GADZOOK FILMS Producing independent film in Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.

6Jul/12Off

Comic-Con 2012 – How to Prepare For The Worst

Hey friends! As you no doubt know, I'm a pretty big geek. Like TMNT and Other Strangeness (that's right, Palladium RPG bitches!), have a DuckTales collection, own my own katana kind of geek. And, as you likely know, I go to Comic Con down in San Diego just about every year. Everything from TV shows, movies, video games, and, oh yeah, comic books all under one roof. It's amazing and terrifying. Here are some tips I've gathered over the past few years to help you navigate this icon of pop culture.

1) Make a schedule.
If there's a panel you want to see, a booth signing you need to attend, or some other event happening - WRITE IT DOWN. The more popular SDCC gets the more things are stacked one on top of the other. Knowing what you'd like to see ahead of time is very helpful. You're definitely gonna find a panel you like at 11am in one room and another panel happening in another room across the convention center at 11:30. You won't make both, but jot them down. In the event you miss one you can always try for the other.

Know which rooms your panels are in, or where on the convention floor those booths are located. Memorize/consult a map or ask your nearest friendly con volunteer. It's easy to get the Ballrooms confused or Room 25ABC mixed up with Room 23BC, etc.

2) Make back-up plans.
In the very likely event your event is full, have a back-up plan. Either another panel or just wandering the floor and getting food or whatever. This takes the stress off. You want to enjoy the Con, not freak out because of every panel you missed. And trust me, you WILL miss panels. See below...

3) Arrive early.
This is a biggie. If there's something you want to see odds are there are at least another 200 people who feel the same way. As geeks we tend to be singular in our passions amongst our friends (who may very well be geeks of another color themselves), so it's hard to fathom someone else enjoying what we enjoy. I'm the only person I know who remembers and still watches replays of the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. I digress. Panels fill up quickly. People don't leave. Let's say you have a panel bringing back the entire cast/creator of a beloved cult sci-fi hit that was cancelled too soon. This is gonna be huge. Hopping in line a half-hour before the panel is a bad idea.

Sometimes you need to do a little fancy schedule investigation to properly plan your day. I know the aforementioned panel is happening mid-day but the panels in the room before it are also going to be fairly popular. Therefore the line to get into the panel I really, really want to see will also be full of people wanting to get into the panel before and so on. So I will need to get in line BEFORE those panels. And probably at least an hour before. Con has line-up rules you should be aware of if you intend on staying overnight to get into that special panel...

Basically you need to decide how long you are comfortable waiting in line for something and make decisions from there. It's OK... most of these panels will be online shortly after the con anyway. Don't freak out. Last year I got in line for the Game of Thrones panel 2 hours before it was to begin. The line was already snaking around the convention center and into the marina. It was nearly a mile long! And the room was ALREADY FULL. Yes, some people may bail, but you gotta work the numbers here. I realized I wasn't getting in and managed to catch a very funny panel for Archer in another room. I was happy (and word on the street was I didn't miss much).

4) Convention Floor
The convention floor is full of wonders. It's also huge, smelly, and packed to the gills. Before attempting the floor try to plan your attack. Locate the entrance closest to the booth you'd like to visit. The edges of the room are generally less crowded than the middle. The artist tables are generally easier to navigate (and full of way more interesting/unique stuff) than the t-shirt vendor at the other end of the hall.

Set prices in your head for what you're willing to spend on things and stick to your budget! It's easy to want to pricecheck everything and do your due diligence before purchasing. In the real world that's smart. On the floor it's suicide. If you see something you like and the price seems reasonable, just get it. Trust me. I walked around a convention searching for a lightsaber for a certain price and never found it and walked away empty handed. My sadness at not grabbing this seminal piece of nostalgia from my childhood trumped whatever money I might've saved.

5) Get OUT!
Con is great but sometimes you need a break. The Gaslamp district is probably the grossest part of San Diego by far, and the restaurants are expensive to boot. Jump on the trolley or a shuttle bus and travel outside of the Gaslamp. Grab some food on Hillcrest, or pack a lunch and make a picnic at Balboa Park. San Diego is a beautiful city with loads of great options for all food types. You gotta grab a taco at Lucha Libre!!

Now for some short tips:

- Hall H is huge, but the huge screens make any panel seem close. Don't worry about sitting in the back. Same goes for Ballroom 20.

- Sometimes the best panels happen far from the maddening crowds in the hotel ballrooms.

- Parties happen every night. If you want an invite to these things, well, get to know someone with a press pass.

- Check Twitter feeds for special announcements from attending celebs and properties.

- Be nice. Mean geeks are some of the worst people in the world. I will kick you if you're mean.

Here's my schedule. If you're at con come and wait with me! And above all else HAVE FUN!

Filed under: Geekery No Comments
18May/12Off

Peer Review

I put it out there, and I mean it: if you'd like some peer review or advice I'm more than happy to help. But I stress that if your project sucks I'm not gonna sugar coat my response to placate your fragile feelings. So yeah, I put it out there but rarely does anyone take me up on it. Until now.

The Monday Knights is a new webseries created by Prescott Harvey and shot in Portland, OR. I was messaged via their Twitter (@MondayKnights) and invited to give some feedback on their show. So I did.

I watched the first three episodes to get a feel for the show and see if my initial reaction to episode 1 was gonna hold up. There were issues to be sure, but there was also some great stuff. I won't get too deep into the nitty-gritty of each issue but suffice to say there were problems (of varying degrees) in each major department: script, acting, camera, sound, editing.

I hemmed and hawed before sending my response. To be honest I don't like pointing out flaws, but I do think it's invaluable. With my own stuff I'm usually painfully aware of what's wrong before anyone else. I usually can't fix it, but once it's finished it's nice to hear who notices what I did and who didn't - or who picked up something entirely new from it. When I finally hit send on my email I had watched each episode at least three times. I consulted my books and other blogs to make sure I wasn't talking out of my ass. I did my due diligence.

I fretted about the response. But Prescott couldn't have been more receptive. Like many filmmakers he's passionate about his work, but he clearly wasn't wearing rose-colored glasses. He agreed with my points and sought clarification and advice for how to fix things in the future. In the end, it was painless. I'm really looking forward to his show growing because it has a good deal of potential. Plus Prescott allowed me to, if I so chose, go into that nitty-gritty in order to help other webseries producers in the future. Maybe I'll take him up on that. Set up a master class of some sort.

It's important to grow as filmmakers - especially in this emerging new media market. Even so it's not always great to hear what's wrong with the show you've spent months working on. You want it to be a homerun. But with a simple e-mail to a source you trust, it's easy to get feedback in a constructive, unintimidating way.

For added pleasure, ask me (or whomever you want to give you feedback) before you post to the world, if possible. You may not have enough time or resources to make the fixes, but it may better prepare you for the audience response. Audiences, in general, are pretty forgiving for most things - if the story is good enough.

Now if I ask you for a critique of my show, I hope you'll oblige.

7May/12Off

Acting Out! with Dom Zook

Way back in 1999 I started posting my thoughts for the world to see. I had just graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a bachelor's degree in Theater (Acting/Directing emphasis). I wanted to keep everyone abreast of my trials and tribulations finding steady acting work, and I wanted to help younger actors learn some of the intricacies of the business that I wish I knew when I started.

So, through the magic of archive.org's WayBack Machine, I located my old site (not my oldest site, I'll point out) and began copying over my old posts to this blog. I've backdated them so they are chronologically accurate. And I've added them all to the "Acting Out! with Dom Zook" category for easy reference. Within these you'll find mentions of my first forays into producing, early acting news, and more.

I was young... some of the advice I'm not sure I'd give again or was even appropriate. But I was sincere. It's amazing to see how long I've been in the "teaching" game - that is, imparting any knowledge I had freely, whether I was right or not. I've always been a big proponent of passing on information. Anyway, feel free to peruse that section... you can start off here with my "First Post!"

26Apr/12Off

State of the Company

Never fear, I have a bunch of inflammatory posts I'm working on - my feelings on crowdfunding, hiring (or begging) for crew, Seattle vs. LA, and much more! - but right now I wanted to talk about where we are as a company and what 2012 should bring.

To be honest there's not that much to report. It's just me over here for the most part. I don't have an army of people updating the site, posting to twitter, making our Facebook page the social hub it's meant to be and so on. Not to mention folks to help me make movies. So I've been working on a couple things, some you know about and some you don't (if you're anywhere near a regular reader of this blog).

The big thing is still House of Yhargoth, the Lovecraftian webseries I've been working on with Faye Hoerauf for a little over a year. The wonderful script by Faye is done, our pitch package is complete. We're now setting up meetings around town with some potential networks. It's very exciting. No, it's more than that. As much as I've prepared myself I know that this is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I love the story, I get goosebumps every time I read it, and I know it's going to be awesome. I also know it's going to cost a lot of money to produce. If these pitches don't pan out I'm not sure how we can move forward with it. So it's a very daunting possibility. I'm determined to produce this one way or another. Thanks for all continued support you've thrown my way.

I've been so wrapped up in developing HoY that I've been neglecting any actual filmmaking! I hope to rectify that over the next few months. Will we do our annual 48-Hour Film Project? That remains to be seen. I love doing them... once they're over. 🙂

I'm also in the early early stages of a few other webseries properties. Developing those which should be fun. I have a pub trivia series that I think will be really cool if I can work out some of the kinks. If you've ever witnessed a trivia night with me you know the shenanigans that go on.

Movies are still hovering. I'd still love to shoot Plight of the Living Dead, the horror-comedy Faye and Jessica Baxter co-wrote that was supposed to be our follow-up to Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day. It's a great script but zombies are hard to sell these days. That will be a passion project for sure.

If this sounds fairly whimsical, it kind of is. I realized recently that I've been making videos (films, movies, flicks, what-have-you) for nearly 12 years now. Reflecting on my career over those years I still see huge room for growth but man... the things I've learned. I love it! I love teaching, too and I hope to continue learning and passing that knowledge on to other filmmakers.

So there you go. 2012 is shaping up to be a year of growth for GadZook Films. We'll be making more stuff and, as always, telling you how we did it.

21Mar/12Off

Myth of the “no-budget” anything

For some filmmakers the perfect budget is $0.00. Many of these filmmakers tend to believe the project itself is the reward and everyone should be happy (even enthusiastic) to work on it for free. When anyone tells you they can make something as complex as a film for nothing you should immediately be wary. Even (especially?) if it's me. Making shows is never free. There's always some cost, hidden or otherwise, that should be accounted for. So just what is a baseline of "no-budget" filmmaking?

Costs come from various sources. I'm not going to give a line-item description of all those costs (that's a whole 'nother blog - do you even know of a good budgeting blog? I don't.) but you still need to know what these line-items are. Without an accurate picture of what goes into making a show (be it a webseries, film or TV project) you can't adequately plan what you need to beg, borrow, or steal. Costs breakdown into a few categories: cast, crew, equipment, food.

When you're planning to shoot with a next-to-nothing budget you need to be more diligent in your pre-production, not less. You've gotta be clear about your vision, what you're trying to accomplish and what your endgame is. Having a clear plan from concept through distribution will help win people to your cause.

CAST & CREW
The #1 cost associated with filmmaking - and subsequently the one most filmmakers try to avoid - is crew salaries. Obviously, hiring people will send your budget skyward. Bringing on volunteers will reduce the budget considerably but it also, in some cases, makes things infinitely more difficult. Suffice it to say, if you're not paying people to work on your show you'll need to give back to them and be flexible. This goes well beyond simply offering a credit and some cold Nalley's Beef Stew.

The question should never be "Can I get a cast and crew to work for free." It should always be "Do I have to?" Once you commit to not paying anyone you have a lot more hanging on the project than just your reputation. Give them a reason to come work on (and finish!) your project. More on this in a follow-up post.

Moving on... At the very least, assuming the production is an intimate, contemporary, talking-head, one-location snooze-fest, you're still going to shell out money for equipment and food...

EQUIPMENT
Some people try to argue that they'll just buy the equipment outright and resell it when they're finished production thus resulting in a $0 balance for equipment. This reasoning fails to take into account any possible reshoots where the equipment might be needed and the fact that even the cheapest camera, lighting, and sound set-up will cost a couple thousand dollars, and even the best equipment will suffer a depreciation in the marketplace once used. And what if it breaks? You're out the resell value and will have to either buy or rent new equipment. You'll probably have to buy insurance too.

Sure, plenty of indie filmmakers have shot hours of footage on a used DVX100a without a hiccup. Plenty of indie filmmakers have also never made more than one movie because of their cheap-ass ways.

FOOD
If you've got someone who wants to be a chef and is up for cooking 30-40 meals a night and keeping them warm and ready to go the next day, someone with that kind of kitchen space and basically no other life... great. You can't do it because you're the filmmaker, you've got other things to do and don't even try to kid yourself into thinking making chili every day of the shoot will satisfy your obligation to your cast and crew. You're gonna need to go to Costco and get a shit-ton of crafty, and plan out hot meals for any day you'll be shooting more than 8 hours. You might be able to get a local restaurant to donate meals but you cannot count on this.

There are a bunch of other factors that could cost money. Don't even get me started on post! Oh man, from editing to music to color grading to distribution (yeah, you gotta buy those DVDs you want to send to fans), you either know it yourself or have a friend you can pester for months on end to get it done. Otherwise it's wallet time again! And locations! Geez... if you want to do something even mildly dangerous (say, having a guy chase another guy with a fake gun that doesn't even go off) you'll probably need to buy insurance to secure a location. Unless you shoot in your apartment and how boring is that?

If your goal is to spend as little money as possible your script needs to mirror that. You shouldn't come to the table with the next Avatar unless you're also willing to do most of the work yourself and do it for the years (YEARS!) it will take to finish it. Regardless of your script's scope, you need to budget out all real and potentially real costs before you can move on.

13Mar/12Off

Audience Involvement

In a recent Seattle Webseries Meetup (that's right! I started a webseries group in a city I don't live in anymore!) I was talking about audience engagement. This is really the best single marketing tool anyone can have. With an engaged audience nearly anything is possible. And with web production there's no excuse not to have all the tools you need to find and involve these power audiences!

What exactly is an engaged audience member? And how do you engage your audience?

Engaging your audience is, to put it simply, making friends with the people who support your work. After all, these folks are paying you - via DVD sales, website memberships, crowdfunding, ad clicks, whatever tool you use to monetize your project - to make good work. They want you to succeed because they want to see good stuff! The least you can do is reward them by not only producing great content but also giving them the knowledge that their voice matters to you.

Generally your audience doesn't come pre-engaged. If you're just starting out and have no cachet to call on, you'll need to spend some time building an audience. This is where social networking comes into play. It also means you'll need to create something to draw this audience in. As Robert Pratten said in his article on audience engagement, the first step is Discovery. Once they find your stuff you need to provide them with the avenues to give you feedback - Twitter, a Facebook group, a Google+ Page, a Tumblr account, etc. And then listen to them! Share with them, discuss with them. Tell them what you're trying to accomplish and ask what they'd like to see. One thing leads to another and it's these baby steps that lead to an active and engaged audience.

Crowdfunding has become a popular way of getting the word out in part because it's a new way to involve your audience. I would caution against crowdfunding an idea BEFORE you've sought the audience for it. You don't want to spend time finding the right people to fund your project while your campaign is running! Find the audience, engage them on some level with your idea, then start the campaign. I've seen many filmmakers go about this backwards and it usually amounts to campaigns where the discovery doesn't happen until the very end of the campaign and funding goals are not met.

There are tools to track engagement on sites like Twitter and Facebook. You can use Google Analytics or WordPress SiteStats to see just who is coming to your page and interacting with your content and you. I encourage people to be at least casually familiar with these systems so that you can better direct your marketing and engagement campaigns.

Indie filmmakers tend to stay closer to their indie filmmaker friends which creates a vortex of back-slapping but no real headway when butts need to fill seats. We're filmmakers. We're poor and we're hard to please. There are much better audiences out there - unless of course your show is all about indie filmmakers. Hmm... if so, please refer to my post on Why Most Webseries Suck and don't do that.

Webseries promotion often forgets about the audiences themselves. The truly successful shows out there have gone out of their way to network with fans, not just friends. You can begin the fan creation process before writing your first scene. As Captain Picard would say, "Engage!" *sorry*

Further reading:
Measuring Audience Engagement in Social Media by Nathan Linnell at Search Engine Watch.

Further viewing:
Matt Vancil (creator of JourneyQuest, The Gamers) speaking in February 2012 at the Film + Music + Interactive Happy Hour presented by the Seattle Office of Film and Music.

Filed under: General Shtuff 4 Comments
9Mar/12Off

Cross Promotion is Tricky Business

And now for another entry in: who really gives a shit ya dirty so-and-so?! Likely no one, but I thought it warranted discussion. So, here ya go...

Let me say this first; I think the idea of cross promotion is great! There's one big caveat involved and that stems from what, exactly, you're cross promoting.

Some questions jump out at me every time someone asks me to help spread the word about their show or crowdfunding campaign. "Who are you? What are you promoting? Are you just asking me to just shill your project because we're friends or do you think I would actually like it?" And perhaps more importantly, "what does MY audience stand to gain from this?"

See, when your friends are creators in their own right they need that promotional network to trust them. They need to know that when they send their own links out these people will click on them. If you're sending them a lot of bung links to projects and videos that are crap, they'll remember that. It's like crying wolf. They just might stop clicking on anything you send.

You are curating material for them. If you just link whatever any of your friends ask you to repost your other friends will hold that to you. By blindly linking to projects and campaigns that are poorly run, poorly made or poorly thought out it reflects poorly on you.

I'm prepared to sound like a dick (surprise!) by telling you you shouldn't help out your friends when they ask. Some people may see this as something that further divides artists rather than uniting them. We should support each other, not tear each other down! Here's my problem with that attitude - if you support without critique, no one learns anything. If someone has a shitty idea for a project, wouldn't it be better to tell them than to send all our friends there to donate money to it?

I understand that by noting a personal connection some may find that comforting. "Well, if Dom is friends with them, it must be worthwhile!" Let's be honest here, that's not always the case is it? Just because I'm friends with someone doesn't necessarily mean I think their work is the best it could be. In a few cases I know people are capable of better. I'd much rather a friend contact me first and ask my opinion on things before asking me to share the link. They can take or leave my opinion, it's their project, but they shouldn't be surprised if I don't tell my contacts about it.

If we take away the fact that our friends made it would we still be promoting it? Does it meet our own strict criteria? Would you fund it if you didn't know the people behind it? I try not to back crowdfunding campaigns I just don't believe in and I never link to a campaign I haven't already contributed to.

So what's the answer? Cross promote with conviction. If the only reason you have to promote a project is because your friend is involved then commit to that. Own up to it. "You should check out this guy's video because he's awesome." If you think the storyline is worth producing regardless of the person producing it, play up that aspect instead. Perhaps promote aspects that may work for each audience like region (all filmed in a certain location) or genre, or plot, or actor...

Bottom line we are what we link to.

9Dec/11Off

Producing is Creating

Inspired by an old post I found over at SOLO: The Series I decided I'd give you an update on our own webseries and just why it's taken almost a year to get to this point from the initial conception of the idea to a finished script.

So just what the hell have we been doing? When last I wrote about the show I had the über-idealistic goal to have a webseries screening on your computer by... uh... now. Whoops! The time has not been wasted, however, as we've been hard at work making these characters live and breathe.

Tasked with taking my initial concept and making sense of it all has been my good friend and frequent GadZook Films collaborator Faye Hoerauf. Let me just go a little more into this enigmatic dynamo behind a lot of what we do here. If you're a GadZook fan you know Faye's work as the award-winning co-writer/co-director of Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day and as an award-winning co-writer of Hook Her as well as the sole writer of Old Tricks among quite a few others.

I turn to Faye so often because she's not simply a good writer, she's a good storyteller. She asks questions and is able go well beyond the scope to make sure the story is holistic and not self-serving. Over the last year she's woodshedded a lot of the story I had initially come up with and turned it from a wispy scotch pine to a full blown working canoe. Terrible analogy. Bottom line: Faye's great and the series is in excellent hands with her writing.

Conceptualizing. Reading. Writing. Brainstorming. Designing. The world of this show has taken shape. All the little things we do as we (the producers) prepare a project to release into the wilds. Reading Lovecraft is not like reading, well, there's almost no comparison appropriate. You read one story (say, "The Dunwich Horror")  and that effectively eff's you up for a few weeks. It's a strength and a curse of his writing. So good. Anyway, I've been going through his stories for inspiration (of which there is plenty). So for the last year we've been trading back and forth: I'll come up with an idea, Faye will write; Faye will come up with an idea, I'll give feedback and she'll write some more. Around February this year we sent the first draft to some friends we trusted. The feedback was invaluable. And we went back and started cropping, re-arranging and tightening.

Last Tuesday I put together a small read-through with some friends of mine to see how the whole thing sounded. Using the most recent version of the script finished literally hours before the readthrough. Frequent readers of this blog may notice that this is - OMG - precisely what I think ALL creators should do. Get it read and get feedback. As this was the 2nd round of feedback we were anxious to see if all the work had been for naught.

I'm happy to say the readthrough was a big boost of confidence! Everyone seemed to really dig the premise and the characters, the pacing and length. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But it's grown from this crazy idea I had over a year ago (another OMG moment!) to a living, breathing show.

I just wanted to share my excitement with you, dear reader. And I hope to share more as we inch our way closer to pre-production! Stay tuned!

5Dec/11Off

Why Do (Most) Webseries Suck, part 4

Welcome to this final installment in what internet wags are calling "insufferable" and "fucktard-tastic!"

I missed my Tuesday deadline (by a lot now) because I've been sick... but really I've hit a bit of writer's block for this final chapter. I've been realizing that my points amounted to little more than a very general Filmmaking 101 revisitation. Is that really all that's wrong with webseries these days? Just bad filmmaking? Pretty much. But, like all things, there's a little bit more to it than that.

Webseries production is very much like the indie film fad of the '90s. The cost of equipment combined with the ease of mass distribution through the proliferation of indie-geared festivals made for an easy way to get your work seen by thousands of people. The difference with webseries is that now you have the opportunity to be seen by MILLIONS of people very easily and with little cost to you.

And it's easy to see why so many want to get into the web game. We see the proliferation of LOLCat videos or inept video blogs where a teenager racks up millions of views simply by talking about Justin Beiber for 20 minutes. As storytellers it's natural for us to think "if you think that's good, imagine what a video with a STORY can do!" And so we post our interpretations of the world, of the fantastic, of our imagination.... and we wait.

For a good many of these projects - I'd say probably 90% of them - the problems stem from one of the issues I spoke of in the previous 3 blogs (links 1, 2, & 3 here). To wit, poor storytelling resulting from a lack of accountability.

One of the things I think would benefit filmmakers in general, but webseries producers specifically, is a peer-to-peer system for reviewing and developing scripts. The International Academy of Web Television has some writing programs in place in both LA and NYC, and I hope more will be established around the world. But you don't need a sanctioned group to get your scripts read. Loan them to a trusted friend, someone who'll tell you when your shit stinks but can offer constructive advice to improve things.

As we've been developing our Lovecraftian webseries (more details soon, I promise!!) we made a point to hand the script off to talented writer friends who also weren't super familiar with Lovecraft's work. This gave us an insight into how the casual viewer may see our show. Would it be an uphill climb to understand the premise? Are references flying over heads? We received great feedback and began implementing changes without sacrificing our initial vision.

This isn't new info. This same advice has been handed to me through countless independent filmmakers. Find a partner, whether you work on separate projects or one project together, and share with them. Collaborate. While this isn't new information it's something webseries producers should, nay, NEED to be attuned to.

Producing for the web is vastly different from producing for film or TV. There are no gatekeepers to promotion or advertising or theater space. As good as that is for getting into the business it also means we need to be more vigilant about the quality we're putting out there. Not that the networks really care about their own shows (Whitney, anyone?) but we're not networks. This isn't about us vs. them, this is about doing the best we can with what we've got.

Any comments? Additions? Questions? Let me know in the comments!

 

8Nov/11Off

Why Do (Most) Webseries Suck? part 3

Welcome back to this ongoing pontification about webseries. In Part 1 the topic was focusing on originality to set your show apart. Part 2 discussed the need for a compelling story over all else as your main audience development tool.

Let me be very clear, these are basic concepts familiar to many filmmakers regardless of what the destination format may be. But webseries production introduces new limitations for writers that make it very different from your typical traditional media production.

Most narrative webseries (those with a story arc, as opposed to informational/reality series) are harder to write than your traditional media projects because of several inherent issues:

Time Limit - optimal web videos destined for virality are between 1-3 minutes long. If they can impart their message faster than that they have an even greater chance of being passed around. By contrast most short films bound for festival runs are between 12-20 minutes in length. And TV shows are somewhere in the 22-48 minutes range.

With shorts and TV shows and movies there are very clear broadcasting standards as well as programming considerations. With webseries there isn't such a clear guideline.

You have to take the brevity of the viral video along with the production considerations of the short film plus the episodic nature of a TV show. But there's no magical logarithm to find your ideal time limit.

You have maybe 6-10 minutes to tell your story in each episode. Trust me when I say even just 5 minutes can have the emotional impact of a half-hour TV show if you pace it right. 5 minutes can also feel like a half-hour and have NO impact whatsoever.

I've seen many filmmakers with episodes that are way too long. This is often seen with comedic series where episodes are written around a single lame joke for about 5 minutes... long after the audience got the joke and finished chuckling. Aim for the 2-3 minute mark when editing, but if your story is good people will watch more. Just don't bank on it.

Once you have your audience hooked on your character's story, they'll want more. The webspace is fairly unique in that your audience can easily access past episodes, recaps, character bios, etc. through your website and get caught up. In my opinion you don't need to spend 10-20 seconds recapping your previous episode, or have a minute long credit sequence. There's some dissenting opinion on this regard, of course, but for my money I believe if the audience is interested in your content they'll do the research to catch themselves up - naturally disregard this if you crowdfunded your show and offered a credits listing on the show as a perk.

Accessibility - This may sound contradictory to my previous posts about uniqueness and niche, but I assure you they're very separate.

You do not have the time to develop one character for 15 minutes before you introduce another. Or drop in your first major plot point three episodes down the road. The more shows I watch the more I see the good ones like Solo or GOLD or JourneyQuest introduce the characters, the basic plot and the construct of the world in the first episode. Further episodes expand at a more gentle pace once you've established who everyone is and what they're after.

So you can see when writing a webseries you need to make it both accessible and thrifty with time. Keep that first episode under 10 minutes if you can with the knowledge that you want it to be only as long as it needs to be. All of this should help you develop your story. Hand off your script to friends who maybe aren't familiar with your concept. Ask them if, after the first episode, they know who the main people are and what they're after. If they don't have a clear idea after just one episode... you're in trouble.

What are your thoughts? What obstacles have you seen that set webseries production apart from more traditional media? Stay tuned for the final installment in this series next week! Please share with your friends and comment below!