Nothing Is Ever Simple

production , writing 2 comments

They say, “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” What they don’t think to warn you about is your friends ….

When I first started mulling over the idea that eventually became CAUSALITY, it was supposed to be simple. That was the whole point of it. It wasn’t honestly even a project I ever thought I would really tackle someday, more of a gedanken, a thought experiment.

I’d seen a lot of extremely low-budget science fiction made for the web, by people who were honestly just talented amateurs — and I couldn’t help but notice that many of these videos were made with a vision that was far beyond the technical ability of their makers. Not that I would ever fault someone for having a reach that exceeds their grasp, but I couldn’t help wonder — did it have to be like that? Were there any good SF ideas that could be filmed with practically no resources?

Starships and sweeping alien vistas were right out. Even Hollywood has trouble placing their actors inside a convincing CGI world without it looking fake; my hypothetical film crew weren’t going to be able to pull it off. So it had to be set in the here and now. What could you use, visually, to sell the real world as something a little beyond the ordinary? Props, maybe? Sure — I love an excuse to bash together a cool prop, I’ve been doing it for SF conventions for years. CGI effects that aren’t supposed to be real objects — glowy effects like lasers, transporters, wormholes? Why not? I’ve seen some pretty fantastic stuff on YouTube from teenagers who have Adobe After Effects and a lot of free time.

Okay, so, where was all this SF hardware supposed to come from? Aliens? That brings up the problem of convincing alien makeup; maybe not. The future? Well, sure, but time travel is used as such a story-telling crutch ….

All right, that’s a story-level problem. How do I fix it? Well, if time travel makes it too easy for our characters to get in and out of trouble, how do I limit that? And once I started thinking about how to limit time travel, I thought — what if you could only go back? Interesting. Why would someone do that?

I thought of reasons. I thought of several. In the end, I realized that I didn’t need to come up with just one reason — different characters could all be here with their own reasons, their own agendas, and have to try to find some kind of life here in the twenty-first century.

Yeah. Okay. Not a bad idea. I figured you could do it with a handful of amateur actors, minimal crew, one consumer-grade high-def digital camera, pull the whole thing off for maybe four, five grand, at most.

And that’s the level it would have stayed, if I’d never mentioned it to Glynis Mitchell. She mentioned wanting to work on a webseries, told me some of the themes she was after, and I offered up this idea I’d had. An idea is all it was at that point — just a framework, a structure. It wasn’t a story.

Glynis came up with the initial character idea that got us into the story — a viewpoint character, someone from the near future — and the story grew over the next several weeks, as we bounced character ideas and plot points back and forth, until we had a small set of characters that we knew as well as we knew our friends, and a storyline that was in turns grandiose and intimately personal. Until we had a show that we desperately wanted to make just so we could see it.

Before I knew it, my simple little amateur-hour idea grew into a real production, as Glynis put her remarkable networking skills to use. I’d figured we’d use free stock music — Glynis found us a composer with his own studio. I thought maybe the actors would take their turns running the camera — Glynis found us a Director of Photography whose demo reel literally made my jaw drop. I thought we’d dress up a location ourselves with a few props and call it good. Glynis found us a Production Designer with a list of clients as long as your arm.

This incredibly talented team we’ve built are on board for this project, even though we haven’t even figured out for sure how we’re going to fund the damn thing, purely on the strength of our story, our characters, the themes, just from seeing the scripts we have finished so far. That’s incredibly flattering and humbling all at the same time, and presents us with a challenge — to make sure this story is good enough to deserve the crew we’ve found.

It’s going to be a long, hard road between here and the release of our first episode, and it’s also going to be one hell of an adventure. Thanks for starting out with us — I hope you’ll stay with us every step of the way.

Posted by   @   January 12, 2011 2 comments

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Jan 12, 2011
4:18 pm
#1 Glynis Mitchell :

Thanks for the props! Technically, I found us Ralph (who I knew from Persephone Vandegrift, a great Seattle writer), who found us our DP and PD. But Jesse Plack, our composer, came from a chance pre-Hanukkah meeting at Pike Place Market with musician Ben Varela. I sold them some art and the rest is history.

I’ve never understood why so much SF has to suck balls in the story and character department. (Let’s be fair, Time Travelers, a lot of it does, even when it’s fun.) I like starting with the hope that We Can Do Better. If one can make great indie film, I don’t think there’s any reason why great indie television — serial visual fiction — can’t exist. Some of our peers are doing some really interesting work already and I’m excited to see what we can add to the landscape.

Jan 12, 2011
5:57 pm
#2 Ralph Fontaine :

Causality is one of those ideas that comes around rarely that draws people to it. Hearing the origins of the concept for Glynis and Montoure, and knowing how the material made me Brian, Lisa, and Jesse (DP, Prod. Designer and Composer) want to join this crazy adventure means that we really are on to something special here. You said it well in the post, we do need to make sure the end product reflects the talent that has come to help create it. It also needs to reward the audience that is beginning to see how exciting this trip will be. Thank you Glynis, and Montoure for letting me be a part of it. I’ll be giving my all to help bring your visions to life, and I know everyone else involved will too. (Just wait-we’ll be asking for fan-created content at some point too!) Can’t wait! Lets do this!

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