What are those little corners you are cutting out of your shows that are really missed in the end?
This week’s show ‘Least Favorite Love Songs‘ was right up my ally in terms of being a character oriented dramedy with a strong theme, but there was just a little something missing. That’s not to say it was bad, quite the contrary actually.
A lot of times I watch a web series – well actually most of the time – I enjoy it thoroughly, nothing sticks out as poorly done or obviously weak, yet the show doesn’t completely grab me like something on tv might be able to do in a similar amount of time. I’ve started to refer to this as the ‘things that make web series different’ list.
These are the little details that create a completely professional, polished look that you see on tv but pretty much never see on the web. They are not mistakes to be noticed, but little things that are missed. These are obvious challenges for web series creators, with huge limitations – corners that get cut because they are not specifically important or are time prohibitive, but these are things you might want to look at when trying to bring your show to the next level.
When I feel something missing from a show but can’t put my finger on it I refer to this list:
- Are there wide shots? Least Favorite Love Songs did not have a single wide shot in it that I can recall.
- Are there any fancy visuals, like a slick intro, cool visual effect(s), complex camera movements / compositions or nice artwork?
- Was there music? Music cue’s tell the audience how to feel, and the right song adds far more than anything visual can. LFLS has a pretty sweet intro song that is combined with some voice over narration that did a great job of pulling me into each episode.
- Do you have enough angles, reaction shots and edits? Each camera set up takes time, and it can be easy to shoot everything a la ‘Clerks’ and just stand the camera in front of your actors for the medium shot. LFLS has enough, but web video needs the added energy of hyper-editing to keep the audience’s attention.
- Are there 3 acts, somewhere? Audiences need ‘beginning, middle and end’ to feel satisfied. This is the big one for me – Least Favorite Love songs never quite gets there. It’s tough with only 4 or 5 episodes – the show ends somewhere around the second act, leaving the rest to the hopes of a season 2.
- If your show is a comedy, are most lines jokes or the set up to a joke? This takes time at the script level, a is a place where working with several writers can help. LFLS is not comedy per say, they make a lot of room for story, but sometimes there are too many gaps between good jokes.
A question was raised during the tweet-a-thon: “Do jokes about New Orleans and mardi gras cross over to the general youtube audience?” I think a better question should be if it is even important. The most successful web series target a very specific, easily defined audience, they are the ones that need to get your jokes. Whether or not that douchey blogger on the Snobby Robot ‘gets’ it is not necessarily important.
If you are making jokes about New Orleans and mardi gras then you need to make sure that your target audience is knowledgeable about the place. I know most people make web series for themselves, but if you are shooting for an audience to grab onto you need to talk about the things they talk about and jump off from there.
This takes me into what I really liked about the show. The show has a very basic, but direct theme. That theme is essentially dealing with the struggles of love and sexuality – or as I described it on Twitter “the sexual misadventures of stoners.”
— Snobby Robot (@SnobbyRobot) February 13, 2013
Series writer Helen Krieger wrote a lot of depth into her main character, Molly. The comedic side is good but the real highlight is her ability to mingle ‘Molly’s character development with the show’s overarching theme. Molly is damaged in some way hinted at by her go-getter attitude combined with her moderate drug use and the unfortunate ability to settle for things that are less than she deserves. The show seems to be developing her discovery of this, and maybe someday leading her towards healing.
The story and the characters are what really count, and her Least Favorite Love Songs really delivers. Hopefully if they get the chance to create a second season they will have the time and the budget to really polish it up. I look forward to that!