JUST DO IT: DIY WEB SERIES
Motivation from Shia Labeouf and two young web series creators
Words || Angus Dalton
The web series A Shared House kicks off with Charlotte’s boyfriend walking out, leaving her with empty house and a horrifying amount of rent to pay off. Desperate to find housemates for the cash and company, Charlotte begins the gruelling process of interviewing potential takers. She weeds out hardcore vegans, creepy hipsters with bizarre pets and the perverted birdwatchers before finally settling on three final housemates.
There’s the bike-mad, easily exasperated Michael, who’s at odds with Lucas, the loveable and loud app developer with marijuana as his muse. And then there’s Liz. She’s terrifying. She turns up to move in with little more than a travel bag, a tomahawk and a murderous stare fixed permanently on her face. Cram these three strangers in with the emotionally fragile, boozy, borderline-hoarder Charlotte, and you’ve got a pressure cooker of hilarious arguments and tense comedy.
Lead actress and co-creator Georgia Woodward came up with the characters with writer director Joshua Lundberg over coffee one day after an SNL binge inspired her to get involved with a comedy project. Following the iconic motivational creed bellowed by actor Shia Labeouf (best known for Transformers and for live-streaming his face for three straight days as he watched his own movies in an utterly riveting performance-art piece), they wasted no time talking hypotheticals, and just did it.
‘A Shared House was a game changer for all of us,’ says Georgia. ‘We were just like fuck it, we’re gonna do it, rather than wait for someone else to offer us something. The test of who you are as an artist is what you do when the phone isn’t ringing.’
The fact that Georgia and Josh are working with a relatively new form of media, the web series, means that distributing their show was immediate, accessible, and most importantly, free.
‘With a web series, you go out, you make it, and upload it,’ says Georgia. ‘There’s not waiting for approval, no waiting for a green light, no bullshit. It’s very instant. You can share it on a global scale but literally clicking send. I found that a juicy concept.’
‘You’re very rarely in a position in life, creatively, where you get to pull together a project like this and get it completely done the way you want it done from beginning to end, continues Josh. ‘We got to do whatever the hell we wanted.’
The A Shared House team have nailed the branding of their show from the start – they treat their project completely professionally, their social media and graphic design is on point, and all the hard work and quality of the show has culminated in huge award nominations. Georgia has been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress and Josh is up for the Outstanding Writing Award at the Los Angeles Web Series Festival, the oldest and largest festival of its kind in the world.
Not bad for a web series that started from scratch with an unpaid cast and crew. But for everyone who donated their time, talent and dolla-dolla bills to get A Shared House off the ground, the popularity and success of the series is a springboard for the producers, actors and crew involved who are keen to crack into the industry.
A team of Macquarie media students are also leaping onto the web series bandwagon and creating their own show shot on campus called Talentless. It’s a sitcom set in a talent agency called ‘Ta Lént’, starring Dennis, a failed actor, and Samantha, who’s ‘the definition of passive-aggressive’. The two rivalling talent agents are locked in a kind of arms-race to find Australia’s next superstar. Each episode will centre around a real celebrity guest. The pilot episode features Dan Ilic, a comedian and filmmaker who wrote a parody musical Beaconsfield: A Musical in A Flat Minor, which copped great reviews and a more than a little flak for its portrayal of the media storm that surged around the 2006 Beaconsfield mine collapse.
‘Making a web series is the easiest way for amateur filmmakers to get their content to an audience without having to hustle with real producers,’ explains executive producer Euan Carlisle. ‘I’m a huge fan of the internet company Game Grumps, Funhaus, and RoosterTeeth as well as internet personalities such as Bdouble0100. Web series have been a big part of why I wanted to study media at Macquarie. It seemed logical for us to make a web series. It’s the way to go for young filmmakers like us to create our own content. So we got a team together and just started throwing around ideas until what we came up with was Talentless. It was far simpler than I thought.’
I picture Shia LaBeouf nodding smugly. They just did it. After sifting through over 100 actors keen to be involved and a few rounds of auditions, the Talentless team threw the pilot together in just 16, exhausting days. ‘I feel like I lost days of my life,’ says Euan. But it was worth it. The experienced gained was invaluable and the potential of a successful web series is pretty explosive – they can get picked up by professional producers, you can get sponsored by companies, or you could take a grab at the $500,000 now offered by Screen Australia for the support and development of web series.
Georgia says that her role model is Shonda Rimes, producer of How to Get Away with Murder and creator of Grey’s Anatomy (‘which is in its twelfth season guys,’, she exclaims, slapping the table. ‘Fucking love that show!’). Rimes has a similar battlecry to our bearded cannibal friend, Shia, that goes: Don’t be a dreamer, be a do-er. Georgia and Josh have lived by that phrase, and now it’s taking them to LA. Cue ‘Party in the USA’.
Check out the first episode of ‘A Shared House’ on YouTube now, look out for the pilot of Talentless coming out later in the semester and, if you’re a budding media student, grab those dreams, drag them to the ground and bash them into something real. If you’re at uni, Josh says, there couldn’t be a better time to do so.
‘If you’re at university, and you’re studying media, just go and do it! Because once you leave uni, you’re outside what is the best environment known to man for fucking around without consequence. As a filmmaker that’s the most amazing thing. You don’t have to repay financiers. You probably live at home student accommodation, you’ve got resources coming out the wazoo that you’d never get if you were out there on your own unsupported. At university in particular, there is absolutely no excuse to not start making your ambition a reality.’
So go on. Just do it. Make Shia and Shonda proud.