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


Why Do (Most) Webseries Suck? part 2

Hey, welcome back! This is Part 2 of this multi-part series where I'll go into some of the roadblocks facing webseries producers and how they can improve their idea to get an audience and have a successful show.

2) Producers don't know what's wrong with their own shows.

There's a favorite argument amongst web-producers over the word "webseries". Many believe the word itself is the factor preventing audiences from finding or watching their work.

In last week's post I went on and on about the standard, blah, unimaginative "traditional" webseries. Some producers believe now that the term "webseries" connotes bad quality because it is overwhelmingly associated with this content. This isn't an entirely false assumption, but it's scapegoating the very thing that sets us apart.

We need the word webseries because we produce shows for the web. If we produced shows for TV then they'd be TV series. It's very simple and silly to want to change the term for what we do. But I'm getting off the topic at hand...

Still other producers choose to blame their own AUDIENCE as the reason their show isn't more popular. For some reason they call out their audience for not sharing the show with their friends, or for not "getting the premise" when they lambast the show on YouTube. Protip: If the people watching your show don't get it or in anyway don't like it - you're doing something wrong. Not cool, dude, not cool.

It's not what we call what we do, and it's not who watches our show - clearly it's the content that's king. A great idea does not a great show make. Beyond simple technical issues like bad sound or a shaky camera there's still the story and the performances - the things that audiences truly, passionately care about.

If you're not getting an audience to watch your show it's likely not what camera you shoot on or what editing system you use to cut it. It's what your show is about and how you tell your story. Filmmakers are often trying to shift the blame - I've certainly been guilty of this. "Oh," they say (I've said), "we'd have more fans if we shot in HD and bought a better mic." While technical skill is impressive, it cannot hide a shoddy or, more appropriately, uninteresting story.

Sure, not all people will get your show. That's not the point. The point is that you're squandering what small reach you have by alienating the people who are seeking your show out. In marketing, well, I'm sure there's a term for it in marketing... let's just call it "word of mouth." What? That's the term? Nice. Anyway, webseries need word of mouth advertising. We don't have the vast ad dollars of movies studios to plaster banner ads all over Facebook. If you think word of mouth didn't help nobody, I invite you to check out The Guild.

As a 7 year veteran of the 48-Hour Film Project I've seen my share of winners and losers. The winners tend to have a healthy mix of story and technical savvy. Fancy camerawork is impressive, and special effects (done well) can bring an audience to its knees - once. But if there's no story to back it up the audience doesn't have anything to latch on to.

When writing/producing your webseries think to the story - what makes it better? What makes it stirring? Funnier? Who you cast, how you shoot and what music you use. Every decision you make for your show should be for the betterment the story. That's what's wrong with your show... fix it.

Next week I'll berate those of you who think none of this applies to you. Naw, don't worry... it'll be fun!


Why Do (Most) Webseries Suck? part 1

Woah there, cowboy! Let me clarify. Not ALL webseries suck, silly. Just most of them. But why? And why would anybody want to jump into this game if the odds are so heavily stacked against them? In this multi-part series I'll go into some of the roadblocks facing webseries producers and how they can improve their idea to get an audience and have a successful show.

1) Most webseries suck because they lack originality.

It may surprise you to learn that a lot of people think webseries are all about out-of-work actors/filmmakers and their hilarious dating lives. If I had a nickel for every filmmaker/actor who believed their personal life would be ambitious or hilarious fodder for a show I would probably have upwards of $6.35. Yep.

While there are some good shows out there based on this premise and I certainly don't mean to lump them all together, it's a pretty tired concept. So many TV shows, movies and yes, webseries, have done this better and way before you set your pen to paper.

But this isn't the only tired concept out there. There are dozens of mockumentaries done in the style of "The Office," hundreds of series about a bunch of 20-somethings living life and dating each other a la "The Real World," or "Friends," or whatever. Again, I don't mean to cast aspersions on ALL such shows. I would gladly point you to a decent one of these... had I the time to go through the dozens of shows in this milieu.

As my friend Tom Becker of Ogre Mage puts it, these shows "poison the market." By popping up in Google searches for webseries and flooding review sites these shows form a sort of wall. They prevent the casual audience member from learning about the vast variety of web content out there by virtue of overcrowding the system.

How do these shows generally come about? My guess: The basic motto for beginning writers to "write what you know." Along with "write for what you can get" and you have the combo for a lot of terrible shows about uninteresting people in less than glamorous places. With a dearth of hastily written shows about nothing in particular it's no wonder audiences are shying away from webseries as a whole.

So what CAN you do? Taking all this into account you simply need to ask yourself "Is my story worth telling." Is it something that you need to tell, or is it just something to put your face on the map? Who would benefit, i.e. enjoy watching this? You're going to have to narrow it down from "all people ages 18-45," friend-o.

Think niche, baby. High concept. There's such a vast audience available to you via the internet why focus on an audience that is split so much already? Find a story that ignites your passion and tweak it to fit your available resources. Sure, you might not be able to do that zombie western you've always wanted, but maybe you could do that stepping stone project. The point is if audiences are rejecting your show your show probably didn't have a cohesive audience targeted in the first place. I guarantee if someone told you to watch a show about their lives you'd groan too. Unless maybe they were a time-traveling astronaut werewolf. That's something I'd watch.

You may only have access to one other friend and your only location may be an apartment (although I'd argue with you here). That's fine... it's all in what you do with what you have at your disposal.

Next week I'll go into more depth about why webseries producers fail to see the problem inherent in their shows and instead blame the medium or worse, the audience! Let me know what you think in the comments!


Making a Cthulhu-based web-series is not all shoggoths and rainbows

DespairI've been working on this web-series since November 2010. What is it? Who's in it? Where can I watch it? What's it... uh... called? All excellent questions. Hold your horses...

Let me tell you how this whole thing came about. I wanted to make something based in the Cthulhu mythos ever since I played my first round of the Call of Cthulhu RPG about 20 years ago. Thoroughly creeped out after each adventure, I'd track down any Lovecraft story I could find to remind myself that they were just stories. Amorphous blobs of floating jelly with dozens of eyes and a haunting wail didn't really exist! Right? Didn't help. I loved it.

I sort of lost track of Cthulhu and those wacky Elder Gods once I left college. It made for nice icebreakers with friends but I hadn't read any of the stories since high school. Then late last year I started working on an idea for a web-series about a down on his luck guy who hunted monsters. Rolling the idea around in my head - and yeah, that does sound like a fun premise - I couldn't figure out how to make it work. I remembered Lovecraft and his twisted imaginary abominations and suddenly things started to gel.

The bulk of the writing on the series is being handled by the esteemed Faye Hoerauf. Many of you (6?) blog followers know Faye as part of the writing/directing team of our short zombie-comedy "Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day" which is STILL playing in festivals around the world. She's taken my initial idea and expanded and informed the world allowing it to become something personal and convincing. To be sure, our Cthulhu series is a distinct departure from the comedy bits we've produced in the past (and will continue to produce in the future). This is also a project that I'm already extremely proud of and can't wait to share with you!

Over the next few weeks I'll be dropping tidbits about the production, ways you can help and when it'll be available for all to see. We're aiming for September, keep your fingers crossed! There's a lot going on here and I just wanna say thanks for your continued support and I think you're gonna love this show.


48 Go Green Update

And another 48 Hour Film is in the books! This year we worked with one of our smallest crews ever. It was an awesome experience and I'm pretty happy and excited with the result. Winners are announced tomorrow, but as always with these types of contests it's really more of a test of storytelling skill.

The lessons one can pick up when working on these things just resonate through all of our work. It's fascinating and a great way to work with people. You see them at their most stressed. It's a terrific indicator of character and resolve.

Anyway, without further ado, here's what we created. Linked to Vimeo, but it's also on our YouTube page.

Made for the 2011 48 Go Green. This film was made from top to bottom in 48 hours. This is the original, uncut version. Aside from some updated credits, this is what we turned in at the end of those 48 hours.


48 Go Green

We're at it again. Ramping up the new year with a new 48 Hour Film Project called the 48 Go Green. It's just like the regular 48HFP but it's all environmental and stuff. We need some help, though! We are looking for the following:

Gaffer - come with your own lighting package, or know where to get lights super cheap.
Editor - must know FCP and sound syncing (either using Plural Eyes or similar).
Sound Op - we have equipment, we just need someone who knows what they're doing. If you have additional equipment it's certainly welcome! (we've got a shotgun, boom and Zoom H4N recorder)
Asst. Director/Script Supe/All-around good person - you've got moxie, inscrutable attention to detail and a thorough knowledge of film workflow.

If you or anyone you know would be a good fit here, and you live in LA or close enough, please e-mail me with the following:

Links to clips, reels, resumes, etc. If you're an actor or any crew person not explicitly mentioned above, please hold your horses and don't write to me yet. Cool? Thanks! Hope to hear from you!

Filed under: LA Life, Producing No Comments

Chick Flick & the 48 Hour Film Project

It's happened. Another 48-Hour film has been produced and screened. Now it's a waiting game to see if we measure up! It's interesting seeing the competition from year to year. Last year only a few teams had upgraded to HDSLRs or otherwise "fancy" cameras, giving their films a very professional look. This year nearly everyone had some depth of field advantage. The ones that didn't have this used their cameras in filmic and oft-times inventive ways. Ambition was high.

One thing I notice year to year, however, is that as technical skill goes up storytelling remains a constant. That is, it's either there or it's not. For 48HFs it's most often not. A script is thought of by some as an annoyance. A waste of time, perhaps. "We'll improv it!" is a popular refrain. Films then languish with exciting visuals that go nowhere and lead the viewer not on a journey but on a slideshow. And time after time the winning films have a story to tell. I've seen this in the screenings I've been apart of and had it reinforced when I attended the 2010 Filmapalooza screenings for the Best of City winners for last year's 48HFP. Each film told a story. Beginning, middle and end. Some of them were more powerful than others, some written more wisely, but they were all stories. Even the impressive, effects-laden masterpieces had something that drew the viewer in and kept them concerned beyond just nifty special effects.

My tips for anyone wanting to participate and, perchance, win - story. Brainstorm with anyone, but designate one person as your writer and sequester them around 9pm on Friday night. You'll get a much more focused story as a result. The "write by committee" scripts usually feel that way. Unless everyone is comfortable writing with each other, you end up getting a bunch of different ideas no one can agree on and you go out Saturday with an unclear idea of what needs to get done. Really these rules can be carried over to non 48HF Projects. Story is king!

Well, without further ado, here's our entry for this year. No awards have been announced, but I think we rocked regardless!

This film was made for the 2010 48 Hour Film Project in Los Angeles. This is the ORIGINAL cut of the film. A re-cut will be uploaded soon with improved sound and extra footage.

Team: GadZook Films
Genre: Film de Femme
Character: Jamie (or Jared) Woodnit, Actor
Prop: Keyboard
Line: "I have no idea."

Tagged as: 2 Comments


Hey! WordPress 3.0 comes out and boom, I update the look of the site. Whaddya think? Oh boy, I'm excited. We've got another shoot coming up in late July, then the 2010 48 Hour Film Project in LA with a star-studded crew. Then part 2 of the Troubadour series films in September. Busy. Subscribe to all our channels! I'll be creating handy links and buttons here to help you do that, but your continued patronage is important to us! Thanks!

Filed under: General Shtuff 1 Comment

Crazy Train

What's this?? Another video?! Are we insane or just moderately productive? A little of both? After seeing this video you may lean one way on that notion. This is the first part of a planned trilogy featuring The Troubadour. I directed and edited this thing, in addition to my typical producing duties.

Next month we shoot "Turkey and Nathan" a short about self-worth, and then in August we sojourn back to the 48 Hour Film Project and attempt to kick ass. Without further adieu - "Crazy Train"!

Boy tries to impress girl. Girl is more than she seems. Ain't that the truth, am I right guys?
Starring Dan Gallo, Erika Godwin and Tyler Rhoades.
Written by SeƱor Rhoades.
Shot by Alejandro Zuniga.
Produced, Directed and Edited by Dom Zook.
GadZook Films



Ooh, ooh! Looky! New video! This puppy was written by Tyler Rhoades, and stars Tyler and the inimitable Patrick Donahue. You might remember Patrick from last year's 48-Hour entry from us, "Double Feature." Well he's back and it looks like he has a score to settle! Anyway, enjoy the film! And don't forget to Like it, give it a thumbs up, or head over to Funny or Die and give it a Funny! rating. Thanks folks!



I need to get back to working on this more. In a software update about a year ago I lost all my fancy CSS and classy looks. I got distracted and this poor blog sat unnoticed for eons. Well, I've re-upped my commitment! I'm going to try and fix it this weekend and get it back to its former glory.

I was writing an article on the term "professional" and the myth of the no-budget movie. I realized I was sounding quite a bit hypocritical in those articles. So stay tuned to see if I'm able to dance my way around the terms and paint myself in to a pretty picture. I somehow highly doubt that.

Working on a couple of new projects and trying to get a consistent, reliable crew ironed out. Hopefully I can get completed (or near completed) projects back from various sources and get those up and out there soon. Anyway, bottom line, still truckin'!

Filed under: General Shtuff 2 Comments