Working the World Wide Web

by Teresa Reilly on November 25, 2009

I’ve already mentioned a few times on the Right Cast about the web series I collaborated with a few other actors to create, write, and produce, as well as star in. It’s been a ton of work, a ton of fun, and I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about self-producing. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything! However, recently a talented and busy actress friend of mine cornered me about what the benefits actually are of acting and/or producing a DIY web series that doesn’t pay, takes up a lot of time, and potentially isn’t seen by anybody. Hm. Well…good point! So interesting was the discussion, I thought I’d share the topic with all of you: what is the point of being an active participant within the world wide web universe?

1. WORK BEGETS WORK: As I recently wrote in last week’s post, “Pep Talk for the Anonymous Actor Blues,” I am a firm believer that work begets work. Just like a dancer stretches her body every day, an actor who improves most likely is working, stretching, and training all the time. And, yes, you could spend a whole heck of a lot of time waiting beside the phone for that big break to call you, OR…you could make your own projects, flex your acting chops on material you like, and create work with the folks that you respect and admire. I just heard acting coach extraordinaire Tim Phillips say so the other day at an AFTRA seminar I attended: “Work makes more work!”

2. WORK WITH YOUR FRIENDS: Four of my five co-creators were classmates at the acting studio I attended in New York, and they also happen to be my good friends out here in LA. We brainstormed our web series into existence last January, filmed it in February, and have spent the last ten months editing, marketing, and networking the pants off it. Together. All the time. Even when we really don’t want to see each other. Work relationships are a true marriage. Who better to do all that work than with my best buds! (Because, clearly, it takes really good friends to not kill each other when the going gets tough.)

3. WORK THE ROOM: Who hasn’t been to a networking event when the circle of new friends who’ve just exchanged business cards and success stories all turn to ask you simultaneously, “What have YOU been up to?” and you got nothing.

“Uuuh…I watched a lot of ‘FlashForward’ this week?”

Nope. You got street cred. Because you’re a producer, a writer, a PR stunt person, AND an actor. You got work already going on. You’re a superstar! And you made it happen yourself! We started networking at the monthly meetup organized by the web series world hub, Tubefilter.tv, and got to make friends with the forerunners of this very young, very potential-rich web industry as well as some of the webstars we watch all the time on our own computers. Everyone in the web community is warm & welcoming, accessible & honest, and we’re all just trying to figure out how to make our work better and seen more. It’s the most fun networking group ever. And very well-dressed.

4. WORK GETS UNION STATUS: You heard me right, folks. Your favorite blogger got her SAG eligibility by Taft-Hartley-ing herself. (For those who are unfamiliar with the unions, the Screen Actor’s Guild, like AFTRA, is for those who work in film & television, but it’s a lot trickier to get in. Before paying a hefty little fee, you also must gain eligibility, either by acquiring SAG vouchers or by being cast in a role that is SAG. In the latter case, you would be immediately admitted to the union under the Taft-Hartley law. I am wildly over-simplifying this process, so check out the SAG website for more info!) Currently, the guild allows for a web series who has a SAG contract for one of their actors to acquire eligibility for the rest of the actors in the cast. The whole idea behind the Taft-Hartley rule is that the actor must join the union because there is no one else in the world that can play this part. As this role was written for me and my particular talents, there literally was no one else who could do it. Voila. SAG Eligible! *TIP: As SAG, Hollywood & the world battles it out over the domain of the world wide web, this loophole might not exist forever, but it is an option if you want to check it out.

5. WORK GETS AWESOME OPPORTUNITIES: The day we finished shooting, our on-set editor said, “This would be perfect for Comic-Con.” (The San Diego Comic-Con is the biggest popular arts/comic/fantasy/pop culture convention in the Western Hemisphere, and celebrates all forms of awesome geekiness for five days in July. As our web series is about 6 uber-geeky superheroes, we fit right in.) We had a week to edit a cut, fill out the forms, and submit it to the Comic Con International Film Festival; we found out in early June we were a contender in the festival, and had about a month to cobble together housing, transportation, marketing, giveaways, and (of course) some kickass costumes. We didn’t end up winning the festival, but we had an amazing screening for some very talented judges, met the most incredible artists, writers, filmmakers, fans, and some of our own heroes within the entertainment industry. And these people, it turns out, did and are doing exactly what we were doing: making their own work. It was the coolest, craziest, and career-affirming five days ever. I was very proud of our work.

6. WORK GETS SEEN: Two great things come out of filming your own web work. First, you put it up online. That means anyone can see it. Friends. Your mom. Casting directors, agents, producers. Link it to your facebook, your twitter. The future is the web, so use it to your advantage. Because those industry people are looking all the time, on casting sites, on YouTube, wherever there are links. Have you noticed every major television network has at least one supplementary web series on their web site? Web shows are where it’s at. Secondly, you now have great material you love on film. Can anyone say reel? Use it if you love it! This is especially good for first-time reels, if you are in need of one.

So.  It turns out I am clearly passionate about the web series world. And with good reason! While you may have to spend your own dime on producing for yourself, and while it’s true not too many web series are actually paying their actors (yet!) and while it’s also true, yes, everyone’s doing web series and a lot of them suck, suck, suck…I am a firm believer that web series are worthwhile, fun, and, ultimately, very rewarding. If nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of the industry you’re part of: how does a camera work? What makes a film set run? So go get a camera, friend, and start filming. You too can be part of the wonderful web world!

PS If you don’t know where to start, or have never even watched a web show, you can start by checking out some of my favorites. Start with Joss Whedon’s miniseries, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, which stars the incredible actress/writer/producer extraordinaire Felicia Day, who is behind The Guild; she also co-stars on Sandeep Parikh’s hilarious brainchild, The Legend of Neil.  Some of my other constants are Leaving Bliss, Acting School Academy, Dorm Life, Real Life with Married People; but, really, this is just the beginning. There are talk shows, music interviews, vampires, bunnies, space cabs, assassins, and boxing champs. And, of course, there is my webseries, The Junior League of Superheroes.

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