Criminy! Why do screening rooms have to be so darn dark…?
So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 13
by Bri Castellini
Releasing your web series is just the beginning. As I mentioned in the marketing post, once your series is online, it’s always online, and you’re always going to be promoting it in some way. That promotion will be a lot easier, though, if you can get some film festivals under your belt.
In a post about faking your own legitimacy for Stareable, I had a whole section about why film festivals and the laurels they come with are so important for filmmakers, especially new ones. In high-fashion circles, having the most expensive Prada/gucci/glamour 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!
All that said, definitely try to submit to festivals in your area, especially ones with live screenings. Even if you don’t win anything, seeing your work on the big screen in the company of strangers and potential collaborators is an experience unlike any other. Did you pick up on me calling some of the crowd “potential collaborators?” Good, because we need to talk about networking.
Because this is my last column, I’m going to reinforce this idea one final time: filmmaking is inherently collaborative. And if you want to continue down the path of independent filmmaking, making your next show or project even bigger and better than the first, you’re going to need to meet some new people. Film festivals are a great place to do this.
Networking works best after you’ve already seen people’s work, so you have something to talk about. However, this isn’t always how things are organized, and regardless, you need to get yourself out there. As a socially anxious person, these are some tips that have really helped me in my harrowing networking adventures:
1. Business cards. Making business cards for my show is the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I carry at least ten with me at all times, tucked away in my wallet, just in case my show comes up. And because the bright streak of red in my hair exists solely because of my show, it usually does come up. Having a card with a logo and a website or social media URL makes people considerably more likely to watch your show later. It also makes you, as a person and creator, look more professional, which in turn will make you a more viable candidate for future collaboration, at least in the eyes of all these people you’re networking with.
2. Value friendship and respect first. A big mistake first-time networkers make is their focus on a person’s utility to them in their career rather than a person’s… personhood. The best connections I’ve made through networking are with people who I genuinely enjoy and respect. Making friends should always be your first priority, because their humanity is important and because, pragmatically, friendship is almost always a better indicator of future help and collaboration than professional cache.
3. Ask questions. Starting conversations with strangers is awkward, but if there’s one truth universal to all humans (and artists in particular), it’s that they always want to talk about themselves. What show are they attached to at the festival? What’s it about? What was that process like? Who else from the show is in attendance? Ask them questions you hope they’ll reciprocate in asking you, because the goal of networking is to make a mutual connection you can use in the future. Watching the shows you’ll be featured alongside before getting to the festival will make this easier.
4. Circulate. If you’re an awkward person (and you’re a writer, so you probably are), the conversation will fizzle at some point, even if it’s going well. That’s ok! You’re just meeting! The best way to peel yourself away from a dying conversation is to thank them for their time and say something along the lines of “I think I’m going to circulate a bit more, but it was so great meeting you, and I can’t wait to watch your show!” Rinse and repeat.
Making anything is incredibly scary, but making something from scratch is even scarier. And you’ve done it. You’ve brought your words to life. Maybe it isn’t exactly the way you pictured it, but you finished a project that’s ready to face the world. You can now reference this success in job interviews, on your resume, in casual conversation with that cutie from the coffee shop. Brag a little, because you have absolutely earned it.
That’s all, folks. Unless you guys want me to expand on something or write about something I didn’t cover in any of the other “steps,” I’m out! I hope you’ve found these past few weeks helpful, and you can always reach out to me (@BrisOwnWorld), @TVWriter, and @Stareable on our respective Twitter accounts.
Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.