March 17, 2011

Web Series Review - Unlocked


Created by Cheesemint Productions

The Story: A group of geek gamers gather regularly to play, chat, and socialize, only to have their world turned upside-down by a manipulative force.

My Take: In the world of the web series, it’s easy to compare anything new to The Guild, which, by most peoples opinions, is the flagship of web television. The story of six utter geeks who lead rather blip-on-the-radar lives, but become Gods once they enter the realm of their MMORPG. The lives of these gamers are quirky, entertaining, and (to an extent) identifiable. In this new series, Unlocked, it is certainly inspired by the worlds of The Guild and Red vs. Blue, with nerd-core dialogue, a comic-book shop setting and the supreme grasp gaming has on the ragtag group of characters.
Though just two episodes in to this character-driven series, we already have gotten a good glimpse into most of the lives of the seven individuals that make up the cast. They are of varying ages, genders, personalities and idiosyncrasies, yet are all able to band together for gaming, comic books and the like. We are beginning to see the starting points of certain story-lines that will hopefully flesh out in further episodes - Alex, the sardonic, narcissist of the group, has taken over Mint Condition Comics, which does not bode well for employees John and Francis. John, the newest of the bunch with apparent mother issues, has developed a deep and immediate crush over Zoey, the best friend of Dhalia, who is involved with Francis. Yes, there are a number of characters to get to know. But, as of all shows of this nature, the characters are the strongest aspect of the series. It is their dynamic with one another and their rather out there lives together that holds the show together. 

More so than the apparent inspiration of The Guild, the show has a feel to the lesser known (at least here in the States) British series Spaced, which launched the careers of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). This show featured a number of peculiar individuals as they trekked the terrain of life, incorporating quick-witted dialogue and out-there scenarios. If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned shows, Unlocked is not to be missed.

The minds behind this offbeat comedy are Cheesemint Productions, a comedy group based in Norwich, United Kingdom, who have also made a number of other humorous short films worth checking out. The team consists of Dave Chapman, Debbie Chapman, Emma-Jane Corsan, Adam Gunton, Charles Meigh, Georgie Oatley and Matthew Stogdon. You may do so by hitting their homesite at www.cheesemint.com. For all things Unlocked, fan them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Youtube.



I had a chance to ask the Cheesemint team a few questions about their filmmaking background, as well as their new series. Check it out below:

How did you all get into filmmaking/performing?
Matt
: Accidentally. There are many versions of how Cheesemint was formed and founded but it could easily be summed up with the following two words: unexpected encouragement. The majority of our collective were already a tightly-knit group of friends, having worked together in one Norwich bookstore over the years and frequently socialising outside of work. As friends do, we played video games, ate take-out and generally mucked about. After one night, a video of Adam Gunton and myself found its way onto Facebook – nothing too fancy, just two lanky twenty-somethings pratishly dancing around a living room. The clip received several surprisingly positive comments, namely demanding a second video. What happened next progressed in stages; first we decided to replicate a taxing dance sequence from Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? by the cast of popular web series The Guild. Then we decided to duplicate the entire music video featuring everyone, as opposed to just Adam and me. Finally, we purchased props, arranged location shoots and filmed the entire thing as an homage to The Guild. The whole thing was an incredibly enjoyable experience, we uploaded it to YouTube and thought little else of it. Shortly after the video went online we received a message from WatchTheGuild's official channel and a tweet from Felicia Day; naturally the hit counter started to climb and once the shock died down we quickly started penning multiple follow-up ideas; the key one being a web-series based on our own lives – albeit exaggerated.

How would you describe your style of storytelling? What are some of your previous projects?
Dave: I don't know if we have a particular style, as there are seven of us we all bring a different approach to what we film. We did a series of six shorts, each written and directed by a different "Cheesemint," and each in a different genre. Seeing the difference between our Twilight spoof "With Teeth," and our Film Noir, "Angel's Kiss" for example, or the cannibal rom-com "Eat the Parents," you can see that despite having similar casts, we've hopefully got some range.  One thing that really links us is humour - I think most of what we do is intentionally funny (except for the gritty war-drama "Dead Duck").

Who or what are your inspirations? How have they influenced you as filmmakers?
Adam: Well as a group we’ve been inspired by the guys at Rooster Teeth and Felicia Day. Those guys are like the Martin Scorseses of the Web Series world. But personally I’m inspired by the likes of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and most of all, Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon’s television shows like Buffy, Angel and Firefly shaped my teenage life and have made me who I am today. I mean, I’m wearing a Sunnydale Razorbacks Hoody right now.  The thing I like most about Joss Whedon is his ability to just to create very real and human characters. He understands how people work and even with a recurring cast of 9+ he can give each character the attention they deserve and each one plays an integral role. Why else would he be picked to direct The Avengers movie?

Why do you want to tell a story like Unlocked?
Debbie: Because we miss Spaced so much! The Guild inspired us to attempt the series and when we sat down and started bouncing around ideas, we just kept coming back to how big a chasm the end of Spaced had left in our entertainment universe. We just hope we come close to even hinting at that show’s genius!

How will Unlocked benefit on the web, as opposed to a short or feature film?
Emma-Jane: A web series can spread to a wider audience. A small bite size episode doesn’t take up too much time (approx. 9-12 minutes) meaning if it doesn’t appeal to them, you haven’t exactly wasted their time (ideally they may know someone that might like it). Capturing an audience is significantly more difficult when talking about a full length feature as it’s harder to retain interest, especially if you’re only an amateur filmmaker.  Subsequently, a short series is the perfect medium for a project like Unlocked.  That’s not to say we wouldn’t want to do a feature at some point.

How big of a geek are you guys and for what? Comic Books? Technology? Anime?
Debbie: Yes, yes and yes!! Comics, games, math rock, gadgets, film, RPG’s - you name it, at least one of us is into it! We all have specific areas of obsession and they all tend to be infectious - you only have to listen to someone going on about how awesome a new game is for a few hours before you’re prying the controller out of their hands and beating their cheeves!

What can we expect from future episodes? How will the story/characters evolve? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?
Dave: I've noticed that as people watch episodes in advance that you appreciate the story even more - once you're familiar with the characters, now that (by Episode 2) we've introduced them all and given them a bit of a chance to show what they're like, we can get down to telling the story.  While most of the episodes are stand-alone, there is a story arc that follows through to Episode 6, a dark and corrupting presence that threatens the group and tries to tear them apart.  We're already talking about where the characters are heading for Series 2, and the story arc that'll tie those episodes together as well, though most of the time we have ambitious plots and have to think of how we can accomplish them on our completely non-existent budget.

How will the show stand out amongst other series on the web?

Adam: It’ll stand out because we’re British, we’re from Norwich and it’s incredibly geeky. Because it references so many films, TV shows, games, comics etc people can relate to it. So by looking like other shows, we’ll stand out more. Crazy!

What other projects are you currently working on? Shameless plug time!
Adam:  I’m working on a couple of different things. I’m working on a sequel to my film ‘The Rules Of Justice.’ The sequel is going to be a ‘Cops’ type show but is very much in the ideas stage at the moment. The other project I’m working on is a short film called ‘Entanglement’ which is a short drama/action piece inspired by Valve’s Half-Life series.

Emma-Jane: I’m planning to have a go at a music video some time soon. Mainly because I don’t feel quite ready to branch out into writing a narrative piece but also because I enjoy music videos. Of course, there’s Unlocked series 2 – but that goes without saying!

Dave: Personally, I'd just like to get series two underway, though I do have a desire to write a movie - an Unlocked movie that's like The Beatles' "Help" (without the singing) meets "Fanboys".

Matt: We have made a pledge to ourselves to produce one video per week. This will range from little sketches to reviews of comics, films, books, etc. At the same time we will also be working on larger individual projects (I've got two underway being released in early May [Surreality] and at the end of Summer [The Erased Line]) whilst planning and scripting series two of Unlocked.

Charlie:  Surreality by Matthew Stogdon, I played a spy in colourful odd socks.

Debbie: Well, I’m hoping to complete my life sized lego sculpture of Richard Dean Anderson, in SG1 black combat uniform any day now... But I’ve run out of black blocks... Anyone got any?


3 comments:

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    Thanks,

    Jesse Cohen

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    http://www.youtube.com/user/13WitchesWebSerie

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