These are dark days. For the first time in decades the public chatter is turning to talk of a Second Great Depression and panicked allusions to the world descending in to chaos. I’m talking about the real world here – the world that entertainment as an art looks to examine. What’s interesting is that while on the one hand we have shows and films of pure material and social aspiration – Gossip Girl, 90210, Entourage – there is a growing fascination in just the opposite; stories of a dystopian world deprived of even basic necessities. Jericho, I Am Legend, Children of Men andThe Road (2009) come to mind. Once just a trend for sci-fi die-hards, the recent post-apocalyptic craze has reached the mainstream.
After Judgment premieres today, transporting us to a familiar but terrifying version of earth where chaos has taken over. We pick it up 100 years after Judgment Day has happened. We’re not supposed to know what happened as we are thrust into this grim reality and introduced to the rag-tag group of survivors that carry the story – led by a mysterious ex-priest name Steven (Joel Bryant). Here’s what we do know: all the children simply vanished and time ultimately stood still- the sun doesn’t set, no one can bleed, no one can die, nothing works and you don’t want to go into the ocean or the rivers. The rest is up to us to figure out.
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Creator-director Michael Davies wrote the series originally planning it as a feature film, but later adapted it to a serial format perfect for the web. Teaming up with actress and producer Taryn O’Neill under their Captain Films outfit, the two pulled it together and shot the first season back in April 2007.
We asked Davies what inspired him to write this dark tale. “I’ve always been fascinated by the post-apocalyptic and dystopian storylines.” Davies is no stranger to sci-fi, having made several short films in the genre (Ashes, Message:Received) “I like to create new worlds,” says Davies, “with regular people and ask what would happen if they woke up one day and the whole world was different?”
O’Neill plays Michelle, whom she calls “a brash ‘woman of the night’ (though there’s no night anymore)” tagging along with Steven and his crew in search of a young boy that could be their only hope for salvation. If this sounds a bit like Children of Men, it’s somewhat intentional, as Davies says it was one of the inspirations for the project. Rounding out the cast alongside Bryant and O’Neill are web-vet Tim Halling (Sam Has 7 Friends, 60Frames’ Cockpit) and Stephanie Thorpe.
A separate site, or perhaps really a separate prequel series altogether, called Before Judgment, features charged video blogs from present-day witnesses to the unfolding chaos years before the main narrative begins. The two series will each release a new episode a week, letting viewers try to piece together what happened from both sides of the event. Reminds me a bit of the flashback sequences in Lost. There’s even a fan interaction site, again separate from the main AJ site, www.PreventTheEnd.com, that will serve as a platform for fan involvement – presumably for sharing theories and digging deeper into the mystery.
As for future plans for the series, Davies says he has over 75 episodes written and ready to be shot and is now looking for the right deal to move forward on a second season. At least one deal is already in place, as Toronto-based distributor OUAT Media has already snatched up foreign broadcast distribution rights. US rights are still up for grabs apparently. Davies hasn’t ruled out a transition to cable TV, ala Sci-Fi Channel’s pickup of web hit Sanctuary, though he intends to “keep it on the web in some form.”
The entire first season, sixteen 4-minute episodes worth, is shot, edited and ready to go. The first two eps are up today, with a third coming this Friday. Going forward, the plan is to have weekly releases of After Judgment on Wednesdays and Before Judgment on Fridays. (Use the Web TV Schedule to keep up.)
Davies seems keenly aware of the timing of his series launch. “The world right now is very uncertain about its future,” he adds. “We face so many more threats these days than back in the Great Depression – environmental, economic, nuclear, viral…” With After Judgement, while we don’t know which threat they are facing just yet, Davies hints to us, “the planet will survive, but it’s a matter of whether the humans will survive.”