Not every zombie web series can have the success of Universal Dead, which went feature after only 2 episode. For every series that goes well, there are hundreds - or at least 20 or so - more that have carved out their share of bandwidth, hoping their day will come.
While we don't proclaim to be experts in making a zombie web series, since we haven't done so yet, we do proclaim to be experts on watching them, or watching a few of them, so here's a list of do's and don't's from our experience watching several zombie web series over the course of two afternoons (count 'em: TWO afternoons).
Do: Set the Series In an Apartment
This is called the "domestic zombie apocalypse" rule. There's really two popular premises out there, one being a group of friends stuck in an apartment, the other being a group of soldiers/strangers fighting the zombie hordes in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The latter better shoot some zombies and put together at least one good zombie effect, while the former allows for some easy humor, because even the most mundane domestic issues become high comedy when dealt with in the face of a zombie apocalypse.
For instance, it always sucks to run out of toilet paper, but it hilariously sucks when you run out and can't buy more without the possibility of being killed by zombies. Enter Sharehouse Zombie Apocalypse, which features 4 friends stuck in an (very dark) apartment while zombies moan about outside.
Don't: Dream Bigger Than You Can Accomplish
"We'll fix it in post" may be the most overused phrase and the most dangerous. Sometimes it's worth it just to keep everything within your budget and not hope for technical prowess to bail you out later on.
For instance, Dead Patrol is a military-based web series and starts off well enough, with a decent opening sequence, a title track by industrial legends Skinny Puppy, and then...well, then a "Lamborghini" enters at the end.
Don't: Overlook the Value of Good Foley FX
Who knew foley sound could be so important? For those that don't know what foley sound is, that's the post-production sound effects like footsteps, or punching somebody in the gut, etc. Hamilton Carver: Zombie PI uses a whole bunch of it and it's plainly obvious, even for someone who isn't a cinephile. Personally, I'm not too hung up on footsteps, but that's me. Perhaps they felt footsteps added a a more noir-ish feel?
To make matters worse, they also recorded most of the dialogue afterwards as well, creating a thoughtful package of audio suckage. I agree with TubeFilter, the bad audio takes you out of the action. It's too bad, the blend of noir and zombies had real potential.
Do: Make a Good Trailer That Also Pays Off
I watched several episodes of Zomblogalypse after watching their trailer. The best thing about it was that the show turned out to be as agood as the trailer made it seem, which is rare and exciting. Using the tried and true format of 3 friends surviving the zombie apocalypse in an apartment, Zomblogalypse is easily the best of the bunch and currently the most watchable zombie web series running.
Zomblogalypse uses their lo-fi format to their advantage by adding that the characters are making a blog about the zombie apocalypse and go the extra mile by managing to have episodes with a plot to them. While often too overlong, Zomblogalypse succeeds in being a hilarious zombie sitcom, in web form.
Don't: Underestimate the Value of Good Production Quality.
What can make your zombie web series stand out? 3 things really: decent production quality, writing, and acting. Not every series can have it all, but, really, even 1 out of 3 can be enough. The Last Stand is an example of some excellent production value, even scoring with a few good zombie kills.
This is important, because the first episode almost killed it for me because it lasts for only 2 and a half minutes of content before launching into another 2 minutes of credits and a t-shirt advertisement. The high production quality sent me on to Episode Two is much better, even if the acting ain't so great.
Do: Discuss Pertinent, Zombie-Related Issues.
If a battle were to commence amongst all the "domestic zombie apocalypse" web series, Matt and Wes vs. the Zombie Apocalypse would certainly win "biggest earrings." Not quite as funny as Zomblogalypse , Matt and Wes charm by taking the time to get nerdy about running vs.stumbling zombies, which makes zombie fans happy. Plus, this is only episode one, so we're hoping they'll move past references to It's Always Sunny and start making more funny things happen on their own. Thanks to our pals at The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse for pointing this one out.
Don't: Pander to Your Corporate Sponsor
Crackle's Woke Up Dead, besides sucking pretty hard, suffers the most from being an obvious commercial for a Kodak portable camera. Jon Heder tries his best as a guy who wakes up a zombie, but Josh Gad's archetypal character of the crude (but "loveable") best friend.
When you're a professional production, you have to score on all 3 standards, because no one will forgive you like they do when you're an amateur. Good production quality, acting, but bad writing and a pandering to your corporate sponsor on an online network owned by Sony? Maybe having 2 out of 3 isn't good enough.
In the end, there's another rule that all should follow. Do: Keep Making Your Zombie Web Series. There are a lot of them out there, but many never made it past episode 1. Keep fighting the good fight, people. There's enough room for everybody out there.