In 2009, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer were frustrated with not making house teams at The Upright Citizens’ Brigade. They were tired of getting rejected and not feeling in control. So they decided to take matters into their own hands. They created the web series Broad City, which later became the basis for five seasons of the show on Comedy Central. While not every project you make will be your own personal Broad City, there are so many benefits to producing your work. It can be easier to send a five minute link to agents or managers than a hundred and twenty page sample, it shows people what your vision looks like in action, and it proves that you know how to turn your ideas into reality. Whether your piece takes off or not, it’s never a bad idea to make content for the internet.
Making a short can be super fun and rewarding, but it does come with some limitations. There are a number of important things to think about while writing and choosing what to include in your script. First, you want to write something that can convey your voice and who you are as a creator. Unlike a longer sample script where you have lots of time to explore the plot and characters, in a short or sketch or parody you need to get right to the point. You may only have two to eight minutes to get your story and characters across, and people have insanely short attention spans on the internet. You want to capture your audience’s attention as quickly as possible. Whether you’re working with a comedy or drama, think about how to heighten your script quickly to make it pop online.
When you’re deciding what to make, try to consider what will be feasible for you production wise. It might be difficult to do something with a ton of extras or background actors, so think about keeping your cast small and giving everyone a good part. This will make it easier to recruit actors. For location, try to place it somewhere feasible. It might be hard if your short can only take place at a crowded hockey game, but if it takes place in an apartment or if it takes place all in one location, it will be far easier to shoot. That’s not to say you have to limit yourself too much. Part of production is being creative. A corner of your apartment could be dressed to look like a restaurant, or a park can turn into an outdoor cafe. While this may seem constricting, it can be a great chance to stretch your creativity to find ways to communicate your ideas in a producible capacity.
The most important part of creating content is to assemble a good group of people who want to be involved in production. One of the biggest mistakes you could make is to try to do it all yourself. You could try to go it alone, but then you would miss out on one of the best parts of production: a group of people collectively working to make your idea better. You may have written amazing jokes or set pieces, but who knows if your crew or actors or director will have an idea that plays even better. Here are the people you will likely need to create your short or video:
There are a bunch of other positions that would be helpful to you, but this is the core that will really help you create a professional looking product. While it might seem daunting, in almost every city, there are people looking to create. It might be easier than you think to put together a team and create your short.
After you’ve shot and edited your work, you have to decide how to release it. If you want to post it wide, the most obvious choices are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a link on your Instagram. On Facebook, you can share videos to different groups that might be interested. Don’t worry, on social media you don’t have to have a huge following to get views. If people like your work, they’ll share it and you’ll reach far beyond your network. Also, try to get creative about sites you can reach out to to share your work. You can post on Funny or Die (which doesn’t accept as many independently produced videos as they used to, but still accepts some), or you can reach out to Elizabeth Banks’s site for female creators, WhoHaHa. Check for comedy or art blog sites in your area that would love to post something made by a local writer. There are also tons of genre sites and groups that would be interested in your work. For example, if your short is a horror, consider posting it in horror fan groups and reaching out to horror focused blogs. While it may seem intimidating, there’s lots of ways to share your content widely without a huge following.
If you’re looking for awards and honors and to reach a more professional audience, consider submitting it to film festivals and contests and holding off on a wide release. At first, fewer people might see it, but you’ll be able to say it was admitted to festivals and won awards. Plus, if you advance, your audience might be industry professionals who would otherwise not see your short. There are tons of festivals to choose from, and sites like Film Freeway are a great way to explore what’s out there and what might be right for you.
No matter how many views or awards you get, creating your own content is invaluable as proof that you can put your ideas in action. Plus, it helps you grow as a writer. Hearing your work read aloud can help you realize the most effective ways to communicate your ideas. Maybe you will learn what kinds of jokes play best for your voice, or you’ll see how to heighten a dramatic moment in your writing. If you want to create your own content, start by choosing a piece of work to create, and find one person who will collaborate with you as a director, producer, or actor. Once you have that first step, you’ll be ready to put together the rest of your team and turn your written word into reality. Plus, your first collaborator will make sure you actually achieve your production goals.