Friday, 14 November 2014

IndieGoGo for season two?

Ensign Williams has survived!

Well she's survived the first ten episodes of The Original Series which means there's only 69 to go and with their IndieGoGo goal already achieved after just FIVE days it looks like the second batch of minisodes will be an even stronger offering.

So let's talk season one first; we reviewed episodes one and two when The Red Shirt Diaries launched and over the subsequent eight weeks we've joined Ensign Williams as she's undergone medicals, dealt with an evil Kirk, watched her colleagues go a bit "wah wah", found a deleted log and been woken up on her day off by some apparently inconsiderate alien.

It has been a mixed bag and weekly I've been dropping my thoughts on the stories back to Ashley as each one has been released. I am disappointed by the lack of appearances by Gertrude but on the whole it seems to have been a great success from the pens of Ashley and Jason Inman. Keeping them to a tight two or three minute length has worked a gem making them easily accessible and bitesize entertainment each Monday. While a couple haven't quite hit the mark there have been some moments of genius.

Season One focused on the run from The Man Trap through to The Corbomite Maneuver and all the variations in between. Rather than going for production order, the shows were slotted into their original airing order meaning that for Where No Man Has Gone Before we got an unusual "lost log" installment with Williams pining for her love Gary Mitchell - only to have him ripped away and transformed into a God - and killed.

That loss isn't permanent with a transfer of affection to McCoy in Miri. While he's not giving the greatest bedside manner, there's something about that doctor y'know..  There's also the classic "Is this what you humans call..." trope and inability to recognise robots over humans in the aside to What Are Little Girls Made Of. Etched with humour you know that anyone in security is destined to end up vapourised, mutated or worse but somehow Williams just keeps avoiding those crucial death moments. 

Williams has a wonderful positivity and lack of awareness about just how much danger she seems to be in from the start as more frivolous events encapsulate her and the rest of the ship goes on dealing with the Big Issue of the Week. It's very reflective of the show itself where only about six or seven individuals seem to be affected by whatever the headline might be. Two fantastic examples of that occur with Dagger of the Mind and the finale, The Corbomite Maneuver where Williams has an insane scientist screaming his head off next door, interrupting her log entry and then with the beaming First Federation ship captained by Balok keeping her awake and generally ruining an ensign's rare day off duty (not that she's ever off duty).

Certainly Ashley and Jason have picked on all the ridiculous points of the show, not mocking them as such but placing them into a more "realistic" environment of crew quarters (between the mess hall and sickbay conveniently) where we're able to see their craziness in another way; looking after a horned dog or conversing with a pink sock plant have never been so entertaining. Sometimes it perhaps edged a bit far (not a big fan of The Naked Now take) but there were more highs than lows to entertain the viewers. It's a tall order to live up to with season two but the IndieGoGo campaign is a big step.

To some extent Ensign Williams, aka Ashley V. Robinson agrees with our critique; "Season One is not perfect, by a long shot. It was a learning experience for Jason, myself and everyone else involved with the show. Over the past three months we've learned what kinds of episodes work and which ones are less popular and these are all things that we've discussed, collected and are looking to execute in production of the Season Two.

"With that in mind, fan reception has been incredibly warm and accepting! We get a lot of compliments on the look of the show, which is tremendously flattering because Jason and I agonized over developing the aesthetic of The Original Series for our show. There are some negative comments, mostly about the anachronistic costumes (we were on an extreme budget), or the lack of an overarching narrative inside three minutes, but all of the positivity from the press and the Star Trek fandom has been overwhelming and amazing. It really feels like The Red Shirt Diaries has been welcomed by our brethren where we could have been rejected."

And what now for season two? The team launched their campaign on 2nd November hoping for $2,800 and were already heading towards $4,000 by the following weekend. The question is what will that money provide the show? A full scale set for one meaning that the shoestring budget which provided Ensign Williams with a back wall can be expanded and the cast can all appear in authentic The Original Series uniforms which means that the occasional JJ-verse shirt that was spotted will be a thing of the past. Even better is that we'll have their first on location shoot at the unbelievably super-famous Vasquez Rocks aka Kirk's battleground with the Gorn in Arena and try out some new filming techniques not seen in the first season.

"In comparison the first series was funded entirely from the pockets of Jason Inman (director, writer, editor, Captain Kirk, Gertrude, et al), and I." explained Ashley, "It was completely a labour of love. We built the set with our bare hands over a week in February. This time around, with an actual budget, we're hoping to tell bigger and better stories in the world of The Original Series."

Ashley recalled how the fundraising process had been a lot of stress on the front end., "But fortunately for me, Jason Inman (co-creator, director, editor, Captain Kirk, Balok et al), spearheaded and executed most of the planning that went into the fundraising campaign for The Red Shirt Diaries season two. 

"It's fascinating because fundraising requires a different creativity than actually creating and bringing the episodes to life. It was really important to Jason and I that we have unique rewards to offer our supporters and to give them a sense that they were getting their donation's worth, in addition to becoming a partner in the continuation of The Red Shirt Diaries.

To entice viewers and fans to help secure the next 19 episodes, there are are a whole shuttlebay full of perks to choose from.The only challenge might be working out how much you can afford versus exactly what you want to get!

"Everyone who donates $1 gets a thank-you and a black-and-white PDF of our companion webcomic adventure A Night in the Enterprise! For a little more money everyone will get a color PDF of the comic and a lot of other amazing prizes at various reward levels." said Ashley.

And that is indeed very true with the production offering The Red Shirt Who Lived red rooibos tea blend (it steeps red and makes approximately 37 cups), two t-shirt designs, original art from A Night in the Enterprise by Jeremy Owen, an HD download of season one with bonus videos not originally released and The Red Shirt Diaries season 2 postcard with an autograph or doodle. Your name and photo appearing in an episode of The Red Shirt Diaries season two is also on the list as is a set of magnets handcrafted by Ensign Williams herself to adorn your fridge featuring Ensign Williams, Captain Kirk, Sulu, Uhura and Bones. Certainly they're not the usual run of the mill perks you might expect which makes them all the more collectable and interesting in my opinion - and I do love a good brew.

"Everything that we are offering as a part of The Red Shirt Diaries season two IndieGoGo campaign is exclusive to the campaign and will not be available for purchase after the campaign closes." reminded Ashley - and that's key so if you do want some of these items you're going to need to act fast.

With everything going so well with the fundraising it looks like their plans for production and release will be spot on as Ashley continued to enthuse when we spoke to her; "Writing will being in December and should be wrapped by January with shooting is set for March/April 2015. 

"As soon as the IndieGoGo campaign ends, The Red Shirt Diaries season two begins pre-production. This time around we really want to have rehearsals a week before we start filming and we're also going to have to spend twice as long filming as we did last year (a mere two days). At this point we're thinking about releasing the first episode in May/June 2015 and then the episodes would run for most of the rest of the year. Again, the more funding we get and the more stretch goals are unlocked the more potential there is for more and more episodes."

And those stretch goals look like they're going to be realised a lot sooner than either Ashley or Jason expected with the initial $2,800 smashed early on. "With the campaign set to run for another 30+ days we have a lot of plans in place to keep raising more funds for The Red Shirt Diaries season two:

The first stretch goal is to raise $3,600 (as of Friday 13th November the total stood at $3,283). "This will get contributors a limited edition sign 8x10 of Ensign Williams and will ensure that we make one more episode during season two for a total or 20 new episodes rather than a mere 19." said Ashley, imparting some exciting news about the upcoming season expansion;  "The bonus episode we are looking at is Amok Time, so we're basically asking for people to help fund Pon Farr!"

Which fan of that episode isn't reaching for a wallet right now? So for not that much more we'll get to see the team take on one of THE classics as a finale to the season. "Our second stretch goal is $4,500 and the rewards will be announced once the first stretch goal is hit!"

For fans of this ingenious web-series I hope that the stretch target is hit so we can get to see what lies beyond adding in Amok Time to the filming schedule. That's not to say that season two won't be a jump of monstrous proportions anyway because aside from a potential new set and some different filming techniques there's a quartet of new guest stars waiting in the wings to join Ensign Williams. 

"We'd been buying ad space on the Morning Stream podcast for season one of because Jason and I are both big fans of the show and the FrogPants network (Jason being the person who introduced it to me in the first place). Scott Johnson (who will play the voice of  Admiral Williams) and Brian Ibbott (who will play the voice of  the Romulan Commander) kept saying incredibly kind things about the show and myself and how much they enjoyed it, so we just reached out to them directly and went from there.

"Jason brought Katie Wilson (voicing Leila Kalomi from This Side of Paradise) on board. They know each other from their respective work in the YouTube world and she's a Los Angeles local, so it wasn't a hard sell bringing her on board."

Oh - and they also brought in Cat Roberts who Star Trek Continues fans will recognise immediately from her performance in Fairest of them All earlier this year (and we at SKoST thought she was brilliant). "It was the biggest surprise for me, personally," said Ashley, "She tweeted at me when The Red Shirt Diaries first launched and would always share our links. Having watched Star Trek Continues Jason and I were keen to have her take on the part of Yeoman Rand. I reached out to Cat and she was immediately on board. We haven't even begun pre-production and she's already helped out The Red Shirt Diaries season two take massive leaps forward. We owe her a lot."

As possibly Cat's next biggest fans after these guys, neither can we and we hope to see her much more in the expanded Star Trek universe. Good luck also to the other newcomers to the show who will surely help propel its success even further.

However, we couldn't let Ashley go without asking about what else we can expect from season two - what things haven't been revealed that we can reveal right here?

"We're looking to do an episode that crosses over with one of the other Star Trek series ... more to revealed in the coming stretch goals." teased Ashley, "Ensign Williams will probably get to kiss someone and the more money the IndieGoGo raises the more parts of the Enterprise we'll be able to build, explore and film in."

Could that be a hint at some of the stretch goals? We think so but we have been wrong before (seriously...Spock dies in The Wrath of Khan??!!!) but there's one more thing we can slip in here just to get those wallets and purses open. "We've been invited to shoot on The Original Series bridge in Oklahoma City for one of our upcoming episodes. However, we can't make the trip from Los Angeles to Oklahoma unless we reach our $4,500.00 stretch goal."

Truly that would make season two go with a bang and have a nice twist to help get Ensign Williams out of her quarters - maybe that's a tag for a teaser - #letwilliamsout? #rsdtothebridge?

So far the journey has been a good one for The Red Shirt Diaries, joining satire and Star Trek into some well-written and well-acted minisodes that touch on the lives of the nameless crew below decks who get the butt-end of all the command decisions and - occasionally - manage to survive.

For those who have already donated, The Red Shirt Diaries season two has started an IndieGoGo referral program. When you're signed into IndieGoGo and share the direct link and your friend click that link and donate to The Red Shirt Diaries season two campaign IndieGoGo keeps track of it. When your friends' donations total $100, $500, $1,000 and $2,500 there are more prizes!

"In the end it's been absolutely amazing!" closed our intrepid Red Shirt, Ashley; "The Red Shirt Diaries season two crowd-funding campaign reached our $2,800.00 goal in just three days! People have been incredibly kind and incredibly generous and it's not just friends and family - many of the contributors come from all over the world. It certainly feeds the ego and makes you feel like you're doing good work, but I think it also speaks to the huge Star Trek family out in the word that really wants more quality entertainment set in that world.

If you're interested in supporting The Red Shirt Diaries drop by their IndieGoGo campaign and also visit their great website for more details and, of course, to watch the show!

Have you watched the show? Are you interested in seeing their second season? Let's discuss!

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