Friday, November 12, 2010

Riese: Kingdom Falling SyFy Web series

Riese: Kingdom Falling, even though it's steampunk, has a fairy tale feel to it. It put me in mind of the Brothers Grimm in that there is an exiled princess and young innocents – in this case infants – in danger. The narration by Amanda Tapping certainly added to this overall impression. The difference, of course, is that in 2010 the hero is a heroine. The princess doesn't cower in a dungeon waiting for rescue, but fights, defends and rescues.

Another great aspect of the show is that Riese has a wolf companion. I recently learned that all domestic dogs are descended from the white wolf. Fenrir is loyal and fierce. But he has to stay to the shadows as he is also hunted by Amara's new regime.

The cast includes Christine Chatelain as Riese (photo upper left by Adam Blasberg), Sharon Taylor as Amara, Ben Cotton as Herrick, Patrick Gilmore as Trennan , Ryan Robbins (from Sanctuary) as Rand, Emilie Ullerup as Aliza, Alessandro Juliani as Garin and Allison Mack as Marlise.

L to R: Patrick Gilmore as Trennan, Alessandro Juliani as Garin and Sharon Taylor as Amara. All photos by Adam Blasberg.

I interviewed co-creator and Executive Producer Ryan Copple to find out more about this wave of the future.

AW: Can you tell my readers a bit about the spark for this story idea?

RC: The story actually began as an idea for a short, but Kaleena Kiff (the other co-creator) saw the script and said we should develop it into a series. As for the inspiration, we really wanted to tell a story about someone journeying through a bizarre, but hauntingly similar world to our own. Once we decided to turn it into a series, we introduced the royalty background for Riese and other serialized elements.

AW: Is this the first time SyFy has acquired a Web series? Does it have plans to acquire more in the future?

RC: As far as I know. They did a webseries for Battlestar Gallactica, but I think we’re the first original acquisition. They’re definitely looking into doing more online content though. The fun thing about Syfy as well, is that if the programs do well online, there’s the possibility they’ll develop for other mediums.

AW: I have only peeked at one other Web series, but I gather that there is a definite difference in the medium. The episodes are very compressed, rather like a "previously on ____" summary. As a matter of fact, I was just marveling at one of those for Eureka. Putting those summaries together is an art in itself. Like flash film instead of flash fiction. But I digress. My question is, if Riese becomes a TV series, will it have the same look, or will it be more fleshed out, less compressed? Would it still be narrated, or was that a necessary device for the Web medium?

RC: Riese as a television show would be extremely similar aesthetically, but telling a story on the web is much different than telling it on television. We’d definitely want to flesh out the characters, the world, and especially the steampunk elements. When working on the web, you definitely don’t have the same budget that you would for a television show.

I honestly can’t say about whether or not narration would be part of the television series. It was crucial for the webseries, because we needed a way to smoothly introduce much of the backstory for Riese and the other characters. It also served as the glue for our re-edits, allowing us to move scenes around and bring footage from later episodes into earlier ones. If we do have a narrator, I think it’ll serve a much different purpose than it did in the Web series.

AW: What sort of metrics are you using to track its popularity and what can fans do to help?

RC: Views are definitely the most important metric. Syfy is monitoring the traffic for Riese, so the more eyes fans can get on the series, the better. I also recommend watching them more than once.

Syfy’s also watching the online response as well, so the more positive things people say about the series, the more likely they’ll consider it a good fit for their channel.

AW: When might you know if it will make it to TV?

RC: Syfy is going to wait till all 10 episodes air online before discussing the possibility of a television show internally. I’m guessing we won’t know anything either way until the new year.

AW: Will the present cast continue in that event?

RC: They’re all on board verbally, as they love the story and the characters. However, it’ll really depend on their schedules once we start talking television.

AW: What prompted this shift in story acquisition?

RC: Online serials and dramas are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s a medium that everyone’s trying to dig themselves into and find a way to make it work for their specific brand. For someone like Syfy, it’s an affordable way to do a ‘test run’ for a property without shooting a pilot.

AW: Can you speak to the current trends in TV series production (shorter seasons with shared spots, mini-series instead of a full run, influences from and marketing through the Internet and social media) and how this new method of acquisition might improve programming?

RC: With shows now having a mid-season hiatus, the web can really open up opportunities to keep their fans engaged with supplemental content or additional storylines while waiting for the broadcast episodes to return. Social media is also a force to be reckoned with, because now fans can actually become engaged with the people behind their favorite shows, and really do become part of the team. We’ve always said that if Riese were to go to television, we’d still want to embrace the online aspects of the show as much as possible.

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