It’s never been easier to produce your own show than it is today. Thousands of filmmakers flock to the internet to produce short-form shows under the umbrella of web series – but how do you write a web series? We’re going to answer that question by looking at web series script format examples and different forms web series can take. By the end of this article, you’ll be prepared to start writing a web series script of your own!
Script Writing for Web Series
First, let’s define a web series
First things first: we’re going to focus on web series writing. For a more holistic guide to web series production, check out our article on how to make a web series and season one of Making It on StudioBinder. With that note out of the way, let’s dive into some conceptual aspects of web series scriptwriting.
In this next video, screenwriter and script consultant John Truby explains why he believes writers must approach webisode writing differently than how they do writing for TV or film.
There’s a bit of debate as to the limitations of webisode writing. Some argue that webisodes must take advantage of the benefits of short-form media (5-10 minutes). Others argue that webisodes can be just as long as network TV episodes (~45 minutes). We’re going to look at some webisode examples, both short and long form, with the intent of better understanding the form’s strengths and weaknesses.
WEB SERIES SCRIPT DEFINITION
What is web series script?
A web series script is a script that’s written for a serialized show on the internet. Web series scripts range from five pages to fifty pages, but most are either five, twenty, or forty-five. Some awards shows recognize streaming service series as web series – but in practice, most people draw a distinction between the two.
Famous Web Series Examples:
- Broad City
- The Real Bros of Simi Valley
- Video Game High School
How to Write a Web Series Script
The super short form webisode
In the early days of YouTube, some webisodes were short, like really short. The first bunch of Broad City episodes were all under three minutes. Let’s take a look at the first episode of Broad City. As you’re watching, think about the structure of the episode.
Whether comedic or dramatic, webisodes under five minutes are essentially skits. So when writing a super short webisode, approach it like you would a skit: minimal characters, one location, and minimalist production design.
Keep the focus on one area of conflict – like Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson did in Broad City.
Glazer and Jacobson were able to expand their series from super short form to network TV form when Broad City was picked up by Comedy Central. We imported the Broad City pilot script into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software to take a look at the differences in story structure from super short form to TV form. As an exercise, take notes on how the TV structure is different from the webisodes.
It’s clear from reading the Broad City pilot script that the structure of the TV version of the show is very different than it is for the web version. Thirty-page sitcoms need multiple areas of conflict, and (often) multiple locations. By comparing the two versions of Broad City against each other, we can see the unique advantages and disadvantages of writing web series scripts.
Web Series Script Examples
The five to ten page webisode
Five to ten page webisode scripts are some of the most popular types of webisode scripts. Why? Because they take advantage of the unique strengths of internet media consumption. Although most storytellers malign the confines of short-form webisode production, few can escape their magnetic pull. Consequently, producers have fallen into the trap of thinking short-form is more popular than it is; i.e., Quibi. But YouTube remains a popular destination for five to ten minute webisodes.
One of the most famous web series on YouTube was The Real Bros of Simi Valley. Let’s check out the premiere episode of The Real Bros, then we’ll break down what makes it so great.
Okay, so how does The Real Bros of Simi Valley take advantage of the unique strengths of webisode scriptwriting? Well, it starts with structure: the first episode of The Real Bros is astoundingly simple. It introduces us to the main characters one-by-one, then puts them together in one location.
Perfect – now where’s the conflict? Xander suspects his girlfriend is cheating on him, Wade struggles to find his own identity, Bryce yearns for the glory days of high-school; and all three envy Duncan for having a legitimate job.
All of this is tucked into a webisode under nine minutes. Ultimately, Facebook purchased the rights to The Real Bros – and the expanded structure of its later episodes made it more of a traditional network TV show.
Web Series Script Format Examples
How to write a webisode script
For our last example, I want to talk about a long-form web series: Rocket Jump’s Video Game High School. Video Game High School, or simply VGHS, was a web series that bridged the gap between sitcom shows like Zoey 101 and Ned’s Declassified, and the internet.
It wasn’t a perfect show by any stretch, but it’s one we can learn a lot from. Let’s take a look at the Video Game High School script to see how it was structured around major cuts.
It’s worth pointing out that the VGHS script is 114 pages – that’s longer than most movies. But rather than play out as one film, it’s broken down into nine episodes. And the script states when episodes should be cut – so rather than serve the purpose of a screenplay, the VGHS script serves the role of a season index. It’s unique – and certainly worth considering if you’re planning to write a web series.
Personally, I’d rather use multiple documents for different episodes, but that’s a matter of preference. Later in the show’s production, episodes were expanded from 10-12 minutes all the way to a full 60.
Web Series Script Writing
Why write a webisode?
By now, you may have noticed a trend with most popular web series. That is: most successful web series eventually expand from super short form or short form shows into full-length shows.
But oftentimes, the magic that made the web series so successful was the structure itself. It reminds me of how The Twilight Zone struggled when it moved from 30 minute to 60 minute episodes. There’s just something innately unique about short form webisode content.
So, try writing a short form webisode script – and heed the acronym KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Okay, maybe drop the stupid; just Keep It Simple. Even if it’s just as an exercise, write a whole story in 5-10 pages and see what happens. Sometimes, the confines of short form writing unlock new ideas and break down writer’s block.
How to Make a Web Series
Making a web series requires much more than writing the script. If you want to learn more about the process of making a web series, check out our next article in which we explain the process in quick and easy steps. By the end, you’ll know everything you need to in order to make a web series.