‘The Out There’, a scripted series created for Instagram

Instagram may be best known for selfies and photos of cafe breakfasts, but first-time producer Hannah Lehmann is using the platform to distribute her new web-series, The Out There.

Lehmann also wrote and stars in the 13-episode drama, which she believes is the first of its kind on Instagram in Australia.

Instagram is already gaining some traction as distribution platform overseas, recently used to distribute UK crime drama Shield 5, directed by Anthony Wilcox. In the US, there’s sci-fi series Desert Friends, and CW’s comedy series JoJo Head was distributed via Instagram Stories. Last year, InstaMiniSeries released a 16 episode artistic series, Unbound, based on David Bowie’s final album, ‘Blackstar’.

The platform’s accessibility appealed to Lehmann, who works in social media in her day job as a content designer.

“I was using these platforms most days when I worked, and I noticed that there was nothing like this [show] that existed. It was pretty surprising, because it’s such a largely and widely used platform that people are on every single day, several times a day,” she told IF.

“So I felt, well, I can’t create something large scale with my budget constraints. Why not make it something small scale that’s readily available on people’s devices?”

The Out There follows 20-something Sydneysider Frances (Lehmann), who’s stuck in a rut. After she bumps her head drunkenly wandering around a graveyard, she begins seeing Thomas (Robert Snars), a ghost from the 1970s, everywhere she goes. Thomas, who suffers memory loss, needs to get to the afterlife and won’t leave Frances alone until she helps him figure it out.

Instagram constrains video to a minute, so each of The Out There’s 13 episodes runs 60 seconds or less.

“You have to think about character development and story development and how both of those things are going to fit within a one minute time frame,” Lehmann said, noting she tried to end each episode on a cliffhanger.

The producer worked closely with director Mohini Herse and cinematographer Benjamin Ryan to work out ways in which cinematic techniques like framing and colour could help to progress the story within such a short window.

Editing proved the biggest challenge. “We had all of this amazing footage that we had to now condense into a minute; we had a lot of beautiful shots that ended up not being able to be used because it ate into the time,” said Lehmann.

“There are certain episodes which have now been spread across a part one and part two, because we felt like the story and the characters needed the room to breathe. That was a decision that had to be made on the fly in the edit suite so we could serve the story better.”

Shot over five and a half days last October, The Out There is currently in post ahead of a release scheduled in the coming weeks. Lehmann will release episodes in groups to allow viewers to binge.

“We want to release [all of the episodes] in less than two weeks, just because I think the platform, Instagram, has a high turnover rate. Once things are posted and have been seen, they’re often forgotten. So it’s really crucial to have viewer interest continually fed,” she said.

The Out There will be released on the Instagram page @theoutthere, as well as via Vimeo.