The adjectives of a successful web series
When you work with virtually no budget, like just about every web production does, you have to call in a lot of favors to get things done. But sometimes there just aren’t any favors to be had. In those cases you have to be ballsy – you gotta go and get what you want without asking.
‘Average Joe’ has a lot of different locations, very few of which the production team had much control over. If you live in LA you might have fun noticing the different street corners they shot on. One place they filmed was at the Astro Burger in West Hollywood. I got a really good chuckle here having recently filmed on that corner with Laps. It was fun pretending we were tourists every time a police car went by. According to Joe Flanders no one ever bothered them or gave them any trouble – even when they are filming inside MOMA. The only time they got any trouble in was when they filmed an argument inside Joe’s apartment, and had to deal with the landlord. The team took that restriction and turned it into a plus, converting the scene into a whisper fight. Brilliant.
A meager $10k budget, dozens of locations, dozens of extras, two hours long, several pseudo-celebrities how did they manage to pull it all off? It feels almost as if the team set a bar really high, just barely attainable, and that height propelled them to actually reaching it. I’m not sure I’d be capable of organizing a shoot in around 70 different locations, or however many there ended up being – that there were only a few people behind the camera is astounding.
When you’re filming in all those different locations and with all those different actors under such a small budget you have to be amazingly efficient. One noticeable place is in the crew department. Most scenes are filmed with just a three or four man crew. This was particularly challenging when it came to filming the party scene in one of the middle episodes. This scene features just about every major character, Joe’s love interest at the time (the ‘MILF’ he dates for a few episodes), and several bit characters, including old catering guy, and stoned girl in the kitchen. It’s totally mad.
It needs to be noted that “Average Joe” is a seriously well written comedy. No it’s not perfect but it does some important things really well. First, it tells a full story. The second season of the show has a complete story arc that is really satisfying. We see characters grow from A to B to C through the events of the series. The characters are generally well developed, intriguing and real. Most importantly though, is how each individual episode stands on it’s own. Each episode runs around 10 minutes long, has a beginning, middle and end, and is satisfying on it’s own.
Interestingly enough this is a big issue for series that release week to week, but here we have a series that opted to release all at once (something we discussed last week) and this seems to have worked out wonderfully here. I’d venture to say the story works very well in ‘movie form’ and that is a driving force behind it being released all at once. The fact that each episode works so well on it’s own is simply smart writing.
This might be the most important aspect of a series. When I sat down and watched ‘Average Joe’ the first thing I noticed was just how many people were IN the show. The number of actual characters is maybe a record for #WebSeriesWednesday (I haven’t counted). In fact one of my favorite aspects of the show are the little bit parts & characters that pop up in each episode. The old catering guy was probably my favorite, but more notable than the individual parts is simply how many funny parts there are.
More specifically was when I got an idea for who these people actually are. The one person I instantly recognized was Juliet Simms – who plays herself – who is notable for being runner up on the second season of The Voice. Another musician, Danny Worsnop makes a cameo as a strange guy who hangs out by the mailbox. In fact when you start clicking on the twitter profiles of the people who participated in our chat, and were involved with the creation of the show I discovered some seriously well connected social butterflies.
Case in point here, the show was able to not only raise $10,000 through kickstarter, they have also be able to crack around 50k views on their episodes, with a 100k tuning in for Juliet’s episode. It probably didn’t hurt that she was performing in that one – I’ve seen musician cameos with little effect on views before and I don’t think it’s surprising that they weren’t performing in those videos. Having a large volume of people involved with your project is probably the best thing you could do for it. Even if you can’t get people with a quarter million twitter followers everyone has an audience, even if it’s just their grandma and cat. Everyone you add to a project is at least one person who will tune in upon release and who will spread word to their network.
You can find ‘Average Joe’ on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/TheJoeFlanders