The Underwater Realm

15 Feb

Cross posted to Sarah’s blog

Filmmaking is an industry primarily driven by money. Of course it is artistic but primarily films get money poured into them because they are financially viable and will make a profit.

However, with the rise of the Internet and free content there as been a slight push away from this as content becomes more accessible. Similarly resources and contacts also become more accessible and the process of making a film is there for the audience to see even before the final product is ready. For example, Felicia Day’s series The Guild is available first through paid subscription and then in bite size episodes free to view on You Tube. It is low budget but has a huge fan base that extends to the creation of the Geek and Sundry channel on You Tube that has a host of daily low budget and high entertainment shows free to view. The Guild was even inspiration for Joss Whedon’s “show that broke the internet” Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.

Similarly The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a modernised retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice where the story is delivered via the main character’s vlogs. The Writers and producers have all worked on TV (For example Margaret Dunlap has worked on Middleman and Eureka) and the actors are all professionals. While minimalist, these shows all look sleek and professional; there is passion and integrity behind each and every project. Also, the entire production interacts with its fan to an extent that most television shows don’t. Nearly every cast and crewmember has a Twitter or Tumblr account through which they happily engage with fans and each character has an extensive online profile. There are regular updates and conversations around every new episode that is posted and fan art is regularly shared among viewer and content maker alike.

Which brings me very nicely to a new discovery. Looking like a big budget Hollywood adaptation, The Underwater Realm was made with money that would pay for the tea and biscuits on Les Misérables. At the beginning of last year, over 1000 people pledged money to the production through Kickstarter, a website (similar to Indie Gogo) to help creative mass fund their projects. In return for donations, people get (typically, it does depend on how much you pledge) merchandise and special credits. 200 volunteers worked on the project which is (as the title implies) largely shot underwater, no mean feat for any production especially one that is propelled forward largely by ambition and determination.

The Underwater Realm is comprised of a set of five short films with little to no dialogue that are set backwards in time from the present day to the Roman Empire. Each short film is a self-contained story but is part of the larger tale about a society of Merpeople and the decline of their power. The middle film, set during a sea battle with the Spanish Armada in 1588 is the real show piece segment, fusing CGI and stunts with technical brilliance but all the segments apart from the first were shot in glossy 4K with an amazing attention to detail regarding the sets and the costumes.

But even before the first part made it online, the crew regularly posted behind the scenes videos and even tutorials to their You Tube channel that continued even after the films were made public. From demonstrating their own techniques and processes, the filmmakers made the jump to encouraging and teaching others and engaged with their fans on an even greater level than ever before. Unlike higher budget production where only the director and maybe screenwriter (if he/she is especially prominent) is “visible” to the audience, over the course of production nearly every member of the team is highlighted and their expertise explored and appreciated. Recently, they posted a fascinating 30minute documentary detailing the entire process from start to finish.

Their next goal is to reach one million views and hopefully expand their project into a trilogy of features. I can only wish them luck and implore anyone out there to try and help them.

About the writer: Sarah is a filmmaker and writer with an obsession for luscious visuals and a distain for tomatoes (they are a sneaky and untrustworthy foodstuff). If she’s not blogging, she’ll be watching films or running around with her video camera.

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