Creating a web series it has become very popular but a what do we need to do for having that web series idea ready to film and sell? Today we have a guest post from our friends of “La Cosa mal” a Spanish web series that has received funding from a Spanish TV channel, you can find in this post their adventure but at the same time, you will be able to see their process for creating this series that I am sure it will help you to develop your own ideas into web series.
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CREATION OF A WEB SERIES: The Case of ‘La cosa mal’
Written by Rubén Cantón and Anaïs Castaño
I’m sure that on several occasions you have had an idea that you would like to develop but you don’t even know where to start. There are many steps that separate an idea from the final product, so we are going to explain the creation of ‘La cosa mal’, a semi-scripted sitcom that deals with the misadventures of three flatmates. Although each section would take longer to explain, here you have a guide to start with:
- SCRIPT STUDY
First of all, you need to know the key principles of creating good stories, so we recommend you to read and watch: you must know how a script works and consume audiovisual material to guide yourself. There are many script books, but the fundamental ones that we personally recommend are Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ and ‘Dialogue’ and Syd Field’s ‘Screenplay’. In addition to reading theoretical books, it is highly recommended to read film scripts, as this will make their format and structure much clearer to you. But not only is it necessary to read, but it is also necessary to watch. The same story can be presented on screen in very different ways and many more factors. In the case of ‘La cosa mal’, the main referents were the sitcoms ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’. Also, if you are going to analyze a film, you must have very clear what, how and where to look, so starting with audiovisual analysis, which you can find both in text and video, is a very good idea. We recommend you the following channels: Lessons for the screenplay, Just write and Every frame a painting.
- FROM THE IDEA TO THE SCRIPT
Once you have an idea and you know how to develop it, you need to know the format. In the case of a series, it is necessary to know if it is going to be self-conclusive or if it follows a plot arc during its totality. The format of ‘La cosa mal’ is self-conclusive, so no continuous plot arc has been taken into account during the episodes of the series. On the other hand, more emphasis has been done on the internal structure of each chapter, which is made up of three different plots that are interrelated leading to a climatic end. However, to be able to realize this screenplay without leaving loose ends, it is necessary to delimit everything in great detail through plot synopsis and character outlines. It is also advisable to make a shooting script and/or storyboards. Although they are recommendable, they are not purely obligatory, since it depends on the director’s experience and the complexity of the story. In our case, only a basic shooting script of the most complex scenes was made; since it is a semi-script series with a lot of room for improvisation, blocking had to be very well defined so that the handheld camera would work. After all, the shooting script is not only for the director, but a tool that helps the crew. It is also important to reflect this story into images, so a visual guide is recommended: not only does this help to materialize the project, but also to sell it to potential investors. It can include photographs and stills to paintings, quotes, color palettes, etc.
Once a definitive screenplay has been created and it is clear how it is going to be structured, it is necessary to write down each and every one of the indispensable elements of the project so that it can be carried out. We are talking about technical equipment, actors, locations, props, costumes, equipment, catering, etc. If the characters, their profiles, and locations are already known with certainty before the final draft of the script, it is time to start working, as production should begin as soon as possible. For ‘La cosa mal’ there was no need to do a casting director, as all the actors are friends of the creators. But if necessary, it is advisable to visit the manager’s websites and publish ads with the specific profiles required. We advise you to visit websites such as Casting, Solo casting, Vibuk and theatre groups, among others. It is very important to always ask for a video reel, since checking the actor’s acting previously will save us a lot of time since we won’t be calling them to casting if we know from the beginning that they don’t fit the profile.
Concerning locations, we only had to apply for shooting permits in public spaces and parks, which, in our case, was applied to the Barcelona Film Commission. They offer a large list of locations that sometimes offer competitive prices for students. It is very important to keep in mind that for private locations you still must prepare permissions for the cession of rights. In our case, we did so for the Espai Cultural Montbarri, the offices of Arquitectes Ensenyat-Tarrida and two private flats. Likewise, it should not be forgotten that the crew and the cast must also receive a work or collaboration contract -depending on the remuneration- and even a cession of image rights. The Barcelona Film Commission makes publicly available various models of contracts, cessions, and even the audiovisual agreements.
At the same time, a shooting schedule must be done to limit when each of the scenes will be shot, minimizing the number of days and, therefore, the cost; in addition to complementing it with a production schedule that limits the necessary elements per day of shooting. For ‘La cosa mal’ we were lucky to have a technical crew that was not only large and specialized in different sectors that complemented each other but also had its own equipment, so it was not necessary to buy or rent. This made possible to reduce greatly production costs, which is extremely important, as this was a self-invested project.
Talking about funding, we decided to start shooting only the pilot and the teaser, which they both serve as a launching material and style sample for potential investors. This is not only an audiovisual sample of what the final product will be but also a direct example of what you are capable of creating. It is always essential to make a previous monetary investment that can later be recovered through the investments of sponsors, collaborators, producers, crowdfunding, etc. In our case, the investment we did is accompanied by crowdfunding through the Verkami platform and a co-production with the television channel Betevé. They not only provide up to an additional 2000€ for the creation of the project if it is widely echoed on social media, but it also includes the airing of the pilot an interview with its creators. In order to get here, a proposal was sent via email directly to the ‘Tube d’Assaig’ program, which included title, format, duration, genre and a small synopsis of a couple of projects. Finally, the final cut of the pilot was required and, after its viewing, they decided to bet on ‘La cosa mal’ and record an interview with the creators of the series to broadcast both materials on television.
It must be clear that having a good pre-production phase facilitates and leads to a good shooting. It is recommended to add breaks and be realistic with the time you have when creating a shooting schedule. What’s more, it’s so much better to leave an extra space of time; unforeseen events can always occur. Since ‘La cosa mal’ uses a format in which improvisation is a key element, it has been given special importance to leaving a lot of extra time to experience and improvise unscripted moments. Also, the shooting script has been created only as a simplified guide that can evolve during filming.
The shooting of the pilot was divided into 4 days, starting in Espai Cultural Montbarri. This was the first one due to its little schedule flexibility and distance from the rest of the locations; therefore, the sooner the material could be shot, the better. The first hours of another day were devoted to shooting Mateu and Ana character’s scenes and, in the afternoon and same location, the whole party final scene was filmed. On the third day, the office scenes were shot, ending with the fourth day that included the three protagonists’ scenes and the outdoor scenes, as all these locations were in the same area and with the same actors.
Finally, it remains one of the most important and difficult process, its distribution. As previously mentioned, ‘La cosa mal’ is part of Betevé’s Tube d’Assaig project, so a small path is open after having entered into the television tv shows and now it’s part of their social media plan of this TV show and channel. Even so, this did not mean we could let our guard down, especially when it comes to social media, as it currently is a large exhibition window and you have to be proactive in all of them: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… You have to be aware that not all of them work the same and offer the same exposure, so you must have very clear the target and which social media profile impacts more directly on it. In our case, special emphasis has been placed on Instagram, since it not only gives us a faster engagement with our target but also allows us to do so through sketches and audiovisual proposals that are more similar to the actual web series.
Knowing this, you should start preparing your production dossier, which is nothing than a document that gathers the project and all its vital information: detailed synopsis, data sheet, character outline, crew and cast, visual guide, collaborators, film budgeting, contact, etc. Once this dossier has been created, it is time to start moving around the main exhibition events, competitions, festivals, pitchings, audiovisual clusters, networking meetings, etc. It is also important to seek collaboration, of any kind, both in official bodies of the State (town halls, state or community assistance, and subsidies, organizations…) and in small brands, shops, halls, civic centers or community groups, among others. Not only economic support is sought but also visualization, either through social media, posters, newsletters, cinemas and/or talks. As our product counts with such a specific target and with a semi-novel direction, we chose to contact small brands, shops, and figures from Barcelona to collaborate, in addition to presenting a proposal for episode premieres in different locations of Barcelona. This not only allows users to view each chapter exclusively on the big screen but through the same organization of each exhibition center a marketing act to publicize the web series is made. At this point, the most important thing is to know that as there is a great possibility that the main distribution medium could be YouTube, the difficult thing is not to expose the project, but to get a good number of followers who do not only stay to watch the series, but who first come across with it. Internet content is very large so all possible doors must be knocked first.
To learn more about the project, you can visit the following social networks:
If you liked this post and would like to collaborate with the production of the series and its young creators, you can visit the following link to the Verkami project. Remember that every grain of sand, both in the form of donation and diffusion, is a great help.
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