3 Key Steps to Developing a Web Series

By Michael Lee · April 18, 2019

With the growing success of the web series platform, what are helpful starting points that screenwriters can use while developing a web series?

Welcome to our ongoing Learning from the Masters and Industry Insiders series where we seek out and feature excellent videos, interviews, and discussions of the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and pull the best words of wisdom, writing tips, and screenwriting advice.

Here we feature a Film Courage video interview with industry insider Kathie Fong Yoneda as she discusses key steps that screenwriters can take when developing a web series.

The lines between a web series and television series have been blurred in the last decade, with streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu producing even more shows than television networks. And the platforms have now melded with television in the form of streaming device apps that allow the audience to view the content through their television, as opposed to computers, laptops, smartphones, and other devices.

However, indie web series are still on the rise. Anyone can create a web series of their own, whether they want them to be self-produced or used as a selling device for possible pickup by a major streaming channel or television network.

Here are key steps to developing a web series.

1. Develop a Relatable Character

“He or she has to be involved with something that is relatable.”

Audiences are attracted to characters that touch upon relatable character traits, conflicts, and emotions. Yoneda refers to a web series called Pairings that tells the story of a talented chef that has no luck with women. On the one hand, he’s very good at something. On the other hand, he has no experience with women. People can relate to being good at one thing and miserable at another. Especially in the ways of love.

This is a relatable character.

2. Start with a World You Know

The creator of Pairings was a chef. He developed the web series as a way to tell a story that he was very familiar with. That personal connection only adds to the validity of the series and the character. And the exciting element is that he brilliantly used the series to market his cooking by sharing his own recipes with anyone that subscribed to his web series.

Audiences are attracted to specific worlds. And those worlds can be anything. You can share your story about being a stay-at-home dad, stay-at-home mother, florist, mailperson, fitness trainer, mall cop, or any other unique and original world that audiences may be curious about.

And because you’re familiar with that world, you can better explore the funny anecdotes and interesting idiosyncrasies that make for great episodes.

Building a world is one thing. Knowing a world makes your job as a writer that much easier.

3. Make That World Relatable

You know that creating a relatable character is essential. But how do you accomplish that when you’re dealing with a world (and character) that many in the audience don’t or can’t relate to.

Yoneda points out that the key to accomplishing this is finding those universal elements that everyone can relate with.

A character that is a lesbian may not be a character that is instantly relatable to everyone in the audience. However, we’re all equal and alike, no matter our sexual orientation, the color of our skill, and what “sides of the tracks” we grew up on. We all know what it’s like to be late for work, lose a loved one, have your heart broken, etc.

You can make these characters you create relatable by finding universal themes and exploring them in your episodes. And you achieve uniqueness and originality by showcasing how your seemingly unrelatable world or character reacts to the very triumphs and tribulations that everyone experiences in life.

Watch the whole video here to learn more about Yoneda’s approach to developing a web series.

For all the latest from The Script Lab, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

And become a member of TSL 360 to enjoy the LARGEST screenwriting education content library, featuring masterclasses, deep-dive interviews, and lectures from Academy Award-winning screenwriters, TV show-runners, producers, literary managers, agents, studio executives, and leading educators – all in one place.