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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

L.A. Nites - Episode 1

L.A. Nites

The making of a webseries

 The internet is currently saturated with webseries. Everyone with a camera and editing skills can put something together. The making of a webseries isn't unique. So why are so many people doing it? Why are people all over the world, attempting to make their own versions of television. Further, why are people watching it?

The main reason is this: you like to see your friends doing something funny. End of story. If it came down to watching a talented performer do something amazing or watching your friend do something they do well, you're going to spend the time watching your friend. You're already invested in them. TV and movies have been doing that for a long time by using actors that you recognize. You go see a Denzel Washington or Tom Hanks movie because you like these guys and somewhere in your subconscious you believe you're friends.

Even without an audience, per se, webseries are still getting made for the same reasons. It's more about the fact that we as a group made something than what it will eventually become or mean. This is more or less how L.A. Nites came into being. The joy of making something was enough to band people together and work long hours for the satisfaction of having a finished product.

The first season of this show is being released via youTube on a weekly basis until the middle of February. It is 13 episodes all together, episode 7 being split into two parts. Click here to watch everything that has been released so far.


While being less difficult than putting together an entire feature length film or a weekly HBO-type show, the webseries itself does have an unique set of challenges. As we go through each episode, I'm going to talk about some of the hang-ups we had along the way. I encourage people to share their own experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Society is getting to the place that practically every member of it is a filmmaker is some way or other since most of us are always carrying a camera in our phones. The webseries is a fixture of American life, competing with television. That's right, hand shot, low budget, internet streamed videos have the big studios worried and with good reason: if a webseries can do they same or better than them with no budget than they're going to need to step their game up or get out.

Your friends are funnier than anything a sitcom could come up with and execs know it because they know that you will sit and watch the above gif longer than you will watch say, "Hannibal".

Episode 1

It's funny how things happen. I met my roommate, Erik Peterson, through a job where we provide entertainment to parties. Kind of like strippers but we use jokes instead of g-strings. Erik, who plays Aaren in this show, is a great guy with a good sense of humor. He also went to film school and knows a number of people who have moved to Los Angeles after getting their degrees.

I lived in Chicago from 2004-2011 and moved to California in 2012 because I had this dream. It was the dream of a device that could be used to structure stories so that the authors and creators don't get lost in their creation. If you've done any sort of longer forms of writing then you know what I mean; it gets to be a jungle in there and cohesive stories are tough to do without a framework. I had been tinkering and measuring this device, finally completing it in the spring of 2014.

Erik and I started hanging out, kicking ideas around and I used the device to show him how it would be possible to create any idea he may have. Erik introduce me to his friend, cameraman and L.A. Nites creator, Lawrence Le. When I showed the device to Lawrence, he began describing to me the plot for L.A. Nites and we wrote the first episode that afternoon. A week later we filmed it with Krysten Jorgensen playing Howie.

In this first episode you get the feeling of how much we just showed up and filmed in the "run and gun" style. We were kicked off the stoop of the blue building where Emmett is sitting and playing the guitar because we had neither permission from the landlord nor proper permits for filming. Also, I'm not wearing a shirt so I'm sure that bothered some people. Fortunately, we had gotten all the shots we needed.

Emmett's dialogue in the transition shots between leaving the stoop and arriving at the gate is also entirely improvised. The directions as written in the script were, "Emmett talks incessantly." It was inspired by a conversation that Erik and I had had about an H.P. Lovecraft story. This While this came out alright, it made it extremely tough to edit because I simply made up new dialogue for every shot, not knowing where it would ultimately end up. This was an important lesson: Repeating specific actions and lines exactly makes the editor's job easier.

The same is true with Emmett's guitar. I played it in literally every shot, instead of miming it and letting the music be put in as an additional track. It forced us to both cut dialogue and shots because the music didn't match and music because the shots didn't match. A real headache. You'll notice I never play the guitar again in the series.

There was a lot of debate back and forth about what the last line of the episode should be. Lawrence wanted it to be intelligent and mysterious. Here it is for those you that missed it, "Because we cannot accept the truth of transience we suffer." - Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. This one line was the basis for the big reveal that happens in Episode 7.

We decided two things after we finished shooting this episode: 1) since we had the device for telling stories, we would continue writing and producing an episode every week until all fourteen episodes were shot and 2) we would only write for actors that were available that week. This was a unique challenge for us because we didn't know quite where the story was going to end up and we couldn't waste our time in getting it together because we had an upcoming shoot date.

And so it began... we editted episode one, wrote and prepared ourselves to shoot Episode 2.


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