4 Common Mistakes Web Series Creators Can Avoid by Kathie Fong Yoneda

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Film Courage: What are some common mistakes you see web series creators make over and over again?

Kathie Fong Yoneda: I think one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand exactly what a web series is. Sometimes what they are trying to do is they’re trying to take maybe a script (a film script) maybe like 100 minutes or 90 minutes and they’re trying to cut it up into episodes. It would be like this is my movie and I’m trying to cut it up.

So the problem is when this is shown, web series audiences are very fickle people and the main thing is because we’ve got that little mouse and we click on that thing anytime or television set (we just click the remote) and change channels.

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And you can click and go onto a another web series very easily if you don’t catch someone’s attention right away. People don’t understand you can’t just take a film script and chop it up and that’s it. You have 90 minutes or 100 minutes to tell the whole story. You need to capture somebodies attention right away within the first 2 or 3 minutes.

Especially because I’m with the LA WebFest (I’m on their board) and one of our common complaints when we get people sending things in is they will have web series that will 15, 20, 25 minutes long. That’s not a web series, that’s a short film. In fact a lot of the web fest people now we’re trying to limit it because a web series is…because we like to show them and we like to show as many episodes as we can. But we can’t, if someone’s got 25-minute episodes, then it’s taking up too much time.

We tell people a web series (if it’s a comedy) it should be no longer than 6 minutes. If it’s a drama, no more than 8-10 minutes at the most per episode. I think it’s understanding that web series should be looked at as its own medium. Not just this is a movie and just cut it up into little pieces.

Film Courage: Interesting. And how many episodes would you recommend most web series have?

Kathie: You know the average web series, I’ve seen some that were as little as 4-5 episodes for one season. I would say the average is 8 to 10 a season. And dramas tend to be slightly longer, as I mentioned most of them are between 8-10 minutes and the comedies are more like 4 to 6 minutes. Some of them are as short as a minute and a half to 2 minutes.

Film Courage: What are your thoughts about a web series creator making a web series and aiming for sponsorship right away? I’m hearing this from a lot of web series people “We’re looking for sponsorship.” And that’s like the only goal behind it.

Kathie: Well, if you don’t have a product, you’re not going to get a sponsor. I mean it’s like the same thing as saying “Okay, I’ve got to find a studio to distribute my movie.” Well, okay, but you haven’t written the movie yet.

I think a lot of people get mislead into thinking Well if I can get this crowdfunding campaign going and money raised, then I can do all of this.

Most of the web series people that I’ve talked to, they just started out because they thought they needed to do it and they wanted to do it. And they had so much fun. It was just a bunch of people, a lot of times they were cousins or brothers or siblings or something. A lot of times it was just kids in a dorm that just decided “Let’s do one.” They just did it.

Image from Katia Saleh’s Fasateen: Dresses

And we’ve had some that have been so primitive as just using their iPhone. And we’ve had some that have been very sophisticated where it was actually wonderful technical things with cameras and stuff like that.

And some have brilliant special effects and things like that. It just depends on where you’re at and what your story is.

Some of the more successful stories though are the ones where people just thought they needed to be done and they had an interesting set of characters in an unusual circumstance.

As an example…I love the stories that come behind the web series and one of the things that I’ve been doing is I’ve been asked to go to the different web fests around the world talking about web series that concern social issues.

Image from Katia Saleh’s Fasateen: Dresses

And it’s very interesting because one of them is called Fasateen: Dresses because it involves a situation that is in Lebanon (Beirut, Lebanon). The creator of it, her name is Katia and she grew up in Lebanon…a middle class family or upper-middle class (I don’t know) but they own some apartments. And she did her college work in London because there weren’t any Universities that she felt she could go to in Lebanon that would support the fact that she wanted to do communication and television and stuff like that.

And anyway her family sent her up there. She actually did quite well. She started working for the BBC and she was their Aljazeera contact because she could speak in several different languages and she even got some awards. But her parents were getting older so she made the decision to move back to Beirut and stay with her family for awhile and see how things were there.

And she realized that when she met with some of her friends there that a lot of things had gotten worse in Lebanon. They had had some bombings and there were areas (neighborhoods) where it used to be safe and it was no longer safe.

She realized that there was something that she wanted to say and she felt that women (especially) were the ones who were not progressing.

Fasateen: Dresses is about three women who eventually become best friends. And one is where her husband has left her and their kid at his parent’s place. He is done with marriage. He doesn’t want to be married. He doesn’t want to be a father. And she is left by herself with their young child with the in-laws. And she doesn’t know what she should do. She does not get along with the in-laws. They blame her for everything wrong. “Our son wouldn’t have left if you were a good wife or a good mother.” They constantly blame her. So she needs to find a place to stay.

Image from Katia Saleh’s Fasateen: Dresses

She ends up finding a place to stay in an apartment building and the daughter of the apartment owner, she is very creative and she likes to make movies and she’s just curious about things and she writes and she does poetry and she’s just very creative. And the father keeps saying “When are you going to settle down and get married? I ought to just marry you off!” And she doesn’t want that to happen.

And the father though is…her parents are very well-meaning but they’re old fashioned about it. But she sweet talks her father into accepting this woman into being in one of their apartments. The woman has to work. So she takes the son and she’s a tutor and she tutors for this woman who is very wealthy and she has a couple of kids and her husband works in Dubai and so she’s by herself and she’s got a Nanny and she’s got all of this but she needs a tutor, so the woman who is divorced is the tutor.

But it’s these three women who actually become very good friends. And what she did at the end of each web series was they got to vote on the ending.

Film Courage: The audience did?

Kathie: They got to vote on the ending and then they would show the ending at the beginning of the next episode (whichever one got to vote) and I asked her “Well, why did you do that?” And she said “I wanted to give women the opportunity to vote, to have an option. Because they have so few options in my country.”

And so Fasateen: Dresses won the grand prize at the Marseille web fest.

Film Courage: Wow. Good for her. And I’m sorry, what was the name of the web series?

Kathie:  Fasateen and it’s an amazing one.


Question For The Viewers: Which of these ideas helps you the most right now?

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