How I made my (nearly) zero-budget web series, Naughties

Naughties. Olivia (Olivia D'Lima)

Journeying back to the mid 00s, we follow the embarrassing daily life of this mixed-race, insecure, teenage girl. Feel the cringe as we expose the secret behaviour of puberty-fuelled Olivia; from prank calls, to frenemies, to attempting to wank, Olivia is the history we all try to forget. But she reminds us of the stuff we'll always remember; our Motorola Razr, our favourite sparkly Pringles holder, and maybe that confusing experience with Stretch Armstrong... From the brain of Olivia D'Lima; Naughties is 'a luv letter to her teenage self'.

Naughties began as a concept I have for a comedy TV series set in 2006. It follows the lives of three teenage girls, all going through their own personal crises, whilst navigating the horrifying world of female puberty in the 00s.

The concept hit me after reaching the 10 year anniversary of leaving school. I looked back and realised how hilarious, but equally fucked up it was; competing with female friends for no real reason, being objectified and not knowing whether to take it as a compliment, and pretending we didn't masturbate when we totally did - 'dnt lie, I kno u did 2'.

We've seen so many unfiltered stories about teenage boys viciously wanking their way through puberty and I'm looking round going "Where's me? Where are my friends? Where's our story?" And then Naughties came along. Essentially a "luv letta" to my teenage self. Think Inbetweeners meets Derry Girls. Cringe, crass and curious.

Not having a literary agent, or, well, a production company, I realised it was down to me to get this thing made. Or a least a version of it. I saw the BBC call-out for short form content, and figured I would chuck together a 3 minute taster video and see if I could shop it around a bit. And before I knew it, I was chucking together a web series. I'd spend a few days of each of the quiet months of 2023 planning, shooting and editing my first ever web series.

Naughties. Olivia (Olivia D'Lima)

At a minimum, I knew I needed a few things:

1. Camera (and someone to operate it)
2. Cast
3. Lighting
4. Locations
5. Props/art department
6. Sound

I was already the writer and creator of Naughties, and I knew I would need to take on the roles of producer and director, too. It made sense that I would direct it as I had such a clear vision when writing it, but I didn't realise how opinionated I would become as the director; it was a pretty welcomed surprise. I've produced a few bits before, so I was comfortable there. Now, onto the list...

Luckily, my partner had recently got a new camera (Sony A7IV) to explore photography as a hobby, so with a bit of persuading, that was Number 1 ticked off.

We can also tick off Number 2, because for most of the eps, I was the only cast member. One friend recorded a voice memo for me to use as the other side of a brutal prank call (Episode 2, Prank), and the other joined us for an afternoon on Episode 4, BFFS. They both nailed it and made my life a lot easier.

Since I planned to shoot most of the episodes in my family home, locations were sorted.

The need for lights quickly translated to improvising with any lamps we could find.

Another great thing about shooting at my family home was that I still have so many things from the 00s hanging around - because I can't throw anything away, that's a story for another day - so that was props sorted. I quickly became an impromptu art director.

Naughties. Olivia (Olivia D'Lima)

The final thing was sound. Ahh, sound. Since we were shooting super ad hoc, at times months apart, there was time to make changes in-between each shoot. For the first few shoots, we decided to depend on the camera's built-in microphone. It didn't come out too bad, but it didn't come out great. It was useable, but I quickly realised that an upgrade would be best for the project.

We know a few former soundies who recommended a few different things, and we decided to borrow a Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone which is compact, and compatible with the camera. It seemed to work great, until I started editing and noticed a pretty consistent buzzing sound. FFS.

For the final shoot, we hired 2 x Rode Wireless Go 2 Lav Mics from Fat Llama - if you don't know Fat Llama, it's an amazing website where people in your local area rent out film equipment; it's an affordable life saver. They worked great, and they worked together with the camera, so we didn't have to worry about a clapperboard or anything. The only thing to watch out for was their placement - we had a few takes with clothes rubbing on the mics, but overall, it did the job! I'd use them again; I'd just give myself more time to be more pernickety about placement.

I edited and sound mixed the thing. I say sound mixed, but really I just stressed and guessed what I was doing on the sound application, Audacity. Thankfully, I could cover up any bad sound with the music that I was using for free, since my brother makes music!

And what did I edit on? I shall not put it in writing, because I will be judged by anyone who has ever edited anything. It comes with a certain phone and computer brand, and honestly, it's just stupidly easy to use. Don't @ me!

With the series being very much grounded in reality, we worried more about the lighting on the day so that I didn't have to worry about grading after, and I barely touched the colour composition. Having edited my showreel and self tapes, and having been in post-production on a couple of shorts before, I'm pretty comfortable being cut-throat and brutal in the edit. But again, sound was the hardest part because you don't know what you have until you sit down to put it all together! If I had my time again, I would find the budget for a sound mixer, for sure.

The final thing was the credits and poster. Again, I count myself very lucky that I know many talented people! A friend of mine is a great artist, and she totally got my vision for the credits. A few conversations back and forth, and she put together my dream credits, along with an amazing poster.

Naughties

Moral of the story - never overlook the talent of everyone around you!

I decided to put the series on YouTube and Instagram, releasing each new ep on Mondays and Thursdays. I didn't want to release it all in one-go, as I didn't want to depend on people binging it, but I didn't want to leave a week between release dates, because I knew people might lose enthusiasm. This structure worked pretty well; the first ep got around 5k views on YouTube, and the others got between 1k-2k each. I put a small amount into Google promotions which I'd definitely recommend; a little can go a long way. And I'm glad to have put the full eps on Instagram too because I don't think many people would have clicked the link to view them on YouTube.

The reception was amazing. So many people connected with the awkward little happenings of each episode, with messages coming in like "this feels like a personal attack" and "I literally did this" which just showed me that the more personal experiences I write, the more relatable it actually becomes.

I did a lot of searching for festivals with web series categories, and it was tough. Any articles I did find were listing the best of the best (Tribeca, Sundance, Raindance etc). I absolutely adore what we did with Naughties, but I'm aware that it shouldn't be competing with web series that actually had a budget. So, I decided monthly festivals would be a good place to start.

As of now (when writing this answer), I've submitted to a few, and I just heard back about the first one - we won best web series! Wahoo!

Here's the list I put together; all things big and small, so you don't have to search as long as I did! Obviously there will be many more out there, but your gal got tired of searching.

Monthly festivals with a web series category

Sunday Shorts Film Festival

Bright International Film Festival

Golden Lion International Film Festival

My Mrs Timeless Film Awards

Rome Prisma Film Awards

UK Online Web Fest

Independent Shorts Awards

Oniros Film Awards

London Independent Film Awards

Quarterly festivals

Cal Film Festival

Annual festivals

Tribeca Film Festival (Tribeca NOW)

Sundance Film Festival (Episodic Content)

SeriesFest

Crystal Palace International Film Festival

London Super Shorts Film Festival (Off On Selection)

Breaking TV Film Festival

London-Worldwide Comedy Short Film Festival

Webfest Berlin (Check out the other Webfests too)

Raindance Web Fest


I hope this has quenched your curiosity and answered some questions for you. If you're considering making a web series or doing some kind of guerrilla shoot, I implore you to do it! What's the worst that could happen?!


Watch Naughties on YouTube

Watch Naughties on Instagram (@naughties.webseries)

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