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Can An Online School Teach You Web TV Production for Under $100?

By Aymar Jean Christian | Indiewire February 14, 2013 at 9:36AM

I've been writing about web series for almost four years now, and I've seen a lot of them. Mostly I've seen a lot of bad ones.
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Benefits of CreatorUp

CreatorUp would benefit those who are new to the medium and have little idea what they're doing, or are short-staffed and need help managing the project from story conception to release and marketing.

"How to Prep Your Production" probably wouldn't help many USC MFA grads, but for people who can't afford to move to LA and pay tuition, most everything you'd need to know to create an acceptable product is in the course. The class introduces filmmakers to basic concepts of production prep, from shooting ratios to lighting and sound to hiring crew. Solis and Wasserman are expressive and fun to watch on camera.

Mike Tringe of CreatorUp
Mike Tringe of CreatorUp

In Tringe's "How to Distribute and Cash in On Your Web Series," students are forced to confront simple but oft-forgotten questions like, "who's your audience and how do you reach them?" Tringe gives detailed information: links to web TV networks, sites and resources; information on the pros and cons of corporation distribution; honest explanations about CPMs and monetization with comparisons between platforms like YouTube and Blip. Nothing is sugar-coated. Tringe forces students to have real expectations about how far their product can go and, in turn, how to set realistic and attainable goals.

The format of the courses is flexible enough that if you're in a rush you can skip to the parts most relevant to you. Every episode has a bulleted list of main points beside it, along with a "to do" list: assignments!

This is the real value of CreatorUp: accountability and simple, direct tasks. On their own, they are straight-forward, common sense. But in the rush to release many creators miss things. Most beginning filmmakers know certain things have to be done, but simply don't do them. CreatorUp gives people an easy way to structure and schedule their production and distribution timetables so nothing gets missed. Students are asked to complete simple tasks like "make a Tumblr or website for your show" -- you'd be shocked how often this does not happen, even with experienced producers -- or "create a Like My Page campaign on Facebook in your network." When Tringe asks you to select a distribution platform for your show -- yes, there's much more than YouTube -- he lists around a dozen options from which to choose.

Nearly everything CreatorUp teachers tell students "to do" are things every independent producer should do, but, I know from experience, do not. As someone who's been writing and researching about the the space for years, not a lot was new to me, but I did learn new things. For example, CreatorUp has an Audiosocket store with music licenses tailored specifically for web series budgets (Vimeo does as well). A number of the questions it posed of students are ones I'd have forgotten to ask myself.

Mostly, though, all the information I saw on CreatorUp is available on the Internet. This shouldn't be a surprise. There are plenty of production tutorials online, like Vimeo's Video School and YouTube's Creator Playbook. If you read my blog or Tubefilter, or follow and watch other successful web series, you can learn everything you need to know how success is achieved. But all that information is scattered and disorganized. It's the difference between searching for workout routines on YouTube versus hiring a personal trainer at a gym. CreatorUp has your personal trainers, keeping you accountable so get your project is in the best shape it can be before going to costlier options.

If you want to test the waters or just start delving into the issues without committing to paying, the site hosts free labs with industry leaders, with sign-ups on the homepage.

Cons of CreatorUp

I can't vouch for all of CreatorUp, since I've only taken two classes. I can say that, as is the case with real school, not every class will be valuable. Some lecturers are better on camera than others. Some will know more than others. 

If you're considering paying for a course, do research on the person teaching it. A number of CreatorUp's teachers are known in the industry, like Mark Gantt, creator of one the web's most successful dramas, The Bannen Way (on Sony's Crackle). Others have been nominated for and won Streamy and IAWTV Awards, including Scott Brown (director of Larry King Now, writer of Stockholm, on "How to Write A Web Series") and Kristen Nedopak (Skyrim Parodies, "How To Make a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Web Series on Green Screen").

Since it's a start-up, some classes are less polished than others. And CreatorUp isn't necessarily more "fun" than being inside a classroom. It's self-directed, though you can get feedback in labs.

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Still, if you've managed to raise a few thousand dollars for your first web/TV/indie film project, spending $30 to $60 to make sure you're not missing any key bits of information and you've asked yourself all the right questions might be a good investment, particularly for those far from resource-rich production hubs in New York and Los Angeles.

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit: Production





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