Do you believe in magic? Just wait. You will, after your first experience with production. Before your very eyes, ideas on a page will suddenly transform into living, breathing entities. (That is, unless your story is about zombies.)
Having recently directed my first feature, “The Little Tin Man,” I oversaw the production process as field general to the crew. My analysis: Making a microbudget indie is like playing Jenga blindfolded beside a box fan set on high. Despite the adversities, surviving production is a testament to persistence and perseverance. While this step is the most difficult, it can also be the most satisfying. If you are passionate about an idea, let nothing stop you! I can’t reiterate this enough. Just do it!
Enough. I sound like Matt Foley with my motivational rants. Anyway, let’s get down to the practicalities. We’ve got a web series to produce! Here are some helpful tips.
1. Be ready to turn in your homework. (You will be graded!)
Preferably before the shoot, collaborate with your cinematographer to create a list of things you want to film and in what order. This will save you lots of precious time! If possible, create storyboards that map out the scenes. Whether chicken scratch or Claude Monet, it doesn’t matter. Boards will help everyone visualize the concept and stay on the same page.
2. No one is “too big” to hold a boom pole. Create a team spirit.
Designate roles for your crew, but more importantly, try to cultivate an environment where everyone is willing to wear multiple hats on set. (Hint: Great craft service helps!) In some cases, this can even include the cast. Gasp! Yeah, that’s right, no prima donnas allowed! Keep the drama on-screen. Treat everyone with respect. Shooting a webisode should be as nimble and scaled back as possible. As long as everyone is working together, the quality of the product will never be sacrificed.
3. Time is money and efficiency is king.
Though rarely accomplished by most, it is possible to stay on schedule and “make your day.” I’m not talking about “Dirty Harry” here. When you start going overtime is usually when the budget starts going up, so be aware of the clock. It’s also when people start getting cranky. So work smart. Your departments, including wardrobe/makeup, camera and sound, set dressing, etc., should all overlap one another. For efficiency's sake, while a scene is being filmed, be preparing for the next one. Communicate what needs to be done, and it will be.
Another case study: The dudes who produce the web series “Model Wife” execute these concepts really well. Every couple of weeks, they band together and turn a Saturday afternoon into a well oiled machine. About $500 (or less) later, a webisode is birthed.
So if you build it -- “it” being an awesome production experience -- they will come.
Matthew Perkins is a filmmaker living in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @_MatthewPerkins