It used to be that there were two types of screenwriters: film and television. But these days those divisions are blurring. And to make matters more complex, there are scripted web series, web shorts, and streaming product from places like Netflix and Amazon. The screenwriter today is best served by being a jack-of-all-formats. And writing web series can be a great way to break in.
Today I'm interviewing one of my students, Laura Holliday. Laura has written and directed commissioned digital content for Lifetime, Spinmaster, Full Screen Inc. and Funny or Die. She's also part of the sketch group and youtube channel "Practical Folks" (subscribe!) and a member of the Funny or Die Community. I asked Laura about how she got to the point of making commissioned content for Funny or Die.
Q: How did you first get a meeting with Funny or Die?
I uploaded a video I made on my own with some improv friends (Jessie Sherman, Katie Wilbert, Dylan Dugas) called "Sad Lonely Girl" to the site on my own and it ended up getting a lot more views than I expected.
Someone from the site reached out to me about joining the Funny or Die Community (a group of comedy filmmakers that Funny or Die supports, shares their work) and also suggested I enter the video in a contest they were having along with LA Film Festival called Make Em Laff Fest. I made the top three and screened at LA Film Fest but if I had won I would have gotten to produce a sketch legitimately with Funny or Die. I was super upset but then they called me in to talk about ideas anyway.
Q: What was that meeting like? What happened next?
I just had a really casual meeting there where they showed me around the office and kind of talked about what sorts of content fit best there and told me to email them when I had a viable idea I thought was up their alley!
Q: How did you create your pitch for your project?
I had recently sent log lines for a bunch of serial sketch concepts to a friend who worked at Awesomeness TV at the time. Nothing happened with that but he told me that one of them about a girl who is roommates with a 7 year old girl, really made him laugh and I should try to get it made elsewhere, so I basically sent on that logline and gave them a few quick examples of jokes and episode ideas. They asked to see scripts for three episodes.
Q: Once they bought the show, how did development go? Did you do drafts of scripts or did they let you just go make the series? How much input did they have?
With "Kid Roommate," they outsourced the job to me and it was pretty free. My friend who I wrote it with (Ellen Jacobs) and I did multiple drafts ourselves until we were happy and showed them but they gave basically just gave notes on the edit of the video. All the notes were great and very helpful.
Q: What is your plan for building off this experience?
I definitely met wonderful people from doing this first project and recently did an in-house video for them that I wrote and directed. Hopefully I can continue to work with them in that capacity. Hopefully we can also make more episodes of "Kid Roommate."
Q: Any advice for those wanting to do online shorts?
I've found that you just have to make a bunch of them on your own and keep uploading them. There is no way to predict what will stick or what the internet will like, so you just have to keep putting your ideas out there. The trick is finding ways to make the videos solid enough technically to sell you creatively without spending a bunch of money on them each time. I think that's totally possible with sketches which is part of why I love them.
Catch all three episodes of "Kid Roommate" on Funny or Die.
And More videos here: http://www.funnyordie.com/lauraholliday