Television – it’s a team sport!

Hi folks – a slightly different blog post tonight. I’ve had a super busy week with organizing auditions for the upcoming preview video that I haven’t had much of a chance to prepare the next blog, share some “producer’s eye” insights into my last week.

Firstly – I have a day job, so keep in mind that this is all happening between the hours of 6pm and whatever time I’ve got to bed. Moving on.

I posted an ad on Star Now (an entertainment industry cast and crew site) a few weeks back looking for people to play roles in a 5 minute preview video in which I’m going to be introducing the core event that lies at the basis of our milieu. Not a lot of character information, and very little by way of action – but it sits together nicely as a single unit of work. I wrote it last week in a single sitting.

The purpose of this video is four-fold:
1. Introduce the major event that kicks off the societal transformation that I hope to show by the end of the web-series, to be titled “Tomekeeper Preludes”.
2. Create a “proof of capability” piece that I can post on the crowd-funding site as a means to drive more conversions on my crowd-funding site.
3. Get some actors on boarded into the program that will be self-motivated to help drive the buzz around the production, and to consider for roles in the main web-series.
4. Do a dress rehearsal on a smaller scale to prove to myself that I really can do this!

So… with that context in mind, consider the following. I had about 32 responses to the casting call. I need this video up on IndieGoGo ASAP, so as of Monday I had about 4 days to achieve the following:
* Lock in a time when I would be available between work and shooting with Mickenmich Productions on the weekend that would also suit the majority of people who responded to my casting call.
* Lock in a place where I could host 10-15 people at a time. As nice and large as the place AW and I rent is for two people, it’s not really built for having that many people in any room except the one that is full of my music, movie making and computer gear.
* Keep people informed about what was going on re: auditions and other activities.
* Continue driving people to this site and the Facebook and Google+ page.
* Distribute the script before auditions took place.
* Review all of the profiles on Star Now from people who applied for roles.
* Pick up keys for the venue I managed to hire.
* Spend some time with my very beautiful and talented partner (Love you Hon!).
* Resend the information I had sent to everyone else to the new casting call respondents who applied as late as Friday morning.
In addition to that, I had to deal with a busy work week, notice of a house inspection arriving and some work on a code project for a friend. A very old and very good friend from interstate dropped in for the weekend so we caught up for lunch on Saturday… and around all of that, I also had morning shoots with Mickenmich until 12:30 on Saturday, 2:00pm on Sunday.

This is not a complaint.. this is just perspective. It’s been great fun, but it’s also been very, very tiring. 🙂

On Friday evening, and on Sunday afternoon I hosted about 16 out of the 32 people who applied for roles at Blackwood Memorial Hall… home of Blackwood Players and various other community groups. For the record – very reasonably priced (cheaper than rooms at the local council-run community centre). I had to make some fast decisions based on who had turned up, who had what sort of acting chops and what roles people had applied for. We had a very extras-heavy night on Friday, and a smaller speaking-role heavy group on Sunday. I picked scenes we wanted to concentrate on to get people engaged as quickly as possible, and had a few of the extras read for speaking roles as stand-ins for other people. One of my extras got a lift from a friend, who I got to stand in and read one of the major roles a couple of times. I felt it was really important to let everyone read for whatever roles they were comfortable trying.

I also took some time to spell out what I’m trying to achieve with this project – not just for myself, but for others like me hoping to break into the entertainment industry in one capacity or another, and explained how I’m hoping to structure the possibility of a deferred payment plan for cast, crew, myself and investors. I spelled out the importance of getting things moving with social networks, and how important it is that the awareness of this project goes viral. Without a significant number of facebook/google+ likes, we’re unlikely to get anywhere near our crowd-funding targets. I also stressed the important of not only liking the various social media pages, but also sharing links with friends, family, work colleagues, etc. So far, people have been true to their word and the reach of the campaign has expanded significantly.

The outcome of the auditions is that I have now cast all but two-and-a-half roles. I am going to be auditioning three people for a female news anchor role, and one of them will get a role as a field reporter. I have actors cast in the roles of the state Premier, Leader of the Opposition, my male news anchor, scientist and 3 journalists, although I’ve realized now that I can reduce that by one. I have my two police officers doing protective duty for the Premier and I have a batch of willing extras who will get to media-mob the Premier as he leaves Parliament house.

While that’s nice, the greatest and most joyful outcome from auditions is that I have two major recurring roles cast for the web series itself, and minor recurring roles assigned to at least six or seven others! This is super-exciting. I’m hoping that of the three people I’ll be seeing later this week for the Female news anchor role, that one of them will impress me enough that I can fill another of my lead roles. Having seen show-reels on Star Now, I’m confident that at least two of the three might be good enough to fit the bill.

So… What’s next?
Well… other than preparing for a house inspection…
* I’ve just had a great idea on a way to trim some time out of my script. That will probably require about 10 minutes of writing to fix.
* I need to start writing some teaser scripts for my main characters.
* I want to ramp up the social media activity considerably. This will mean at least two more posts up here this week.
* I have an audition to organize
* I have a couple of locations to scout and organizations to contact regarding access to standing sets, etc.
* I have an additional writer to on-board.
* I have actor agreements to send out and get back…
Oh… and I mentioned the house inspection? That means it’s time for me to post this and go!

I’ll post again the other side of the house inspection! Expect something Wednesday or Thursday night.

The Free Trade Alliance

We briefly mentioned the Free Trade Alliance in the last post. The Free Trade Alliance is another loose confederation, but instead of being driven by ideological or social affiliations, they are made up of the remnants of large corporations, island tax havens and old money merchant families. Their agenda is simple – “If information is worth having, it will also have a price.” By ensuring that they collect that price during any knowledge and information exchanges, members of the FTA gain the tools to ensure their own survival. Most members of the FTA have their own paramilitary forces, loyal to the “Corp”, not the “Corps” as found amongst Tomekeeper Corps operatives. FTA paramilitaries will be armed with the best gadgets, weapons and computing systems that currency can buy on the black market.

While they are largely motivated by their own survival, many FTA members will still show a nominal interest in protecting the assets and incomes of their shareholders. While the large national bourses might have been devastated by Factor 46, their computer systems will not have been affected until unmanaged outages start to occur in disease ravaged cities. Those companies that have survived will almost definitely know who is still alive to own stocks, as even those governments that have nationalized corporations in the interests of the population at large will have to go through some bureaucratic processes to document the transfer of assets and potentially provide compensation to dispossessed shareholders. Nationalized entities with some private holdings are less likely to act in the interests of their shareholders than public companies with significant equity in private hands. Even more motivated by self-interest are private companies whose wealth and assets are primarily held by wealthy industrialists.

By the time we get to the main story line, the FTA will have established an information trading exchange with a strong derivatives market. However, rather than cash values, the prices paid on that exchange will be paid in raw materials, manufactured goods and other hard assets. Those assets will have values related to their regional demand in the location where the trade takes place, so logistics is going to be an important capability for FTA members who are looking to exploit comparative advantage (as driven by scarcity and surplus of such resources) between different regional economies. During the initial web-series, the FTA will still be recovering from the aftershocks of Factor 46 and exercising their “business continuity” plans. The major bourses will be in the process of suspending trading as Factor 46 spreads, and in the immediate aftermath, companies critical to the establishment of the tome (e.g. Information Technology cloud providers) will be trying to prepare arguments as to why they should not be annexed by governments in national and international interests.

With the risk management, compliance and risk capabilities one would expect of large corporations, the members of the FTA can rarely be taken at face value. Understanding their motives in any transaction usually requires better than single-step thinking. If an FTA organization is offering information for sale at a price too good to refuse, then you can guarantee that they are doing so to stymie a competitor, break open a new market, or set up a trading chain in regionally scarce resources from which they can reap significant profits.

One final note about the FTA – while many member organizations trade within national boundaries, a certain number will establish a true extraterritoriality. Oil rigs and abandoned commercial or naval ships may be anchored together to create floating cities in which raucous black-markets can operate without any supervision other than that from the entities who have claimed and aggregated those assets. These FTA members will be the best armed and most ruthless operators in the Tomekeeper milieu. When they move against Tomekeeper Corps or Lorebinder interests – their actions will be decisive, well prepared and often deadly.

In our next post, we’ll start talking about what happens in South Australia when Factor 46 starts unleashing its deadly payload. In the meantime, please continue to spread the word about our IndyGogo campaign and touch base to let us know if you want to be involved.

Singapore Skyline
Image sourced via Creative Commons

Who are the Tomekeepers?


The Tome and The Tome Accord.

In the wake of Factor 46, the remaining extant democratic governments of the world have made a mutual pact to share what knowledge they can under what has become known as the “Tome Accord.”  Huge data centres originally tasked as “Cloud” delivery centres have been commandeered and tasked with soaking up as much information from the public internet and whatever darkwebs can be accessed and storing it on the vast petabyte storage arrays housed within those data centres.  Part of the Tome Accord provides citizens of what remaining governmental jurisdictions still exist with full access to “The Tome” – this distributed, decentralized, multiply redundant internet reservoir of all human knowledge collected, tagged, indexed and archived to date.

Cognizant of the fact that many (most!) of these data centres being used to house and publish the Tome are in cities ravaged by Factor 46, the signatories to the Tome Accord created a set of Academies, where survivors could be trained to face the rigours of a deeply changed world and keep the system running, available and synched up with other shards of the Tome.  Far from being system administrators, the graduates of the Tomekeeper Academies are combat trained, skilled in multiple trades, drilled in squad work and in NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) warfare survival.  Each graduate will have a slightly different mix of skills, but all are capable of independent and decisive action should it be required.  The graduates of the Academy then join the Tomekeeper Corps, and are subject to a quasi-military command structure that operates as a meritocracy.  Gifted individuals all find a niche in the command structure where they can do the most good (and least harm).  Less gifted TKC members fill roles not unlike those expected of non-commissioned officers or grunts in modern-day military organizations – clerks, foot soldiers, drivers, mechanics, cooks, and so on.  Each TKC member is oath-bound to protect, enrich and defend the Tome.

The TKC has, over a period of 20 years or so since Factor 46 day zero, come to also be a provider of emergency services, crime prevention and enforcement, medical facilities and transportation services.  The TKC is well loved by most citizens of Accord nations, but is potentially vulnerable in many ways to the foibles of human nature.  While it’s guiding principles are entirely altruistic, its day to day operations are governed and run by fallible human beings, whose altruism is not always as great as that of the visionaries who negotiated the Tome Accord.  This gives us some room to play with in creating complex and challenging story arcs for our characters, and vulnerabilities to be attacked and exploited by other factions within post-Factor 46 societies – namely, the Lorebinders and the Free Trade Alliance.  But more about those in future posts!


Welcome to the Corps!


Tomekeepers is a project that’s been kicking around the back of my head for a long time now – over a quarter of my life. I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and look to crowd-source funding for a low-budget (but professional) web-series which will hopefully kick towards the middle of this year.

The premise for the series is a zombie-free post-apocalytpic near future in which Earth’s major population centres have been ravaged by factor 46 – a highly contagious nanovirus deployed as a bio-weapon by Gaia-Dire – a radical environmental group. Factor 46 was originally developed as a toolset for activating normally dormant human DNA for the treatment of genetic diseases. However, the ecoterrorists introduced unstable RNA compounds as the genetic payload so now instead of healing humans, it causes random and usually fatal mutations. A number of small populations survived in large and highly travelled cities via innoculations with a factor 46 variant with a DNA stabilizing payload, but not before millions died. Those treated with the antidote have occasionally started to manifest unusual abilities.

Remnants of western civilization remain, mainly in geographically isolated cities that were able to establish quarantine protocols before factor 46 was unleashed on an unsuspecting population. Most of those populations are in remote areas such as Adelaide and Perth in Australia, the Scottish Isles, South-Western Africa, rarely visited islands in the Indonesian archipelago and places such as Austin, Texas, Phoenix Arizona and parts of Scandinavia and Russia that were far enough away from infected sites to be able to establish protocols to keep others out.

The narrative follows the paths of two young women who take very different paths through a world in which knowledge is the difference between death and survival. Ally is an athletic, mentally agile girl who joins the recently established Tomekeeper Corps after graduating from high school. She is emotionally resilient, strong-willed, protective of her friends and a highly resourceful individual. However, she has a blind-spot for deception and is led into dangerous situations by opponents who take advantage of her gullibility. Ally’s best friend Mary is a somewhat more bookish individual who outscores Ally in most academic pursuits, but lacks her friend’s athleticism and is prone to self-doubt and poor self-esteem. These qualities result in her rejection from the Tomekeeper Corps, and leave her adrift while Ally heads to the TK Academy. The paths of the girls will cross at times – and these will be opportunities to underscore the changes that each of them is undergoing as they journey towards adulthood. The series will culminate in a crisis in which both will be forced to recognize a devastating truth which will change their relationship for the worse, and have lasting consequences for those around them.

As a reference point – think of Fringe, Alias and BtVS mashed up in a post-apocalyptic milieu where information is currency, and knowledge is power.