Book review: Web TV Series – How to make and market them (Creative Essentials) by Dan Williams


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I was eager to read this book and learn more about web series – as it says on the back of the book, “the new media marketplace continues to grow, [and] so does the demand for original content”. We live in a transmedia world now, where web series’ are becoming every bit as important for writers and film-makers to learn about as TV and film.

I got far more than I expected out of this book. I’d say (somewhat ironically) that this is a book that is ideal for beginners, but not necessarily aimed at beginners. What I mean by this, is that this book is about the serious business of making web TV series – not just filming something fun with friends in order to try and go viral. This book encourages quality work, and does a quality job of instructing it.

The content includes your usual introductory material – what web TV series’ are, how their success is defined and how you can develop and write up an idea… But we soon move onto the nitty gritty – the stuff that you want to ignore but absolutely mustn’t. We’re talking pitch documents, financing, marketing plans, each stage of production, distribution and sustainability.

This book is for those who really want to make a go of a web series. It’s not just aimed at writers but the producers and directors, too – whoever may be involved in making a web series. For the writers, we’ve got some handy tips and an example of one of Dan’s own scripts from his web series “Asylum”. But the book’s very much aimed at giving a well-rounded look at all the aspects of film-making involved.

The sentiments that come across throughout this book include the need to be passionate about a web show project in order to make it work – use an idea you’re really keen on, don’t “save” it for something “bigger”, and don’t treat it as “just a spec project” – Brian Ross, one of the interviewees in the book, advises never to short change yourself or your production because this is “just a web series”.

It’s also something that can’t be done alone – Al Thompson advises that knowledge outside your expertise makes you stronger. Dan emphasises this throughout, too, by encouraging healthy respect for production team members and being as professional as you can possibly be at every stage of production in order to create an enthusiastic, hard-working and trustworthy team.

One thing that struck me whilst reading – and it’s actually very obvious when you think about it – is how remarkably similar the process is to producing and marketing a short film. The advice really echoed a lot of what I learnt at the Guerilla Filmmaker’s Masterclass. Any web episode is essentially a short film, with the same needs for financing, producing, distributing and promoting as any short film.

The only difference is, that you need to create lots of them – and for this to work as well as it can you need to know the ins and outs of the process. You need to know exactly why your idea works in the medium, how you can create longevity, and how you can market it effectively. This means doing a LOT of research into what makes a web series work. But the good news is – Dan’s done a bunch of it for you!

Having read the book – which was so detailed that I even felt a little worn out reading about the process – I can safely say my view of web TV series has evolved greatly, as has my respect for those who produce them.

It’s not easy, and it is a full-time job to do it well, but the benefits in store for those who do can be massive. Sponsorship is lucrative. Agents are now more actively seeking transmedia “doers”. Having a web series as a base off of which to launch a TV pitch can make all the difference – there’s even advice on adaptation in this book!

So what are you waiting for?

“Everyone talks about what they ‘want’ to do. The key thing is to actually DO it”. – Michael Gallagher

Dan Williams is a new media writer and producer working on original independent, sponsored, and branded entertainment projects. Most recently, he created and produced a dramatic web series that was sold to BET Networks. He is a member of the International Academy of Web Television, regularly participates in industry panels, and guest lectures at universities. Dan has also worked at talent agencies and television studios, in development and production. His credits include Creator/Writer/Producer of Asylum, Co-Producer of GIA – Girls Intelligence Agency and Producer/Assistant Director of Blue Movies. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

You can buy Web TV Series – How to make and market them (Creative Essentials) here!

Do you have a book on screenwriting that you would like me to review? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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