byte Sized Television: Create Your Own TV Series for the Internet