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Joe Gets it All Wrong About Web Series

April 8, 2012

I don’t watch any web series… serieses… seryi? And I’m sure that I’m wrong in that. As an independent filmmaker I should be all about web stuff, I should be it’s biggest cheerleader. But I’m not. Did I mention that I know I’m wrong about that?

I was talking with someone the other day about web series and starting thinking about why I don’t watch them.

Here’s what I want a web series to be – as good as other stuff. In its own way, on its own terms, of course, but if I’m going to not watch TV, then I need to see something entertaining. As entertaining as my new show of choice, Parks and Recreation. Or Mary Tyler Moore reruns. Otherwise I’m just going to watch that stuff, and steer clear of the web.

And I hear that some series are really really good, but they’ve got a LOT of things working against them. First, it’s on the web, so I immediately approach it with that attitude I have for so many other things on the web: this is crap.

I know this is my fault – my mind should be more open, but while I’m a snob in this area, it also the problem of the people making the web series. Because a lot of us have that prejudice, so you as a web showrunner have to make something that IMMEDIATELY lets me know that this show rocks. I don’t think that the slow burn can be the domain of the web series until there are more of them of a higher quality. Because if I have to get 10 minutes in before your show reveals itself, I’ve already moved on to something else.

You also can’t just be stupid right off the bat, either, because then I know (and could be very very wrong) that it’s just a stupid show.

And while I admit I’m a snob in this area, it’s the fault of many, many, many, crappy web videos that I’ve developed this snobbery.

Of course there’s also the lousy production value on so many shows. Not the film school “That light is unmotivated” or “you crossed the 180 degree line” lousy production value. I mean the “I can’t understand the words you’re saying because it didn’t occur to you to have a microphone that wasn’t on the camera and turn off the air conditioning” production value. Sound matters, and is the easiest indicator of the level of quality of something on the web.

And then there’s the acting.  It would be good to see some.

So what can web series do to help fix this? First – from the first five seconds something needs to happen. I need to be engaged. Some awesome character moment in the middle of a scene where I see a goal that someone’s after. Basic screenwriting, but BAM out of the box, hit the ground running. Create characters that I can care about, and keep digging digging digging until you find the actors who can actually act and are right for those characters. That’s 75% of the job right there.

Web series need to start hammer down, frame one, with something so ridiculously fabulous that I have to pay attention. If they just seem as good as anything else to begin with, with my low expectations, I’m gonna switch over to Netflix. Leslie Knope is waiting for me.

Help me mend my ways – recommend me some good web series in the comments, please!

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