Here’s the idea: someone wakes up in a cell, doesn’t know who they are or how they got there. This may not seem like a lot to go on, especially when I tell you that CELL (not to be confused with Blood Cell) just wrapped production and won’t be hitting the web until 2010, but hear me out on this one.
Produced by Austin, TX-based Lovable Varmint Productions, CELL is the brainchild of writer/director Mark Gardner. The film was shot entirely in Austin and Smithville, Texas, a tiny town about 40 minutes outside the city. In true indie fashion, the majority of the series takes place in one location, built out of an old Dollar Store, and the majority of props and tools used to build the set were donated by local businesses. The crew was made up of volunteers just wanting to be a part of it, some even having to be turned away simply because there wasn’t enough food for everyone.
I talked to Gardner about the indie spirit of this production, beginning with how the idea for CELL first came about. “I came up with a framework of a show that would have minimal cast and minimal locations”, said Gardner. “Great. Good start. Then what? Well that’s when story rears its ugly head. Not only did the show need to have simple locations and cast, it needed a great story. That was what was most important. So I came up with the idea of CELL. Within the framework I’d established, I started writing a series about finding yourself and what it means to be an individual. At least that was the goal. It may have ended up being about the latest craze in fashion or apple oatmeal. We’ll see how it fleshes out in the edit.”
Though the filming was done on a budget, that didn’t mean Gardner and his crew scrimped on production values. His team shot the series on a Panasonic HPX-170A camera, using 2.40 aspect ratio to give it a cinematic feel. “Our DP was a finalist for a couple of Student Academy Awards so she fought hard for that ratio,” explained Gardner. “It also helped us to hide our set, which became an issue with one of our leads being 6’3.”
From what we hear, the actors were so dedicated to the project that they would sometimes sleep on set. One of the actors even brought a camera on set overnight and cut his own “Unofficial” trailer (below), which interestingly actually has more views than the Official trailer.
Gardner is already looking ahead for his series. “There’s an entire mythology that exists that we’re going to expand on in Season 2”, he reveals. “In fact we are in the process of hiding some easter eggs around the interwebs for some intrepid viewers to stumble upon that just might start to give some hints about the conspiracy and mystery that is all over the place in the show.” We can also expect to eventually expand out from the cell itself. “By the last episode… let’s just say our “world” gets blown wide open.”