In their new webseries Horizon, British writers Paul Dudbridge and Simon Pearce ask us what would happen if a spaceship suddenly appeared in the skies above Bristol. We were lucky enough to catch up with them to talk special effects, alien invasions and The Walking Dead…
YouTube is becoming the forum for film makers nowadays. What do you think the appeal is for using YouTube as a medium?
Paul: We had done feature films and music videos before, so we had done the other formats, but what we hadn’t done is a web series. We`re fans of the likes of Lost and The Walking Dead, and we like watching those weekly stories where you have the cliffhanger, or you can jump between characters in different situations, and the fact that the audience has to wait to find out. That`s something we hadn`t done before. With being online, it was a great forum to do that. People can watch it quickly, all around the world, you can watch it onyour phone or on your iPad, wherever you are.
Simon: There`s that idea of just being able to do it and get it out there. I made a feature film two years ago which has only just come out on DVD, so that was a two year road to distribution, which is a long wait. It`s nice to be able to do something and immediately put it in front of an audience and get a reaction.
Is YouTube making things easier for filmmakers?
Paul: It`s a wonderful platform, because you can really get things out there. YouTube`s about ten years old now and there`s some really wonderful stuff on there. And a lot of rubbish as well! But it`s a great way to get things out there and get them seen. The quality now is so much better with broadband and HD, so if you take the time to film something, it can be seen the way you intended it to be. It`s really changed the arena entirely.
Simon: Writing a web-series is great fun. Once you know that each episode is going to be around five minutes, it`s a fun challenge to tell the story and get people involved in the characters in such a small time constraint. It`s got to have enough punch and pull people in an a very short space of time.
What makes Horizon different from other sci-fi dramas?
Simon: The setting was the big thing for me. Having it in Bristol. We`re all used to seeing American landmarks being blown up and spaceships over LA or Washington, so we thought it would be really cool to set it here. There`s also a really light tone to it too. There`s obviously serious moments, but ultimately we wanted it to be fun.
Paul: The real world was the key. The things that happen in the show are a little farfetched, but these are real people. In episode two, the characters are watching the news and we managed to get the local ITV newsreader to read the news for us, and there was a moment when we were editing that scene where we got goosebumps. This isn’t something so farfetched you can`t connect with it. We wanted to say “if aliens landed right now, this is what would happen”. It`s more relatable than if it was a straight out fantasy thing.
What were the inspirations for the show?
Paul: We`ve quoted things like The Walking Dead and 24. We`re both big fans of those shows. They`re both grounded in reality with something a little more. And then the cliffhanger sense of things, always ending on something where you simply have to watch the next show. Ask a question that the audience really needs to have answered.
Simon: Yeah, the American long-running series are great, and the opportunity to spend a long time with the characters and really develop the story is really exciting. We`re both big fans of sci-fi movies as well, and we fancied having a go at something with all the special effects and really get our teeth into it!
Aside from Doctor Who, Britain has always struggled in the sci-fi genre. Why do you suppose that is?
Paul: From a genre point of view, sci-fi is expensive, so if you`ve got a small budget, it`s easier to say “let`s make a comedy series set in a coffee shop”. Our effects did cost a lot of time and a lot of money, so that`s a lesson to take into the next season if we do do one. We concentrated a lot more on the characters, so that certainly helped with the budget!
Simon: Doctor Who`s the only one that`s really made it big oversees as well. Maybe it`s down to the writing. We have much shorter runs over here generally, with six episodes instead of the American twenty two, so it might make a big splash over here, but American networks aren`t interested. There`s also that element of things sometimes being a little “too British” with the humour or the writing not translating well internationally.
What was your favourite thing about making the show?
Simon: It was fun acting in something that I`d been writing. Playing the nervous dejected one who at the same time jumps out of explosions and hangs upside-down in cars. That was immense fun!
Paul: Having written the show, the editing was amazing; seeing your baby come to life. Seeing it happen, and the tense bits or the emotional moments. Just seeing your ideas in that finished state. That`s an amazing feeling.
Horizon is available to stream on YouTube now.