With the fall of some of the early web content studios like maniaTV, 60Frames and ABC/Disney’s Stage 9, there were some web series projects that went down with their ships that we thought might never see the light of day. Trenches, a sci-fi action series from creator Shane Felux was one such project. Our last check in with Felux was in August of 2008, when Stage 9 had released its pricey comedy series Squeegees to mixed results. A few months later ABC shuttered its nascent digital studio, leaving Trenches in distribution purgatory.
Now the series has found a new home, with Sony Pictures Television buying licensing the project from ABC to be released starting February 16, 2010 on Crackle. Set in the future on a a distant war torn planet, the story centers around two groups of opposing soldiers fighting against each other only to realize that the real enemy is something else. The 10-episode series, each one being about 5 to 7 minutes, will roll out with three on the first day and then continue steadily through March 5.
Shane Felux still describes himself as “a little indie guy making films in my basement.” He first popped onto the map of online fans—and ABC’s digital execs—with his breakout Star Wars Revelations fan film and follow-up, Pitching Lucas, which in 2006 won both the George Lucas Selects Award and the Audience Choice Award at the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards at Comic-Con. When ABC execs called him up he ended up pitching what would become Trenches over the phone, using a mocked up web site that he built to walk them through the concept.
Felux, who directed and produced the series which was based on an original story by Felux’s wife Dawn Cowings and Sarah Yaworsky, pitched three different levels of the project to ABC—one being “easy and cheap,” another being “middle hard,” and then an “extremely hard” one. ABC asked for the latter, essentially “calling my bluff,” as Felux recalls. Though he thought it would take about $1 million to pull off that elaborate version, he was given a reported budget of $250,000, similar to what was spent on Squeegees.
This meant “calling in a lot of favors, and paying myself very little,” said Felux who still had to work his 9 to 5 day job while shooting. Still, he was able to assemble a talented ensemble cast that included Mercy Malick, Aaron Mathias, Micci Sampery, Lev Gorn, Hong Chau, Daz Crawford; Kelley Slagle , Scott Nankivel, Tom Reuel, Orlando Williams-De La Rosa, Chaney Tullos and Paul Stober. The shoot was in April of 2007 in Northern Virginia and Maryland and Felux and his crew managed to get through the 56 pages in 14 days, all the while balancing night shoots with his day job.
For post production, Felux crafted much of the visual effects himself, through his one-man production company X-ile Pictures. After 14 months of work on it, it was ready for release just as Stage 9 was folding. Then late last year ABC worked out a deal with Sony, who has been building its premium online network Crackle over the past two years.
“There’s nothing on the web that looks like Trenches yet,” Felux noted. “I’m thriled that Crackle has it now, I’m glad that for my cast and crew that their work will be seen.” He also added that “the studio [ABC] never stopped beliveing in it, they felt it was their flagship. I don’t think it would have seen the light of day if it wasn’t for guys like Barry Jossen at ABC.”
Felux described what web viewers can expect in our 2008 interview with him:
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!