Everything I Needed To Learn in Life I Learned Making A Web Series

By  Jessica Abrams

I co-created a web series that I wrote, directed and starred in.  It’s called KNOCKING ON DOORS.  The process is not for the faint of heart.  Or rather, it required — for me, at least — the kind of candid self-scrutiny usually reserved for long-term relationships or the therapist’s couch (or long-term relationships with the therapist’s couch).  But I made it through and even learned a few things — things that extend far beyond audio files and title cards and even the limitlessness of cyberspace and into the universal experience of being human on this planet, right here right now.  I’ll try to distill them down to some key bullet points:

JUST DO IT.  I learned that Nike’s mantra extends well beyond running that 5K.  As someone with a long history of thinking rather than doing, I was surprised at my ability to turn words on a page into words on a stage — i.e., an apartment with some lights and cameras and a person shouting “action!”.  As writers, we write to be produced and published but we also write to be read.  We envision a reader as erudite and discerning as we are — a classy woman with cool glasses who chuckles at our wry humor, possibly letting out a giant guffaw when no one’s around.  That’s what we hope for — at least I do.  But writing five pages of words to be said not only by actors you deeply respect, but by yourself is another matter.  Those funny pieces of description don’t carry as much weight.  What matters is — here we go again — JUST DOING IT.  I know this because I agonized over each and every one of the five scripts I wrote — not because I wanted them to be perfect; I wanted them to be.  There was a group of people assembled on a specific day, a day they did not have work or auditions or family in town.  It was write or die.  Miraculously, I am still here.

ONCE YOU DECIDE TO JUST DO IT, THE UNIVERSE JUMPS IN AND HELPS.  I’d never fully experienced (or been aware that I was experiencing it) the way things just come together when a decision is made and a huge leap of faith is taken.  A sound operator shows up on set when you thought you might have to recruit someone in the Home Depot parking lot.  Some of your favorite actors are free and willing to speak your words all on the same day; and various other miracles that, despite your stress and fear, make manifest.  This is the lesson I need to remember every day, regardless of whether or not a camera is rolling.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS.  We hear that life is a collaborative effort and as writers for the theatre we are all too aware of this, but as a newbie web series-maker, I relied on more than just a little help from my friends.  I not only welcomed input, I craved it.  Does this line work?  Be honest with me, because we can change it if it doesn’t feel right (note: if it doesn’t feel right, it generally doesn’t look right on camera).  What’s a card reader and how can I get one? Even the ex-boyfriend I ran into who expressed doubt about my ability to go through with this endeavor helped — I was determined to prove him wrong — and for that I am grateful.

LET IT BE.  Nothing’s perfect, certainly not a first-time web series.  Do I wish my sound was better in places?  That I had remembered to wash my hair before confronting the camera?  Of course, and I’ll take the information with me when I do the next five.  For now, I know that, despite questions and outstanding issues, I didn’t let my own crippling perfectionism get in the way of making something that has given me a confidence and renewed sense of purpose and that, in a profound way, has changed my life forever.

Just do it.


4 thoughts on “Everything I Needed To Learn in Life I Learned Making A Web Series

  1. Thank you! Robin, I never trained as a stage actress, so all I know is on-camera work; and what I loved was the intimacy of it, the fact that, because of our limited time and budget, we just jumped right in. AND because I was going back and forth between acting and directing, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting to find the character or the feeling (a good thing, in the end). Here’s the link:

  2. Fabulous, Jessica! Congratulations! And where, pray tell is the link to the web series? 🙂 Did you find the moments of filming the scenes as gratifying as doing scenes in live theater?

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