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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Level 17 - A John deCaux Web series.

Fifth Dimension disclaimer: At no time were any bloggers, Aliens, Australians or assorted independent film-makers harmed in the production of this piece. At no time is any offence meant, well that is except for the Aliens - I don't trust those buggers…..

Even though I love my classic sci-fi/Fantasy and Horror more than any sane man really should, It was nevertheless a welcome chance this weekend to watch some brand new work out that is currently out there in Internetland. As I've said before somewhere in the depths of this blog, I do wonder sometimes why I put myself through the trauma of watching some of the work that is being independently produced - I really do. Though well intentioned, the result without exception results in one of three different reactions for yours truly: 

1) Pure despair at the well-intentioned but downright awful nature of some independent productions - namely bad writing, bad production, bad acting and bad effects….you know what I'm saying, they're bad! The passion is there but unfortunately, the talent is not.
2) Pure joy at the rather excellent independent productions  - these guys clearly have a passion AND some genuine talent.
3) The realisation that these good filmmakers are annoyingly, far more talented, inventive and depressingly much younger than I ever will be. (Number 3 reaction inevitably follows quickly after number 2 reaction, and usually with tears and tantrums on my part).

I know that this make me sound like a bitter and twisted guy, that I simply resent people of drive, talent and charisma. No not at all, I don't resent them, I just find them annoying. I think they make me as jealous as hell, so maybe I do get a little envious as to how good some of these people are - does that make me a bad person?

Take for instance a new friend of mine from Australia - John DeCaux. For a start, I know what you are thinking, but steady on, it's not his fault he's Australian. I have many Australian friends and many of them are actually quite nice too. Secondly, I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce or correctly spell his surname - so far I have at least six variations. For that Jon DiCaux  John deCaux, I apologise.

John had very nicely asked via my facebook page for this blog whether I would be good enough to check out episode 1 of his Science Fiction web-cast production, Level 17 on the old interweb. So having a few valuable minutes of free time in my all too busy life I decided to watch the said production that can be located on that wild and wondrous land called 'YouTube.

So Mr DeCaux, before I bestow words of wisdom, humour and dare I say it, beauty about episode one - I wanted him in his own words to please provide me with a snappy synopsis….to which the reply came.

We all hate those days when you wake up during
an apocalypse

"Smart, savvy and unpredictable, Ethan is a college student who struggles to understand his destiny when time begins folding in on itself. According to the mysterious arrival of Professor Anderson, the only way Ethan can save his gorgeous girlfriend Danielle is to save the world by any means necessary."

Well that kind of wets the appetite doesn't it? Let me say straight away that the seven-ish minutes of LEVEL 17 - Episode 1 is, barring a couple of minor gripes very,very good. 

There is little time at the beginning of the episode for a namby pamby detailed exploration of the characters or plot here. Instead we are immediately faced with the sight of Gun toting Bio-suited soldiers rounding up civilians and chasing a rather excellent Alien down a city street (not an entirely unknown sight here in the North of Scotland….). We then have essentially a few rip-roaring minutes of the main character Ethan (excellently played by Hjálmar Svenna) first being confronted by the sudden morphing of Professor Anderson into his kitchen (like that has never happened to me either), who proceeds to give our hero a cryptic message about saving his girl and the planet before morphing away once again. Ethan then spends the rest of the frantic episode being chased through the streets in an effort to evade the gun-wielding Bio-suits, whilst at the same time trying to locate the whereabouts of his girlfriend. A rather nice cliffhanger leaves us guessing as to who is hiding in the house he finds himself in at the end …..……..

Just a hunch, but I'm thinking the IOB Corp may not be nice people..
What we have here is a production that belies the origin of many of the people involved in it's creation. The direction and camerawork is excellent, providing a truly professional creation yet still making the viewing experience as realistic an experience for the viewer as possible. The episode as a result is genuinely exciting as the chase progresses through the streets. The acting too is good, with Hjálmar Svenna as the lead character, Ethan, showing a remarkable range of acting ability. We don't really see enough as yet of the other principle characters to be able to make much of a judgement as to the overall acting quality, which will be of interest for future episodes as the quality of the supporting cast can affect the quality of the production

The special effects for the brief glimpse that we have of the Alien is simply stunning - I cannot say anything else but that. Though the glimpse that we have of it is brief, It far out-shines anything I've seen from an independent production in a very long time. I simply can't wait to see more of this creation.

There are a few gripes, minor ones, but they are there just the same. While the Alien special effect is amazing, one or two of the others - a car in the street and the initial shot of a flying machine - are OK, but not overly authentic. The scene where the professor appears in  Ethan's kitchen has some very unconvincing blood and the 'finding' of the box with the character's name on it in which he finds a gun seemed a little cliched. However, as I said, these are but minor criticisms - the overall quality is excellent. 

Something is happening - but what? Who are the mysterious and seemingly all-powerful IOB corporation? Is it an Alien invasion? Will Ethan save his girl? And will I actually receive a reply to any of my letters to Helena Bonham Carter? 

The assurances from John that many of these questions will be answered in the future episodes will be answered is good - though just how he may get Ms Bonham Carter to leave her director chappy and spend her days up here in the North of Scotland remains to be seen.

See the You Tube clip for yourself below and make up your own mind about the episode. However, if you watch it and find yourself disagreeing with me then of course you are quite wrong and misguided.

However, that's all well and good - just because the first You Tube clip looks pretty darned good, with the excellent direction, camera work and Alien special effects it doesn't mean to say that I can completely trust these guys. I mean, I don't want to find out that John and some friends got together over a beer or three and thought that it would be a good wheeze to play around with a camera for while. Then get bored and bugger off after an episode or two when they had to give the camera and Bio-suits back to the guy from the fancy dress shop down the street.

So I suggest that you tell me and my loyal reader or two (I do have at least two, probably) a little bit about yourself.

" I'm a director/writer/producer at Six Foot Four Productions in South Australia. Level 17 is an Australian Action Adventure Sci-Fi web-series that has just been released. Professional, emerging, amateur and student independent South Australian filmmakers have combined their talents to produce the digital web series “Level 17". We are hoping to get the word out there about the production and all the hard work that has gone into everything from the shooting to the visual effects."

So why this genre? After all, Science Fiction is a highly competitive and can have a, how can I put it politely, rather emotional and opinionated fan-base at times…...

"Part of our culture is interest in science fiction, fantasy and action based adventures with Level 17 promising to meet those needs in a fresh, new innovative web-series. With a confirmed YouTube partnership, the web series launched on August the 14th to satisfy an already large following based on the successful “likes” count on the Internet such as Facebook."

Don't stop now John mate, you're on a roll - this is good stuff. You've got me convinced.
"Be honest John - do these make my head look small?…."

"The production has brought together very talented South Australian individuals that are on the way to establishing themselves in their chosen careers.’Level 17’ is an all-new sci-fi, action based web series that relied on emerging Film makers and volunteers to create."

The effects for Alien character we briefly see in episode 1 are simply stunning. So have you some experience of doing this sort of thing before?

The amazing visual effects you see in episode 1 were
created by the team at JFX.

"Previously having worked before on ‘Almost There’, a feature film nominated for “Best Feature” in 2011 and 2013, the team of John deCaux (Director) and Adam M. Carter (Producer) have gathered together some of the finest Indie film makers and volunteers to create the all-new sci-fi action based web-series filming just under a week. Although the production team worked well together with the help of sponsors such as The Adelaide City Council, the post production team have been working around the clock creating special effects including amazing CGI sequences that will hit audiences in the face. The amazing Alien characters were carefully constructed under the direction of myself (John deCaux) along with Jack French, the Special Effects Supervisor."

So when is episode 2 due out? - hopefully we won't be waiting for too long or else I may have so 'send the boys round'…..Oh and how many episodes are you and your band of merry men (and girls)planning to release?

"I'm post production right now and the next episode is due out mid November. We plan to have three seasons of six episodes."

In all seriousness, I simply can hardly wait for episode 2. What we have here is a group of thoroughly professional, gifted and passionate people who are putting their heart and soul into this project. This is no half-hearted amateurish 'lets have a go and have a laugh' attempt at making something of note. If you don't believe me then check out the first production diary to see just how much work these guys are putting in to the preparation of this web-series. I have it easy on comparison, I just sit at my iMac and watch this stuff then spend a little while putting a few scribbles together and a deluded attempt to sound humorous and witty. These guys are the ones doing the real work, they are the real deal. 

I am still as envious as hell as to how good this series could become - but I can live with that.

John and the team can be reached on the Level 17 Face book page

The project can also be at the Level 17 official webpage HERE.

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