On April 4th, Hulu shared the first three episodes of Dimension 404, an anthology created by the team at RocketJump, which includes showrunner Dez Dolly, writer Will Campos, and executive producer Freddie Wong.
RocketJump has already tackled the half-hour scripted format through its Streamy Award-winning web series Video Game High School. Now, for its latest project, the studio took the combination of action, humor, and nerd cred that led its short films to YouTube fame and applied it to an hour-long format. Each of Dimension 404’s episodes is a self-contained story that takes elements of modern pop and tech culture and examines them through a comedic sci-fi lens. It’s Black Mirror, but born from the Internet and given a campier tone.
Early reviews indicate RocketJump has successfully pulled off the genre-hopping blend that makes up Dimension 404, but we wanted to get some deeper insights into the series straight from its showrunner. Here’s our chat with Dolly about what his team pulled off in their new Hulu program.
Tubefilter: Would you say there is a unifying RocketJump philosophy applied to Dimension 404, or did you adopt a new one when creating this show?
Dez Dolly: RocketJump as a company has its own philosophy: You can’t change what the audience likes. We’re looking to make something that entertains us. It’s the reason why we put so much effort into Dimension 404. We asked ourselves, “What do we want to see, let’s go create that.” If you’re trying to satisfy requirements it’s gonna come off as disingenuous.
We did have to adjust specific production philosophies. We couldn’t be as “guerilla-style” or “run-and-gun” as we’re used to. Instead we decided to go back to the drawing board and heighten and elevate everything we do. We had to reinvent the wheel, which allowed us to create something bigger.
TF: What’s the first impression you want viewers to take away from Dimension 404?
DD: I think the first impression should be, “Wow, that was something different.” The show was in gestation for so long because we didn’t want to be labeled as a derivative Twilight Zone ripoff. It was very important to us to shake that and do something original. That’s why we want people to feel they were given something with a little more substance as opposed to pure popcorn.
TF: Are you making this with the RocketJump audience in mind or are you looking to draw in new viewers?
DD: Our number-one goal was to just be entertaining. We want the RocketJump audience to enjoy this and we think they will. In attracting a more recognizable cast and convincing [Lionsgate] to let us spend more, we are expanding the boundaries of the Venn diagram to anyone who is interested in seeing good TV — something funny, fun, weird, and different.
TF: What would you say is the unifying theme that connects the individual episodes of Dimension 404?
DD: Very early on, that was a difficult hurdle for us. We have to go look at the core kernel of inspiration for the show, which is the internet 404 error, a path to nowhere. There’s something incredibly fun and mysterious about taking a wrong turn and ending up in a place where anything or nothing is possible. We asked ourselves, “How do we create that and evolve a show that explores the wonders and horrors of the technological age we live in?” We’re focusing on interesting people and how they deal with this changing world in the search for hope and understanding.
TF: This is your first hour-long show. Did you have trouble adjusting to that length?
DD: Yes, the hour-long format imposed unique challenges, almost all of which we weren’t familiar with. We created a room of writers who had never been staffed on a show like this before; we’re just film school buddies. We have experience writing, but there’s a learning curve. Dimension 404 was originally developed as a half-hour series and the time constraints were really constrictive. We could only do the twist ending and wanted to know what happens afterwards. That was always the intent.
TF: Do you think RocketJump’s status as a company that got its start on the internet allows you guys to bring an approach to this show that a more “traditional media” producer (e.g. Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror) would not be able to execute?
DD: I’d be curious to speak with more folks who work in a more traditional TV environment. We have a few mentors who showrun and write for other shows and we are coming at this with a slightly different experience, but what we’re doing with Hulu has the same end goal as folks on a traditional network. We’re just trying to tell good stories and there’s a craft there that’s universal in any format, no matter what you’re experience is.
I will say it was only possible for us to make Dimension 404 — high-concept, FX-laden sci-fi — because we’re so well-versed in low-budget, guerilla-style filmmaking. If anyone else had tried to make this it would have been cost-prohibitive. That was probably our secret sauce.
Dimension 404, which features appearances from Hollywood notables like Patton Oswalt, Lea Michele, and Joel McHale, is now available on Hulu. Its first three episodes have been released, with three more rolling out over the next three Thursdays. Viewing the series will require a Hulu account, which will run you at least $7.99 per month. If you’d like to keep using that subscription after finishing Dimension 404, you can also watch the other show Freddie Wong’s studio has brought to Hulu, which is simply titled RocketJump: The Show.