Your upcoming webseries Last in Space - in a few words, what
is it about?
At it's most basic, it's a
sci fi comedy about 2 bored spaceship pilots killing time by talking
to each other. Obviously there is more to it than that, but at it's
core: it's cubicle talk, set in space.
The longer answer is that
1000 or so years from now, humans have finally gotten their collective
crap together enough to explore the cosmos only to find every other
intelligent species in the galaxy already has. Humans are the Last In
Space. They have very little to offer to highly advanced races, so humans
work the unskilled jobs that no one else wants. Humans such as Wong and
Smith, who each fly an automated one-man ship. The series is about them,
as they fly side by side, and have little to do except look out at the
cosmos or turn their heads 90 degrees and look at each other. So they talk, the way all
While it might be considered science
fiction by some, Last in Space depicts a rather realistic
work situation (even if in an out-of-this-world setting). So to what
extent is the series based on your actual work experience?
I've had crappy jobs, I
think most of us have. I'm really lucky now, I love my full-time job. But
I still remember things from my past jobs and yes, that's where a lot of
Last In Space comes from. I'm sure at some point
someone is going to call me out on using an actual conversation I've had with
them, but the first batch of scripts tend to be filtered through
sci-fi tropes, so I'll probably get away with it for a while. And even
then, I'll just say one of the other writers wrote any offending bit.
return to the science fiction angle of the series - is that a genre you're
at all fond of, and what prompted you to take your novel approach?
I love science fiction.
Love it. I watch a fair bit of it, and read it all the time. So much so
that I sometimes feel I should be reading other genres occasionally
just to broaden my horizons (but then Timothy Zhan will have a new book
out, and I'll just read that).
Last In Space came as a result of
a lo-fi sci fi film challenge that Adam, my coproducer, suggested
we take part in last year. We made a short sci-fi film over a weekend, and
that made me realize I didn't need to have a huge budget to make good
science fiction. At the same time I'm a big proponent of using
your limitations to your advantage. One of the best things I ever heard
was that when the TV series Trailer Park Boys got a budget increase, they
made sure none of that appeared on camera. I love that sensibility. It
means they weren't asking the audience to ignore a shitty set or bad
effects for the first season. They simply didn't write anything they
couldn't do right. That's what Adam and I are
trying to do here. It isn't a low budget version of Star
Trek, it is
completely its own thing.
sources of inspiration when conceiving Last in Space?
The web series The Vault
is a big inspiration. I won't spoil anything here, but they have a concept
that works brilliantly. As a viewer I am totally engaged with the story,
and as a producer I love it because they've made a single set work
for their entire series, without ever making you think it was a budgetary
issue. Reusing the one set over and over is inherent to the concept.
Others would be things
like the film Office Space for their take on office life and Galaxy
Quest for how it played with sci-fi genre conventions. The dialogue in the
comic books co-written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatties are all
hilarious, I'll probably be rereading those soon for inspiration. And of
course Mystery Science Theatre because, since the day I discovered it, I
have maintained the only thing wrong with that series was I wasn't
involved in making it.
talk about Last in Space's co-creator Adam Axbey for a bit,
and how did the two of you first meet, and what's your collaboration like?
I met Adam when
I was 13 or so. He was a good friend's brother but fairly quickly we
become friends in our own right. He scored my student film.
He's recorded audio for several projects I edited. Pretty much
anytime I have influence on the audio side of things, I try to get him
A couple of years ago he
asked me about working together more formally. We've done some sketches
and developed several projects together, and
Last In Space is the next step, our
As for collaborating with him: So far it's been the perfect partnership. Our history together gives
us a short hand. We tend to think along similar lines most of the time and
when we don't, there is no need to tip-toe around each other's feelings.
He can just say "that doesn't work" without worrying I'm going
to take it personally. When it comes to specific
projects, we try to determine who is responsible for what ahead of time.
That way there is no confusion or any "but I thought..."-crap
happening. We've taken turns directing, and we've even co-directed,
which I thought I would never do, but it seems to work for us. I got really
he is as nice as he is and as talented as he is, and for some reason seems
to like to work with me.
would you describe the series' brand of humour?
banter. Some of it'll will be clever, some of it just plain stupid, some
of it just them yelling at each other, but it'll completely be the
banter between the two characters. And just like real life, it's not a
matter of one guy being the funny one and the other the straight man.
These are very real people, who each make stupid comments, and over-react
you tell us about the intended look and feel of your series?
Visually, it'll be simple
to point of almost boring. The entire series will be 4 shots, a profile
and head-on shot of each character in the cockpit of his ship. Add in the
space background, inserted in post and that's it. We won't even see
the whole ship.
Adam and I decided pretty
quickly we had to build the ship, not create it digitally. We both
like the look of models and sets over CGI. I think Star Trek - The Next Generation has held
up better then Babylon 5, visually speaking, because they actually built
most of the stuff.
The simplicity means
episodes have to be short. 2 minutes tops. Otherwise it's crosses into
actually being visually boring and that would be bad. I think that
limitation actually helps the writing though. It forces us to cut anything
that isn't funny. We've all seen things that would have been really funny
as 60 second but were stretched out to 2-3 minutes. That won't be an issue
for us. Last thing we want is for a viewer to get bored.
of course have to talk about your cast and crew for a bit, and why exactly
This is lo-fi sci-fi, so
right off the bat I think it's clear there isn't a lot of money involved.
So if you're going to go to all this work, you better be having fun. That's
the team right there. People I know I am going to have fun with. Adam and I hang out
when we're not working, so clearly we enjoy each other's company. Another buddy, Camile
Gauthier will be shooting it. He's another old friend that ended up in
industry. He's a great guy that is very talented. Adam and I have actually
talked about how we feel bad that his talent is being completely wasted on
a series that has 2 camera set ups. We're lucky to have him.
Joel and Steve recording voice-over
As for the cast, I've
actually made a couple of sketches with Joel Buxton and Steve Patrick
Adams before. That said, it still took
me about 6 weeks of looking for actors before I approached them. I was
checking out a lot of sketch comedy shows and wasn't seeing anyone right
for the parts, when I ran into Steve Patrick Adams, who is playing Wong.
We rode a subway train together and
Last In Space came up in conversation. Later
that night it hit me, Steve and Joel, who would be perfect. Adam met them
shortly later, and agreed right away. Both guys are hilarious.
I've seen their stand-up and I'd be fans of it even if I didn't know them
(Joel's bit about being discriminated against as a white, vegetarian
really speaks to me). The fact that both are accomplished sketch comedians
is a huge asset. Joel is part of the acclaimed Sketchersons
and Steve has been nominated for Tim Simms awards for both stand-up and sketch, and last year he won a
Canadian Comedy Award for stand-up.
As far as I know, you're currently still raising
funds for your series. So what can you tell us about your fundraising
efforts and what exactly will the money be used for?
We've got an IndieGoGo
campaign going until Sunday June 10th. Our goal was set for $2000
and it looks like we're going to hit that (knock wood), so we've actually
put in a stretch goal, which if we hit, will allow us make more
The vast majority of the
money will go towards the building supplies for the ship itself. Then some
green screen paper so we can insert a space backdrop, and then some
lights. The hope is we can have a standing set, so after the first batch,
we can put together episodes at a moment's notice.
That's it. We kept it
simple, given we don't have an established fan base to draw from. We just
want enough to cover the costs so this didn't put us into debt. If we
magically have money left over or make over our goal, it'll go into the
series in some form. Props, wardrobe, stuff like that. Adam and I won't be
taking a dollar for ourselves.
As for the campaign itself: We've got the usual crowd
funding type perks for anyone that contributes: buttons, patches, DVD copies etc, but the stuff that we're most proud of offering was the stuff
that was unique to the series: We were able to offer name
drops in episodes, which people loved. We're still working the scripts
there, so my hope is to not just force a name into a script, but as much
as possible, make it part of humour. The other great perk was the voice
over roles. Wong and Smith sometimes talk to an off camera
"Mission Control" via radio, so we offered up those roles out
too. Those sold out quickly. We've got a couple of
really cool ones still available, not least of which is Cam's offer up to
make an entire video for anyone. His company, Clam Industries, will shoot,
edit and deliver an entire video.
the money's raised, what's the plan ... and any idea when the series might
go live yet?
We have an ambitious
schedule, but we're also trying to be realistic about how long it is going
to take to make. The ship is being designed now, and I'll likely be buying
the materials before the campaign even finishes. Ideally I want the ship
built in June, and shooting to happen in July. The plan is to post 2
episodes online and a new episode every week after that for at least 12
weeks. I'd love to have the
series begin in September but we won't actually commit ourselves to a
release date till we know for a fact that we can maintain a consistent
schedule. That means having several complete before we're starting putting
them online. I've got some vacation time this summer that, if all goes
well, I spend editing Last
Any future projects beyond Last
Several. Adam and I have 4 or 5 others in
development as producers, but nothing we can talk about at this point.
That said, we still have full time gigs in our post production roles so in
that respect we've got stuff coming out all the time. I'm just finishing
up editing a web series called Guidance that stars some Second City
and that'll be online in July on Bite.ca. Adam recently finished
working on the video game Siphon Filer Blacklist that I think will be out
in the summer.
What got you into filmworking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
In high school anytime I
had the option to make a video for an assignment I did. I got really lucky
and my school even had a VHS-to-VHS editing suite, so I spent hours there.
Then when I had to sort out what to do for university, I was completely
lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living till a friend pointed
out I could make videos. It seems stupid in retrospect, but at the
time it was so fun, it hadn't occurred to me that it was something I could
make a career of. I ended up going to York
University for Film and Video, and later I was in a producer program at
Centennial College. York taught me everything I needed to know
technically, to make a film or TV-series. Centennial taught me the
business side of things. How to actually get to use the skills I had
learned at York.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Last in Space?
I'm fairly new to
producing, so I don't have a whole lot out there. A short mockumentary I
made 8 years ago called The Hockey Hunter and some shorts I
made for bite.ca such as
Not the Kevin Pollak Chat Show.
As an editor, I think the
single best think I worked on was a 10 part documentary series on comic
book for IFC Canada. It had a horrible name, Ink: Alter Egos
but as a life-long comic reader it was a dream job. And it was
extremely well received, it even snagged a Gemini nomination.
I've done a couple of
random things too, like direct a pilot to a sketch comedy series that
didn't happen, though a couple of the sketches ended up online. Actually
there is a sketch from that pilot that was absolutely hilarious, but I
didn't even finish editing before it was cut. Network thought it was in
terrible taste (and it was) but I loved it. I still have the footage, and
I'm sure someday I'll finish it and just post it online secretly.
who inspire you?
I'm not much of a horror fan, yet what Oren
Peli did with Paranormal Activity amazes me. Like The Vault, he used his
limitations so well that I can't see how he could have made it better.
Edgar Wright keeps making things I adore. Joss Whedon has had me since Buffy. Bruce McDonald, even his
TV work is inventive, and that's hard to
Your favourite movies?
all over the place with films. Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie has
been a favourite since it first came out. Still makes me laugh. Best
In Show (and pretty much all of Christopher Guest's films). So I Married an
Axe Murderer has some special charm for me. MegaMind proved to me that
Tina Fey was born to play Lois Lane. HardCoreLogo has yet to get old no
matter how much I watch it.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Spider-man 2 drove me nuts at the time. Everyone loved it, but the
failures of logic just upset me. They still do. They spent an entire movie
setting up Peter Parker as a brilliant scientist and in the end his best
effort is to unplug the big bad machine. And when that doesn't work he
gives up! And then he gets the solution handed to him from the villain,
who tells him to throw it underwater. He couldn't have come up with that
on his own? I thought of that, and I'm not a brilliant scientist.
series' website, Facebook, IndieGoGo, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Of course the focus till
June 10th is our IndieGoGo page http://igg.me/at/LastInSpace -
even if people don't
intend to contribute a Dollar, I'd love for them to watch the pitch video. 40
seconds in we have an animatic of the 1st episode. And if that makes
them laugh (and most people say it does) I'd love for them to share it on
their Twitter/Facebook feeds.
Our Facebook page is
- Adam & I only post when we have something worth
saying, so we don't overrun people's feeds. it's fairly quiet right
now, but it'll be more active once the series is online.
And if people want some
free content until then, our characters tweet at each other regularly.
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Adam and I are throwing a
party to celebrate Last In Space. It's after the IndieGoGo campaign ends,
so it's not grab for more money, just a good time for anyone remotely
interested in hanging out with us. It'll be a casual event, but we'll have
the cast preview a script or two and be giving out some of the perks to
anyone who did contribute.
Anyone in Toronto on June
14 is invited. 2nd floor of The Yellow Griffin Pub, 2202 Bloor St West,
for the interview!
Thanks for the interest in my project. Really appreciate it.