Sunday, May 13, 2007

He Sells Sanctuary...(Part One)

Readers of Uninflected Images Juxtaposed, say hello to Damian Kindler - my old partner in crime from Psi Factor and Los Angeles days, here to talk about his new web-based sci fi series Sanctuary.

Set sometime in the future in a Sin City-like mash up of London, New York, and Gotham City, each webisode of Sanctuary follows the exploits of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) as she seeks out all manner of terrifying and monstrous creatures in order to either offer them 'sanctuary' from harm or to keep them from harming humankind. She is aided in her quest by her reluctant protege Will Zimmerman and her intrepid, if somewhat reckless, daughter Ashley. Together they are drawn into a frightening and mysterious world populated by beings that defy explanation.

Fusing vfx, videogame technology and cutting edge Web design, Sanctuary takes the viewer into a thrilling world where science meets the supernatural. This fictional online universe fills the void left by traditional network television by providing multiple HD resolutions, immersive interaction and direct communication between the viewer and the shows creative team.

The first of Sanctuary's eight 15-minute webisodes shot in HD and using an XSI pipeline will premiere May 14, 2007 over HERE.

Will: Wow, how you been....long time no see. I still tell stories of you wandering around the Psi Factor offices reenacting scenes from PREDATOR a la "If it bleeds, we can kill it" or "What's the matter, Dillon? The CIA got you pushing too many pencils?" What's the latest 'quotable' movie in your repertoire?

Damian: A municipal by-law enacted not long after I moved to Vancouver prevents me from loudly acting out superfast versions of 80’s action movies. That, and my wife will do that whole “withholding sex” thing again if I start up old habits. I’m telling you, dude, censorship is killing this country!

Will: Okay, let me get the music stuff out of the way - your fav concert list...

Damian: Where to start...Red Hot Chili Peppers - Mothers Milk tour, 1992 -- Masonic Temple - Toronto. Primus opened. Chili's melted the walls. I was wearing Doc Maarten boots. Life was good. John McGloughlin/Paco deLucia/Al Dimeola -- Massey Hall. Mid 90s. I don't remember anything specific. Just that I wasn't worthy to he hearing sounds from God so up close. Tragically Hip @ HOB Sunset Strip -- LA -- 2000. Six feet away from Downie. Old TO music scene pals Chris Browne and Kate Fenner backing them up. perfect set list. Every Canuck in LA was there -- people I knew from high school. A lifeline to home at a crucial time. UZEB -- Alfie's Pub - Queen's University - 1989 -- Maybe it was a 'shrooms in my system, but that show changed how I thought about music. Alain Caron is a living God among bassists.
The Police Picnic -- summer 1983 -- CNE - Toronto -- Blue Peter, King Sunny Ade, The Fixx, James Brown, Peter Tosh, The Police.... I was 14 years old. And it was general admission. A rite of passage.

More recently, Maceo Parker at the Commodore. The Godfather of Soul is Dead. Long Live the new King: Maceo. Beck - QET Vancouver. My alternate life dream jobs are to belong to Stomp or play in Beck's band. Super funky and extra tight. Ben Harper - Commodore. Seen him half a dozen times. Always awesome. Especially in a small venue. Tragically Hip @ Commodore -- seeing the Hip at the closest thing Canadians have to religious revival ecstasy. Gord Downie forgot the words to "Chagrin Falls" and asked the audience for help. The band rocked. And you remembered how nice it is live in Canada. Van Halen -- Pacific Coliseum - 2004 -- Damn they wrote some classic rock tunes! And I've stopped hating Sammy.

Worst? Had to be Rolling Stones at GM Place 2006. Oh god people, stop pretending you can even discern what fucking song the emaciated geriatrics are fumbling their way through inside this $200/seat echo chamber.

Will: "Pa-Na-Ma!" Most excellent list...seems everyone (but me) went to that Police Picnic. So Sanctuary - the series...when did you come up with the concept and what inspired it way back when?

Damian: I wrote the first hour WAY back when we were both in LA. Wonderful, labour-strife-ridden times that they were… I needed a sample that gave people a good example of my “voice” as a writer. Instead I wrote the kind of show I really wished was on TV. Something with the darkness of X Files and the fun of Buffy… but with some seriously historical roots.

I was inspired not just by the X files and Buffy VHS copies certain friends of mine had by the bushelful… but I was also quite taken with Alan Moore’s amazing graphic novel “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (The movie that came later… ehh, not so much). But the graphic novel was incredible. Also at the time (circa 2000) I was reading Caleb Carr’s wonderful novel “The Alienist”, which detailed the first profiler working in turn of the century New York. The tone of those two pieces really inspired me as I sat down to write the story of a neurotic shrink who is forced to work with his greatest childhood fear: Bigfoot. (You can see the immediate literary connective tissue, right?)

Will: The Alienist was indeed an awesome novel. So what did you write - bible and pilot? What elements made up your creative?

Damian: I banged out a draft of the first hour back in 2000 and showed it my agent. Even though it was basically the same draft we shot in 2007, at the time she wasn’t sure it worked and gave me a ton of notes. Being full of boundless misdirected energy, I did what all over-eager scribes do: I scrapped the first draft entirely and wrote a completely different version of the show. Very serious, action-oriented, huge stunts, VFX, very very Bruckheimer. And then I got mightily confused, because truthfully there were elements from the SECOND version I liked a lot (and still like), but the whole re-envisioning ended up being very unoriginal. Just another action/conspiracy theory type series. Nothing deep or mythological about it.

So at the end of the day I had two complete drafts of two completely different shows – both called Sanctuary. I think I had my agent show a few companies the first version then stuffed them in my hard drive and moved on.

Cut to 2006 and the Stargate cycle was coming to an end and people I’d been working with for five years started the usual chit chat about what we were all going to do next, how we need to keep the band together etc. And I showed Martin Wood (director/producer on both Stargate series) the original draft and he loved it. And that collided with this whole web revolution I got caught up in...think of me as Clive Owen in Children of Men, but shepherding an old spec script instead of a pregnant woman. (Okay that’s lame, but what an awesome movie…!)

Will: Most excellent analogy, my friend. Okay, without giving away the farm, what's it all about....and what happens on a week to week/episode to episode basis?

Damian: Each webisode of Sanctuary will feel like a large overblown “act” of a one hour series – but without the placeholder/stagewaiting filler, I hope. So each “hour” story is split into four webisodes. When we start broadcasting on TV, we’ll recut the hour down to 44 minutes, but the larger “director’s cut”, full on content will be on line in webisode form. And we’ll do other original content for the DVD release too. It’s a full on multi-format media push – which sounds cool to say, but honestly could mean anything…

Story-wise we’ll be doing a nice combo of “monster/ghoul/mutant of the week” combined with ongoing season long character and story arcs. And I’ll try to combine them so it’s not one then the other… but more of a mix during each hour – A and B stories, etc…

Will: "Monster of the week"...I love it. So has it evolved since you wrote it, as new partners/creatives have joined forces with you? Or you pretty much still 'da man'?

Damian: The original script is shockingly close to its form from seven years ago… I’m talking “Million Dollar Baby” close. In fact Martin Wood continually fought off MY efforts to cut or rewrite scenes. When I sat down to write the second hour (which we shot along with the first script in January), Martin was very involved in the shaping of the story. So much so that I gave him co-story on the entire two hours. He was very close to the material and very, very fun to work with. He loves the premise and is very proprietary and protective of it. (Holy crap, nice alliteration…Will, please revise for coherency)

So right now, yes I am, as far as “typing scripts” goes, “da man”. But once we are green lit for a full season (we’ll know by July), I will be hiring a staff.

Will: Director Martin Wood seems to be playing a fairly large role in the creative. Are you directing any of the series, or is that all Wood's turf? Does he tell you what to write? Or do you tell him what to shoot?

Damian: I have recurring nightmares in which I arrive at a shoot just before call and walk on set. Second team and the First A.D. gather around and ask where the camera goes for first shot. And then I wake up in a sweat.

Add the issue of set-less green screen situation and I wake up screaming.

So yeah one day I hope to grow balls big enough to direct. Right now I’m content to ask directors meekly what they intend to cover. And nod in agreement no matter what they say...

Will: Good answer, my son...good answer.

Okay - that's it for today. Thanks to Damian for playing along, and look for part two sometime tomorrow.


morjana said...

Thank you very much for the coverage on Sanctuary. Looking forward to the web series very much. Really enjoy reading background information on Damian and the series.

Best wishes.


spazzyd said...

I'm with Morjana on this one. Thank you very much for covering Damian Kindler's work on Sanctuary. I'm really excited about the new series as well.

Diane Kristine said...

Interesting, thanks Will. "When we start broadcasting on TV, we’ll recut the hour down to 44 minutes ... " I haven't been paying much attention (not much of a sci-fi geek) but that's the first I'd heard of it being on TV too. I thought it was strictly planned to be a web series, and wondered how that was going to recoup enough money to finance it. This makes the web and TV geek in me perk up.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

Nice interview, Will. I've been looking forward to the debut of Sanctuary for several months, now.


Bill Cunningham said...

Fusing vfx, videogame technology and cutting edge Web design...

What part of this is "videogame technology?"

wcdixon said...

I can't say for sure, Bill, but I know a game is part of the master plan...and one of the partners is from EA Games...and some of the animators are from gaming design backgrounds...and a lot of the transitions from set to set/scene to scene feel like they could be from a game... I dunno, maybe?