Trenches, a new series from ABC/Disney’s Stage 9 Digital and Shane Felux’s X-ile Pictures (Pitching Lucas), is set to release later this fall. The 10-episode sci-fi action series promises impressive visual effects and is one of the larger scale productions in online content to date. Tubefilter News had a chance to talk to Shane Felux, creator, executive producer, and director of the series.
Tubefilter News: So what exactly is Trenches all about?
Shane Felux: Trenches opens in the middle of the action where we take you to a war-torn planet and the soldiers who fight for its control. But when the smoke of battle clears, these enemies find themselves faced against each other, the enemy, and a danger beyond their worst imaginings that forces them to work together if anyone is to survive. Trenches is an online series in a large scope production, much larger than audiences have seen on the web before.
TF: How did you get involved in such a ‘large scope production?’
Felux: The whole thing came about when I was on the set shooting my last film Pitching Lucas and my cell phone rang. I was between shots when my wife came over with my phone saying “The call says it’s from Disney. I think you should take it.” I told the cast and crew to break for a moment and I took the call. A new division of Disney, Stage 9, was interested in making a project with me and wanted to know if I was interested. We talked for a bit as I told them I was in the middle of shooting a film and asked if we could talk more later.
Well we did talk later, and for a number of months we wooed each other and eventually I pitched Trenches to them, which they liked and eventually gave me the green light. At that point I thought, “Oh crap what do I do now!? I was just bluffing.” Bluff or not, Trenches went into full swing with Stage 9 as the distributor and financier and X-ile Pictures (which is really just Shane in his basement) as the production company that does it all!
As executive Producer and Director of Trenches I had to pull everything together and set it all up: hire the crew; cast the actors; coordinate and design costumes and sets; set up finance, insurance, and payroll; you name it, we had to do it and again the cast and crew I coordinated helped me make it all happen. Everything. Stage 9 needed to know and approve of what I was doing with their money but were pretty hands off in the process, allowing me to do all I needed to set up this very large film project. And they collaborated and provided support when I needed it. The idea presented by Stage 9 was that Trenches was a grassroots project allowing young filmmakers to go out and take their shot and make their films. It has been an interesting experience and I have learned and grown a great deal. Through this rare process I also got to work with in a studio system to see what that was like. A great learning experience and one I value. Stage 9 leaned forward and gave the little guy like me a shot allowing me to make another film.
TF: What are Stage 9 and X-ile hoping to get out of releasing content online?
Felux: Online content entertainment and broadband distribution is the next wave for film and TV, and Stage 9 really sees the potential of this business. All my films to date have been online so I’ve experienced first hand the power of this venue and its amazing growth. Vendors need and are looking for good quality content for the web and the industry is looking to capitalize on this market. The internet is where we go for our news, information, just about anything and even entertainment. This venue is going to grow even more with smarter technology in broadband video, mobile and MPG devices which are here now for viewers to utilize. For web distribution we can provide even more choice to audiences, and as filmmakers it gives us another realm in which we can share our work with millions, which is very powerful and exciting.
For me I hope it opens the possibility to start a true career in film making allowing me to do it full-time and quit my 9-5 job, perhaps get out of my basement and get in the professional industry, allowing me to do even more films as a living that supports my family as they come first. The little guy steps up.
TF: Different sites have had varying information about the release date and number of episodes of Trenches. Can you clear that up for viewers?
Felux: After the final edit Trenches comes out to 10 intense episodes ranging from 3-6 min per episode. [The release date is] really for the studio to decide. I am hoping as soon as possible as I am very excited to get it out there and share it with viewers and see what they think. But first the studio has to review the final film and decide if they are happy with it, then their sales and marketing team will find a potential sponsor for the show and that will also determine when and where Trenches will air. I am very pleased with how the final cut of Trenches turned out and really thrilled to put it out there to share with viewers.
TF: This isn’t the first time they’ve delayed the release, though. Why has it taken so long for Trenches to be released?
Felux: The delay [is] due to the complexity and ambitious scope of the project. Trenches has been the most difficult film I have done to date. For the budget we had, Trenches was a tall order but we were able to make it happen and I am very pleased with the results. I think our audience will really enjoy this one. Another big factor that took time on Trenches was the more than 300+ FX shots we did for the film and the technical issues we had to overcome.
Making movies out of my basement part time and coordinating people from all over the place on a small budget, was similar to my other films, but also unlike anything I have taken on before. For Trenches, everything we did was on a larger scale than we’ve done before and, quite frankly, on a larger scale than most web audiences expect to see so I think they’re going to be impressed with the final product. And that take a lot of time to get it all done and to achieve the professional quality of the final product.
Lastly, none of us worked on Trenches as a full time job. I still work my 9-5 job, have a family with three kids, and then work on Trenches for hours upon hours. I would have been able to have done it without my dedicated cast and crew that is for sure. Many made sacrifices to make this project possible and I am indebted to them for that. It’s a lot of work, but after all the blood, sweat, and tears, Trenches is complete and it’s been a heck of a ride. Making movies – producing movies – directing movies: this is my passion. I just hope it doesn’t kill me.
TF: Lastly, I have to ask – considering that you’ve called described Trenches as ‘complex’ and ‘ambitious,’ what’s your favorite moment from the series that we can look forward to?
Felux: The first episode of Trenches is a real “kick you in the ass” opener to the series. It’s a very fast hitting, fun piece that dumps you right into the middle of the action. It’s the type of thing I really enjoy. Sink or swim, strap in and let’s go for a fun ride. Episode one really does that and it is one of my favorite parts of the show. Then there are many other pieces I really enjoy where we get to know the characters, and then the story opens up and we get to learn still more, all of it packaged in terrific action sequences that really make me smile. Some great stunning FX with space battles, ground hitting sci-fi war action, intense character conflicts and all out popcorn fun for me. You will get to see a snub-fighter ship come barreling in on flames, getting ready to crash into a group of desperately waiting evacuation troops, when all of a sudden the group is beamed up to the rescue evac ship and all looks good, but he crashing snub-fighter ship hits the beam and it sucked up into the rescue evac ship with the team. The results are disastrous!
As much as I enjoy the end product itself, my favorite part of the whole process will be seeing what audience think about Trenches and if they enjoy it. It’s why we make films – for ourselves and for everyone to enjoy. Trenches is something on the web you have not seen before. Is it perfect? No, but I am very proud of what we did and think it is a fun popcorn ride that you have got to see. When someone enjoys and appreciates the work we do, that makes all of it worthwhile and perhaps opens an opportunity for us to do it again.