Louise’s gang leader ex-boyfriend is in prison, so now she runs a community shelter for local outcasts. Blair believes she’s possessed by the spirit of her ancestor: a sorceress burned at the stake. Ziggy is the lead singer of a band that can’t gain a following because he’s changed its name so many times. These are some of the counter-culture types that you will meet in the fictional city of Holwenstall, the centerpiece of the web series Oblivion.
Centering about 14 (!) main protagonists, the show was created by no-budget filmmaker Mike Cuenca and is actually a spin-off of his first feature film, Scenes from Oblivion, in which many of the starring characters make their first appearance. As marketing producer Jason Lawless describes in the behind-the-scenes feature for the series, it is a “punk-rock opera for the modern day”.
Though the series doesn’t just focus on punk specifically. The characters come from a variety of sub-cultures including mod, goth, greaser, political activist, just to name a few. In fact, the series influences are as eclectic as the protagonists themselves: “Dazed and Confused, American Graffiti, Mallrats, John Hughes movies, the films of Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson; Chynna-Clugston’s Blue Monday comic book series; Daniel Clowes. Alcohol. Cocaine. Slayer.” (taken from the series FAQ) This is truly a character piece, with all the action centering around how this rag-tag group of social outcasts have come together to form what is essentially a new form of dysfunctional family.
With the first episode clocking in at 22 minutes, it does take a vested interest in sitting down and taking the time to get into this series. There is also a bit of an issue with the player on the main site in the fact that if you don’t let the entire episode load before playing, it often freezes up (and because of the long length, it can take a significant amount of time to load on slower connections). And be prepared for a lot of language…though the episodes are traditional sitcom length, the language would make the FCC blow more than a few gaskets. Beyond the few small technical issues, the series is well-shot, the production design and costuming is amazing, and the writing is poetic with it’s use of voiceover to introduce each of the unique characters. Though I would have liked to have known who belonged to the voice a little sooner and once I did, her onscreen characteristics didn’t fall in line with the almost soothing nature of her descriptions…but this could perhaps be an attempt to show an inner calmness.
One of the gems within this series are its behind-the-scenes content. Cuenca speaks eloquently and passionately about how the series came about, the casting of the series (most of the parts are played by non-actors, people who Cuenca knew personally that embodied the roles), and filming on essentially no-budget. Through actor and crew interviews, you can tell that everyone involved shares Cuenca’s vision of creating a world in which often looked-over segments of society could have a chance to unapologetically showcase themselves without judgment and even gain acceptance. Says Lawless: “Everybody is going to be able to find something in one of the characters.”
He also adds: “We want to take web series and take it to the next level of not just being a web series, it’s a story. And there are various layers to help establish the characters and make you feel and identify with what’s going on in the story and just get you all involved in that whole Holwenstall world of subcultures that are very real.”
The next episode of the series premieres in a little over 8 days (there is a countdown clock on the main page of the series site).