My Journey in Making a Web Series with Rising Star Anthony Moore, From Kevin Hart’s “Hart of the City”
•From stand up to STAND OUT: How comedian Anthony Moore became a leading man & “Sneakerhead”
•Web series creator gives step-by-step instruction on how to create your own hit web show
•Exclusive: How a “3 Act” structure can help you easily assemble an ENTIRE web series
•Learn how to write, produce, cast, and shoot a web series with little-to-no budget
I recently had the opportunity to spotlight rising star, Anthony Moore. A gifted, young comedian, whose talents shone brightly on the national stage in Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show, Hart of the City. The show from stand-up super star Hart scours local comedy scenes across the country. Anthony was featured in Hart of the City: Philadelphia, and the laughter from his stellar set echoed down the same city streets that I also call home. Little did Anthony know that I had a script with his name on it – and in only a matter of weeks – he became the star of the project, Wife of a Sneakerhead.
Wife of a Sneakerhead is a web series that JUST launched, and I’m sharing with you an inside look at not only the creation of the series, but how I devised a “three act” approach in making the ENTIRE web series – similar to the three-act structure in making a movie.
Setup, Conflict, Resolution…
I couldn’t believe how many similarities there were in making a web series until I looked back. I sincerely believe there’s a formula to everything; and TV, film and digital are no different.
Before I give you an easy-to-follow, play-by play in making a web series, let me give you a little more background on how I almost gave up on my dreams of being a writer, producer and director…all because I currently DON’T live anywhere near Hollywood. It all started a little more than a year ago, so let’s rewind…
NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR DREAM
September 2015: I find myself on an airplane pondering my future as I gaze through the dark, pinkish clouds stretching across the sky. It’s a red eye flight from LA, where I had just graduated from film school, and I’m flying to Philadelphia where I was raised. My anxiety is at an all-time high, climbing with the altitude. Negative thoughts flood my mind. The miles – and potentially – opportunity are only further increasing as Los Angeles leaves my view from the cabin.
Am I making the biggest mistake of my life by leaving behind Hollywood for the cold, harsh concrete of the city that made me…but almost broke me at the same time? While Southern California is the obvious place to be for film and television, the reality of my situation does not allow me to stay in LA at this particular time.
My mother sacrificed everything for me. She put her life on hold, while diving deeper into debt with a mortgage just so I could finish my education.
With my lease up in California, I decide to move back home and sacrifice this prestige location, in order to help my family.
Now, I’m back on solid ground. One of the first phone calls I receive after coming home is from an old friend, Erick Henighan. (He’s kind of a big deal, which I’ll tell you more about later…)
He asks me to stop by his house so I can give his wife Briana advice on turning her stage play The Repass into a screenplay. Erick and I know each other from producing hip-hop music, so after reminiscing, he invites me to see his wife’s play.
The production begins, and I fall in love with the material instantly.
It’s the proverbial shot in the arm that I desperately need to temporarily calm the doubts of my cross-country move. The first thing anyone thinks when they move back home, especially in the creative field, is will it deter my creative endeavors or offer more freedom? With Briana’s play, my interest is piqued and I’m truly impressed.
Something tells me to collaborate with Briana, and you’re about to find out why.
HOW WATCHING A STAGE PLAY LED TO MAKING A WEB SERIES
The evening ends with me taking a copy of the play so I could outline it. I hang around with Erick back at his house, and as he talks about the good ol’ times, the sound of YouTube videos fill the background. I witness a light bulb moment as Erick watches a short video about people camping out overnight to buy exclusive sneakers.
Yeah, as crazy as it sounds, there’s a name for these desperate “soles”: “sneakerheads”…a hip-hop sub-culture of sorts where die-hard fans and collectors collide for the best new kicks on the market.
Erick looks at me, “ I want to do something scripted for sneakerheads, a web series.” As I look around the room, it’s floor to ceiling of some 250 pairs of exclusive sneakers. They all belong to Erick. “Well if anyone knows what it means to be a sneakerhead, it’s you,” I half-jokingly tell him.
Here’s the thing, Erick was already sitting on gold. If you google him, you’ll find out that “E-Money” Erick was the main interviewer and on screen personality for hiphopsince1987.com, one of the biggest hip-hop websites in the country
Erick had the platform and the connections in the online community, but what he didn’t have back then – or now – is a writer. Even though his wife was a playwright, she wasn’t familiar with writing short form comedic content, and she didn’t find her husband’s “foot fetish” funny at all.
As Erick explains all of this to me, he looks over and says, “but if I can get you involved, she might come on board.” I know that Briana and me can write something great, and I also know that Erick can get it to the masses. In the film world, we call this, DISTRIBUTION.
Okay, this sneakers idea really is really getting some traction… Now, we just need a name if we’re going to be making a web series. Erick has one that fits his situation perfectly: Wife of a Sneakerhead. For Erick, the humor in making a web series is how the outside world looks at his “addiction”.
That was the beginning of our journey in making a web series and now I’m going to walk you through every aspect from pre-production and post-production to an exclusive first look at ALL SIX EPISODES (and more BTS extras) at the end of the article.
So, get ready to lace up by using my three-act approach in making a web series. (Check out our YouTube channel here.)
ACT ONE: THE SET UP
The first task in making our web series – and yours as well – is writing the scripts. We decide that we want six episodes at five minutes each.
Story Ideas: At first this was difficult because the authenticity would have to come from Erick. We needed a system of getting the ideas out of his head, and turning them into actual story lines that we could film. Eric gives a list of real conflicts that often come up between he and Briana because of his sneakerhead addiction. For example, one of the conflicts is titled “sneaker porn”. This means Erick stays up all night fawning over pictures and articles on, you guessed it, sneakers until sleep deprivation sets in. From this small conflict, we come up with the story idea of a husband, who mirrors this obsessive, somewhat “odd” behavior – gazing at “sneaker porn” – while his wife suspects that he’s watching real porn, or even something more salacious.
From this first script, we now have a formula for turning a mere idea into a complete story line.
Briana and me split up writing duties after we settle on outlines for each episode and the overall structure. This process can be daunting between time constraints and family commitments. However, Erick’s passion for the subject matter – and making a web series – keeps the project alive. He is determined to see the vision through, and I can feel his conviction with every conversation. Looking back though, I knew I had to become more engaged.
I needed to feel deeply invested, and then it “clicked”.
Universal Appeal: A writing teacher once told me that you have to be in love with whatever you write: that’s the only way to make it good. I wasn’t in love with sneakers or the culture the way Erick was/is, so I needed to find something about the subject that hooked me in. What I found was the aspect of the show that everybody can relate to: relationships. I knew that if Briana and me could tap into the relationship aspect of the show, we could make it universal, while still staying in the niche that made it stand out.
Months later, we finally have six episodes written and it feels like such an accomplishment. Then, reality hits: I look at the scripts, and what started in making a web series – at a half hour per webisode – turns into 40-50 pages. In other words, we had written double the amount of content. Then, another revelation: we had NO MONEY.
ACT TWO: THE CONFLICT
1) Finding a Director
Okay, one could argue having no money is conflict, and this is true, but “the conflict” in achieving your vision is in attaching a director. Since we had no money, we also needed a magician: somebody who could shoot what we wrote on little-to-no-budget.
Remember, I’m now in Philadelphia, and all of my film friends, who are directors, are either in Chicago or LA. I have directed a few short films in school, but by no means thought of myself as a “Director”.
The grind of production and being on set always sucked the creativity out of me, which is why the words “writer” and “sanity” remain interchangeably.
As we brainstorm on potential directors, I see that Erick and Briana are looking at me, and I realize the elephant in the room was the fact that I had just left film school, so why the hell were we looking for a director?! “Can’t you just do it?” asked Erick. Sure I could do it, I thought, but could I do it well?
This was our baby.
We didn’t feel like we could trust anybody outside the three of us in producing / making a web series. The idea was so unconventional, but I decided to step up and direct.
Looking back, I was just being foolish and lazy, quite honestly, and I couldn’t hide behind the writing and stay in my shell. As the director, I would be out in front, and forced to make difficult decisions both creatively and logistically. I came to the conclusion that I needed to do this, not just for this project, but also for my development as a filmmaker. Leap of faith, here we go…
2) Finding a Star
The next hurdle in making a web series like this one is finding funny actors to not only bring our characters to life, but who would be willing to work for free.
Briana set up the auditions. Nearly 20-30 actors auditioned in a single weekend. Finding supporting cast/characters went well, but our main focus was getting the right leads for our series. The lead characters were based on Erick and Briana, and in the series we named them Earl and Zoey. We were overwhelmed with great options for Zoey.
All of these exceptional actresses gave us the opportunity to write new characters into the series, even if they didn’t particular fit the part of Zoey.
When it came to her character, we settled on Iyana A. Campbell. Campbell had just the right temperament in her approach to Zoey – “the character” – and knew how to make her likeable, relatable, and funny. With Zoey’s shoes filled, the casting search was on to play opposite our female lead. We needed our “Earl”.
As we thought about casting the role of the sneakerhead, Erick came to me with the prospect of giving the role to a fresh, new comedian who was quickly gardening a a following. His name, Anthony Moore.
I had never heard of Anthony but Erick explained that he was set to appear on Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show, Hart of the City. As I mention above, the show hits up comedy hot spots around the country to lay raw the comedy culture and comedians in various cities.
While we still wanted Anthony to audition for the role, all of us knew how beneficial it could be to have Anthony attached. It just made sense since he was just featured in a Kevin Hart comedy vehicle, and it would add automatic value in making a web series.
The next weekend rolls around; Anthony auditions, and it’s utterly clear that this is the guy we need to play the part of “Earl”. Anthony has a brand of comedy that’s raw, unflinching, unique, plus pure-Philly at its core.
Luckily for us, he liked the writing and (most importantly) had faith in Erick and Briana. Anthony was so sold on our project that he made his weekends free and traveled from New York to Philly on his dime. Needless to say, this was a sign that we were on the right track.
Our next hurdle in making a web series: finding equipment. Sure Erick had a decent Canon that he used for his interviews, but to pull off the content we had scripted, we needed to upgrade.
Timing is everything, and it just so happened that my father invested about 5,000 dollars in equipment after he took a film class and started testing the waters of documentary filmmaking. While my mother gets all the credit for putting me through school, my father gets the credit for giving me the boost I needed when I re-entered the “real world” of filmmaking in Philly. I came to him with the idea of making a web series, and before I could even finish my sentence, my father said, “Use whatever you need, just don’t break anything.”
Now we had lights, a boom mic, a Canon 70D, 85mm cinema lens, monitors, tripods, a dolly…again, all for free. I was humbled and amazed by everyone’s contributions and belief in our project.
The production schedule in creating a web series for Wife of a Sneakerhead was quite brutal. Crew: Briana knew a few people from her stage plays that could help us as PAs. Thanks to my connections with the local hip-hop scene, I knew a young videographer who could be my DP (Director of Photography) and also work for free.
We found volunteers and film students online, and they rounded out the rest of our crew needs. We had locations. We used a friend’s row home for most of the series while renting out a nightclub, a community center, and a town house that was converted into a television type sound stage for the rest of the locations.
After finalizing the cast, we had two weeks of rehearsals.
Next up, the DP and me worked out a shot list, but this is where the word “free” comes with an “unexpected” cost…
Because of conflicting schedules and the fact that people were working for zero-pay, I knew we needed a production schedule that was tight and efficient. We were also paying for some of these locations by the hour, so every minute mattered and overtime wasn’t an option.
Filming: We began filming in June 2016. It took four 10-12 hour days to shoot a majority of the six episodes.
The tight and ambitious schedule was necessary because we shot everything out of order to maximize our time. For this part of the process I have to give all of the credit in the world to Briana. She was AD (Assistant Director), Script Supervisor, Prop Master, and Wardrobe – all at once. It really made my job as a director easier, because I was confident that she had pretty much every department under control.
Briana kept track of every single detail and dollar amount, and if it weren’t for that, this series would have easily gone off the rails and come to a dead stop. Our entire production remained on schedule.
Then, a bump in the road…a baby bump, that is.
The entire time we were making a web series, Briana discovered she was pregnant. Since we weren’t able to secure a club location for Episode 4, the schedule got pushed back to mid-summer, and then “POP”, right around July, Erick and Brianna had their second child.
This pushed production back by two months, and that caused everyone else’s schedules to conflict.
This was a painful “delivery” for our series indeed…
With two more days of shooting remaining, it all finally came together – two months later – in late September.
ACT THREE: THE RESOLUTION
1) All in the Timing
There is a silver lining in the two-month delay. In getting our production pushed back, Hart of the City aired on Comedy Central first. This raised the stock of Anthony, and as savvy producers, we decided to release our trailer on the same weekend of his episode. This was perfect timing, because just as Anthony was receiving his much-deserved spotlight in the world of Comedy, people we’re also being introduced to our web series.
The trailer gained thousands of views on Facebook and the awareness of my city, Philly, rose faster than we could imagine. It was a win-win. Anthony capitalized off of his appearance on the Kevin Hart show to help spread the word about Wife of a Sneakerhead. This showed just how invested Anthony was in the series, as well as our entire cast and crew. As they say, “team work makes the dream work.”
The take-away: I could see people – who were not just a part of the production and creation, but the city in general – taking pride in pulling off the impossible. Making a web series with this level of commitment, creativity and fearlessness made everything well worth it when I needed it most.
I was worried that I was going to miss my chance of having a career in production by leaving LA. But it didn’t matter anymore. It meant more to me to do this series in Philadelphia, because you don’t see this type of production and kinship in this city that often, especially with our grassroots approach.
I was also introduced to a budding underground industry of artists who refuse to let their distance from Hollywood determine their success.
In writing this article, I see everything that happened to me was meant to be. I’m not going to make millions from making a web series, and I won’t become famous overnight. But that was never my intention. I’m a filmmaker first, and because of this, we built something from the ground up that involved both our families and our beloved city.
We gave a voice to an underserved population and put on full display a lucrative industry that’s more that just a fashion statement…its been long embedded in our culture. There are no real shortcuts in creating great characters and story. It’s about relationships, values, and love of the art form.
We did it, with no money or prior experience in making a web series, and hopefully, you now have that same drive and motivation, too.
The Big Reveal: Check out the full webisodes below and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel to keep up with the latest updates!
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