Web Series: A Deeper Dive – Rolling Stone – Rolling Stone

By Susan Johnston
As a follow-up to my previous piece, “Web Series: Let’s Talk About It,” I’d like to go back to the importance of story in your web series. I can’t stress enough how important story is.
Web series are episodic by nature; there is more than one episode and usually no less than three episodes. The great news about the current media climate is your episode can be any total running time (TRT). Keep in mind, though, it is best to have episodes around the same length (on average). For example, if most of your episodes are around 10 minutes and one is 18 minutes, it may be harder to program.
In episodic storytelling, you want people to come back to watch the next episode. Leave them wanting more — just enough that they want to come back. Coming back to watch the next webisode is like going on a date. Do you want them to come back for that next date? Because that’s what an episodic series is: something you want to return to.
If you are not sure where to start, research a web series you like to get a feel for how they market and what the average TRT of the shows you like is. If you follow a genre trend, by the time you have finished post-production, there could be too many series flooding the market. The story you want to tell, the story you are most passionate about, is probably the story that is going to work. Maybe you’re a botanist. So, you make stories only about botany. But guess what, there are a lot of organizations and channels that would want your content about botany.

The Rolling Stone Culture Council is an invitation-only community for Influencers, Innovators and Creatives. Do I qualify?
People often ask about funding. These are some “grassroots” suggestions. Create a pitch package using a logline, synopsis, poster (or still from set) and a trailer. Sell stuff you no longer need to raise funds. You could start a crowdfunding campaign and ask people you have known for a long time. Keep in mind, you have to be transparent that there is risk in investing in anything and no guarantees of ROI (return on investment).

Once you have a finished episode, you can also do your own market research. Invite different people to watch that don’t necessarily know each other. Have some refreshments out and watch how they watch your web series. Hear what they say, and note if/when they are bored or laugh. After the screening, email them, thanking them for coming and asking, anonymously, what they liked or didn’t like. Be sure to include a link to a Google doc where they do not have to send you an email but just answer the question. Take from those suggestions what works for you and your story. This can help your web series not fall flat.


And a web series could fall flat for so many reasons: you’re trying too hard to express a point (instead of letting it unfold), you may not be as connected to the issue as you think, maybe the chemistry between the actors wasn’t there on screen (but is in person) or maybe you didn’t choose a transition shot that made sense with the next one and we got lost in it. This is your opportunity to revisit your editing and try a new cut/version if the market research deems it.
Find the path that is right for you and how you can make it work.
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