AIDAN 5: Between SF, Film Noir And Pencils – An Interview With Ben Bays


»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.

Logo AIDAN 5

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! :)



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AIDAN 5‑Website:

Room 101 Productions


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AutorIn: Stefan Holzhauer

Meist harm­lo­ser Nerd mit natür­li­cher Affi­ni­tät zu Pixeln, Bytes, Buch­sta­ben und Zahn­rä­dern. Kon­su­miert zuviel SF und Fan­ta­sy und schreibt seit 1999 online darüber.

2 Kommentare for “AIDAN 5: Between SF, Film Noir And Pencils – An Interview With Ben Bays”

Ruke Fernedis


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