By peter katz, August 28th, 2010
Remember waiting forever to watch a video on your computer, with a 56k modem? Those days sucked. Now you can instantly view a cornucopia of high quality Internet content on a massive television. Inside your living room, a web series made for less than a $100 can compete for your eyeballs against a TV show produced for over 10,000 x the budget (Lost). Think about this: years ago independent producers could only use a cable access channel to get their shows on TV to reach a local audience. Now a small crew can shoot a comedy series for fans living everywhere from Texas to Turkey.

In my opinion, web series are one of the best ways discover talent and incubate projects. In this post you will be introduced to individuals who are doing interesting things on the web:

Mike Rotman is an Emmy nominated writer for his work on “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”-now he is taking over the interweb with such shows as “Stupid for Movies”.

twitter.com/mikerotman

Michael Ferrell, with only a tiny budget and a local coffee company sponsor he co-created/co-produced the hilarious web series “Stoop Sale” with his girlfriend Devin Sanchez.

twitter.com/mickeyfickey

Describe your background and what inspired you to make a web series?

I’m Italian/Irish by way of Northern New Jersey and Devin thought that she was Mexican up until she was a young woman, when she found out she was actually of Spanish descent.  True story.  Doesn’t stop her from loving Mexican food, however.  She puts jalapenos on everything.  To be fair, I put garlic on everything and cook it in beer.  We have amazing burritos.

We were inspired to make a web series while still in college, in the late 90’s, right after people started “e-mailing” each other.  I found this “e-mail” that I sent Devin with my POP mail account:

“Dear Devin,

This e-mail thing is crazy, huh?  Do you get this right away or does it take awhile?  Call me when you get this and let me know.  Anyhoo-I hear you’re studying theatre in Wyoming.  We should get together one day and work on a play that I wrote.  Or even a film.  Who knows, with the way technology seems to be going, we could even get some friends together and use somebody’s small digital camera, film a few episodes of a show, put it in our computers to edit, then put it on the World Wide Web.  Maybe I’m thinking crazy.  But not half as crazy as my ideas for “websites” I want to create, such as Mybook,Facepage, Ourtube, and Twiddle.  I’ll e-mail you about those things in a letter to follow.  I’m gonna go smoke outta this dope new bong my boy got!!!  Hope you get this soon!

Sincerely,
Michael”

How did you get the word out about your show?

Our show is not yet released, so the fact that we’re being interviewed is a great step in getting the word out.  We submitted to festivals and got into an awesome one – the Independent Television Festival in L.A.  I think submitting to festivals is the way to go if you’re an independent web series producer.  We had one informal screening for the cast at a bar, which went horribly because the manager of the bar was an idiot and assured us the DVD player would work fine, but instead, it worked the opposite of fine.  We will also screen “Stoop Sale” on AUGUST 24th AT “THE CREEK” IN QUEENS AS PART OF THE “WATCHDOWN” SERIES http://www.watchdown.com/ and we screened the episodes in Brooklyn for a group of filmmakers.  So we definitely believe in doing some fun, live, actual-real-people-talking-to-each-other promotional events, as long as you take pictures and videos so that you can post them on facepage, mybook, and twiddle.

Besides that, @stoopsale and /stoopsale.  Weird that that makes sense, right?

What have been your most interesting interactions with fans?

Well, Devin made the mistake of saying “Stoop Sale” was more popular than “Jesus: The Web Series,” and then people started uploading videos of them deleting their subscription to our youtube page and unfollowing us on twitter.  It was hard to swallow, but we’re artists, so fuck it.

No, really, when we do launch the series, hopefully we will get some fans.  And then we’ll have some interesting interactions with them, for instance, them sending me bottles of Macallan 12.

What mistakes did you learn from when you started creating your first web series?

I did a web series called “Hard Times,” which I’m very proud of.  Through that process though, I learned that the amount of time in pre-production and post-production should far outweigh the time actually shooting and doing all the fun stuff, unfortunately.  We shot “Stoop Sale” in one weekend, maybe 16 hours total.  And we’ve been working on the project for almost a year.  It’s not ideal for actors and writers like us, but its paid off so far.  You do all the other work so that one day you won’t have to.  It’s kinda like when you form a club, someone’s gotta be the secretary and someone’s gotta be the treasurer, not everyone can be the prostitute.

What is your prediction for the future of creating a web series?

I am wondering when someone is going to pull their dick out in a web series.  I know it sounds like I’m joking, but the thing about the internet is that there’s no censorship.  So how come some crazy college kid hasn’t made a web series where he’s doing a scene in a coffee shop or something and then he just says, “You know what?” and pulls his dick out and lays it on the table.  I mean, it couldn’t be on youtube, but it can be online.  The show could be called “This Guy’s Gonna Pull His Dick Out.”  You’re welcome, for the idea.

Besides that, I think that the problem with most web series is the writing.  Maybe it’s because I’m a writer but I’m saying this objectively, most web series are comedy and most comedy web series don’t have good writing.  Some funny bits, for sure, but even if it’s sketch, I mean, real, deep, sketch writing – I feel like it’s missing in a lot of cases.  And that’s one thing I’d like to see, more good writing.  In the acting world, we say “theatre is an actor’s medium, film is a director’s medium, and TV is a writer’s medium.”  It seems like the internet is most like TV, so it’d be nice to see better writing in the future.  Of course, I may be wrong and the internet might be the kind of medium where a guy pulls his dick out in a coffee shop and it’s the most viewed web series ever.


AJ Tesler is a producer and founder of ITVFest, a festival for independent TV pilots and web series.

Describe your background and what is ITV Fest?

After graduating from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Speech and a Theatre major, AJ stayed in Chicago, forming the small web production company Goldingeye Productions. After producing hours of content for a number of now defunct websites, AJ relocated to New York City where he worked as a New Media Analyst for d2 Capital. By day AJ would pour over notes and records in search of new entertainment channels, while at night AJ was a hilariously mediocre stand up comedian. Anxious for more, Tesler moved again, this time to Los Angeles where he immediately found success as an actor, appearing on television shows such as It’s All Relative and The Gilmore Girls. As much as he enjoys acting, AJ has always been drawn to produce and in the summer of 2002, he produced the first of almost 50 installations of the New and Improv-Ed Stand Up Show, an official selection of the Chicago Improv Festival as well as the 2004 and 2005 Los Angeles Improv Festivals. In 2004, AJ began producing television , independently, on spec, and with production company support. In 2005, AJ formed what is now widely recognized as the premier festival in the world for TV and New Media, The Independent Television Festival Corporation, a non profit, public benefit corporation. In 2008, AJ was hired to be the Manager of Development for Lion Television, a UK based development and production company. Since leaving Lion in 2009, AJ has produced shows for MTV, Babelgum, Atom.com, and Fox TV Studios. He is currently freelance producing under his recently set up production company, Apostrophy Productions.

What are your favorite success stories from your fest?

I just love the stories of people getting jumpstarts to heir careers.  People getting represented, people making connections, those are the types of success stories that make me proud.  On top of that, however, are shows like Urban Wolf which got licensed by Sony, Johnny B Homeless which got licensed by Atom.com, the script deal at NBC for This is My Friend and the development deal at Starz for a show called Partners…those are great stories that we can hang our hat on as well.

Are there any trends you see when it comes to submissions?

Every year we see different trends in submissions.  This year over 70% of all of our submissions came in as webseries which would certainly be a trend…the rise of the webseries.  In terms of the specific content, though, we got a lot of ghost hunters parodies and a lot of lesbian content as well this year.  I’d say we got too many submissions shot in the mockumentary/Office style.  We’re looking for innovation so it becomes very difficult to program things when we see so many people trying the same concept.

Do you have any advice for new web series creators?

Know that you don’t know it all.  The one man band is the path of least resistance, but people specialize in cinematography, editing, directing, writing for a reason.  Use people who are good at their jobs and your project will be significantly better for it.  Other than that, make sure you have a plan for what you want to do with your show.  Making something and hoping it attracts the attention of the professional world is not the smartest endeavor, but if you go in with a plan, you can deliberately attract the audience you’re seeking.

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peter katz is an award winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Peter has produced genre films that have screened all over the world from the AFI Fest to the Rome Film Festival. His first picture Home Sick starred Bill Moseley from The Devil's Rejects and Tom Towles from Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer. Next Peter worked with Tobe Hooper (director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist) on Mortuary, which premiered on the Sci Fi Channel. Most recently he was a producer on Pop Skull, a psychological ghost film, that has received great reviews in Variety and numerous film web sites. Currently, Peter is developing projects across various mediums including film, comics, and the web.

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  • karinengman

    Yeah! Lets make a webseries! That is what we are doing right now, Ödmården Filmproduction located in Sweden is in the middle of production. Episode number one coming out on the web november 1. A post-apocalyptic story about people and zombies. Check out the website www.odmarden.se. Teaser coming up at www.thegreatdying.com shortly.
    Thanks for being an inspiration!
    /Karin

  • name6

    Zombies + Post-apocalyptic story=EPIC Keep up the great work!

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