Web-Based Screenwriting Success Stories: Learn from the Best
January 2, 2024
As writers, we could all use some motivation from time to time (more like all the time). Finding inspiration from other screenwriters’ success stories can be a good starting point as it shows what you want to experience is actually possible.
If you’re considering writing your own web series you might be excited to learn how the internet has been an amazing launching pad for some of your favorite TV series and creators. A web series can be a powerful opportunity to build an audience and fanbase faster than a traditional route while also attracting the attention of Hollywood executives.
The following success stories prove that some of the best TV shows created started out as web series and might be the inspiration you need to start writing your web series now.
Created in 2008 by actor and comedian Rob Corddry, the dark comedy, which mocked popular medical shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy, started out as four to five-minute episodes available on the now-defunct WB.com.
It was shot in six days on a shoestring budget, and according to Corddry, their idea with casting was “that we were going to shoot the series with funny people that we love.” The show was eventually picked up by Adult Swim in 2010 and ran until 2016.
Actors and creators Ilana Glazer and Abby Jacobson launched their web series Broad City in 2009 on YouTube, which depicted their friendship and life in New York City. The duo originally met in an improv class at the Upright Citizens Brigade and would later hire their fellow improvisers – Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello – to direct episodes of their show.
After two seasons online, comedian Amy Poehler discovered the series and later became an executive producer when Broad City was picked up by Comedy Central where it would run from 2014 to 2019.
In terms of their online success, Glazer has said: “During the web series we were never viral. It was always just the quality of viewers. We just started to get a response from our community–the comedy community in New York–and that was enough to make us feel like it was something good and relatable and that we should keep making them.”
Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, Insecure was originally known as Awkward Black Girl, which debuted on YouTube in 2011 and followed the awkward life and love experiences of J (played by Rae).
Rae was inspired to write the series from her own life and wanted to bring a fresh perspective to a narrative that didn’t include a black female perspective. “You might be thinking, ‘There’s nothing for me on television, there’s no one who looks like me, there’s no one who thinks like me, there’s no one that has the shortcomings I have, or the disabilities I have, or who thinks about the world the way that I do.’ So make that! Create that character,” Rae said. “Tell that story. People might not be aware that it doesn’t exist until you tell that story.”
Rae used Kickstarter to help fund the show, which won a Shorty Award for Best Web Series in 2012. The series went viral through word of mouth and social media and ran for two seasons before being picked up by HBO and retitled as Insecure. The HBO show debuted in 2016 and lasted five seasons.
The comedy, which was created by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield, follows The Guy, a cannabis courier (played by Sinclair), as he delivers his product to clients in Brooklyn.
The web series launched in 2012 on Vimeo and was shot throughout various neighborhoods in Brooklyn with episodes ranging from five to 20 minutes in length. Originally each episode cost less than $1000 to produce until Vimeo started to fund the show before it moved to HBO. The web series aired for six seasons before it launched on the cable channel where it aired for four seasons.
When it comes to sticking to the web series’ original vision, Blichfield said, “When HBO came to the table, the first thing they said was, ‘No remakes. We want to build on what you’ve done.’ ”
Written by: Brianne HoganBrianne Hogan is a freelance writer currently based in Prince Edward Island. A film studies graduate from NYU, her byline's been featured in Creative Screenwriting, ScreenCraft, The Huffington Post, among others. "Jurassic Park" is unashamedly her favorite movie (at this moment). You can follow Brianne on Twitter via @briannehogan