How to make a 10-ep comedy series for $500 and get it distributed internationally? Part one…
By Tristram Baumber (Producer/Writer/Director and Guest Contributor)
PART ONE: TURNING THE IDEA INTO REALITY
I’ve just made a ten-part comedy series that’s being broadcast in partnership with YouTube and a UK television channel. You could too. Here’s how.
One of the hardest things about being a scriptwriter is actually having your work produced. It’s all very well for me to sit at my computer and type up a brilliant script, but does it count for anything if no one ever sees it? Over the last five years I’ve had a number of scripts in development with television production companies, but none of them have got off the ground. The deal always seems to break down when it comes time for a TV channel to pull out the wallet and spend large amounts of money – and I can well understand why.
This year, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’m primarily a writer, but I have often directed my own work (usually out of necessity). I decided I would write and direct a ten-episode short-form comedy series for distribution online, and via traditional television broadcast if possible.
Now, I’m just a normal person. I live in Newcastle, NSW, so I’m not in one of Australia’s big media hubs. I don’t have hundreds of contacts in the “industry” who owe me favours. When I set out to make my series, I was really beginning from the ground up. I hunkered down and turned out ten scripts about a group of house-cleaners and I called my show “The Cleanists”. Then I started putting out feelers with some of the arts organisations in Newcastle. I put ads on local performing and visual arts websites, calling for cast and crew for an exciting new project. I set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page and started attracting followers.
Once I connected with a few people, other connections started happening naturally. Within a couple of months I had a brilliant local cast for the show, consisting of four young actors: James Chapman, Shanon Kulupach, Gabriella Stevens and Craig Lindeman. Two associate producers, Brayden Porter and Dylan Smith, came on board. Director of photography Stephen Roberts, sound recordist Dane Pittard and makeup artist Laura Fraser rounded out the core crew and made our show a viable production. Stephen, an accomplished camera operator and filmmaking student, was able to bring his own Canon 60D camera and professional equipment to the production, which was a good thing, because it’s hard to shoot a TV show without a camera (and lights, and sound equipment).
Shooting the series was a mad blur that now almost feels like something I dreamt or imagined. We shot ten episodes in five days. It all came down to planning the schedules meticulously in advance. We overran our schedules slightly every day, but at least that meant finishing by 6pm, rather than 11pm. The cast and crew, largely comprised of students, couldn’t have worked better together if they’d been doing it all their lives. Our five locations were different houses around the Hunter region, lovingly loaned to us by friends of the production. Setting all of my scripts inside normal-looking houses had turned out to be a rather good decision.
I chose to edit the series on my home computer, using Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s professional-grade editing software that costs $20 a month to use. I’ve had experience editing my projects before, but if I wasn’t confident to edit the show myself, I could have found someone else to do it using the same methods I used to find a crew. It’s all about sourcing the skills you need as you need them.
TO BE CONTINUED…
PART TWO: DISTRIBUTION AND COST BREAKDOWN