Monday 5 December 2011

Structuring a webseries -- "They Live Among Us"

Anne Lower is a busy little bee. She has worked for Final Draft, Save the Cat!, and has served on the Board of Trustees for the International Centre of Women Playwrights. She has led workshops and seminars for the University Film and Video Association, Women in Film Los Angeles, Women in Focus, Writers Faire, Freshi Film Festival and several others. She has been a guest judge for the Hollywood VPype contest, a featured guest on ScriptChat and Write On! Blog Talk Radio, and is a member of Reel Ladies and Women in Film. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes and blogs about screenwriting on, and  I haven't been able to find out what she does in her spare time.

I do know she created the webseries They Live Among Us, and that she wrote an article for the Save the Cat! newsletter about the things she figured out about structuring a webseries.  

And we have to stop right there.     

If you haven't read Save The Cat! or Save the Cat! Strikes Back, don't bother reading any further. Much of what follows is immersed in Blake Snyder-speak. It won't make any sense to you. Please move on to another post or watch a video clip.  Okay?  Or maybe click on one of the book covers to get to, where you can buy a copy for yourself.  We think it would be well worth the effort.

When Anne Lower decided she wanted to write a webseries, she turned to Save The Cat! and Save the Cat! Strikes Back for guidance. What follows is in her own words.

What I’ve discovered is that the short form [of film] contains all of the beats... and also provides singular or multiple beats for subsequent episodes. Let’s take a look at Episode One – “Pull My Strings.” 

Opening Image: The dystopia of Los Angeles – a couple argues in front of their apartment.  

Theme Stated: In the Paradise Bar, FATHER BUER counsels his friend – and fallen angel - CAIM, that “All of us are God’s creatures. All of us. Even you.” 

Set-Up: At the central watering hole, the Paradise, supernatural beings – fallen angels and spirits – struggle to exist amidst the masses of humanity in the City of Angels. 

Catalyst: CRAIG, a down and out lost soul, is approached by LILLITH, an all-American beauty from the Midwest. 

Debate: This is a two-layered debate. One debate is within the characters of Lillith and Craig – will she reject him or not? The second is a literal debate between Caim and Father Buer – their eternal conversation, of which we have just heard a small part of (remember, each episode will act as beats for subsequent episodes!). 

Break into Two: Again, a double bump. Craig invites Lillith to sit with him; Caim and Father Buer part on the street. Caim begins his journey home... 

Fun and Games: Lillith is genuinely interested in Craig. She is shy, sweet… and strangely troubled. Finally, Craig asks her to leave with him. She agrees. 

Midpoint: On a rooftop overlooking the skyline, Craig kisses Lillith. 

Bad Guys Close In: The kiss turns passionate. Craig lowers Lillith to the ground… and she flips him over, sitting astride him. 

All Is Lost: Finally, we learn Lillith’s dark secret. She is a succubus; she drains the life force from Craig in an orgasmic frenzy... 

Dark Night of the Soul: Lillith opens her eyes to discover Craig, dead, beneath her. “Oh no,” she cries. “Not again.” 

Finale: Heartbroken and alone, Lillith flees into the night. 

Closing Image: On Craig. Dead. Alone. 

Of course, you probably won’t have a Five Point Finale; however, an episode might be part of a Five Point Finale.

When you consider the series as a whole, “Pull My Strings” is also Opening Image, Theme Stated, and Set-Up for Episode Two: “Fall from Grace,” which begins to unveil the heart and soul of They Live Among Us – the gothic romance of the star-crossed lovers Serafina and Caim... which leads into Episode Three, “Let’s Do Lunch,” introducing the central antagonist and so on, and so on... through two years of episodes, followed by the feature :). 
Another consideration is that of character. In serials, I have discovered that the beat sheet can be applied to the journey of characters. Each will have their own Catalyst, Debate, Fun and Games, Dark Night of the Soul, and the rest of these watershed moments of structure. 


My only comment is that she manages all those beats in an episode which runs for just under thirteen minutes. I'm struggling to imagine all that happening in a two minute episode. 

Anyway, here is Episode 1, "Pull My Strings."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the mention! How lovely of you! HRH