In each chapter of this series you will find a “check-list” for every step of a web series production. This is absolutely not an ultimate guide; this is merely a collection of advices, views and opinions. So: you’re welcome!
Chapter 4: So you think you can write a web series?
- – Don’t take it the wrong way but I need to ask you this first: can you write a script? Cause, you know… It’s a job. And not an easy one. It takes years of learning and practice to become a good scriptwriter. So there it is pretty simple: you are a scriptwriter and therefore will write a good script or you are not a scriptwriter so you need one to write you a good script or you learn how to write a script. Because, the story of the kid who never saw a piano and starts playing Chopin sonatas… is a legend (or a good start for a Sci-Fi script).
- – It is possible and easy to learn script writing or to improve your writing skills. There are very good resources online to help you (for example French writers have the excellent scenariobuzz blog). But if you feel that somehow you won’t be able to write by yourself and on time the perfect script your idea deserves, seek collaboration with someone who can do it or help you do it. Never underestimate the value of a properly written script and never start shooting with a not perfectly polished script or one you don’t like (love!) at 100%. The script is the bedrock of your production. And about that: don’t ever say “my script version 2 is perfect”, you are just embarrassing yourself. A script is perfect when you have read it and corrected it and polished it at least a hundred times. You think I overstate it? Well, ask a real script writer…
- – Again (and again and again): know your format! A web series episode script is only a handful of pages and you cannot afford to have one useless line in it. However, never think that this short format limits your imagination or takes away any piece of your vision. It only forces you to always be creative. Many web series creators already proved that short format is fit for any genre, any kind of story. If you ever think “oh no, I would need 25 pages of script to tell this properly”, then you are writing a book, not a script.
- – Your story is great. I have no doubt this is the best story ever and I love it already. So, now that you feel safe about that, let’s get to work! Structure is an essential part of your script, this is the path you draw for the audience to go from start to end. You can choose it to be a straight highway, a winding road in the woods or even a strange journey into the clouds of past and present, reality and dream: it’s your choice, we love them all. But do it right and give us the ride we’ve been promised. Please don’t drive us at 5 km/h on a highway, please don’t lose us in the woods and please keep some sense in your magical mystery tour. So: the pacing is also an essential part of your script. And same thing: it can be a rollercoaster of emotions and twists or a slow depiction of complex feelings, just do it right. Working on structure and pacing of your story, your web series culture will be very helpful. Watch web series! Your script writing knowledge and technique should do the rest because if you are a real script writer, you will pay special attention to characters definition and evolution, atmospheres, dialogues, plot, b stories, and all those other essential ingredients of a good script.
- – Lots of things have already been said and written about what a web series script should absolutely contain or what should necessarily happen here or there. And 80% is bullshit. Only three years ago I was myself pretty prompt to share these rules and advices but I have seen them all proved wrong. As a matter of fact, the only thing so far that can be considered as a rule when writing a web series episode is the cliff-hanger at the end of every episode. Because short form is still a territory to explore and conquer. Of course, short form is not totally new and a vast majority of the rules, techniques and recipes from cinema and television applies to web series writing and filming. But remember: what radically changed with Internet is the way the audience is watching, this is the real revolution and this is why digital series need a “new” or “evolved” writing. So now is the prefect moment to remind you that your story is from you for the audience and not from you and for yourself. Always think about me, the audience. You are my master and my servant. No navel has ever written a script so stop looking at yours.
Of course there would be plenty more to say about writing script but remember: there are a lot of useful sources on the web. Now, if you are afraid to do many tasks at the same time, do not read next