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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Red sleep: A web based Urban-Noir series featuring on JTS.TV

One evening, back in the distant days of my late teens, I was walking though town after a long Saturday night of booze and chasing after women. The fact that I was walking alone through on a Saturday night suggests that whilst there may have been plenty of booze, my friends and I may have struck out on the women front - an occurrence that sadly happened all too regularly as I recall.

Anyhoo, the reason for this walk down my teenage lane of memories is due to an idea for a story I had as I wandered through that busy Saturday night. You see, at the time I fancied myself as something of a prospective storyteller, a writer who would one day rival the likes of Philip K. Dick, Tolkien, Asimov and King as a bastion of literature, whether it it be science fiction, fantasy or horror genres, I was going to rule them all. One ring to bind them, as it were. As a consequence, my head was constantly awash with plots and themes for stories that I promised myself that I would write one day. If truth be told, most of the ideas I had were at best, derivative mishmashes, the others were frankly forgettable - and most of them have indeed been forgot along the rocky road of this bloggers life.

However, one story has stayed with me - in part due to the unique form that the idea took. As I was walking home and pondering on another night of missed opportunities I suddenly saw another man walking beside me in the street. He was very tall, of local origin and extremely well dressed, in fact he was almost military like in his demeanour. But the thing that struck me most was the look on his face, one of deep confusing dreamlike state that spoke of colossal mistakes that had been made in his life, both by and for him. I know what you're thinking, it was the alcohol talking for both him and me, but no, it was far more than that, there was something else. I immediately constructed a back story for this man with the haunted look on his face; He had been down on his luck, desperate for money and direction after being discharged from the army when he had been offered the chance to redeem himself and his career by the military authorities by testing some new secret weapon, or drug. After which, he would be given a new future - but things had gone wrong and he was lost, alone, confused and possibly in a great deal of danger. As he wandered away down another road, still lost in thought, I envisaged his future as one of intrigue and danger.

Now nothing more ever came from this quite frankly brilliant vision of mine, I never wrote it, in fact I'm pretty sure that I never even mentioned it to anyone else after i realised that it was a theme that had been done a number of times in film and literature and I simply didn't believe that I was capable of adding anything new to the concept.

So you can only imagine my delight when I was contacted by a representative of a new series, Red Sleep, which had recently premiered on a streaming website (JTS.TV) and dealt with some of the very themes that had wandered into my head all those years ago. I wanted immediately to see what they had done and if it worked. And did it? Well read on. 

Red Sleep tells the story of Clyde Harris, an escaped prison inmate who makes a deal with the U.S. military to take part in a year long drug experiment in exchange for his freedom. Sounds simple eh? Well no, because soon after taking on a new identity in Los Angeles, it seems that the deal Clyde made may have come at a personal cost far higher than he ever envisaged as the side effects from the drug and his chequered past catch up with him.

The web series is written, produced and directed by Andre Welsh. The rumours that he also swept the floors and made all the sandwiches have yet to be confirmed by me. Though what is certain after seeing the first three episodes is that Welsh and his team have crafted a richly textured series that will appeal to fans of thriller, suspense and add to that a distinct hint or two of science fiction and horror and you have another heap of the viewing market ready to enjoy a most wonderful series. 

Red Sleep certainly has something for everybody; a classic film-noir voice over from the excellent Ron Kaell and an utterly compelling central performance from Chioke Jelani Clanton as Clyde Harris. Not only that but it only also features the magnificent Don Stark who played Bob Pinciotti in That 70's show - what more could you want? I mean apart from an excellent supporting cast of people  who can actually act?

Well I suppose that you could also want the production to be well lit, photographed and directed - which it is. You could also want more than your fare share of drama, suspense and moments of claustrophobic tension as we see a story of multiple time lines slowly unfold before our eyes - we have that too. Oh, and Los Angeles simply has never looked better, or worse. I've seen the series called 'Urban-noir', and while I'll readily admit from not being the biggest fan of labels, I do love that particular one. 

There is also a thought provoking element to this series in the subject matter of medical experimentation. The USA (like many other countries) has an extensive history, dating back to my own countries' colonial past, of using some of it's prison population for experimental drug research and experimentation. Red Sleep deals with this issue and an ever still pertinent one, namely the selection of such trials in the main from a certain part of the prison population, namely African-American. The figures show that even taking into account the percentage breakdown of prison inmate backgrounds, the use of those from certain racial and social class backgrounds is disproportionally large. 

I love anything like this that aims to highlight certain issues without ever becoming preachy or over sincere in its message. Andre Welsh has produced something that will encourage us to ask questions about society's treatment of parts of its own populace whilst importantly not losing sight of the need to entertain an audience. 

We the viewers are as much in the dark as to what has happened to Clyde as the character is himself, and together we are being transported along the journey he is facing (and has faced) and the dangers and terror that still await him. I have been lucky to have seen a number of fine web series recently and can safely say that this is quite possibly the best that I have had the pleasure to view so far.

Have a look at the trailer below to get a feel of what I mean.

Red Sleep premiered earlier this month on JTS.TV. which is a subscription-based streaming website featuring a whole plethora of web series. JTS stands for Just The Story, in essence because the site brings ad-free versions of a wide range web series online, (often for the first time ever). There are a number of sci-fi and horror based series on its site, three of which immediately caught my eye; 
Continuum  - in which "A beautiful young woman awakens aboard an adrift space ship with no memory of who she is or how she got there and at the mercy of the ship’s mysterious computer."

Vampire Zombie Werewolf - " After partnering with a not-so-classic suburban couple, a webseries producer with a string of derivative, monster-themed successes learns that the deadly creatures of his imagination are real. And they love his work. He’ll have one night to help the couple climb the undead social ladder by dreaming up a new, vampire-inspiring webseries that doesn’t suck, or become the victim of his most rabid fans."

Finally, there is Asylum  - which "Follows a team of doctors as they diagnose and treat patients at a hospital for the criminally insane, and as we learn more about each of the doctors and the asylum itself, we will begin to unravel a mystery that uncovers forces at work more extraordinary than anyone could imagine."

There is a genuine feeling that we are now part of an ever exciting brave new world of entertainment sources that are taking us well and truly headlong into the 21st Century with the likes of Netflix, and now JTS.TV, the link for which can be found RIGHT HERE

Red Sleep Credits: 

Written and Directed by: Andre Welsh
Produced by: Andre Welsh
Co-Produced by: Mitch Costanza and Jeff Gadigan
Cinematography and Editing by: Andre Welsh

Red Sleep Cast:

Chioke Jelani Clanton – Clyde Harris
Ron Kaell – Calvin
Don Stark – Dr. George Reed
Jessica Sonneborn – Katrina Long
Phillip Jeanmarie – James
Tobias Mehler – Dr. Dan Black
Ahku – Darnell
Jo-Anne Krupa – Alexia
Ryan McCann – Jason Long
Jessica Roth – Claire Carson
Aaron Massey – Chip Connelly
Leanne Wilson – Elizabeth
Michael Coons – Jonathan Wright
Andre Matheiu – Crooked Cop
Phillip Jeanmarie – James
Shalonda Shaw – Corrine Johnson
Jenny Pellicer – Grace
Kyle Koromaldi – Anton
Mitch Costanza – Rich Flemming
Cheyenne Costanza – Artificial Flower Girl

For more information on Red Sleep and JTS.TV then follow the links below......

Red Sleep on

Red Sleep trailer #1 on Vimeo:

Red Sleep trailer #2 on Vimeo:

Red Sleep tv series on Facebook:

Red Sleep on Twitter: @RedSleep_Series, @JTSTV

Red Sleep on IMDB:

UPDATE 30/05/14

After the original article was published I received a very nice message from one of the producers of Red Sleep, Mitch Constanza, who thanked me for the review I did about the web series. One of the consequences of our conversation was my agreeing to do some sort of podcast interview with him, and hopefully Andre in the near future. I ‘m doing this on the basis of two points: firstly, as I’ve already mentioned, the web series is excellent. Secondly, I just love the name, ‘Mitch Constanza’.
In the meantime, I decided to construct one of the now legendary Fifth Dimension ‘interviews’with Mitch.

Q) So provide us with a brief background to filming Red Sleep
(Mitch) Andre and I have been making films together for ten years. He wrote, shot, directed, and edited the entire series. He funded it out of pocket for a fraction of most web series's budgets. He shot it with mostly natural light and one boom operator as our crew.  We shot guerrilla style in the bay area (Oakland and near San Quentin Prison) for a few scenes and a ton in LA.

Q) Yes but that’s all well and good, but what proof do you have this ten years worth of experience?
(Mitch) This is a trailer link to mine and Andre's previous short film in case you want to check it out:
Don 'nice guy' Stark

Q) Well that put me in my place then didn’t it? Especially as it looks rather erm, talk to me about the wonderful Don Stark (who many will know from playing Bob Pinciotti sitcom That '70s Show)
(Mitch) We got Don Stark to play a dark character in that and he was so excited. He knew our script incredibly well and jumped right into our physical /violent scene. He upped my game as an actor for sure.  
Our collaboration was so strong that he was on board with Red Sleep the moment we asked him. I'm a huge fan of getting to work with actor's we've watched on TV and in movies and give them a chance to play opposite their type.

Q) Yeah but I bet he was a big-time prima donna, bossing you all around like some sort of prima donna type superstar?
(Mitch) He told us that while he loves comedy, he was so excited to get to go to a deeper and darker place for our projects because he didn't have the chance to in a long time.  He was frequently talking out the scenes and shooting ideas with Andre, the director/creator.  Don didn't just show up to deliver lines and there was no ego involved. When he came on set he was fired up to shoot some intense scenes and was a true collaborator. Of course in between scenes we laughed our asses off much of the time thanks to him.

Q) Darn it, Don Stark is a nice guy. There goes a Fifth Dimension blog scoop about him being a nightmare to work with. Bugger. So what else can you tell me?
(Mitch) Please let me know if you have any questions about the show. We're also available for podcasts... although I swear a lot so Andre can do more of the talking if need be.

Ron 'You looking at me?' Kaell

Q) A podcast sounds a pretty good idea - don't worry, I swear for Great Britain so it would be fine  - hey, maybe we could compare US and UK swear words?! :-)
(Mitch) We would LOVE to be on any UK podcasts. Let me know what I can do to help make it happen. My British father in law and I quote Ben Kingsley lines from "Sexy Beast" as terms of endearment all the time so it would be fun to be uncensored while promoting the show.
Jessica 'bloody gorgeous' Roth

Q) And to finish off – how are things going with publicising Red Sleep ( apart, that is, from the magnificent work that I’m doing ............)? 
(Mitch) Last week we were ranked 3rd on for the best series of the week and we didn't even campaign for votes. We want to win so we're getting the word out now.  The actors we're nominating for the ballet this week are Ron Kaell and Jessica Roth. 
We realised what a huge opportunity we have to establish ourselves as contenders in the web series community and want to do whatever we can to get recognition for Andre and every body's hard word work.

Finally, I would like to say a genuine thank you to Mitch in taking the time to talk to me. All it leaves me to say to him is a message from Ben Kingsley.....

"Where there's a will - and there is a fucking will - there's a way - and there is a fucking way!"

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