Web Series Improve Students’ Filmmaking Chops



In the past few years, rapidly changing technology and the exponential growth of the Internet has opened up the film and media industry like never before. Production is cheaper and more accessible, exhibition is at our fingertips and every online video has a guaranteed audience somewhere. But with this cheaper technology and a free-viewing platform also comes millions of people who suddenly think that they can be filmmakers.

Now it is both harder and easier than ever to get work in the entertainment industry — something that has never been an easy aspiration. Everyone who wants to be a writer starts a blog or Twitter account. Every aspiring director films a mockumentary on his or her iPhone and uploads it to YouTube, hoping to be discovered.

These days, the popular thing that basically any hopeful writer, actor, director or producer can do is to make a web series: a succession of short episodes (called webisodes) that are produced and uploaded onto websites like YouTube and Vimeo. Recently, as streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix have gained prominence, the numbers of live television viewers have been severely affected. Not only has this online content opened up the market for amateur artists, but it has also has pushed studios, networks and cable channels to join the Internet community as well. Shows with loyal audiences like “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Walking Dead,” “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” have all released webisodes to keep fans happy in the offseason. This idea, what scholar Henry Jenkins terms “transmedia storytelling,” has literally changed how narratives are produced, exhibited and consumed in today’s society, in a very short amount of time. Many established writers and actors are even creating web series (to much acclaim), like Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” Jane Espenson’s “Husbands,” Felicia Day’s “The Guild” and Lisa Kudrow’s “Web Therapy.”

As both a college senior and film & media major, I have recently begun to connect this industry trend to my lack of employment prospects post-graduation. For three years, I have blissfully taken film history, theory and production courses without acknowledging the difficulty of finding work in the entertainment world. But this summer, my equally unemployable roommate Hilary and I decided to take action. We created the web series “Corilary.” In conjunction, we started a blog, Twitter account and Facebook page where we not only post weekly webisodes, but also write reviews of television shows and movies — anything to get our writing and our names some recognition.

The series basically follows the real Hilary and me (our characters’ names are Corie and Hilary) as we play golf in our front yard, eat popcorn and drink wine, awkwardly interview people on our roof and constantly reference movies (all things we absolutely do in real life). The comedic series is light and realistic — not overly concerned with narrative or characters with depth but simply meant to entertain the casual online viewer. And for us, “Corilary” is just another way to sharpen our writing, filming and editing skills, and something that will (hopefully) help us gain employment after graduation.

We are not the first UCSB students to venture into webisode-making, by far. “Baristas” is another UCSB student-created web series. Producers Anthony Kozlowski and Michael McSpadden have both been extremely helpful on the production of the “Corilary” webisodes.

To the outside viewer, the first “Corilary” episode, “Lesbians on a Couch,” and its promo look deceivingly simple. The promo is just over a minute and the episode is almost four minutes. But like all filmmaking, the steps from pre-production to post-production require countless hours of dedication. While this fun project was easy to create in the school-less months of summer, the task of finding time outside of school, work, internships and senior honors theses has become daunting. Any free time we have is spent coordinating with our camera and sound crew, writing episodes and reviews, filming, editing and managing social networking sites. However, production outside of class is almost a requirement of the film & media major, as students in the department are extremely passionate about films and eager to create their own. And who needs free time anyway?

The very first episode of “Corilary” titled “Lesbians on a Couch with Raymond Douglas,” premieres today at 5 p.m. on YouTube. In the meantime, check out “Corilary” on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for writing and webisodes.

And if you’re now thinking about trying your hand at webseries-making, get out there and just do it!

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