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Monday, October 3, 2011

Red Light Green Light

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So there I was, out and about, sitting on the edge of a dozen or so uncomfortable sofas in a dozen or so posh network and studio offices, pitching yet another crazy, freakish idea to men and women who vociferously preach the Gospel of Originality while worshipping at the Altar of Banality.

The response was a thunderous, enthusiastic and unqualified, “Huh?”

It wasn’t that they didn’t like BlackBxx as much as they couldn’t even comprehend it.  My lips were moving, words were spilling out and they seemed to be listening, but nothing was landing. 

Mind you, they didn’t admit that they didn’t get it—like you and me and everyone else, entertainment executives don’t like to appear stupid and will fake comprehension when necessary—but there were those unmistakable, nonverbal clues.  Some would seem to get it, but then ask a question that betrayed their utter mystification.  “So,” they’d ask, “what happens when nothing’s going on?”
If the room is empty, we’ll continue shooting it.

“Who in the world would want to watch an empty room?”
Almost no one.

“Almost no one?
There would be a few people who are patient and dogged enough to watch an empty room for hours on the off chance that something interesting might happen.

Because then they’d have bragging rights as the first person to find that moment.  It would be their discovery.  They could share it with their friends, post it, imbed it on their Facebook page…

“But they do have to watch the scenes in chronological order, right?”
Wrong.  They can watch them in any order that pleases them.
“But then they’ll be able to see the end!
Yes.  So What?

“So what’s the point of watching something if you know how it ends?”
To see everything that happens before the end.

I think you get the idea, although the above conversation is a greatest-hits compilation of half a dozen.  In real-life, things never got even remotely that far in depth.  Had my goal been to find a cure for entertainment executives who can’t get their eyes to glaze over, I couldn’t have been more successful.

Worse, I could not offer them—or any other potential investor, for that matter—the slightest scintilla of  proof that there would be an audience for it.  For I had sailed far into the vast, unexplored Sea of It’s-Never-Been-Done, and I had no model upon which I could extrapolate a return on investment.

Then I remembered my circle of net-savvy artists who had offered to help out if I could get the project green-lit.  And it occurred to me that if they might be willing to defer their salaries in exchange for a percentage of any profits (not Hollywood monkey-points, mind you, but a legitimate piece of the action), I might be able to finance the project myself. 

Damn, I thought, I don’t need them to give me a green light.  I can green-light my own ass!

There would be, of course, unavoidable hard-costs.  Actors would have to be paid, equipment would need to be purchased, sets would need to be built, a location would have to be rented and a website designed.  Nevertheless, with prudent oversight, some crowd-sourcing, and a sizeable personal investment (sizeable for me, less than a pittance by studio-standards) I could produce a version that would test the viability of BlackBxx and its potential to draw an audience.

I decided to begin with a story that didn’t require too many expensive elements, BlackBxx: HAUNTED, a supernatural thriller about a disastrous paranormal investigation.  The cast would be limited to seven characters, and the action would take place on location in a suburban home.  We would cover the entire drama with 16 fixed cameras.  Additional footage would be captured with two handhelds operated by the cast when and if it suited the story.

After rehearsals, we would place our cast inside the house, start the cameras, call action

… and 48 hours later, after the last scene was played, we would call cut.
In the meantime, the cast would be living their roles, playing scenes, performing tasks, reacting to supernatural events all over the house as defined in the script. Scenes and action would be occurring simultaneously within the various rooms.  The actors would eat, sleep and dream in character for the duration of the shoot.

So I founded a company, recruited my team, and began writing lots of checks.

Which brings me to the present, three weeks out from production, on a wing and a prayer and in the finest tradition of the American Entrepreneurial Spirit.  The elements are coming into place; the expenses, incurred and growing. 

If we succeed, a small group of artists will have invented nothing less than an entirely new form of entertainment.  We’ll be able to go on to produce additional BlackBxx projects, each more complex and ambitious than the last.

If we fail, it will be written off as a harebrained experiment by the miserable few who see it. 

Oh, yeah.  And my wife?  She’ll murder me.

Hopefully, Kickstarter will accept this project and I will be able to crowd-source it to offset some of the costs.  If so, your contributions will earn you a boatload of cool rewards (one of which will be a personal visit to your home to watch your favorite episode of CARNIVÁLE with you and your friends).

I’ll be counting on you guys and other fans and friends of CARNIVÁLE to help pitch in and make this thing happen. 

If you choose not to, however, remember that my blood will be on your hands.

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