Showing posts with label The House Between. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The House Between. Show all posts

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The IndieNet and Beyond Enters The House Between...


Long-time readers of this blog will recall that in 2006, I created (and self-financed...) an independent, sci-fi web series called The House Between (2007 - 2009) that eventually went on to be nominated twice (in 2008 and 2009) as "Best Web Production" at Sy Fy Portal/Airlock Alpha.

The crazy idea was to shoot seven half-hour episodes (25 - 30 minutes each in length) in seven days, on a budget of seven hundred dollars an episode. Most of the budget actually went to equipment and catering.

With a stellar group of actors and crew members (including Nightmares in Red, White and Blue writer and producer, Joseph Maddrey and composer Mateo Latosa, editor-in-chief of Powys Media), we eventually created twenty-one episodes (and three seasons) in this fashion.  It was a tremendous amount of fun, and a happy collaboration overall.  Working with that talented cast and crew has been one of the highlights of my writing career, and I was also gratified that the show quickly developed a devoted fan base.

Since the series folded in 2009, I've been working on re-editing the entire series for a DVD release in 2011, upgrading effects and fixing some stuff that we didn't get right the first time around; particularly matters of editing and pacing.

Now, journalist and filmmaker Marx Pyle (Silence of the Belle) -- who covered The House Between during its original Internet run -- has posted a new retrospective of the web series for his IndieNet column/blog at Sci-Fi Pulse.   

Marx interviewed me for the piece, which discusses the creation of The House Between, and the success/failure of the web series environment/platform today.  This written piece will be augmented by an audio interview with me, to be available soon.


“We shot this in black and white so we could do all these sort of things with shadows and silhouettes. I remember one of the things I told my cinematographer starting right off. ‘We have no props so lights and the shots sort of have to create the props.’ The shadows almost become the props,” Muir continued. “One of the great things about black and white is that it hides the seams. We’re dealing with very low budget. The budget for the show was like $700 including the catering. But also the look I was going for with the show, I wanted to do something along the lines of The Twilight Zone or the anthology of One Step Beyond or the original Outer Limits… Somehow the black and white makes it timeless. I did want to emulate that… and try to recapture that feeling.”

John Kenneth Muir and his crew worked at a neck breaking pace by shooting about one 25-minute (or more) episode each day. It lead to some rough edges, but gave a massive amount of story for fans to devour each year..."

Friday, September 10, 2010

The House Between at Sci-Final


Hey everybody, my 21-episode si-fi web-series, The House Between (2007 -2009), is highlighted today at the great site, Sci Final, "The last-stop for independent sci-fi online."  

There's this awesome banner (above) splashed on the home page there, celebrating the show.  And I'm also featured in interview at the creator's corner, here.

Some of you may not remember, but in 2006, I set out with The House Between to make seven half-hour original episodes of a sci-fi series on a budget of seven hundred dollars each...in just seven days

I wanted to prove that you didn't need a ton of money, two years, or Hollywood connections (or Hollywood special effects, for that matter...) to create something interesting, original and exciting online. 

We repeated the "experiment" for two additional seasons of the series, in 2008 and 2009. 

In the end, the series was nominated for "Best Web Series" twice, in 2008 and 2009, at Sy Fy Portal/Airlock Alpha. 

In 2008, we came in second place to a Star Trek film "Of Gods and Men" by a margin of  less-than 100 viewer votes.   Now the series even has an official soundtrack release.  

And to this day, I still get e-mail from the series' small but devoted fan base, asking me when season four is going to start. (Short answer: when I can afford the time/budget again....)

So, in addition to my book deadlines on the horizon, I'm currently working on re-editing the entire web-series (all 21 episodes) for an upcoming DVD release (replete with lots of behind-the-scenes material about the experiment...).  More on that project as I know more.

But in the meantime, here's a little of the interview at Sci-Final:

Where did the idea/concept for your web series come from?

Well, I wanted to tell, in microcosm, the story of man on this island Earth. In essence, we're all strangers trapped in a house surrounded by blackness (outer space), forced to consider how to get along for the common benefit of the species. As a starting point, I re-read Jean Paul Sartre's 1944 existentialist play, No Exit. I wanted to play with the idea that "Hell is Other People" and do variations on it; see if the proverb holds up.

Name some of your sci-fi influences. Any favorite movies, TV shows, novels?

For the grainy, primitive look of the series, I sought to emulate TV classics One Step Beyond (1959-1961), The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1962-1964). I shot in black-and-white, added film grain, scratches and dust... and basically wanted audiences to get a timeless feeling or vibe from The House Between. Like you had turned your TV on at 2:00 am and suddenly intercepted this weird broadcast from who knows when, and who knows where. That was my experience growing up in the 1970s, first encountering late night fare like One Step Beyond. It seemed piped in from another universe.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The House Between Soundtrack Now For Sale

If you're a follower of my cult web-series, The House Between (2007 - 2009), good news: The official series soundtrack is now up for pre-order here.

Here's what you get if you order soon:


The soundtrack contains nearly three hours of music--132 cues--from all three seasons and will be released as an MP3 disc playable on computers, new model home and car CD players (MP3 capable), as well as new model DVD players.

As a special bonus, the first 10 people who purchase the soundtrack will receive the CD in a woven 'medicine bag' straight out of Astrid's closet in addition to a "House Between" medallion with a keyring and necklace. The second 10 people will receive the CD, medallion, keyring and necklace only. From there on it will be the CD only."

Get your copy here! Now, I just have to get the DVDs done. (I'm re-editing the whole series for DVD, since it was designed, originally, to be seen on a computer screen...).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The House Between Turns Three


Three years ago today -- February 16, 2007 -- my independent dramatic web series, The House Between was broadcast for the first time on Veoh and Google Video.

For those of you who weren't visiting my blog back in the early days of 2007, I often termed The House Between "the great experiment."

With the able partnership and assistance of Joe Maddrey, producer of the Discovery Channel's A Haunting and the upcoming documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film, I created and developed The House Between in early 2006.


The mission:
to shoot seven half-hour episodes in seven days. Each episode cost only seven hundred dollars. We had a talented cast and crew, and everybody passionately gave their all for this project. Those involved in the series saw it as a (super low-budget) alternative to the science fiction television of the day. We shot in May 2006, and I edited through the summer, leading up to our 2007 air-date.

The House Between is the tale of five strangers who awake one day to find themselves trapped in an empty old Victorian house. There are no exits, and outside the house is an enveloping null zone of total blackness. The main characters are Astrid (Kim Breeding), Arlo (Jim Blanton), Travis (Lee Hansen), Bill Clark (Tony Mercer) and Theresa (Alicia A. Wood). In the second season, an additional character, Sgt. Brick (Craig Eckrich) joins the "denizens" at this so-called "house at the end of the universe." The characters are not certain if their new "home" is a sanctuary or a prison, but they grow more aware, over time, that the house has a set of "rules" and even a personality.

On February 16, 2007, the premiere episode "Arrived" debuted. The story followed Astrid's first day in the mysterious house, and her apparent introduction to the other characters. We seemed to really hit our stride, however with the second episode, "Settled," still one of my favorite episodes of the show's entire run.

Looking back, the seven episodes of the first season -- though obviously low budget in execution -- (replete with iffy sound quality...) -- meditate about the earthbound matters that still interest me as a writer and human being.

"Positioned" (which our cast and crew dubbed "Die Hard in a Kitchen") was a story about the fight for resources inside the house; a battle that various nations fight every day on Planet Earth.

"Visited" looked at the (creepy) things that existed outside the house (the Outdwellers) and featured, in some fashion, the idea that violence begets more violence.

"Trashed" found the core group of five characters struggling with another problem: in a hermetically-sealed environment, what, exactly, happens to the garbage? "Mirrored" was our comedy show, about hidden character traits brought to the surface by a mystical looking-glass, and "Departed" was a series-ender that was revamped into a season-ender when it became clear we would be producing a second season.

Even amongst the participants, opinions vary passionately about The House Between (and which season was the best...) but nonetheless, I had the time of my life making the show. I wrote about 19 stories for the program (out of the 21 made), and directed 20 of the episodes. I also edited every single episode...so my heart was in it. And my heart remains in it.

As far as my personal favorites: I had the best time shooting the first season, but I think the second season is actually our finest. I know many of our crew, especially, prefer the third season programs by a wide margin (a span which saw a new location, and one episode dedicated to my late mentor, Space: 1999 script editor Johnny Byrne). Those stories were certainly more ambitious and experimental, anyway.

At our height in the second season, The House Between actually pierced the pop culture bubble a bit and was a cause celebre in some genre circles.

Much to our surprise and happiness, we developed a passionate fan base during the writer's strike in Hollywood, and the series experienced heavy viewership for the duration of the season. The series was even twice nominated for "Best Web Production" by Sy Fy Portal/Airlock Alpha -- against the likes of Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Star Trek: The New Voyages and Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog.

Needless to say, every one of those Hollywood competitors costs *slightly* more than 700 dollars to produce.

If you're curious to check out a production created on such a small budget and with such dedication and love, visit The House Between and start with "Arrived." Stick with it after that. You won't be sorry.

Soon, I'll be taking all the shows down from Veoh permanently, to prepare for the DVD release of the first season later this year. Also, a series soundtrack from the talented Mateo Latosa and Cesar Gallegos is imminent. Order information should be available soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coming in February: The House Between Soundtrack CD





In February, to kick off the fourth anniversary of the premiere of my independent, sci-fi web series The House Between (which has twice been nominated for "Best Web Production" by Airlock Alpha/Sy Fy Portal...), the official series soundtrack is being released.

Above, you can see some of the beautiful CD artwork created by talented Kim Breeding. The CD itself features every prominent cue and composition from all three seasons of The House Between as written and performed by maestros Mateo Latosa and Cesar Gallegos. And as an added bonus, the CD also includes Kim's haunting "The House Between" song, featured in the episodes "Settled" and "Ruined." I'll provide ordering information here as soon as it becomes available.

Also coming in 2010: a re-edited, re-mastered Complete First Season DVD release of The House Between. More on that exciting project as the time nears.

Meanwhile, if you haven't checked out The House Between, you can still catch the original Internet broadcast episodes for a limited time at Veoh, or at The House Between smart hub.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vote Now in the 2009 Portal Awards!

Make your voice heard today: The 2009 Portal Award voting is now open.

Click here
to cast your ballot for your favorite movies, actors, TV series, web sites and web series. You may vote once a day, every day, between today and August 25th, using a valid e-mail account. And be sure to check your e-mail after you vote for a "confirmation" message. So favorite that link and get crackin'!

And finally, if you enjoyed watching my web series, The House Between, I humbly ask for your votes (and your votes and your votes and your votes...).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Airlock Alpha Hails Web Sites and Series

With voting on the 2009 Portal Award set to commence on June 25 (just a few short days now...), Airlock Alpha's Editor-in-Chief, Michael Hinman has written about a number of the award categories, including best actor and best actress.

Today, Michael turned his attention to Best Web Sites and Best Web Series, and makes note of my independent online series, The House Between, as well as the other nominees in the category "Best Web Production." These include works by Joss Whedon, David Gerrold, and Jane Espenson, among others.

Of The House Between he writes:


"The House Between," which was not produced by a studio but instead by author John Kenneth Muir, wrapped up its final season in recent months and was very popular with fans.

This is the second time it was nominated for a Portie, almost winning last year. Muir stepped it up for the show's final season, and even named characters after me and former Airlock Alpha writer Marx Pyle."

The Portal Awards voting period begins June 25th, so as I like to say, vote early and vote often...

Monday, June 15, 2009

The House Between Nominated for "Best Web Production"

It's official! My independent web series, The House Between, just nabbed a nomination for "Best Web Production" in the upcoming, 10th annual Airlock Alpha Portal Awards (Formerly Sy Fy Genre Awards)!

The third season of my dramatic, low-budget sci-fi/horror series will be competing with official studio/network productions such as Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy, and Heroes: Going Postal, as well as the high-profile Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and Star Trek: Phase II. Something tells me that each of those other productions cost significantly more than our $700 an episode....

Regardless, it's a terrific thrill and authentic honor to be nominated, and to see our program situated beside these other web productions. Congratulations to all the nominees, and especially to all my House Between cast and crew members for again crafting noteworthy, award-worthy work.


Last year, The House Between placed second (by less than a hundred votes...), and it will be interesting to see how we fare on our second nomination.

As soon as voting commences, I'll write again and let everyone know when/how/where to vote. And may I politely ask you to support The House Between? In the meantime, don't forget to check out Airlock Alpha for a full list of all the official nominees.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The House Between is in Contention (for now!)

Airlock Alpha has just published the "long list" of prospective nominees for the 2009 Portal Awards.

Under the category "best web series," my independent dramatic production The House Between has snagged a "long list" nomination slot (with a further round of eliminations still to go...).

The competition just to reach the short list appears particularly and painfully fierce this year. My low budget show is up against (comparatively) big-budget "official" franchise programming such as Battlestar Galactica, and Heroes, not to mention fan favorites such as Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and three iterations of Star Trek, plus the now-buzzing Hunt for Gollum.

It's a tremendous honor to be included in such company, even at this preliminary stage, and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that we make the cut for the short list. You can read the long list nominees here. There are three hundred nominees right now (in all award categories) and they get whittled down to 70...and then the voting begins!

Congratulations to all the productions that made the long list, and good luck going forward. I'll blog again on this topic when the official nominees are announced, and voting is slated to commence.

Monday, April 13, 2009

THB Around The Web

A few post-finale THB goodies to report: Joe Maddrey offers part 2 and part 3 of his analytic "Secret Coda of The House Between" at his blog, looking at both "Religion of Art" and how "The End is Beginning"



Meanwhile, at Quantum Imprimaturs, Lar has posted the results of the Second Season Favorite Episode Poll (we have a runaway winner...) and is now taking votes on Season Three's fan favorite. Plus, he has transcribed and posted the first part of my lengthy and occasionally meandering (!) telephone interview with him from last Thursday night.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Secret Coda of The House Between?

Film producer and scholar (not to mention T.S. Eliot biographer) Joseph Maddrey de-codes the mysteries and meaning of The House Between in the first installment of a fascinating three part series here.

Here's a snippet:


"The Secret History of the World begins with the oldest of philosophical questions: What came first – mind or matter? In The House Between, Bill T. Clark – a 20th century scientist – argues the case for matter. Astrid and Theresa – the former a follower of Western religious tradition, the latter a follower of Eastern religious traditions – argue the case for mind. Travis – a lawyer and outspoken capitalist – clearly falls on the side of materialism, while Arlo represents idealism. Over the course of three seasons, these characters struggle to work out this age-old quandary. Their story, in its own oblique way, tells the secret history of the world..."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Director's Notes: Series Finale -- The House Between Ends...

With the advent of the 21st and final episode of my independent web series, I can now write these fateful words: The House Between (2007-2009).

Yep, it's over. At least in this particular incarnation.

Endings are difficult for me, and the ending of The House Between is bittersweet, to say the least. This has been a rough week for me emotionally, making the final edits, watching the rough cuts, and realizing everything was really and truly coming to an end.

If I lived in a perfect world, and it were all up to me, I would continue depicting the story of Astrid, Arlo, Bill, Travis, Theresa and Brick forever and ever. I love those characters, I love the THB universe, and I love getting together with this talented group of individuals to carve out something creative, ambitious and meaningful. I love editing, sound mixing, and creating the special effects too. It's hard work, but I have found it to be rewarding work.

But, alas it costs money to make a series even as “cheap” as this low-budget effort. And life has a nasty way of driving people apart, and sending them in different directions.

Also – to be blunt – I don’t even know where the hell I could air a fourth year of The House Between. Google Video is closing down soon, and the compression on Veoh is getting worse by the week. Plus, our modest little 700-dollar-an-episode drama is up against not other original, outside-of-the-industry independent efforts, but rather Get Smart, Smallville, Supernatural, Star Trek, etc., etc. The Big Guns. In that crowd, how many folks are going to test drive an unknown quantity like our guerrilla production?

The format of “online video” I once hoped would spur a golden age of independent productions has rather definitively not done so. Rather, the Big Boys of Hollywood are squeezing out the little guys. Next year at this time, I fully expect there will be no place to broadcast online an independent drama of more than ten minutes in length. The world of online video may forever consist of episodes of famous TV shows (or franchise extensions of those TV shows...), and short videos of people getting kicked in the crotch. Or funny cats.

So the great experiment is over. And yet I don't want it to end it with any inkling of "sour grapes" because writing, shooting, editing -- creating -- The House Between has truly been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I’m thrilled with everything we've achieved here: the dedicated fandom we’ve developed, and the intriguing stories we’ve dramatized in our three seasons. I’ve watched my actors grow from being “good” to being fucking amazing. I’ve seen our special effects go from being laughable to gee-whiz-how-the-hell-did-you–do-that? I’ve listened as Mateo’s musical compositions have become more accomplished, more emotional and downright brilliant. I know this fact: I certainly have a potent talent pool to return to for whatever my next film or TV project turns out to be. One of these days, when I find the right story (and have enough cold, hard cash...), I’ll have some calls to make to some old friends...


But for our stalwart denizens at the end of the universe, “Resolved” is curtains, an ending of sorts. Longstanding questions get answered (mostly), fates are “settled” to use THB lingo, and the story-arc circle gets squared. When writing “Resolved” I gazed across the vast history of “series finales” and knew there were many I wanted to emulate and pay tribute to. Of course, my favorite series ending of all-time belongs to Blakes 7, if that gives you any clue where this episode might be headed. In fact, I named the villain of our last episode Nora “Pearce” after Jacqueline Pearce, the actress who portrayed Servalan in that British TV series.

I am not a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I admired the series finale, “All Good Things” because it tread deeply in the past and future as much as the “present” of the main characters. That was a template I utilized a little bit in “Resolved.” There are references and images of the “past” and even one or two cryptic flash cuts of one possible future here, mostly in a single heavy-exposition scene. Although they aren't series finales, the Space:1999 episodes "Guardian of Piri" and "Matter of Life and Death" also form the basis for some of this episode's foundation.

Another thing was very important to me as we closed the door on these beloved characters. I wanted the denizens -- for once -- stand up for something larger than themselves and their daily concerns. We've seen them defend their turf, help each other through tough times and challenge all comers in the smart house, but in this last show, I wanted them to accomplish something heroic. Something for other people.

Also, I realized that "Resolved" couldn't simply be about answering questions or tying-up dangling subplots...that it had to tell a unique, standalone story, and I'm proud of the one we tell. It involves perhaps the most evil character ever to appear on the series, a "happy fascist" played by a remarkable young actress named Alison Velasco. I gave Alison the note that she should model herself after former press secretary Dana Perino, and Alison ran with that note. She was brilliant in the part, and every time I think of our villain, Nora Pearce, I remember that line from Shakespeare, about a person who can "smile and smile" and still "be a villain."

I have often attempted to use The House Between as a venue for making commentary about human issues. One key idea from “Resolved” is sort of political, however. When I was writing the episode last May, the Democratic Presidential Primary was being bitterly contested and, during one debate, there was a candidate who did not wear a flag pin on his jacket lapel. The other candidates in that party, the mainstream media, and the opposition party all pounced on this candidate as being unpatriotic because he didn't adorn that bloody pin. In some corners, he was even called a terrorist. It was a pretty disgusting affair, frankly, to see any candidate attacked because of…fashion. Patriotism, I believe, is carried in your heart, not in the jewelry you accessorize on your jacket lapel. Agree or disagree with a candidate on his policies, but don't judge his patriotism by the pin he sticks on his chest.

I found a science-fiction corollary for that pesky flag pin in “Resolved,” and that idea plays an important role in the tale. But really, there’s a bigger and more important idea that I hope to leave you with in “Resolved” and in The House Between as a series. And that takeaway idea is this: we only get one chance; one ticket to ride this mortal coil. Whatever it is that you care about --- love, liberty, freedom, romance, art – grab onto it with both hands and don’t let go. Because although there may exist a million universes in a million quantum realities, we each only get to experience one of them. This one. And that makes the existence we share special. So whatever you want to see happen in your life…make it happen.

That’s what we did on The House Between these last three years – warts and all – and I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s a part of me that, when thinking on the series, will always dwell on the last day of shooting during our first season. We had all pushed ourselves harder than we thought we could be pushed. We’d all learned new things about ourselves and each other. We hadn’t seen a single episode put together, but we were a team, and we felt successful. We had helped each other to succeed, and trusted each other enough to fail. Petty complaints, rivalries and complaints had been cast aside and we were a unit...brothers and sisters united in a purpose.

As long as I live, I will forever recollect standing in my crowded kitchen the night we shot "Departed" -- surrounded by that unit -- and toasting the cast and crew of The House Between for accomplishing what days earlier had seemed an impossible dream.

The House Between? I had the time of my life there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Director's Notes: "Exposed"

A bit of an odd scenario this week on The House Between, as the series rockets towards a finale. "Exposed" started out one way, and ended another way, in part because of shooting difficulties, setbacks and delays at our location. To be more specific: line dancing,

Regardless of the background details, "Exposed" remains a sort of "Man Who Cried Wolf" story. In this circumstance, that man crying wolf is my duplicitous alter-ego, Dr. Sam Clark. In "Exposed" Sam returns to the denizens with a handful of revelations, surprises and warnings. Given the group's previous experience with Sam, each person is understandably reluctant to believe his incredible tales.

Which may be bad for the denizens in the long run...


There aren't many genre antecedents or tributes to report this week (though I did have the incredible joy of crafting one special effects homage to Irwin Allen's Land of the Giants...). Instead, "Exposed" is almost entirely "mytharc" material that answers long-standing questions (and raises many more, based on my THB notebook of future episodes.directions/revelations).

“Exposed” marks the final series appearance of Sam and our recurring villains, the Outdwellers. Originally, I had intended not to feature the Outdwellers again at all this season, but I realized that they are an important ingredient of the overall story and that their two episodes (“Visited” and “Estranged”) are among the most popular with some fans, so it seemed right as we close down shop to have them appear one last time. This way, they have at least a token presence in each season.

As for Sam Clark, I always intended to bring the bastard back for more dastardly and deceptive behavior. In the original version of “Exposed’ he came back and pulled a nasty trick that was so believable, so shocking, it would have knocked your socks off. We didn’t film that...we ran out of time.

Anyway, “Exposed” moves fast, offers a dozen twists and turns, reveals a ton of secrets and then raises new, deeper questions. It leaves several characters shattered and hints at the upcoming final chapter. It’s not the story it started out to be, but it serves as an interesting “prologue” to our last show. It airs here tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crabtree Legal

Lee Hansen -- Travis Crabtree on The House Between -- is the subject of an exclusive interview over at the series fan site, Quantum Imprimaturs. I think this is Lee's first official interview on the web series, and it's very illuminating.

Here's a taste:


There seemed to be an effort in the second season to soften or “humanize” Travis. I see this in regards to episodes like “Populated,” “Distressed” and “Ruined.” What do you feel about this trend?

I like it in the sense that gives another dimension to Travis. That he isn't a two-dimensional character that is predictable. Travis and the others are human beings and John writes it like that to give the viewers something to reflect upon. There are little bits of Travis, Bill, Astrid, Theresa, Arlo, Brick and even Sange and Sam in all of us.

In “Populated” it seemed like Travis was really lonely, and just wanted to have some friends. What was it like playing a more vulnerable Travis?

I don't know if Travis was more vulnerable, but it was nice to see him have a little fun that didn't involve someone getting stabbed or emotionally hurt. Travis, in a way, was trying to recapture some of what he left behind, not knowing that Vitality summoned them to help fix the house and not cheer up Travis.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Director's Notes: "Switched"


What would it really feel like to walk around in someone else's shoes for a time?

What it would be like for a man to be...a woman? Or vice versa?

That concept is at the core of this week's House Between episode, "Switched."

Much like the ideas underlining "Addicted," the story behind 3.4 "Switched" goes all the way back to the second season of The House Between.

In particular, there was the possibility that, because of our shooting schedule in 2007, we would have time to shoot an eighth "bonus" episode. I had put out a call for stories, and gotten great and inventive responses from Jim Blanton ("Separated"), Bobby Schweizer ("Populated"), Joe Maddrey ("Caged") and also composer Mateo Latosa, who devised the story concept underlining "Switched."

Ultimately we shot my "Distressed" as the bonus season two episode (2.6), and Mateo's "Switched" got tabled until season three. Till now.

As you can probably guess from the title, this tale involves...a switch. Or many switches, as the case may be. Specifically, I'm referring to "Body Switches" the likes of which you would see in Star Trek's classic "Turnabout Intruder," wherein Captain Kirk and Janet Lester trade corporeal forms. Other sci-fi series have also played with this genre convention over the years, from The X-Files ("Dreamland") to Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("This Year's Girl"/"Who Are You?")

Still, I mostly had in mind Star Trek, and to that end I designed special visual effects to specifically resemble "Turnabout Intruder," arranged some Trek-style rock-the-boat moments, (when the camera tilts and everybody sways...) and had Mateo compose an incredible Trekkish musical cue for the teaser climax. I feel giddy every time I hear that cue...it's awesome.

But despite these deliberate tributes to a favorite and beloved sci-fi series, I also wanted to make certain that "Switched" carried some real heft and meaning behind the switches, much like we used the alternate universe tale ("Separated") to excavate unseen facets of our characters. So here, the body switch concept has lasting repercussions...ones that lead us right into the final two episodes of The House Between ("Exposed" and "Resolved.")

To the cast's everlasting credit, every single actor threw themselves into their performances, collaborated, worked hard, and did a fantastic job. If Bill, Theresa, Arlo, Brick, Travis and Astrid had to walk in one another's shoes for "Switched," than Tony, Alicia, Jim, Craig, Lee and Kim had to do the same. God, I love these guys!

Tonally, "Switched" is entirely different from anything we've ever done on The House Between. This has been a season of ambition...for better or worse. Every story has been quite different from the last, from setting up almost a new pilot with "Devoured" to going deep into character in "Addicted" to crafting a horror movie for "Scared" to the catharsis and transformational nature of "Switched."

Only you -- the viewer -- can tell me how we did, ultimately. But I do know this: I'm exceedingly proud of the cast for going in "Switched" where they've never gone before...and where they weren't always comfortable or safe going. They are truly a spectacular and talented bunch.

"Switched" premieres tomorrow!"

Friday, February 27, 2009

The House Between 3.3: "Scared"

The House Between 3.3,"Scared" is terrorizing viewers right now.

The episode is playing at Veoh and at Google. As usual, I recommend a full download at Veoh so that the compressed sound doesn't warble. A download from Veoh preserves the picture and sound in the best fashion, in my opinion.

Again, watch this one in the dark if you can...



Watch The House Between 3.3: "Scared" View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Director's Notes: Scared

The third episode of The House Between's third season is entitled "Scared." It's our annual horror show (think "Visited" in the first season; "Estranged" in the second), and it's this season's long-awaited Arlo-centric story.

Or more descriptively, "Scared" is a story that delves a bit more deeply into Arlo's mysterious background than we've seen before. This particular tale originated with a line Joe Maddrey wrote for "Caged" in Season Two. In that story, Theresa asked Arlo what visions the house was showing him, and Arlo revealed that 'he'd always had nightmares."

It was almost a throwaway detail (albeit a brilliant one...), a juicy nugget that wasn't developed, explored or elaborated upon at all...and which made it the perfect starting point for "Scared" in season three.

In terms of genre inspirations, I deliberately fashioned "Scared" as an homage to an episode of John Newland's paranormal anthology One Step Beyond (1959-1961) that I've always loved, and which scared the heck out of me as a kid. Actually, it scares the heck out of me now...

I don't want to reveal the name of that particular OSB episode just yet. To do so would immediately give away the exact nature of the villainous threat in "Scared," and it's more fun today to let it play out in the course of the episode. But for intrepid web surfers, I can inform you that this particular OSB episode starred a young (and gorgeous...) Yvette Mimieux. Look it up if you want.

In more general terms, "Scared" is also my ode of love and devotion to the 1980s-style rubber-reality horror sub-genre. You know the kind of movie I mean, right? In which there is a powerful supernatural villain who can bend reality to his demonic will. My favorite film of this cycle is Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), but I could rattle off titles including Shocker (1989), Lair of the White Worm (1988), Hellraiser (1987) and Bad Dreams (1988) to name just a few.

Considering such inspirations, I don't think it was a coincidence that I decided to marry an Arlo/Theresa story with a rubber-reality horror movie, since these are our two youngest characters on The House Between. Most of the time in rubber reality horrors, it's up to struggling adolescents to defeat evil before they get the chance to grow up and live happily "ever after." And indeed, Arlo and Theresa opened an "adult" relationship door together in "Addicted" that leads directly to the events of "Scared."

Honestly, I don't remember many intriguing specifics about shooting "Scared" except that I opened the day by gathering the cast and crew together for a pep talk and stated (with gung-ho enthusiasm...) that this was our one and only opportunity to make a no-budget ($700.00) eighties horror flick.

So that was the attitude we went in with and I remember everybody got into the spirit of the script. Tony Mercer, for example, told me he was picturing Peter Cushing for Bill's "Van Helsing"-style speeches. Poor Lee Hansen had to deliver one of his most reprehensible Travis lines ever -- but he did it with appropriate conviction -- and Craig Eckrich in "Scared" completes Brick's transformation to all-out action hero.

As usual, I have enormous praise for Jim Blanton, who rose to the occasion to imbue Arlo with new and vulnerable colors. Jim also brilliantly recited a spooky "campfire" tale...one that is the bread-and-butter of rubber reality horrors. Here, that monologue is truly one of the episode's most unsettling scenes because of Jim's acting. Jim got his monologue down perfect on the first take and as a consequence drew thunderous applause from the cast. Then he sheepishly asked. "Do I have to do it again?" I don't think we did...

I must also single out Alicia (Theresa) for high praise, because she had the difficult task of maintaining Theresa's trademark detachment and seeming authentically terrified during the scarier moments. She's never been better, and you can see real "horror" in her affecting, expressive eyes.

Kim Breeding was amazing too, especially in one bizarre sequence that we filmed after midnight. As usual, we were running behind, hadn't rehearsed, and were flying through an important sequence. Without a word of description from me, without even a discussion of how it would go down, or what we would do, Kim jumped into her role and performed a difficult song right on cue. I kid you not when I say it was pitch-perfect and absolutely beautiful. Again, Kim had no prep, no direction, no rehearsal...she just nailed it. And so we moved on...

And then there's "Scared's" guest star, our make-up artist and stunt coordinator, Rob Floyd. Here he plays a nasty character named Vinnie Coto, one who terrorizes the other House Between characters.

Let's just say that in his full costume and make-up, Rob was...quite the presence on set. He not only terrorized characters during his actual scenes...but his fellow actors between scenes. One distinct memory I do have of shooting "Scared" is a lot of nervous laughter...from all corners. Rob was a little too good, perhaps, at playing on a key fear that I know many people suffer from. Again, for the intrepid, look up coulrophobia.

If I recall, shooting "Scared" actually made for one of the smoothest days of the week. Which doesn't mean we didn't stay up late. Alicia, Jim, Bobby, Rick and I were still plugging away before green screens well after 2:00 am. I have vague memories of Bobby standing on top of a rickety ladder, dropping balloons in front of a green screen, wobbling dangerously...

It was in the editing stage that "Scared" became a nightmare...for me, anyway. I would term it a budget buster if we had a budget. More like a time buster, because of the number and complexity of the special effects shots. We've got your opticals; we've got your green screens; we've got your cloning; we've got your garbage mattes; and on an on it goes. Conservatively, I'd estimate there are well over a hundred special effects shots in this single 45 minute episode. For a one man, part-time studio like myself, the final cut posed a daunting challenge unlike any other episode of The House Between.

No budget, no time, no assistant editor...*sigh.*

Fortunately, I did have one magician watching my back during post-production. He made certain that all my post-production efforts came together. That person is musician Mateo Latosa, who has composed for "Scared" perhaps his best work for the series (so far, anyway...). Mateo's work here -- which includes titles such as "Darkness Theory," "Carpenter in Juno," (a nod to John Carpenter...) "Hold Your Breath," "Darting By," and "Vinnie Coto" -- is absolutely extraordinary.

I told Mateo on the phone some weeks back that if web programming ever got nominated for best music awards, I would submit "Scared" as an example of his finest work.

Another factoid about "Scared:" Mateo also told me that he decided early on to score "Scared" like John Carpenter's The Thing, which in retrospect was a brilliant strategy, I believe, and which adds what producer Joe Maddrey calls a sense of "dread" to the proceedings. Not only is The Thing another 1980s horror film (fitting into my theme on "Scared...") but it concerns a bunch of diverse people trapped in a less-than-welcoming location with a villain that seems to boast different forms. Very appropriate.

So that's the story of "Scared." It premieres tomorrow, and I hope you'll watch. It is best viewed with the lights down. In the dark...