Hello my online friends. It’s time again for a journey into… The IndieNet and Beyond! News and web series episodes, plus this time I chat with Josh Bernhard, writer and co-creator of the science fiction web series Pioneer One.
Josh Bernhard is a a 26-year-old filmmaker from New York who has always had an interest in film and television production. But breaking into television, much less getting a greenlight for your own TV series, is a dream few see come true. So when Bernhard hit upon a series concept that struck a creative cord, he and co-creator/director Bracey Smith decided to seek funding from viewers on the Internet to make the series a reality. Their fundraising approach combined with a peer-to-peer release method has been a great success.
Pioneer One has an intriguing plot that is as much West Wing as it is X-Files. “Everything begins when an old Soviet space capsule falls out of the sky and a man is found inside,” Bernhard said, describing the series premise. “A man who claims to have been born on Mars to two Soviet cosmonauts in the 1980s. And the series deals with the political and social fallout of that, whether it’s true or not.”
U.S. Homeland Security agents scoop up the “cosmonaut” and try to figure out the truth of his origin and what it all could mean. But trying to keep things secret and navigating the political fallout turns out to be a big challenge. There is plenty of hard science fiction to keep a scifi fan intrigued, but even more drama to keep non-scifi fans interested.
Bernhard said he had a hard time figuring out where the concept came from, that is “until a friend pointed out that I’ve always had an interest in both the space program and Cold War history. Stir and serve over ice.”
That isn’t to say he wasn’t influenced by other shows.
“I would say The West Wing was a big influence, and there’s a definite attempt to evoke that on the production end. But also in the way that West Wing looked for the drama in the details and telling those stories— that’s what we’re trying to do here. And I think that will become clearer as the show goes on,” explained Bernhard. “While I certainly watched both The X-Files and 24, those weren’t direct influences. I see where those comparisons are coming from, but I think once the season is finished, people will start to see the show in a different light. And there’s probably a healthy dose of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica and J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5. How exactly I can’t say but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, because I love both of those shows to death!”
When you hear the words peer-to-peer or torrent you probably think of pirates. (Not the Johnny Depp ‘arrr’ pirates, but the online variety.) But not everything on BitTorrent is pirated; some of it is released by the creators themselves. Pioneer One teamed up with VODO to release the series using peer-to-peer.
“We got involved with VODO when they had seen the movie I had made, The Lionshare, and approached me about releasing it through their network. Since the movie was already out for free and was tangentially about sharing media through BitTorrent, it seemed like a good idea. And up until that point, Lionshare was their most successful release. That’s when I started thinking that it might be a good way to put out a series.”
“VODO and distribution using BitTorrent because it seemed like the best way to reach a mass audience with our resources. It was also a way to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. We couldn’t just slap it up on YouTube and expect it to go viral. Especially because we break the two cardinal rules of media on the web: make it short, and make it funny! (While I try to inject as much humor as possible into the show, I don’t think anyone would call it a ‘comedy’, do you?)”
Pioneer One episodes run 30 minutes or more, which is unusual for a web series, but seems to be working well for them. BitTorrent is a four letter word for many filmmakers, but the approach helped this web series: within two weeks of its release, the pilot was downloaded nearly half a million times and, soon after, was able to raise $30,000 to film episodes 2, 3, and 4.
BitTorrent turned out to be a useful tool for getting more exposure for these indie filmmakers.
“There was also this idea that I had that by putting our show out through BitTorrent, a protocol which, let’s face it, is very popular among ‘pirates’, that we’d have a chance to level the playing field a little,” explained Bernhard. “By which I mean we’d be listed alongside the latest episodes of Lost and House and there’d be no way to tell what was so-called ‘real’ TV versus..well, us!”
I always try to ask every web series creator I talk to what kind of advice they would like to give filmmakers thinking about making their web series. Bernhard had some simple but very important advice to give.
“It seems obvious but the best advice I can give is to just go out and do something. Don’t wait. Don’t make excuses. Don’t wait ’til you’re ‘ready,’ because you’ll never feel like you’re ready. And it took me a long time to realize what that actually meant,” said Bernhard.
Episode four was recently released and season one will have a total of 6 episodes. They started filming the last two episodes on May 5th. But they could use more donations to help cover the costs for those last two episodes.
“We’re covering a lot of our expenses with credit cards so we’re relying on people’s donations to make them happen! We have several seasons worth of show planned out. Once season one is finished, we’ll see what transpires to allow us to continue. We believe in this show and doing this work because we love it, and I hope that people will receive it in the same way! ”
So, if the show sounds interesting to you, please check out the first two episodes below. And if you enjoy them, please consider donating. We always complain about our favorite shows getting canceled, but this is one show you don’t have to have a Nielsen ratings box to help keep on the air.
Attack Of The Trailers!
Here are few trailers for web original series that caught my eye.
El Porvenir – Trailer
Here is an interesting looking new Mexican horror web series. I wonder if there is a version with subtitles out there?
I know next to nothing about this, except it is made by young filmmakers who were winners of the YouTube NextUp contest. Each of the winning creators of that contest received $35,000 to help fund future video productions and attended a 4-day YouTube Creator Camp in New York City.
Reality On Demand – Teaser Trailer 2
Have I tired you out yet with all of my coverage on my web series Reality On Demand? It is the super awesome scifi-fantasy-virtual reality-action-adventure-comedy about four strangers stuck in a virtual reality world that traps them in their favorite shows. But fun turns into danger and you’ll see more when we premiere season one. We are nearing the season’s completion and it has been an adventure. There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Check out the new teaser trailer if you would be so kind.
2012 – Teaser
A teaser for an upcoming scifi series.
What I’m Watching… Are You?
I’ve been scouring the web in search for new web series episodes to watch and share with you. Enjoy!
Aidan 5 – Episode 6: Off The Tracks
Cops, clones, and conspiracy make for an interesting scifi series called Aidan 5. Check out episode 6.
Big Chew – Episode 1
Big Chew is a Film Noir Puppet Show, yes you read that correctly, starring Felicia Day (The Guild, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Sandeep Parikh (The Guild, Legend of Neil), Jeff B. Davis, Greg Tuculescu, Scott Chernoff (Legend of Neil).
Black Box TV: TheDeadVlogs_02_Jenna
Black Box TV gets interactive with this story where your votes decide the outcome.
Blood and Bone China – Chapter 6 – “The Sword of Silver”
The sixth episode of Blood and Bone China. A 12-part Victorian vampire web series, filmed and set in Stoke-on-Trent.
Mind’s Eye – Episode 19 – “Boiling Point”
More episodes of the family-friendly fantasy series Mind’s Eye.
“Mark and Elyssa’s frustrations reaches a breaking point, so Elyssa decides to discuss the future with Dolgrath’s friend.”
Mind’s Eye – Episode 20 – “Imprisoned”
“Elyssa finds that she can’t keep a promise and ends up trapped by Dolgrath. Meanwhile, a world away, Illia faces his own trials as he’s trapped in a dream that must end.”
Mortal Kombat: Legacy – Episode 3 – “Johnny Cage”
We meet Johnny Cage and Shang Tsung.
“After unsuccessfully trying to sell his reality television pilot pitch to a studio exec, Johnny Cage, an American action-hero movie star who has fallen on hard times, is recruited by Shang Tsung, a powerful sorcerer who has the power to suck souls from people, to fight in the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament.”
Mortal Kombat: Legacy – Episode 4 – “Kitana & Mileena (Part 1)”
We learn more about the mythology of Mortal Kombat with the introduction of Kitana & Mileena.
“Beautiful, athletic, and trained as highly skilled assassins, Kitana and Mileena have grown up thinking that they are sisters. Shao Kahn, Emperor of the Outworld, has tricked Shang Tsung into becoming his servant for Mortal Kombat by making him clone Mileena as a Tarkatan clone of Kitana, out of Shao Kahn’s fear that Kitana wouldn’t love him enough if she ever found out the truth about her Mother and Father.”
Vampire Zombie Werewolf – Video Extra – The “Greatest” Story Ever Told: An Easter Short
Sadly Vampire Zombie Werewolf ended with episode 9, but the fun folks at KATR pictures gave us a little Easter gift with a short holiday video extra.
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.
You can follow me on Twitter @MrMarx
Follow ScifiPulse on Twitter @SciFiPulse
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. He is currently in production of his scifi web series Reality On Demand.