Saturday, January 24, 2009

Re-Introducing THB

So, what is THB?

Well, since I first created The House Between, my independent web sci-fi/horror/drama in 2006, this blog has grown in size, scope and readership by a nearly astronomical amount. (Sometimes, even I can't believe it...) Considering this rapid growth, I've been feeling that many of the newer readers here may not be familiar with The House Between, how it was created or even what it's about. The third season of the series starts web casting next week, so I thought this would be an opportune time to re-introduce the series to everyone who wonders what the hell I'm writing about when I discuss The House Between.

Basically, in 2006, I was looking at the potential of independent web video, and wondering what I could do to put my own individual stamp on the new, growing format. What I appreciate about web video is that you can watch it any time, distribution is free, and there is no censorship regarding creative content assuming no X-rated material.

Now, I don't have deep pockets. I live on a writer's salary and royalties from my 20-plus books. That's it. And I don't have a surfeit of time, either. I blog, and I usually write two or three books a year, to feed the Muir Machine. So the series would have to be done cheaply and quickly.

So The House Between is a series predicated on these (admittedly insane...) production principles:

1. We would shoot seven half-hour episodes (a "season") in seven days. That means one episode of 30 pages (or more) a day. This means 16 - 20 hour days.

2. The cost of each episode (including feeding all sixteen people in the cast and crew) would not exceed $700.00 a piece. Like I said, no deep pockets here. I don't live in Hollywood. Far from it.

3. We would create human characters, and craft an interconnected, consistent mythos; one in which there would be mysteries...and answers. And you wouldn't have to wait six years for those answers. One my cast members called this creed "Fuck Lost."

4. I would write the majority of the episodes, direct the majority of episodes, create all the special effects myself, and edit the entire series myself. Why? Well let's put it this way: I have spent my life studying, interpreting and critiquing film and television. I felt I would emerge from The House Between experience a more effective film scholar -- on all fronts -- if I had some basic experience in those vocations (film editing, sound mixing, directing, writing, visual effects, even acting). So it was growth experience for me as a writer and film critic.


That was the plan, which I describe now as context, not apology. Today, we've created twenty episodes of The House Between, comprising three seasons or "movements." In my opinion, some episodes have been great; some not so much. The earliest episodes reveal diffident camera moves (on my part), and frankly, the sound is terrible at first. Both of those aspects improve as the series continues.. You can see "growth" happening before your eyes...if you're patient.

So basically, as a lead-up to the third season premiere (this Friday, the 30th), I will be re-running the entire series on the blog this week. Just links. Three episodes a day. That doesn't mean I won't be blogging other things at the same time. I'm nothing if not ambitious.

I fully realize some readers may have no interest in my independent, low-budget effort. But I wanted to put it in front of your eyes again, in case you might like it, and would appreciate a chance to "catch up" before the story resumes.

I can promise you this simple thing: if you watch the first three episodes with a patient and perhaps merciful eye (and an understanding of how quickly, how cheaply, and how far from Hollywood these things were produced...), you will find yourself...hooked. The performances are full of heart, and the story - if I may say so - is involving. You'll want to see what happens next. So if you have the time, the will, and perhaps a finely-developed sense of, well, forgiveness, you might see something here you like. Something rough. But something ultimately worthwhile...and addictive.

You don't have to take my word for it, though. Here's what some critics and viewers have written about The House Between:

"In the tradition of the original Twilight Zone and early Doctor Who...a series that succeeds on the strength of the writing and the characters." (Destinies, The Voice of Science Fiction)

"...One such diamond in the rough is "The House Between," a web series that has a small budget, but a big heart...If you are looking for a well-written science fiction series that has mystery, humor and a touch of horror then you have to check out "The House Between." Warning: The budget is low, but your love of the series will be high." (
Sy Fy Portal)

"The House Between is a supernatural/science-fiction mystery serial produced for online viewing. It’s an amateur production that has been so successful that I believe it’s been nominated for a genre award or two in the past, and is now in its third season. I only recently discovered the show and have noticed the rapid improvement of acting and production quality as the series progresses. It’s a low-budget labour of love, but a well written thriller about five strangers who wake up inside an inescapable house “at the end of the universe”. Outside, it’s pitch black – a “null” universe with no stars… yet something violent is trying to get in." (
NeuRODic Notions, 2008)

"Five strangers are brought to the "house at the end of the universe" in The House Between, an internet original science-fiction series. Created by pop-culture scholar John Kenneth Muir, the House Between is to Big Brother what Lost is to Survivor...Arrived is the first episode, and you can tell Muir is a pop culture kind of guy who has seen oodles of television: it's a by the book pilot, but in a good way." (
Bookworm and Beyond, 2007)

Joe Maddrey, our series producer (and the writer and producer of the upcoming horror documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue), wrote a great post in 2007 about how The House Between was accomplished; about how we did it:

"...A six-member cast and an eight-member crew converged on Charlotte, North Carolina, in June 2006. For the next week, we would be trapped in an empty house with blacked-out windows, completely oblivious to the “real” world. It was like being thrown into a dream reality, with a very sobering mission: We had seven days to shoot seven (dialogue-heavy) episodes. No easy task. I appointed myself task-master.

From day one, I was amazed by the talent and dedication of everyone involved. It was as if every single person there had been waiting for an opportunity like this, and when the cameras started rolling, they all became consummate – and passionate – professionals. Somehow, John must have known that it would happen like this. The actors learned their lines on the spot. The crew knew exactly how to get around any problem that presented itself. As on any good production, the team simply gelled.

The project quickly became a collaborative effort that relied on everyone there for its continued success. There were times when the production seemed like a house of cards. If any single member of the team hadn’t been fully engaged, the whole thing would have come crashing down. But everyone we needed was there, and giving 110%. By the second day, we were moving forward at full speed. By the fourth day, we were circumventing production problems with relative ease. (Many of the problems stemmed from our lighting equipment, which didn’t weather the 16-hour shoot days quite as well as the actors and crew). By the fifth day, everyone was comfortable enough for wild improvisation – making for a great episode that renewed everyone’s energy for the home stretch. (Truth be told: The lack of sleep was starting to make us all a little loopy.) By the seventh day, our nerves were frayed… but everyone maintained an air of professionalism, and we managed to get the last show in the can just before a summer storm swept into Charlotte, and provided us with some great moody exterior shots."


On the eve of the third season, all I can say is that The House Between has been a hell of a ride. From the legendary initial discussion thread on Sy Fy Portal (which is the second-largest thread in site's impressive 10 year history, I believe), to the Genre Award nomination for "Best Web Production" (we lost to the big budget Star Trek: Of Gods and Men starring original series cast members by less than 100 votes...), it's been nothing short of magical.

So below, you will find the links for the first three episodes. You'll have to install the Veoh player...and I know that's asking a lot. But the house at the end of the universe awaits the curious.

So, here are the opening episodes of The House Between:

1. "Arrived"

2. "Settled"

3. "Positioned"

Tomorrow, links to episodes 4 through 6.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds absolutely fascinating John, consider me a new viewer. I am enjoying something of an Independent Horror phase at the moment, to be truthful, shunning much of the mainstream in favour of it. I will bring this to the attention of my chus at TIWWA also. Just off to enjoy the first three.

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  2. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for giving the show to a try.

    Even if it isn't to your taste, I appreciate it, man.

    Hope you like it!

    best
    JKM

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