Almost ten years ago I embarked on the creation of my web series. At the time, however, I had no idea that that was what I was doing. I began making videos, having no idea that they would eventually lead to the web series that is the major part of my professional identity, the “Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en.”
The show, where I play two characters (with more in the works) that make many, many cocktails, has spawned a cottage industry. That industry includes not just our regular, thrice-weekly videos, but also music videos, live appearances, a quarterly magazine column and a just-released vinyl record with two original songs.
You’d think that with all of that activity we (my husband, Paul Spencer, is my co-producer) must have strategized really well and implemented our plans so that everything would unfold at the right time and according to schedule. You’d be wrong!
Thus, I give you, How NOT to Create a Web Series:
The “Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en” was created by me and tailor made to fit my creativity and interests. It’s safe to say that from day one, it has consumed me. Therefore (and it seems crazy to say this), the series was created with no plan in mind, even as I realized it was the project I’d been looking for. One video led to another, then another, but there was no thought beyond the topic for the next one.
There was also no schedule, therefore no one knew precisely when to look for our content. And our social media strategy was nonexistent. We’d been creating content for at least a year before someone suggested that the show really needed a Facebook page. I’ve since learned that that’s the kind of thing that comes up naturally when you have a plan.
For the early videos we borrowed a camera and a tripod and our lights had been donated by my mother, who had used them for a show at her senior living community. It’s great to have friends who are eager to help, but depending on others, who have no stake in your project and who,m at any given time, may need their equipment themselves, it is a rather disempowered way to proceed. Depending on friends and acquaintances can also lead to headaches when promised work is not delivered on time, or ever. I’ve learned to get everything in writing and also that freebies can be a dangerous thing in a professional production. Which leads us to...
We’ve all heard the unicorn stories about careers that sprang from videos made on phones with no production value and nothing but an charismatic person yakking away about their life. I would recommend, however, raising some money if you plan on creating something of lasting value.
Working with friends can be fantastic (get everything in writing) and some will offer to chip in their services for free, but I’ve found that I get the best work out of people I’m paying, friend or not. Having a budget shows you mean business and leads to a different level of treatment by collaborators. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way. A budget also allows you to replace equipment as needed, purchase costumes and other necessary materials, visit fabulous shooting locations, advertise, and so much more. You don’t need to have millions of dollars on hand to get started, but you'll be much happier if you have the resources to allow your creation to match your vision.
From the time I was old enough to know what an agent or manager was, I was convinced I was powerless without one. It never occurred to me that I could do more than post my videos on YouTube and hope someone would see them without some other person or entity representing me and my show. This way of thinking led to us signing a year long contract with a multi-channel network which I can safely say did absolutely nothing for us besides take 40% of our ad earnings once a month.
None of the vague promises they made about promoting us came to fruition (again, get it in writing!), and it eventually became difficult to even communicate with our representative. We also became involved with an SVoD app that made lovely promises about the ways they’d use our content, but the reality proved otherwise. We were told we were the most popular lifestyle show on the app, yet disappeared from their website and schedule a short time later with no explanation.
We’re absolutely open to new relationships and want to collaborate with folks who can help us to take our content to the next level, but we will be entering those relationships with our eyes wide open and expectations from both sides abundantly clear. You may not be the most powerful person at the table, but as the creator of unique content, which likely comes with a following, you do have a certain amount of power. For heaven’s sake, don’t give that away!
I could write a book filled with bad advice I’ve gotten on my journey with this show (Look for it soon!), but the most toxic has come from “experts” who have tried to guide our content. We were told by a PR company that we had to choose between comedy and lifestyle content - that the two could not successfully coexist and that viewers’ brains couldn’t handle both simultaneously. Our relationship with this company was short-lived, but it did instill me with doubt that took several years to overcome, particularly when paired with the advice we got from another consultant to make “mainstream” content, based upon whatever was trending at the time. Now and then our content dovetails beautifully with a trending topic and when it does we’re all about pouncing on it, but we are, by far, most successful when we create content that comes naturally and feels right for our show. When the inspiration is right for us there is no doubt - we know it!
Following your own creative star means that your content will not be right for every person and every platform. As a chronic people pleaser, it took me a long time to stop trying to make everyone happy with our content. Not everyone will love it, or even get it, and that is perfectly fine. Not everyone understands our quirky brand of humor, but those who do love it. I also spent way too many years trying to fit my square peg into YouTube’s round hole. YouTube is just not the best fit for our content. Fortunately, it’s not the only game in town and realizing that has allowed me to focus on Facebook and Instagram, where we’re FAR more successful!
If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone starting this journey, it would be this: Trust your gut. Opportunities will arise for all sorts of unexpected collaborations and relationships that will enhance your show in ways you never dreamed. However, no matter how great an opportunity looks on paper, if it doesn’t feel right, let it go. It may feel as though there will never be another opportunity and that you’d be a fool to pass it up, but there absolutely will. This is YOUR project. Your opinion matters more than anyone else’s, be they a collaborator, a buyer, or a viewer. Learn all you can and listen to advice from those whose opinions you respect, but, at the end of the day, you’re the boss. You will bear the responsibility of the decisions you make, but you will also reap the rewards.
Now, go forth and create an amazing web series!
Kelly Camille Patterson is an actor, writer, producer and creator of the “Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en” web series, on which she appears as both Ms. Velveteen and her feisty cousin, Glendora. She has appeared onscreen in the documentary “Tikimentary” and on “One Life to Live,” and has toured the United States as the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.” A regular contributor to Bachelor Pad Magazine, her film “The Castaways Meet the Blob,” co-written with husband Paul Spencer, was chosen at the Fan Favorite at the 2009 BlobFest in Phoenixville, PA.
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