»But ultimately I think that entertainment is still the same as it was 100 years ago: audiences want to hear a good story told well. And as long as the Earth keeps spinning, people like me will tune in to watch those well-told stories regardless of what delivery platform they arrive on. The web just made it convenient for more people to get in the game.«
A short time ago I ran across something in the vast spaces of the WWW that is called AIDAN 5, it is one of the webseries that are popping up all over the internet. What makes it special: it is based on a shortfilm of the same name that won a contest – plus it is created as live action combined with pencil-drawn scenery. AIDAN 5 is pure science fiction but also has a healthy dose of film noir.
For me as an old fan of SF who also likes the classic masters of suspense and crime Hammett and Chandler this is quite something and so it was only normal to send a mail with a bunch of questions to the United States. You will find the answers in this article.
PhantaNews: The most important question first: in short words (we’ll elaborate later) – what is AIDAN5?
Ben Bays: Aidan 5 is a futuristic sci-fi/ film noir web series about a detective who has to solve the mystery behind the serial killings of his own clones. It’s unique style is done with live action photography and illustrated environments.
And the second is of course: who is it who answers my nosey questions? :)
Ben Bays, Executive Producer & Writer.
Who is the main team behind the webseries? Is it the same that made the shortfilm?
Aidan 5 was created by John Jackson and Tim Baldwin for the 48-hour film contest and the overall style was illustrated by Ben Brown. I got involved with turning it into a web series because I saw what they had done in just 48 hours and was totally blown away. Most of the same cast and crew are now involved in the series, but we have also brought on board many new talented individuals as well.
What inspired you? To me it seems I see hints of pulp, film noir and – of course – comic?
Johnny has always been a fan of those genres, specifically the old Republic serials, the golden age of comics and of course, black and white film noir. (He mentions Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon as his prime example.)
He grew up watching a lot of those older classics exposing him to the art of film, but what really fueled his imagination were films such as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Close in Encounters, E.T. and Blade Runner. Movies with visual spectacle, great characters and wonderfully imaginative stories, many of which were originally inspired from those earlier classics.
Why combine the film noir-setting with science fiction? How did you come up with the idea?
Part of the 48-hour contest requires the filmmakers to draw a genre at random out of a hat. Tim and Johnny received sci-fi and they immediately began writing the script that night.
Johnny knew he was going to shoot everything on green screen and he also knew he wanted to stay away from aliens, ray guns and spaceships.
Looking to do something a little more grounded, they eventually settled on the idea of cloning told through a gritty noir crime drama. But I think Johnny’s notion of fashioning the backgrounds with crude pencil sketched drawings is what really made it stand out above the rest of the films in the contest.
The amalgamation of live-action and pencil-painted scenery is a very nice idea – and the resulting effect is stylish and quite stunning. How did you come up with that?
Johnny was worried about doing a film in 48 hours and not being able to find suitable locations that fit their unknown genre, so he decided in advance to film everything on green screen and draw his locations in post. So really it was a style born out of the need to solve a problem.
Ben Brown, one of his co-workers, is an accomplished illustrator/After Effects artist and Johnny knew that Ben could seamlessly blend the world together while matching his live action photography. Then, they could be free to write and shoot anything they wanted, making the world fit whatever genre they were given. When Johnny learned they were going to be doing sci-fi, he felt it was serendipitous because combining that genre with their stylistic choice seemed to serve the story very well.
How difficult was/is it to do the webseries? How long was it in the making and what budget are you working on? And how many people are involved in creating the episodes?
Adapting the short into a series was much more difficult than we originally anticipated. We thought we would build it on the 48-hour model and crank out the episodes in record time, but we were overly ambitious during the script writing phase and it ended up taking us quite a bit longer. All together, from concept to completion, season one took over 50 people and 2 and a half years to complete. And it was made completely without any budget in our spare time.
Was it a problem to put a team together or were people rampaging your studio doors yelling »Me! Me!«? :) Or do you do such things regularly anyway?
We had a pretty good turnout of volunteers who were familiar with the success of the original short. I think they genuinely liked the concept and responded to it in the same way that I did. It has been a challenge to keep the output at a consistent and sustainable level during the past two years, especially since everyone is working on this for free in their spare time. But we’re used to working on low budget projects and we just keep plugging along with whoever is willing to throw their hat in the ring with us.
How was it done? Could you expand a little on the tech and equipment you use to create the episodes? I guess it’s mostly greenscreen and chroma-keying? What software was used for editing?
We shot all of the live action elements on green screen (wherever we could find someone to let us use their space – sometimes in Johnny’s garage) and filmed the entire series using two Panasonic HVX-200s. We then edited with Avid Media Composer and did all of the compositing in Adobe After Effects.
How long is the average time it takes to create an episode? Do you do this full time or as a hobby? How are you funded?
I’d say, on average it takes about 1–2 months to complete an episode. – Although it’s hard for us to say since we have many different people working on multiple episodes at a time with schedules often overlapping. – Aidan 5 isn’t set up like a traditional production workflow, it’s very much the garage band of filmmaking.
We certainly wish we could be doing this full time, but we all have to work around our day jobs and families while finding time for Aidan 5 on nights and weekends. That being said, we certainly don’t think of this as a hobby. The entire team is made up of creative professionals working in the industry and Aidan 5 was simply a way for us to make the kind of project we always wanted.
Aidan 5 currently has no funding, so if you happen to know of anyone, give me a call. ;-)
How are the responses and reviews by the unforgiving web-crowd so far?
So far, the response has been very positive. We seem to have struck a cord with our audience and while there can certainly be a bit of trepidation putting your baby out there for all the world to see, we’ve also discovered that the web-crowd is an amazingly talented and creative community that are all in the same boat as we are. – Trying to create something with little or no resources. It’s been eye-opening and very rewarding.
There are 15 webisodes planned for the first season of AIDAN5. Will there be a second season after that or are you planning something different? Are there parallel projects? Or already too tired to do more of this? :)
Yes, there are two additional seasons planned after this one. In fact, we specifically wrote our story to span three seasons. We hope that the response and viewership becomes large enough to allow us to make seasons 2 and 3 and finish the story. While we are proud of the volunteers who have helped us thus far, it would be very difficult to do this again without some kind of funding. – Otherwise all of our spouses and children will disown us. :-)
At what rate will the episodes be released?
Every other Friday.
Webseries and webisodes have quite an impact at the moment and are sprouting all over the web. Do you think they are here to stay or just a temporary phenomenon? Are they the future of entertainment or just one more way to entertain? :)
That’s a great question and I think only time will tell on this one. I do think web series are here to stay, and they’re becoming more sophisticated every day. Mainstream web TV for your living room is definitely coming (actually it’s already here) and I think it’s not completely outlandish to think that the old broadcast model could eventually go away.
But ultimately I think that entertainment is still the same as it was 100 years ago: audiences want to hear a good story told well. And as long as the Earth keeps spinning, people like me will tune in to watch those well-told stories regardless of what delivery platform they arrive on. The web just made it convenient for more people to get in the game.
Thank you for your time, now you have the unique chance to say something of grave importance to our readers… :)
ummm… watch Aidan 5 and share it with your friends! :)
AIDAN 5‑Website: www.aidan5.com
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