It’s time for another fun visit to “The IndieNet and Beyond.” We have more news and the newest web series episodes, plus an interview with Dan Williams, the creator/writer/producer of the new web series Asylum. A procedural, with elements of scifi and mystery. The series premiered December 10th, 2010.
“Asylum is an all new dramatic series that takes place at a hospital for the criminally insane. This is a place where really the most difficult cases in the state go to and because of that the doctors are really left on their own to do what they want and have sort of unorthodox methods of treating the patients,” explained Williams. “When we start off the series, there has been an outbreak of violence at the hospital. So that has caused an officer from the Department of Mental Health to be sent there to check things out and see what is going on. We follow him as he does some digging to find out what is going on in this hospital.”
The series looks very professional and you could probably stick it up on a TV and easily convince someone they are watching a show on ABC or FOX (but then you would fear for its inevitable cancellation by FOX). This creepy series has a sort of X-Files feel and Williams admits he was influenced by that particular cult favorite when it came to the structure of the series.
“I’m a huge X-Files fan. It was one of my favorite shows growing up. We definitely tried to embody that model that the episodes stand alone in that we meet a patient, we figure out what is wrong with them and we see them try to treat that patient. But there is also this overarching mythology throughout this whole series: about the hospital, about the doctors, and about some secrets they’re keeping,” said Williams.
“I was sort of thinking about shows I enjoyed, X-Files and House. I came across this book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Dr. Oliver Sacks, about this doctor who was working on mental illnesses for many decades and compiled rare cases he has come across his many of years of being a doctor,” explained Williams. “It sort of fascinated me—all of these different permutations that can go on in the human mind. Slight glitches that can happen to anybody. What it takes to deal with that, and if things are treatable, and what constitutes making someone better. If you decrease their violent tendencies, but they are completely docile and out of it, have you made them better necessarily?”
Williams insists there aren’t any made-up scifi-ish mental illnesses added to just snazz up the stories.
“You don’t really have to make any of this stuff up. The truth is really stranger than fiction,” said Williams. In the first season we are introduced to three patients with different and very strange mental illnesses. “We do take some liberties in the series in terms of dramatic storytelling and sense of heightened reality. But when it comes to the patients and the mental illnesses, I really did try my best to be as honest with those as possible. So the symptoms that people display on the show are real symptoms for real diseases and the methods they discuss and follow through with are actually things done today.”
It is an interesting concept that is well executed, but why a web series? Why not a feature length film?
“I felt like the concept most appealed to me as a serial. Which is why I wanted to go either web series or television versus a feature film. I felt like there are so many stories to tell with different patients and the doctors. I felt it was right for many episodes of a series. And independent television really appealed to me. That is sort of how I look at a web series. It is the indie format for traditional television. More and more people, myself included, watching the TV shows I like online. I feel like I watch more shows on Hulu or whatnot than my actual television. There is definitely an audience of people that will watch shows on the Internet.”
Williams feels the Internet has been a great advancement for independent productions, “And what is great about doing it independently is that we really could tell the story we wanted to tell. We didn’t have any studio giving us notes. We didn’t have sponsors or product placement we had to work into the story. We could do our thing. What is great about the Internet now is that you can put it online and anyone can watch it anywhere in the world. There is just this fantastic free methods of distribution which is something independent filmmakers haven’t really had until very recently.”
Williams is no stranger to TV. A graduate of the University of Southern California screenwriting program, he has worked four years in feature film and television development, learning as he goes and assisting at places like ABC Studios. Now he has gotten his chance to make his own “TV series” by making Asylum. Williams teamed up with director Scott Brown, who created/directed the comedy Blue Movies, and they teamed up with a number of other up-and-comer talents.
“Scott Brown is a great friend of mine. We met actually at USC our freshmen year. We have worked together a lot in the past. He had just come off directing/writing/creating a web comedy called Blue Movies. He had a lot of success with that. He is always looking for something new to do. After coming off of comedy he was really wanting to do something dramatic. We got together and I said I have this script. We got a couple of other producers together and started developing it,” said Williams.
Asylum also has an all original score by composer Rotem Moav.
“He’s an up-and-comer in his field. He is phenomenally talented,” said Williams. They recorded the score with a string quartet and even an opera signer.
The series was shot with the digital RED One camera, which captures 35mm film quality images. Add the talent with the gear, all that is left is finding a great location… The setting of the series is St. Dympna Hospital for the Criminally Insane, which was filmed on location at a real hospital. The Linda Vista Hospital, an abandoned hospital in East Los Angeles, has been closed since the early 90’s. “It’s old and has this really cool art deco style. It was kinda creepy. Whoever owned the hospital, whenever they closed the doors just left all this equipment sort of just laying around there. That show on, is it the Travel Channel, Ghost Adventures, actually shot an episode at that hospital right before we got in there. It was sort of weird. Right after we locked the location I saw the preview for the episode on television. It definitely just added to the creepy vibe that we were kind of going for.”
What advice does Williams give to other future web series creators?
“Figure out exactly what your show is. That helped us a lot moving forward, we were able to explain quickly to people what the show was. And have fun with it. It is a very stressful process. What is great about the web is it is a very collaborative space,” answered Williams.
As for what not to do?
“I don’t feel like anyone really knows exactly what to do in this space. There hasn’t been any home-run, knock your socks off, super successful web only series out there. So I kinda don’t want to tell anyone not to try anything, because I feel like that is what this format should be… it’s independent serialized filmmaking. Have fun with it and experiment. Don’t get discouraged,” said Williams.
Season one will have six episodes. Below are the first two episodes.
Marvin Ulrich: Part 1
Marvin Ulrich: Part 2
A new Conan web series is in the works. Age of Conan: Hyboria! is being developed by Paradox Entertainment (the company that holds the trademark to Conan the Barbarian), Funcom (the video game publisher of the MMORPG Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures), and a few of the comedy writers from Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken. The machinima comedy will use in-game characters and environments from the Hyborian Adventures video game, similar to the machinima hit Red vs. Blue.
Speaking of Conan… or should I say Conan O’Brien. The LXD performed on his show recently.
What I’m Watching… Are You?
Bite Me – Episode 2 “Dead Guy Rising” and Episode 3 “Craigslist Guy”
Three gamers, one zombie outbreak. A new zombie comedy web series that launched December 1st and has jumped quickly in views, with nearly 3 million so far. Warning, it is a little on the NSFW side.
Death Battle! – Boba Fett vs Samus Aran Battle to the Death!
Revision3 has launched this new web series. It is sort of like Deadliest Warrior, but with a much more scifi flavor to it. An all out battle to death between two or more characters from pop culture.
GOLD: Night of the Zombie King
I’ve played my fair share of RPGs, so I’m happy to see the RPG comedy GOLD return to the web with new stories. But this time we see the more serious side of the GOLD world.
The LXD – Season 2: Episode 8 “Experiments”
More Dark Doctor.
Mind’s Eye – Episode 3 “Running Wild”
Patrick and Koji play a game of hide and seek in search of their missing friend. But they soon realize they’re the ones who should be hiding.
Suck and Moan – Episode 8 “Breaking And Entering”
Do vampires really need permission to enter a home?
That’s A Wrap
Got a web series, web comic, web… whatever, then I want to know about it. Contact me at: [email protected]
That’s a wrap for now. Take care friends. Until next time… Marx out.
Marx H. Pyle is a writer, martial artist and American independent filmmaker. A graduate of Vancouver Film School, he has worked on a number of projects including the short film he wrote and directed, Silence of the Belle.