When I was a kid, I forced my friend Maddie to make with me what I referred to as a television show. We filmed a mostly-improv “comedy” about two puppets with my family’s camera more often used for home movies. In a sense, this was my first web series, though no one saw it outside of my parents.
I say “when I was a kid”, but most people would probably say I still am. I’m 18-years-old, and just about to graduate from high school. My whole life, I’ve been driven by a basic desire; when I consume media I enjoy, I want to create something like it. Reading a good book? I have a sudden desire to become an author. Watching a musical? I’m plotting out my own during the intermission. This way of thinking had never amounted to much. My brain tends to move from one thing to another far too quickly. When I found something that stuck, I knew I’d stumbled upon something really important; what I wanted to do with my life.
Discovering The Chris Gethard Show in the summer of 2013, lonely, depressed, 14-year-old Jules absolutely fell in love. TCGS was a variety television show on public access TV in New York City, but most of the fans found it through the internet, watching the livestream when it aired. The show was full of absurd comedy that felt like it truly came from people happy to be there with each other. I dreamt of getting involved in the community, maybe even interning for the show, but though I attended multiple tapings of the show and joined a chat room dedicated to it, I never really felt like I belonged.
We’re getting to web series, don’t worry.
As my interest turned towards video content, my desire became to make a television show or movie. My parents, seeing this and desperately trying to find a way for me to socialize, signed me up for a one-week film class in the summer of 2014. I didn’t get much out of it from the teachers, but I made one very good friend, Simona, who told me about a web series airing at the time that she was absolutely obsessed with, the web series Nothing Much To Do.
I caught up on NMTD in a night, and continued to watch until the end. I’d watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries during my Vlogbrothers phase, but it didn’t really stick with me as something I could potentially do myself, mostly due to how professional it seemed. NMTD was of the same type of show as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries - a vlog-style web series inspired by a work of literature - but it was made by teens just like me! Older teens, sure, but teens! Once again, my brain returned to that desire; I wanted to make something like it.
I bought a $200 camcorder and made a post on Tumblr asking if anybody wanted to help with a NMTD-esque adaptation of As You Like It, my favorite Shakespeare play. I got two responses, fellow NMTD fans Sarah and Julia, and together we wrote the 50 episode series Like, As It Is though a Google Doc. Then, I stretched my resources as far as I could to find a cast, mostly through old friends or casting websites, and from January to August of 2015 I filmed the entirety of Like, As It Is.
Looking back at 16-year-old Jules running an entire production by herself, I think I must be insane. Like, As It Is was truly a test of my ability to keep my brain in check and not back down, which was ridiculous because I was just leaving the worst mental health period of my life. I could barely interact with my classmates in high school, but there I was, managing a cast. Actors dropped out, or worse, turned out to be way older than they said they were in their acting bios, creating many uncomfortable situations where I had to tell someone they just couldn’t play a 16-year-old. I filmed almost the entire series in my family home. Everything was difficult, and nothing worked out.
But there I was, at the end of August of 2015, with an entire series filmed and edited. I posted it online to a much smaller audience than I’d hope for, but I’d done it. Immediately, I wanted to do it again.
I got a better camera for Christmas, wrote another script, this time an adaptation of Twelfth Night written entirely by myself, and that December my next production began. I was addicted. This new series, Twelfth Grade (or Whatever), had as rough, if not more difficult, a production process as Like, As It Is. But Twelfth Grade looked and felt better than the series I’d filmed before, and the internet must have thought so as well. The first episode of Twelfth Grade is approaching 5,000 views on YouTube, with most of the episodes approaching 2,000. I am so incredibly proud of the work the actors and myself did on Twelfth Grade, and the relative success of the series did nothing to stave off my addiction to making web series.
I’ve worked on two more web series since then; The Uncanny Upshurs, a continent-spanning original series, and The Emma Agenda, a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. This fall I’m going to college, and I’m likely to study film. Discovering the world of web series has absolutely changed my life. I’ve found something I love to do, and I’ve got the means to do it. I’m still socially awkward, sure, but I’m finally part of a community.
And if I’m a little bit obsessed, who cares? My obsession is with making stuff, and that is what I’m doing. In the end, I think that’s all that matters.
Meet the Author
Jules Pigott is a student filmmaker and writer from New York City. She has written, directed, and edited for numerous web series, including Twelfth Grade (or Whatever), The Uncanny Upshurs and The Emma Agenda. Jules co-founded the group Quip Modest Productions, which is dedicated to telling stories through an online platform. One time, she did stand up comedy dressed as a reindeer.