Tuesday, 23 February 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Meeting with Alan Robinson and State of Affairs (23/2/2016)

Today, after over half a year of emails, chase ups and general finger crossing, I was finally able to meet creative head honcho Alan from DotToDot Productions to discuss Very Strange Things. We met up at Turnham Green and over a drink at a local pub, discussed the project (albeit based on an older version of the pilot, from the Town era, and series bible) and its viability. Rather than beefy paragraphs, I'll nice and easily break down the key points, pros and cons of V.S.T. in his eyes and what the future will hold.

So first, his positives:
  1. Loved the pilot's writing, citing it as exciting, filled with plenty of description that would suit animation, funny and certainly distinct in the present market. Thought our leads were fun to be around and liked the ambition of the piece.
  2. Liked the episode variety and general writing of the series bible, feeling it gave a good all around look on the series and what it had to offer.
  3. Admired the thematic ambition of the show, being able to walk the line between fun adventure and something more emotional and grounded.
And now, the drawbacks:
  1. Its arc heavy nature put it at a disadvantage in the current animation market. Broadcasters prefer more standalone material that is easier to syndicate and schedule without worries for continuity. The sudden shift mid series towards historicals as well as the multi-parters would present a problem to this.
  2. Expense: A low budget animated series is about £3 million. Very Strange Things, as a generous estimate, needs at least £7 million to get off the ground, and broadcasters will only provide about £1.5 million of the total finance, if that.
  3. Felt the art style of the concept art was a little too much like manga and needed to be more unique.
  4. Felt perhaps the episode count (12 then, 18 now) was a little insubstantial and would compound the first issue, exacerbated by the multi-parters limiting potential stories.
From that, Alan proposed a couple of possible ideas of where to take the series:
  1. Keep on pitching to production companies, albeit with a low potential success rate given the obstacles. Look into more streaming services where concerns about broadcast schedule are all but non-existent.
  2. Turn it into a webseries, thereby retaining creative control and building an early fanbase.
  3. Turn it into a series of novels, thereby also retaining creative control and building both a fanbase and clout for the series to then be adapted back into animation.
Oh sure, it's disappointing that this wasn't a green light, but regardless, this was still a very informative and interesting engagement and it helped me get a real sense of what I was going up against from someone who lives and works right in the thick of it. The challenge and expense, though I anticipated some kind, is perhaps a little higher than I had assumed. Naturally, I will be taking onboard Alan's pointers, even if some have been addressed in subsequent rewrites when Town became Time.

That being said, the decision to adapt V.S.T. into alternate mediums, while up for consideration, is one I will not make lightly and until I feel I have exhausted all other resources. I feel very strongly V.S.T. belongs on screens and while it will be very hard,I'm afraid of the challenge ahead of me.

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