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High Maintenance

...because it's the little web series that made it big, gaining wider distribution through Vimeo and then landing on HBO. The show is also a great example of turning the budget limitations of a web series into creative filmmaking solutions. Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld used the little resources available to their advantage by writing each episode around the specific actors and locations at their disposal. The result is a free-flowing narrative about a pot delivery service in New York that focuses on interesting characters in unique situations instead of a structured series arc.



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Five Point Story Structure for Short Form Content

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Although “High Maintenance” is a character-driven show rather than a serialized narrative, each script follows a structure developed by the creators. The so-called “five-point” structure breaks each webisode into miniature acts centered on the characters and their interactions. The final act or climax often involves some kind revelation or reversal, which offers insight into the characters’ lives the audience had not expected. While critics may point to this as just a new formula, Sinclair and Blichfeld are among the few people to create a narrative structure that works well for short content over repeated episodes.

As a web series, “High Maintenance” takes advantage of the creative freedom allowed on the internet. Without the interference of network executives concerned mainly about ad revenue, Blichfeld and Sinclair were able to realize their vision of a show about an aimless, unnamed protagonist selling drugs to oddball New Yorkers. At the same time, they were also careful to avoid the pitfalls of producing amateur content on the web. In addition to writing scripts within their budget limitations, the creators also spent nearly eight months editing the first five minute “pilot” episode (in addition to the time spent writing and developing the story and script). During this extended post-production, Sinclair and Blichfeld rejected the originally more elaborate backstory of the protagonist and settled on the minimalist narrative structure and style of the series.

When Vimeo offered to produce the next episodes of “High Maintenance,” the series became a pioneer for other web shows in terms of funding and distribution. Blichfeld and Sinclair shot the first thirteen episodes on their own budget, which often meant friends and family members were willing to work for free. Vimeo also wisely gave the creators the same artistic freedom in writing and shooting the episodes, with the only stipulation that Blichfeld and Sinclair actually produce the content. While this move eventually propelled the series into a deal with HBO, it effectively created a new model for television on the web.

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