This week, I find myself rewatching web series Incognito. The show is a few years old (2012), but it still packs a punch and has a lot to teach anyone looking to create a successful web series. The series has three fundamental aspects that make it exceptional:
1) Sticky premise
Starring UCB’s Andrew Law and SNL writer Alison Rich, the show’s premise is ingeniously simple: Two idiots go into the witness protection program after witnessing a murder. In each episode, these loveable dummies appear disguised in new identities — only to blow their cover and fall into the clutches of the bad guys who are on their trail. Within a market in which web series are a dime a dozen, it benefits a series when the show has a premise that sticks in the memory. What’s your show about? Misadventures in the dating world? No thanks. Two idiot’s who witnessed a murder? I’m listening.
2) Simple structure
The structure of every episode is the same.
It’s such a sleek structure for a show. It’s a structure that creates consistency for the writers and a familiar sense of comfort for the audience. I discovered Incognito while I was working on a web series that required a large and unpredictable number of locations and scenes for every episode. I remember admiring how lean this show is — that you could do it all in three simple scenes.
3) Built upon superpowers
It is just so clear that this entire series is built upon the ability of the two leads to play great characters. That’s it. They don’t spend time trying to tell long elaborate stories or reach down into your soul and stir up emotion. The show knows what it is: a character showcase. Vanessa Gonzalez, the first guest on The Early Draft podcast frequently talks about the importance of knowing your superpowers as a performer. Once you know what you’re great at, how do you built a show that allows you do your thing at full speed?
If you’re an aspiring series creator, before you launch your kickstarter and begin filming, take a second to ask yourself a few questions. Why am I telling this story? What is the structure of each episode and how do I make it as lean as possible? How does this show allow me to use my superpowers? And lastly, what is that special thing about what I’m making that will have people writing about my show three years later?