Technology has become the great equalizer especially when it comes to creating potential projects for television and film. Little more than a decade ago, only studios and visual effects companies with deep pockets were able to present high-concept project pitches since they could were the few that could swallow the often exorbitant costs. But then HD cameras became consumer affordable and pro-quality digital editors and visual effects software became stock in every PC and Mac which opened the medium to anyone with talent. Now there’s a whole new generation of talented amateurs blowing the doors off development offices in Hollywood with projects like The Resistance airing on SyFy on October 4th.
The Resistance is a one hour sci-fi pilot about a virus that’s run amuck in a dystopian world called Aurordeca. Unfolding like a live-action graphic novel, it features anime sequences by artist Chad Chadwick that then transform into live-action chapters that reveal the story of heroine Lana Strife (Katrina Law). Originally conceived as a web series by young filmmakers Adrian Picardi and Eric Ro, The Resistance was found online by cable channel Starz and now its part of the current wave of impressive, original web productions that are changing the way Hollywood finds and invests in developing potential new series and film franchises.
The idea for The Resistance came from Picardi who worked as an editor fresh after his graduation from the Los Angeles Film School. On his own time with Ro, his producing partner, they put together the initial footage for The Resistance and then used that to woo their next stage of collaborators. In particular they needed a screenwriter and got the attention of Matt Ragghianti, who was an early staff writer on Lost and produced the Heroes special content series “Slow Burn.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsarama, Ragghianti explains that he had just completed scripting the video game Tomb Raider: Anniversary when a friend told him about a privately-funded web series that needed a screenwriter.
“I jumped at the chance and went over and met with the director, Adrian Picardi and his producing partner Eric Ro,” Ragghianti remembers. He says Picardi explained the story and how he had called in every favor he could to get some equipment and friends that would work for free so they could shoot some sizzle reel footage to try and get people excited.
“He showed me the footage and it just played spectacular,” Ragghianti enthuses. “I craned my neck around and asked how he did it because it looked so polished and so produced, I thought for sure it cost a fortune. They literally did it for nothing – no money at all.” Impressed, Ragghianti says he gave them a writing sample that in turn won him the gig to form Picardi’s ideas into a full three-act story.
“The very basic framework of the story existed before I got there which was that Adrian wanted to set the story in a world called Aurordeca where there was a plague and a despotic leader who was enjoying the stranglehold he had upon society.” The villain of the piece is Syrus Primoris, a corporate titan that almost twenty years ago discovered a drug called NOXE that would keep the deadly virus at bay. In the ensuing years, Primoris created a new slavery with his drug.
Ragghianti explains, “NOXE is a suppressant that only lasts for a week at a time and you need to keep working to earn enough credits to get it.” A bit unexpectedly, Ragghianti offers, “I really connected with the villain. I hated him so much when I was writing that I decided to try and find out why he was the way he was. When I turned that story and created his back story and really saw the tragedy of his upbringing that made him into the person he is, I got completely consumed by the story."The most important thing I learned on Lost was that if you do not connect with the characters people will only go with you so long before they get bored and change the channel. With that lesson, it became my job to establish why these people where the way they were and the circumstances that led to the evolution of the characters that they are when the story picks up in The Resistance. All three of the main characters, Lana Strife, Arclight Insurgo (Sunny Jain) and Syrus (Adrian Zaw), make up a very archetypal story. Syrus controls everything including the media, so Lana is termed as a terrorist when she in fact is fighting to save everyone from the slavery that is NOXE. Lana is the brave face of ARM (Aurodecan Resistance Movement).”
As Ragghianti wrote the entire screenplay, he says Adrian and Eric leaked the sizzle reel footage onto the Internet and that’s when things got really interesting for the project.
“Someone over at Starz saw it and reached out for a meeting,” Ragghianti explains. “It turns out [Starz exec] Marta Fernandez was a giant Lost fan and knew me, so we got to go into Starz where I was able to pitch out the entire story. Shortly thereafter they gave us the money to shoot this as a web series because they had recently gotten into business with Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures to provide web content specifically. It was a lucky coincidence to be in the right place at the right time.”
They shot and edited the series as eight separate chapters, and included the anime sequences by Chadwick. Ragghianti explains, “The guys read a ton of graphic novels so it was their intention from the get-go to do a graphic novel after the fact of producing the series in the first place. When we got the money to shoot this thing, it afforded us the opportunity to merge those two worlds together because it feels like a comic book story so why not have that visually represented. We were lucky enough that they had the contacts in place to act upon that and it’s a wonderful merge.”
They also got renowned composer Jesper Kyd (Assassins Creed) to create an original score for The Resistance. After he saw their edits, Kyd decided it would be his entry project into television and film.
This past summer Ragghianti says they suddenly heard from Starz that The Resistance was going to be more. “
It took a year actually for them to license it to SyFy as a one hour TV pilot. And then we cut the eight webisodes together to get the hour [episode].”
What audiences will see on SyFy, Ragghianti says only tells the very tip of the proverbial story iceberg in The Resistance. “We only had so many dollars to go and shoot so we found a logical cliffhanger stopping point to tease the overall story. We hoped that would be a scene to go, “Holy s***! What happens next?” All that character back story and this rich landscape that takes place in the much larger version of the story, I hope someday we get to tell outside of the one hour we get to tell [on SyFy]. Having it released this way and seeing what happens after as a result is exciting. Hopefully, it will convince the powers that be to let us do further webisodes or further episodes of television.”
In this new paradigm of development, Ragghianti says audience feedback is going to determine their creative fate. “Starz and SyFy are both monitoring the social networking sites with a pretty high octane magnifying glass. So if people are chattering about it at all, and if it builds up anything to track, it’s going to pay enormous dividends in terms of affording us the opportunity to tell more of this story. Whether it’s Facebook, or Twitter or the Newsarama comments section there are no wrong places to talk about it.”
Regardless of the medium, Ragghianti says they are prepared to tell more of the Aurordeca story one way or another. “There are a lot of things we’ve talked about whether it’s a movie or a TV show or another web series or even a graphic novel. Ideally I would love for it to play out as a television series. Since I grew up as a writer on Lost, I would love to be able to lay out the story in its correct pace.”
The Resistance airs on Monday, October 4th at 11pm (EST)/8pm (PST) on SyFy and is ITunes, Xbox and Playstation on October 5th.