Making a web series is a lot of work. This summer, I have undertaken a personal project to start my own limited web series. It’s called “Pretty…If You Squint,” a 9-episode series of comedic shorts, featuring me, Raven Sinclair (well, a fictionalized version of me to be more precise). While this has been an overall enjoyable experience so far, I’m not going to lie — it has been A LOT of work. Here’s what the process looked like for me:
When it comes to planning out a web series, one should probably have a good idea about where you want the series to start and end. In the beginning, I had a vague idea of what I wanted the series to be like, but it took me awhile to get everything down on paper. I decided to write scripts for each episode and began with an idea that eventually became episode two. However, after further consideration, I thought an introductory episode would be a generally good idea, so I ended up writing the first episode second. I continued to write scripts for a few more episodes until late in the series when I decided that I wanted the episodes to build on each other. So, I went back and inserted the appropriate details in earlier scripts. Writing the scripts was thrilling to me, but also challenging. I found myself revising certain scenes, because they would have just been logistically not feasible to film on my own or, for example, the requisite costumes/ props would have been too expensive. Overall, I spent around five weeks (off and on) writing the scripts.
Music, while ubiquitous and readily available, is, alas, not free. I had no desire to seek permission or pay royalties to use songs and for this reason, I spent a good deal of time composing my own music on GarageBand (their loops are royalty free!). GarageBand has a number of pre-reocrded tracks that can be played on a loop (they are also just called “loops”), which can be cut up and layered to produce one’s own music. I spent waaaaaay too much time playing with loops on GarageBand. It’s an excellent tool if you require some music to accompany action in your production.
Costumes and Props
It is so easy to spend too much money on costumes and props, which I did shamelessly. I did not have a real budget for my web series, because to be honest with me as the de facto CEO of this production company of one — I knew I was not going to seriously enforce any budgetary constraints that I proposed for myself. Regardless, I was mindful of all the costs and ended up cutting corners (creatively) when I could, for example, instead of buying a crystal ball for the psychic character, I gave her a crystal ball app on the iPhone (lol).
Okay, so I did spend a bit of money here. Because I have filmed videos before, I knew my current camera was not going to cut it for the web series. Because I would be filming solo, it would be important for me to have a remote-control operated camera, one where the playback screen can be rotated to face front (so you can see yourself when you are in front of the camera), and one with good autofocus. I made a video several months ago for my blog (check it out here) without such features and it was low-key agonizing, as I would go through take after take just to discover that I was slightly out of frame or that the focus did not properly adjust. Additionally, I purchased two soft-box lights, which really do make all the difference in terms of picture quality.
Shooting everything was great, but to be honest it had its ups and downs. I decided to shoot most everything at home (for the sake of convenience), which made things a whole lot easier for me. For example, because most of the shots are indoors, weather was a not a big factor that I had to deal with. Additionally, I never really had to commit to a shooting schedule as I was working on my own and didn’t have to reserve a studio or anything like that. I did run into a few problems with sound though; for example, trying to record audio with an overheating computer produces a lot of annoying background noise. It took me one to three days (not full days) to shoot each episode and I did this over a six-week period (around my other work).
We’ll fix it in post. Post-production is so much work if you strive for perfection… which I do not. For me, the biggest post-production hurdle was learning how to use the video editing software Adobe Premiere Pro. For me, it was so unintuitive. In the beginning, I had to look “how do you do X on Premiere Pro? How do you do Y on Premiere Pro.” Two days later… “how do X again on Premiere Pro?” Ugh. That software is tricky (and expensive), but if you want to do more than simply string clips together it is certainly worth the effort (and dollars) it takes to learn the program.
This won’t be my last post on making “Pretty…If You Squint” but that’s all that I got for now! In the future I hope to share more about all the bloopers (and I did accomplish these naturally through my own incompetence 😉 ) and other goings-on behind the scenes.
Wishing you all beautiful things! (and that you maybe one day will watch my show 😉 )