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An Interview with Andrew Bard, Creator of Dystopia: Capitol City

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2016

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Your new webseries Dystopia: Capitol City - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Itís a character driven dramatic sci-fi series that takes place in a post apocalyptic future. It centers mostly around a small group of survivors in a ruined city who have formed a resistance against the Parliament who is ruling them and taking the wealth leaving them to die.

 

How did the project fall together in the first place?

 

I wrote the original draft back in 2013 which turned into the short film which is now in essence the pilot to the series. After the short film was released people were asking me what I was planning to do with it since I left it on a cliff hanger. I quickly penned the feature script which came in at around 116 pages, but then I realized that these characters and this world is too big for a feature so I scrapped that idea and in late 2014 I began writing the outline for the series and focused on that now for the past year and a half.

 

With Dystopia: Capitol City being a science fiction story of the post-apocalyptic variety - is that at all a favourite genre of yours, and some of your genre favourites?

 

Absolutely! I would have to say sci-fi is my absolute favorite, being inspired and in awe growing up with films like The Day The Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Aliens, Terminator, Enemy Mine and even ones that are looked at as silly like Flight of the Navigator and The Last Starfighter. Iím not a huge horror fan actually, I like action and comedies much more. But I will watch any film that has a strong storyline and solid character development because if you donít feel anything for the characters the whole film regardless of the budget falls flat.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Dystopia: Capitol City?

 

I drew a lot from Joss Whedon actually. The way he creates strong characters across the board is phenomenal especially in his show Firefly. Beyond that I was inspired by Mad Max, Dishonored (video game), some elements of practical steampunk and a world of things. Itís hard to pin point a certain inspiration with the show because it has sort of become an organic life form at this point. The show is evolving and developing in ways I hadnít originally thought of before like making a certain character take a different path than I first wrote because in developing the story I realized that the character has changed from the original description I wrote so I go with that. A lot of the time when I write I will listen to music as well that will sort of guide me emotionally where I want to go with the story. For instance, the episode Allies and Enemies - I wrote that while listening to some film scores then Juno Reactor, VNV Nation and Assemblage 23. For the final few episodes I would listen to music from Hanzel und Gretyl, KMFDM, some dubstep (yes dubstep) and mixed that with the 28 Days Later and The Crow score to help me stay focused on where I wanted to go with them.

 

Why choose the webseries format for Dystopia: Capitol City, and what are the advantages and challenges of working in that format?

 

Creating a web series was honestly the only way I knew how to tell this story beyond scrapping it in the cinematic universe and turning it into a novel. There are a ton of advantages for us to make Dystopia a series. We are able to take our time fleshing out characters and arenít regulated by a certain number of pages in one shot like a film. With that it can continue, build an audience and explore more than a feature can. The challenges are and will always be a budget. Regardless of how much you have something always comes up that costs more and with a series itís not as simple as blocking out a month or two to shoot and then it's completely wrapped. We have season one, then God willing season two and more. That means more time, more money, more planning, casting scheduling etc. With every project you will always run into obstacles.

 

You also had your hands in props and costume design on Dystopia: Capitol City - so what look were you going for there?

 

I canít tell you because I donít know hahaha. No honestly I just wanted something unique. Going back to the practical steampunk influence. I drew from that, the makeshift world of Mad Max and video games like Fallout, then laid it out as if it were real life and thought for a spell. If people had to create their own weapons and couldnít shop at the store what would be at their disposal? Yes people would go back to being able to create practical things but weapons for the most part won't be clean and pretty, they would be rough, dirty but work and thatís all that matters. As far as clothes the same deal applied. People wouldnít be able to go to the store and have a closet full of nice clean clothes. They scavenge, sew themselves and barter for what they can get.

 

Apart from that and writing, you also had numerous other functions on the series - care to elaborate?

 

Oh man haha. So yes, Iím also the director of photography, editor and I create any propaganda within the show or graphics online. Itís a lot of work and having my mind in so many different places makes it a bit hard at times but once the momentum picks up and I find my pocket itís easy to stay focused.

 

What can you tell us about your director Janet Llavina, and what's your collaboration like?

 

Honestly it's literally my best experience working with a director, sheís also the casting director as well. Iíve worked on a few projects in a number of roles and though it hasnít been terrible (for the most part) there were some moments where tension was very thick or the director was missing important things they should have been focusing on. Janet is the most focused one Iíve worked with. Off set she and I have very thorough conversations about what each scene should look like, we break down the shots together, write notes and really studies what she wants. On set she keeps that same drive with the actors. She just knows how to talk with them and give direction in such a way that our cast just gets it. One of my favorite parts about her style is that she used to be an actress so she understands that side of things. She lets our cast experiment and perform scenes with improv and allows their creativity as actors to shine and then makes adjustments but she always allows are cast to show their talent and she has always said, I hired them for a reason, because theyíre talented and I want them to be able to showcase that. If I donít allow them to embrace the character but stand over them telling them to do things exactly one way thereís no room for creativity and at that point I hired robots not actors.

 

Do talk about the cast of Dystopia: Capitol City, and did you have any say in that matter?

 

Yes, I have a lot of say but I also trust Janetís casting decisions 100%. Iíll give an opinion or suggestion but in the end of the day everyone you see on screen is a result of her casting them and Iím incredibly proud of our cast. Iím not sure what I can say about them other than theyíre truly gifted individuals who were willing to take a chance on the show, my crazy vision and they embraced it beautifully. Our cast is comprised of a great mix of seasoned veterans and up and coming talent that are going to make huge waves.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Our atmosphere on set is a pretty crazy one. The best way I can say it is it feels like a family reunion but not a batshit crazy one that end with the police showing up. Everyone from our cast and crew is genuinely happy to see one another! Thereís an energy there when we all step on set, regardless of how serious, dramatic, horrific or otherwise the episode consists of, everyone is smiling and happy. Iíve been on sets where thereís just that awkward energy but ours feels warm and inviting. I know, it sounds foolish but it's true. Now that being said, when it's time to work everyone puts on their game face and deliver exceptional performances, everyone across the board stays focused, we have a schedule and 9 times out of 10 we stick to it, we may go over once in a while which will almost always happen on any set but thereís no complaints. No groans from the corner, everyone is there, focused and ready and that energy, professionalism and passion for what they do, what we all do is what keeps our sets from getting uneasy.

 

The $64 question of course, where can Dystopia: Capitol City be seen?

 

You can view it in a couple different places! Weíre on the Entertainment Experiment, hereís the link to our channel: http://www.entertainmentexperiment.com/#!dystopia/l6f7p - and weíre on webTV on CrankIT-UP, hereís the link to our channel: http://www.crankit-up.com/#!dystopia-capitol-city/c1782

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of the series yet?

 

Thus far the reception has been really great! Itís being received well and thatís all I can hope for.

 

So what does the future have in store for Dystopia: Capitol City, and will there be a second season eventually?

 

That is absolutely the end goal. We want to make sure season one is done to the very best it can be so that weíll have an even stronger chance to make season two happen, with a bigger budget, bigger locations and be able to show more of Capitol City and beyond.

 

(Other) future projects you'd like to share?

 

Honestly until we wrap season one Iím not even going to think about another project.

 

As far as I know, you entered the filmworld as a musician - so what can you tell us about that aspect of your career?

 

Yeah, I started writing music as a solo artist back in 2003 after being in bands for a few years. I did a couple jingles and TV spots for the local WB (now the CW) and wrote darkwave, industrial tracks that led me to collaborate with DJs from the UK, Australia, Canada and US. In 2007 I was introduced to a guy who was doing low budget fan films. We met a couple times and he really liked my music and asked if I would do the music for his films. I ended up scoring some of his projects then branched out and began composing indie films and doing sound design and in my off time I would work on scripts and study the hell out of YouTube, watching tutorials on editing, lighting, cinematography. Literally anything to do with film production. In 2012 Janet and I decided that we wanted to make our own projects and formed Neo Phoenix Studios and here we are.

 

What made you pick up writing eventually?

 

Iíve always been a ďwriterĒ. I would write short stories, lyrics in my band, poems and took that to writing books. Iíve yet to be published but my first endeavor was back in the summer between 8th grade and freshman year I wrote a short story, about 100 pages of lined paper crammed into a notebook then in 2004 I began writing a novel and it took me a few years to finish it and Iím still not certain it's ďfinishedĒ. From there I began writing screenplays and it took a little while to be able to adapt and be able to shift from novel format to script format. Theyíre two entirely different worlds.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork (in whatever position) prior to Dystopia: Capitol City?

 

Having worked on a lot of no budget and shoestring films I found that saying ďthatís not my departmentĒ isnít something that is ever said. I like working on small budget films because thereís more of a team effort there and a willingness to help someone else out. I still have the same mindset today that regardless of the budget Iíll still help in any way I can in any department. I directed twice. Iím shit with it, never want to do it again. Iíve been a boom op, grip, assistant director, assistant camera, composer, sound designer, editor, costumer, set dresser. You name it.

 

How would you describe yourself as a writer?

 

Have you seen the part in Wayne's World where Garth sits at the drums and says ďI like to playĒ? I can say that Iím proud of my scripts and what Iíve been able to achieve but Iím still very much a student.

 

Writers, musicians, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

Get ready for a corny lineÖ life. Honestly there are so many things that have inspired me, driving down a back road and seeing a really cool tree formation has inspired an entire story sometimes. I think my inability to focus on one thing for too long has made everything an inspiration at one point or another haha.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

I already mentioned a few of them earlier so Iíll try to be brief. The Count of Monte Cristo, The Crow, Ghostbusters, Terminator 1 and 2, Amadeus, Shine, Jacob's Ladder, In the Mouth of Madness, Back to the Future-trilogy, Indiana Jones (original 3), The Room (yeah donít judge), Heís Just Not That Into You, A Nightmare on Elm Street (original), The Goonies. Jesus thereís really too many to name.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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Anything by Paul Feig and Paul W.S Anderson (yes even Mortal Kombat - itís nostalgic but it's not good) and most of Michael Bay. Eli Roth and Rob Zombie are simply rubbish. I am not a fan at all of David Fincherís work either, heís not rubbish but Iím not a fan of his directing style and nearly all of his films fall in the vein of taking themselves too seriously and thatís a huge turn off.

 

Your/your series' website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

Our Neo Phoenix Studios' Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/NeoPhoenixStudios/

Dystopia: Capitol Cityís Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/dystopiacapitolcity/

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

No sir. I thank you very much, it was a pleasure.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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Rudy Barrow

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