I’ve been making short films for YouTube via So Natural TV for the past year or so, and have had a couple of pilots out to companies, as well. These pilots were for narrative series, kind of like TV, but different because the web, as it stands today, is a very different medium than TV/film. Writing for the web audience is very different from film for sure, and even TV. Here are a few things that I’ve learned this year:
1. Shorter is better. Honestly, the sweet spot for one off shorts has been around 1:45. Anything longer is a tough sell. Even for series or longer, more in depth storytelling, I think episodes that are 5-6 minutes long are better.
2. Don’t waste time on long setups. In a TV or film scripts, there is a lot of set up in the first act. In other words, you spend time defining what a character’s “ordinary world” or life is like. On YouTube, you basically have the first 5-10 seconds to draw in the viewers, so something interesting needs to happen, pretty much right away.
3. Subtext doesn’t always work. Having written a number of feature film scripts, especially some pieces that are more visual, I really like to experiment with what’s visceral or unstated. In other words, playing with images. It can work in some instances for YouTube, but a lot of the times, it’s better to go with what’s there, or more obvious. In other words, telling the audience what is happening or not.
4. Breaking the 4th wall is ok. Sure we love this in Annie Hall, but in recent years, it’s not really a very common device that’s used. However, with web series, it’s a very common convention, and it works really well. Take for example, Lizzie Bennett Diaries, written by Bernie Su. The entire series is people talking right into the camera, directly to the audience. This device/convention has come about because it’s a fast/easy/inexpensive way to get into a character’s interior dialog, but it’s also a quicker way to let us know the character. I love the way Beau Willimon does this in the Netflix original series, House of Cards, too.
5. Larger story plots can be loose. I love series like Squaresville, because while the characters are really well defined and their “story” is clear, each episode is different. The story and the ideas build, but it isn’t as goal driven in terms of the plot as say a more traditional TV show. There’s nothing wrong with traditional TV structures, but the web, and lower budget technologies have allowed for storytelling that is looser, slower and developed in different ways.
April short of the month for So Natural TV. I really liked the way this one came out. The audio was a little low, but after playing with the mix (a lot), I decided that it was ok this way, because the piece is more about the feeling/emotion, rather than what they are actually saying.
THiS WALL OF TEXT IS ABOUT BUSINESS AND ONLINE VIDEO IF YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT STUFF KEEP SCROLLING I WILL POST MORE CAT GIFS SOON
For those of you who don’t know, John and I were recipients of part of YouTube’s “Original Channel” funding initiative. We used that money to start Crash Course…
This is so awesome and inspiring!!
One of the more recent films from So Natural TV!