We were very surprised when the Guardian named us one of the top 25 web TV shows you must see. I think we’re one of only two British entries, the other being the legends that are Vic & Bob (I haven’t checked this so if you’re a British web series that we’ve missed that was included please let me know). We never dreamed of being included on such a high profile list, but we were so I guess we must be doing something right; here are some things we tried to do or learnt from making the first batch of Twisted Showcase films that might help with your endeavours. I hope they do.
· Script – It all starts with the script. It really is the most important aspect. If the script is bad there is no way the film is going to work. Each script we used got extensively drafted. At first we were nervous about asking for rewrites. Who were we to ask people to change their scripts? Well, we were the people making the series who had a vision of what they wanted, what we thought worked, and didn’t. We know there are better looking web series’ all over the internet than ours, we were only a small team working with no budget, and hence why we put so much emphasis on the script. If there is interest we will put the drafts for Eyeball up on the website as that script went through the most drastic changes as me and Rhys Jones sent drafts back and forth between us.
· Aim high – We made Twisted Showcase with what we had, which was literally nothing. We borrowed cameras and begged favours. Sometimes we were turned down, a cameo appearance on Casualty scuppering us on one occasion. Then Gareth David Lloyd said he would be in an episode, something we never felt possible and which elevated the series. As well as casting we also felt we aimed high whilst promoting the series, getting far more coverage than we anticipated. Much thanks to SFX, Cult Box, Dread Central, Gores Truly, Blogtor Who, Doctor Who magazine, Guardian Guide, Blazing Minds and anyone else who covered us, it was all unexpected.
· Involve people – Another early decision was to make Twisted Showcase inclusive. We could have gone and wrote every episode ourselves, once you start getting weird and strange ideas it’s quite addictive and they just seem to flow. But we wanted to work with other writers, we also wanted to let as many people who want to work in the crew come along and help. And people who watched the series and enjoyed it, we wanted them to feel a part of the Twisted Showcase world too, and twitter was a great way to do this. Just another reminder, we’re open for scripts at the moment, have a look at our episodes and get submitting.
· Look good - We are very lucky to have a brilliant logo by Jonathan Edwards. We asked for something that mixed the domestic with the weird. And he delivered. I still like looking at it, and you can get it on a T shirt here. We’ve kept our website pretty basic at the moment, but it’s something we keep looking at expanding and making better.
· Hard work- The most obvious one I guess. March (was it that long ago), was an intense month, which we probably didn’t prepare for as well as we could. We were still editing some of the films, putting together the title sequence, the trailer was a last minute thought, and we were putting together lists of where to send the press release as we were doing it. Every day was a day to come up with ideas of how to get the name Twisted Showcase out there. That’s only half the story; setting up these films can be difficult. Getting everyone to be available on the same day can be a nightmare, but it’s so rewarding when people see your hard work.
· One day shoots– This is a difficult one, and one that you could most easily disagree with. It works for us, and make you really work and honing that script down into a an easy to film short film, because it’s so easy to write a script and not think about budget or anything, and it is the strangest things sometimes which are difficult to film. If something has multiple locations it can become a nightmare to get done in a day. Being clever about this was pretty tough, Fear of Living for example all takes place within one house but uses nearly every room of that house. We decided early on to have that juxtaposition of the domestic and mundane to frame the eerie and weird and this helped make shoots a little easier, and hopefully scarier to as the everyday being infiltrated with something to fear is often worse than your most flamboyant imaginings.
· Catchy title – Twisted Showcase say all you need to know about our show really, and it’s really catchy. Short and to the point. We think so anyway.
· Have other stuff to put up– Someone might be interested in any aspect of the production. We’ve had commentaries, which usually result in giggling, behind the scenes (also giggling),Outtakes (giggling), alternate takes, podcasts, (giggling), interviews, preview pictures, behind the scenes shots. Anything else you’d like to see let us know. All this should keep people checking on the site, although nothing beats the thrill of a new episode.
· Coherent world, theme, tone – We don’t have an ongoing storyline. We don’t even have a set genre, and hopefully Bob Dracula surprised a few people after the psychological horror of Fear of Living the week before. But we felt something held these episodes together, they could all happen within the same world or something about the tone of the series made them Twisted Showcase. They were all weird tales, they fitted. However disparate your web series is/will be make sure something binds it and makes it coherent something that the audience relate to your name.
· Luck- We know that getting in the top 25 web TV shows in the Guardian guide must have involved a lot of luck. We’ve made the series with no budget and not spent on advertising it, we relied on our press release getting us out there. Every bit of coverage we received was down to luck, and getting the shoots done on time each time was all down to good luck and some great talent in front and behind the camera. So many things can and do go wrong, sometimes you need a bit of luck.
Finally, something I think is second nature to any creative person, be it film maker, writer, or whatever, everyone always tries to get better, and not to get complacent. This is what we tried to do with Twisted Showcase, to push ourselves in every aspect, make films, learn from mistakes, get better, try different things, try and surprise people, which hopefully we’ll do even more when we return. This isn’t a comprehensive list but stuff that occurred to me and may help you and your web series, or any project you may have on the go. Get out there, do it is the best advice anyone can ever give. Then let me know about what you’re working on in the comments.