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TELEVISIONC R E AT E YO U R OW N T V S ER I E S F O R T H E I N T ER N E T
M I C H A E L
W I E S E
P R O D U C T I O N S
TABLE OF CONTENTSPREFACEWhats This Book About And Who Is It For?
CHAPTER ONEWhat Is A Webisode?A brief history of short episodic video on the Web Whats out there already amateur and professional Why create for the Internet? For teachers
CHAPTER TWOThe Series ConceptWhat is a series as opposed to a stand-alone short film? Fatally flawed series concepts Be bold, fresh and original So wheres the drama? You need a killer title For teachers...
CHAPTER THREECreating Compelling CharactersCharacter essentials Characterization Your overall character landscape Leading characters vs. supporting characters Drawing on real life Growing your characters For teachers...
CHAPTER FOURCreating The World Of Your SeriesLaying out the rules Reality vs. believability Building on the reality you create For teachers...
CHAPTER FIVEThe Pilot StoryCreating a story that tells and sells Premise pilot vs. Episode 10 pilot Youve only got a few minutes, so be economical Creating memorable character introductions Story structure: Beginning-Middle-End Putting it on paper creating an outline Pitch it out loud to a friend or three For teachers...
CHAPTER SIXThe Pilot ScriptBuilding your script, scene by scene Deviating from the outline What makes good dialogue the 4 Cs Making your script read visually Youve got a first draft time to get to work again When is it ready to be shot? For teachers...
CHAPTER SEVENChoosing A Visual StyleThe marriage of style and content Beginnings, endings and transitions For teachers...
CHAPTER EIGHTPractical Concerns Equipment And BudgetEquipment: from the bargain basement to the penthouse Cameras and camera accessories Sound mikes, booms, recorders, etc. Lights Editing software fancier stuff Learning more about all this equipment and how to use it For teachers...
CHAPTER NINEThe Pilot PreproductionCasting: finding talented actors when you have no budget Locations: imagination meets reality Permits Developing a shooting schedule Revising the script to fit the logistics Making a shot list Props and wardrobe Situations that require special preproduction For teachers...
CHAPTER TENThe Pilot ProductionDealing with the unexpected Be quick, but dont hurry Getting enough takes and coverage You arent the only genius on the set Actors arent puppets Crewmembers arent slaves The world is not a set For teachers...
CHAPTER ELEVENThe Pilot PostproductionThe rough cut putting it together The rough cut assessing what you have Refining the cut Postproduction sound Adding music Creating a main title For teachers...
CHAPTER TWELVEBuilding On The Pilot Coming Up With Episode IdeasGrowing your series Growing your characters Learning from each episode you shoot How many episodes do I need before I can post my series? For teachers...
CHAPTER THIRTEENPosting Your Show On The InternetYouTube Beyond YouTube Publicizing and marketing your series Festivals and contests Should you create your own website? For teachers...
CHAPTER FOURTEENInterviews With CreatorsJerry Zucker Comedy pro returns to his roots Christine Lakin Child actor all grown up and producing now, too Marshall Herskovitz From network TV to the Internet Valerie Shepherd & Michael Ashley A way to break in Charles Rosin Internet 90210 Frank Chindamo Mobile media master
EPILOGUEYoure Ready! Honest! So Go Do It!
APPENDIX 1Screenplay format tutorial.
APPENDIX 2Recommended reading for more detailed discussions of the crafts.
APPENDIX 3Syllabi and course outlines for teachers.
WHAT IS A WEBISODE?
imply put, a webisode is an episode of a television series de signed for distribution over the Internet. It can be comedy like General Ele vator (on National Banana and YouTube) or Gaytown (on Crackle) or compelling drama like quarterlife (at quarterlife.com). It can be live action or animated, fiction, or reality-based like cable network Lifetimes original online series Gift Intervention (at mylifetime.com). It can be a high-budget, intricately filmed sci-fi extravaganza with dazzling special effects like Sanctuary (at sanctuaryforall.com) that cost $4.3 million, or approximately $32,000 per minute arguably the most ambitious film project to date designed for direct release over the Internet. Or it can be as low-tech as a static webcam shot in front of a convenient and free background like your own bedroom (see any number of shows on YouTube). And as far as length, it can be whatever you choose from 10 seconds to however long you can hold the audiences attention. The key word is series. A webisode (or web episode) is an individual installment of an ongoing premise with recurring characters. A single, stand-alone short video say of the hilarious things your cat did after she lapped up your Jack Daniels on the rocks is NOT a webisode. Neither is that brilliant1
spoof of Sex And The City you shot at your grandmothers retirement home unless you shot a series of short SATC spoofs with grandma and her horny pals, in which case we should take the Jack Daniels away from you and grandma and give it back to your cat.
A Brief History Of Short Episodic Video On The WebIn the Mel Brooks movie History Of The World, Part I, Moses (played by Brooks) descends from a mountain lugging three stone tablets chiseled with 15 commandments from God until Moses trips and drops one of the holy tablets, shattering it beyond recognition. Thinking quickly, he declares, I bring you ten TEN commandments! Five sacred commandments smashed into a pile of rubble just like that. Who knows what wisdom was lost? Maybe the missing commandments said things like Thou shalt not wear spandex after age 40 or Covet not thy neighbors iPhone for he is a tech dunce and cant work it anyway. Your guess is as good as mine. But whatever moral pearls turned to dust in that moment, Im pretty sure one of the lost commandments was not Thou shalt only make TV shows in increments of 30 or 60 minutes. Since the dawn of the television age in the 1940s, broadcasters have been prisoners of the clock, confined to airing shows on the hour and half hour so viewers would know when and where to find them. But the digital revolution and the Internet have changed all that. More and more, television and visual entertainment in general are part of an on demand world rather than an on the hour one. Audiences can now watch what they want when they want, which, in turn, means that shows no longer have to be packaged in 30- or 60-minute installments. Its a revolution that has fed on itself. Free from the tyranny of the 30/60 paradigm, short-form video content in all shapes and sizes has exploded on the Web. Maybe a show is two minutes and thirty-seven seconds long one time, maybe it runs six minutes and forty-one seconds the next. Each episode can be however long it deserves to be.
Audiences, in turn, have responded by growing their viewing habits. Where you used to need at least a half-hour to watch your favorite comedy, now you might be able to catch two or three episodes of it in less than fifteen minutes. Office workers now schedule video breaks rather than coffee breaks, boosting their energy and outlook by guzzling down a few short comedy videos for free instead of a double espresso caramel latte for five bucks. Or maybe you choose to watch a few webisodes on the bus or the train on your laptop or mobile device. Never before have viewers had so many choices. And never before have creators had so much latitude on the length and type of content they can make. In truth, short-form episodic film series have been around since well before the days of television, some even coming during the silent movie era. Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton all created one reelers popular early predecessors to todays web series shot on film and exhibited in theaters across the country right alongside the newsreel and the feature presentation. In the animated realm, the Looney Tunes shorts come to mind. But the equipment and processing necessary to make even a two-minute film back then were so expensive that only professionals could afford to make these shorts. And even if an amateur had the funds and imagination to produce a clever short film, distribution was entirely controlled by the major Hollywood studios who also owned the theaters and who had no intention of allowing the competition to cut into their lucrative monopoly. The advent of lightweight and relatively affordable personal camcorders by the early 1980s made it possible for millions to shoot their own videos. But most of these home videos were unedited, handheld footage of family vacations or childrens birthday parties, usually narrated by your dad or Uncle Johnny: Here we are at little Billys second birthday party heres Billy eating cake here he is opening his presents and heres little Billy pulling down his pants and relieving himself in the garden. As much as you (and years later, Big Billy) wish dad had done a little judicious cutting, editing equipment and technology was
still bulky and prohibitively expensive in this first home video era. And distribution venues remained unavailable to those outside