Making a web series is hard, but you know what's even harder? Getting people to take it seriously. Even with the Pemberley Digital Emmy wins and the growing number of web series getting adapted for TV, we as creators are still fighting an uphill battle to get our craft any semblance of legitimacy. Are we even supposed to call them "web series" anymore, or is the sleeker vernacular "digital series" the new norm? I can't keep up anymore.
But here's the thing about "legitimacy" it'sa fake concept. There is no central arbiter for what qualifies as legitimate or quality or important. it'sup to all of us to act as if we're worthy of attention, until audiences and press catch up and realize what they're missing. Today, we're going to talk about a few ways you, right now, can fake it 'til you make it.
In high-fashion circles, having the most expensive Pradagucciglamour bag is a sign of status and guaranteed entry. In the film community, having laurels (those fancy leaves framing a film festival's name ) fills that role. Of course, having laurels from a highbrow festival like Sundance or Cannes is a surefire rocket to the Hollymoon, where all the cool filmmakers like Edgar Wright and Ava Duvernay hang out. But I'm going to go out on a limb and guess they're either too expensive to submit to or you don't have high hopes for being selected. Not for lack of quality or ingenuity, but because those kinds of festivals have very specific things they're looking for, and web series often cannot compete.
don't worry, because there are about a billion other festivals out there. Many even web specific! Just make yourself a handy dandy FilmFreeway or WithoutABox account (they allow you to apply to multiple festivals at once) and start submitting. Many festivals with web series categories are online ones, which don't have physical events or screenings, meaning if you're selected they'll give you a page or a link on their website, but more importantly, meaning their entry fee probably isn't very high. Submit widely, search specifically for places you can submit to for under five or ten bucks, and start collecting those laurels.
When your goal is to raise your profile, you don't need to be precious about where the laurels are from. A stranger thinks you're cool enough to include in a collection of things they like! And they're going to give you a fancy picture you can put on promo images to make yourself seem more important! Win-win!
This is a gross business/advertising phrase, but in this context, what it comes down to is having a consistent "brand" for your series no matter where on the internet it lives. This means a couple of different things:
The Internet Movie Database has an air of legitimacy that even Wikipedia, my nemesis, can't quite muster. it'sthe site you go to whenever you're watching an episode of TV and a guest actor looks vaguely familiar, or whenever you're arguing with a friend about who directed "Scott Pilgrim vs The World." And it'ssurprisingly easy to add your web series to their directory. A few notes:
Getting press is a post unto itself (stay tuned!), but it'simportant enough to get a section in this one. The first time my show got a third-party website to post about us, I shared it on social media with the caption "someone other than me is writing about my show!" And that, my friends, is the point.
When faking your own legitimacy, having someone outside of your cast, crew, friends, and family posting about you is huge. Just like with a film festival acceptance, third-party press means that someone who doesn't know you thinks you're swell enough to include on their website or in their publication.
Because I've got a whole "press/press release" post planned for you all, I'll keep this section simple: find other web series in your genre farther along in the fake legitimacy process and see which publications have covered them. Then reach out yourself, possibly even citing the other web series as precedent for your inclusion. "If you liked that show, you'll like us too!"
Now that you've got all those other things, you should make a website! While I personally suggest a combination of HostGator for hosting and domain purchasing and Wordpress for the actual design and content management, there are plenty of great free website options out there. My favorites are Wordpress (the free version), and Weebly, but if you spend a little time researching and designing, most can end up looking polished and professional.
Why a website, and not just a series of social media accounts with tight and consistent branding?
Whether or not a web series appears legitimate comes down entirely to effort and arbitrary optics. If you are willing to put in the effort to build a website, an IMDb page, and coordinate the usernames on all your social media accounts, it doesn't matter if your pilot has 300 views or 3,000,000. Well, it does, but the point is that legitimacy as a construct is largely, wait for it, a construct. And that construct may very well convince people to watch your show, so you might as well indulge it. Half of success is the appearance of success, so get to work, you successful web producer, you!