I had a pretty cool chat today with Todd Birmingham, creator of ‘The Wig People.’ We watched his series – a story about a man who has visions of people wearing wigs – and talked about how our goals affect the way we approach a web series.
It all started with me nit picking – as I tend to do – a scene shot outdoors at mid day. It was far too bright, and who knows what kind of audio issues they must’ve been dealing with. Earlier Todd had mentioned that they didn’t have time to use lights consistently, and while the finished product is technically proficient enough it’s not going to stand out in the area.
Todd Birmingham has been in hundreds of commercials, but those aren’t exactly glowing examples of ones acting chops. How much range can you really display pitching embarrassing pills and ointments? The goal of ‘The Wig People’ is to display Todd’s acting abilities in a narrative, comedic environment… though to be fair your typical Viagra commercial could be described as a ‘narrative, comedic environment.’
Since the goal was to deliver a worthy acting performance the technical side can take a back seat. That’s not to say that it could or was completely ignored, but simply given a lower priority. Remember, we can’t exactly go out and make a Hollywood caliber film with those precious few thousand dollars we manage to find between our sofa cushions.
So I started to think of how things might be different if a series is approached with different goals in mind. What if you want to be an action film director? Your web series is going to be a lot shorter. You’ll probably start with short videos filled with elaborate set pieces and heavy post production effects. Consider Freddie Wong, and how many years of ever expanding YouTube videos it took before he worked his way up to ‘Video Game High School.’
I’m sure you can use your imagination to figure out how other goals will affect your final product.
Another aspect of all this talk about goals relates to assembling your team. For ‘The Wig People’ it was not exactly an easy task bringing everyone together united towards one goal. Todd served as lead actor, writer, and director as well as a bunch of other hats on the business side of the production. I’ve never met anyone who recommended doing it all yourself, and that streak continues here. It’s not an easy thing to do but you need to build a team and you need to trust that team if you are really going to go places with your productions.
When it comes to building a team the key seems to be being able to align other peoples personal and professional goals with your needs as a producer / creator. If your goal is to act then find someone whose goal is to direct to direct you! This goes across the board, and I know it’s hard to give up control of your baby but there are times when you’ll need to.
While I think Birmingham’s talents as a writer and director were adequate I didn’t find them to be real strengths, which limits his ability to really run with the scenarios as an actor. Sometimes we get so close to our work that it’s hard to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. As an actor I thought Birmingham’s reactions and comedic timing were on point and his comedic presence was a strength that ultimately felt under utilized.
This is all a balancing act, and I don’t want to say that ‘The Wig People’ failed at this but ultimately the experience has left Birmingham questioning whether or not all the effort is worth it. Ultimately I’d say having something you are proud of at the end of the day is priceless, but if you want your show to be able to deliver tangible results you need to have that team by your side to take the weight off. Really talented team members give you the ability to shine.
You can find ‘The Wig People’ as well as all things Todd Birmingham at his online home, http://toddbirmingham.com