No money. Dearth of bite-size, 1-3-minute ideas. Limited production experience.
There are plenty of reasons not to turn the web series idea you’ve got from imagination figment to Internet reality, but not a single one of them is valid. Web video is a playground — a limitless expanse for anyone who dares to take a risk. Sure, that lack of definition makes the space scary, but it also makes it wide open to new talent. Just ask Nick Ciaverella, co-creator and star of Jared Posts A Personal. Together with co-creators and stars, Tim Dean and Jared Warner, and director Adam Wirtz, Ciaverella plunged into the murky waters of self-produced, shoestring web comedy and has emerged laying claim to one of the funniest series of 2013. Nick and his team are talented, sure, but they’re brave and that’s what separates them from the legions of good idea hoarders we’ll never meet.
Can you give me a sense of your and your co-creators’ comedy backgrounds before this series?
Sure. Jared, Tim, and I are the writers. We all got started in college at Florida State University as part of the sketch group, Murderfist. Tim and I had left the group and Jared stayed in it. We all started writing together when we were 18 or 19-years-old. We would write a sketch show once a week and put it up in Tallahassee, Florida and that gained a nice following. I guess we’ve all been here together in New York for 4 or 5 years now. Jared does Murderfist, I do side projects with them every once in a while, so it’s been going on for quite a bit.
What was the inspiration for this series specifically?
We all wanted to do something together. We originally had this horrible idea that we met at a bar to write out. It was going to be the three of us—we thought “Wouldn’t it be funny if we all sat and looked at the camera and did movie reviews?” We got together and started writing and just realized that that was the most self-serving, horrible idea for a web series. And Jared Posts a Personal was just one of those back burner ideas that stuck. So we started doing a lot of brainstorming and thinking. We were like: “Oh yeah, this could happen” and by the time we were ready to move on, we were already half way done with script ideas. It kind of developed from there. At the same time, the three of us have different backgrounds in the dating scene and we all play exaggerated versions of ourselves in the series. That combination is sort of where it all started.
Talk to me a little bit about your comedic sensibilities; is Jared Posts a Personal a project that’s more your tone than Jared’s or Tim’s, or is this something that you came to organically, as a group?
I know it totally sounds like a stock answer but it’s not. The reason we think the show works so well is because the three of us all have a different dynamic. We have a similar comedic style when it comes to writing jokes and things like that but we have different flavors that we think compliment each other really well. In developing the world of the show, we considered a lot of options: “Do we want to make it more realistic, do we want to go more surreal, what do we want to do?” And I think what it came down to was we were writing with a realistic approach and then thought, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we wrote this a joke?” and then we’d say, “Well we can’t do that.” And we would all look at each other and say, “Well, why can’t we do that?” It’s our show; we can do whatever the hell we want to do. Jared is still on Murderfist and their comedy is very bizarre, so he adds a lot of that flavor and we have some of that sensibility fused with comedy that makes the show more accessible to wider audiences. We wanted to make it more of a sitcom type web series, which we don’t really see a lot of. We don’t see a lot of situational projects. A lot of it is people talking to each other, sometimes people mumbling to each other, or sometimes it’s just one scene, but we wanted to do a beginning, middle, and end with most of our episodes, with like 5-7 minutes of story telling. Storytelling—that’s the big thing that we’re trying to accomplish with each episode.
You mentioned the 5-7 minute time frame. As time goes on in the web space, it seems that more people going for that longer piece. That used to be pretty unusual. Do you think longer series are becoming more the norm?
Well, first of all, it’s super important that I mention Adam Wirtz who’s our director and our editor and it’s really the four of us making this project together. He was always encouraging us from the start to make it 3-4 minutes, “Lets try to keep these pared down because that makes it easier to sell, people will watch it more.” That was the initial idea and then when we got writing, we decided that the reason our particular web series works is storytelling. We knew we couldn’t do that in 3-4 minutes. It’s almost impossible. A web series that we look up to a lot is High Maintenance; we saw that on Splitsider and got into it. It’s a great piece and the writing is just so good and it’s 5-7 minutes too. To be honest, from a marketing stand point, you might want them to be a little bit shorter and we think about that a little bit but we really just want to tell the best story that we can. All that said, we certainly don’t want to go over 7 minutes. That’s our limit.
Do you think creators are starting to make longer series more for their own artistic calling cards than because they think thousands of people will sit and watch them?
The web series thing is interesting; you could talk about it forever where it is right now. It’s exciting because nobody really knows what its capabilities are yet. One thing’s for sure: We would love to be able to expand our series into a full-length sitcom, we actually do see that as a potential end. We have so many 30-minute ideas that we kind of just have to chisel down to a 5-7 minute idea, but specifically with this series we could use it as an artistic calling card, use it as a reference point. I think the three of us have no problem making this web series and then just having it as a thing that we can always have people reference when it comes to, “Oh this is the kind of stuff we want to put out, what do you think?” But, at the same time, we love this idea. We think this idea could be expanded so we’d be happy to oblige anyone who’d like to give us some money or give us the time to make it into a full length, longer series.
You mentioned High Maintenance. What other web series are you guys into right now?
We really dig Incognito, that was one that was starting to get released when we were writing ours and we got into that one a lot. For us, the big three are probably Broad City, Hiding, and Incognito.
What advice and wisdom can you impart to people who are at an earlier stage in the web series world, but want to create impactful content?
We’re obviously still at an early point ourselves and we’ve reached out to a lot of people to get advice from them but, just from our personal experience, we made 6 episodes of this web series with $0. It’s been on a non-budget. The biggest nugget of wisdom I can share is: You don’t need money to make a web series. If you ask people, they usually get excited about stuff and they want to help you out. That’s a big part—asking your neighbors, asking your local bar that you go to all the time if you can get in before they open and just shoot for like 3 hours, that’s how we did it. If you have a camera, that’s all you need. If you have a good idea, if you can sit down and write a good episode, then you’re set. It’s nice to have a slick looking episode, but there have been plenty of things that have gotten noticed that don’t necessarily have that as a strong point. It’s usually just the confidence of saying “I’m going to write a web series because I have people to work on it with me who are excited to work on it with me. I don’t have any money, but I know that I can do it, so I’m gonna do it.” Put it out there. It will get attention if it’s good. People think they need all these resources but they don’t. Great projects can be made with almost nothing.
Here are your three reasons to watch. Oh, and, if you like what you see, head over to the production team’s Indiegogo page and show them some second season love.
Too many creators are afraid to make a series with a narrative arc because arcs mean longer episodes and longer episodes mean lower viewcounts. I say: If it’s funny, make it. The masses may not consume your content as savagely as you’d like, but the people who matter will watch and be impressed by your ability to tell a story.
Underlying concepts and situations need to be relatable in order for viewers to come on board, but jokes don’t always have to be founded in reality. Comedy’s supposed to be fun, so don’t be afraid to get creative and weird.
Nothing hooks an audience like a strong cold open, especially if it’s kicking off a longer web series episode. Make a viewer laugh out loud in the first 10 seconds and you’ve got ‘em…for a minute anyway.
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