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GIRLS ON FILM:
HOW TO DIY A WEB SERIES
WITH CAITLIN DOUGHTY

Pstol EMPIREss and creator of the Ask A Mortician web series Caitlin Doughty shows us you don’t need a lot of fancy gear or a professional look to make your own series of YouTube videos. What you do need is a great idea thick skin. Here, she shares how she got into video making and how she produces her work:

WHEN DID YOU START MAKING THE ASK A MORTICIAN VIDEOS?

I had the Order of the Good Death site going and I was very happy with it. I think for a while I was resistant to putting myself out there as the face of it. Because the Internet is a judgmental place. I’m actually a pretty private person and the idea of me saying, with like, jazz hands, “hi! i’m Caitlin, everybody” was kind of scary for me. I wanted to hide behind this Order of the Good Death thing.

But the more I thought about how the Internet works, I realized that people like messages delivered by people. They like to be able to say, “I feel like I trust her, i feel like I relate to her, I feel like this somebody I’m comfortable collecting information from” and they want that relationship. So I came to the point where i was like, OK. If I really want to move forward with this, then I have to be willing to put myself out there and stand behind my messages.

And  i looked at videos that were out there and they’re either really horribly low tech or they’re very beautifully produced with animations. And I was like I can’t accomplish that, because I don’t have the resources for that but I don’t want it to be a hot mess either,  like me, sad,  in the corner of my house with a webcam with an up up light from under my nose.

So the idea of Ask a Mortician being kind of kitschy and lo-fi and sort of ‘80s public access channel came from the idea of “what can i actually pull of?” I have to make it tongue-and-cheek because I can’t pull off high production values so I have to work within what I myself could do. It’s about figuring out what your abilities are and what can potentially work with your skills to the best of your ability–so that’s what came out. i just hope that people consider the low-fi production kind of charming.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO MAKE EACH VIDEO?

Each video of actual work from start to finish is 10-12  hours. But there’s all this existential dread around it. It’s not like i switch to now-it’s-time-to-make-my-video mode. I think about it all the time and I’m constantly trying to push the envelope. I’ve never tried to be offensive or draw controversy–i’ve never tried  to do that. At the same time, I’m trying to do things that are interesting.

WHAT ABOUT MAKING THE INTRODUCTION TO THE VIDEOS?

It took two days or so. I really dusted off some ancient Photoshop skills from high school to do some things and I had a friend who’s a musician do the theme song. I had to learn to edit, but editing on a Mac isn’t rocket science. When I looked at YouTube, I thought, if these people can do it, i can figure this out. The bar is not incredibly high.

WHEN YOU FILM, DO YOU FREESTYLE? HAVE A SCRIPT PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME? HOW DO YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY?

I don’t’ freestyle. I write out point-for-point outlines and make sure i’ve fact checked all the things that i’m saying. then i don’t memorize the whole thing monologue style. I do cuts because I want to make sure that each thing is delivered well. I do chunks of things and make sure it’s right, then i move on to another chunk and splice them together.

I usually do two takes, like a TV show is shot. I do it from this angle and that angle and splice them together. Sometimes recording a video will take 15 minutes and sometimes it will take an hour, if a plane is going overhead, the postman is showing up, the cat is making noise and it’s huge ordeal.

WHERE DO YOU SHOOT?

I shoot in my apartment in Los Angeles.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE MEAN COMMENTERS AND TROLLS ONLINE?

That is something I’ve become passionate about because I don’t want other young women to feel like they are not safe on the Internet. I don’t want people feeling they’re not safe putting their work or opinions out there because this [nasty feedback] is going to happen to them.

You never really know what it feels like [to get harassed online] until it happens. For the first six months or so, it was really hard. When people say mean things to you–and I feel like I am incredibly lucky because I don’t get it an eighth or twentieth as bad as a lot of women on the Internet do–what I’ve found is that it’s good to not really take it all in and think that either the bad or the good comments are real because you don’t want to get too invested in either of them because neither is too healthy. It’s not healthy to think, I’m the most amazing voice of my generation, and it’s not a good idea to think, I am ugly and stupid and have crooked teeth. Neither of those things is healthy for me to take into my world view.

The other thing I figured out and the thing that was most helpful to me, is thinking about the people who I know and who I’m close to and respect, and thinking about whether any of them would ever go on the Internet, find a video and just leave a hateful comment just because. And the answer is no. Nobody that I know or love or trust would ever do that.

Happy people don’t go on the internet and say crazy hurtful things. If you’re happy and satisfied with yourself and you come upon a video that you’ really disagree with or that you’re really offended by someone, you would simply click away. There’s no incentive for you to troll. In regard to these other people [who do that type of thing], there’s a sadness to them.

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