Filmmaking: Tips, Sources & Tools, Talks & Interviews — August 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

How to make web-series: In depth interview (exclusive)

So let’s assume you’re a starting filmmaker, and you simply do not have enough of money to attend a film school or pay for special film-related courses.

Needless to say, you also don’t have money to start off with a feature film, even a low-budget one (in general). So you’re probably thinking of a short movie. Why not think of web-series, if you got the right idea?

Member of the International Academy of Web Television, writer and producer Dan Williams has agreed to talk to BZFilm, and explain what the web-series are all about.

is the author of the upcoming book “Web TV Series … How To Make and Market Them”, and also has created the web-series called “The Asylum”.


BZFilm: Today it seems like the web series have become extremely popular among amateur filmmakers. What was that, in your opinion, that pushed it to develop so rapidly online?

D. Williams: I think there have always been a lot of talented, yet relatively unknown filmmakers out there.  Now that equipment is more affordable and we’re not relying solely on a handful of small film festivals to choose content, people are able to see so much more of this potential. What I love about web series specifically is that the medium gives filmmakers an opportunity to experiment, get feedback, and ultimately grow. You can watch the talent evolving in front of you.

BZFilm: Is there a special “web-series” film festival that awards such films? Do you think one should be created, or a special “best web-series” category should be added to general film festivals?

D. Williams: There are several festivals worth entering for web series creators. Some specifically recognize new media productions, while others have categories dedicated to such projects.  Being such a new medium, there are only a handful of established events, but there are a few.

BZFilm: What in your opinion is the best way to market and promote a web-series online, having a relatively small budget?

D. Williams: As with the production itself, you need to be economical with your resources, which is why I think the key is to get others to do most of the work for you. People love discovering new artists and entertainment, then sharing it with their friends.

Do your best to engage viewers who are active online – respond to their comments, answer them on Twitter, reach out and offer them more information about your project. There are folks out there who will genuinely become fans of your work, so make sure you do what you can to recognize them and help them spread the word.

BZFilm: Do web-series have an established format? How long one episode should be for instance?

D. Williams: When deciding how to format your own episodes, always consider your audience. Who is going to be watching this?  Where? Then, size your content accordingly to make it as easy as possible to watch.

If your videos are comedy sketches meant for people to watch at work, for example, they should be relatively short – your audience theoretically has a day job to do.

If you want to tell a more involved narrative, then make your episodes long enough to introduce characters and tell a concise part of your story.While there certainly are no rules, you should recognize how others in the space are structuring their shows.

If yours is a 15 minute video in genre where most are two-and-a-half, then there needs to be a reason for the discrepancy. Generally, viewers equate longer running times with higher production value projects – like when they watch “The Office” on Hulu – but are happy to overlook inexpensive set-ups for shorter videos.

BZFilm: Let’s assume some starting filmmaker knows the fundamentals of filmmaking, how does one learn to do web-series? Is this something that film schools teach? Do you think they should?

D. Williams: Sites like YouTube and Vimeo can be great ways for filmmakers to showcase their portfolios and shorts. Making a sustainable web-series, though, requires more of a television mindset than a feature film one.  It’s about creating a reproducible format and figuring out a production plan regularly roll out new content.

Film schools that offer television courses cover some of these concepts, and many also provide courses about new media technology. Only a handful, though, teach about web series specifically. As the medium grows, I’m sure this will change – just as many film schools now give degrees for video game development.

BZFilm: How would you assess the future of web-series? Is it just a short-time trend, or it will continue to develop more and more as long as there is internet?

D. Williams: Online videos aren’t going anywhere, that’s for sure. The latests trend seems to be combining television/cable and streaming content into a single experience.  That means you can watch the Olympics or the latest episode of “Suits” on your TV, laptop, iPad, Android, or whatever gadget you want.  It’s undeniable: major studios and networks have recognized that providing web content is the next step in the entertainment evolution.

This of course means that the marketplace is going to be more crowded. Your show on YouTube will have to compete for an audience with the latest shows from the likes of Fox and MTV, or viewers migrating to Hulu, Netflix, and HBO GO.

But don’t get discouraged, because that also means that there will be more opportunities for filmmakers who know how to produce for the digital space. Those same studios and networks will be looking for people who know how to market online, manage a social media campaign, and churn out dynamic material for an online audience. And indie creators will be able to distribute their shows right alongside the “majors.”

For audiences, the line between mainstream and independent productions is blurring – and if the quality of the content is comparable, then the difference will be indistinguishable.


If you have a web-series and interested in sending it to film festivals, below is a list that Dan Williams provided to BZFilm. You can also check Dan Williams’ website at ByDanWilliams here.

New York Television Festival
BANFF World Media Festival
Marseille Web Fest
Webby Awards
Telly Awards
Streamy Awards
IAWTV Awards
International Television Festival
LA Web Series Festival
HollyShorts Film Festival

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