noun (pl. sanctuaries) 1 a place of refuge or safety. 2 a nature reserve. 3 a place where injured or unwanted animals are cared for. 4 a holy place. 5 the part of the chancel of a church containing the high altar.

ORIGIN originally denoting a church or sacred place in which, by law, a fugitive was immune from arrest: from Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy’.

And that’s all that the Compact OED has to say on the matter.

But more relevantly to this blog, it’s also the name of a new SF show.

And even more relevantly: It’s being premiered on the Internet, has been designed from the get-go to be experienced through more than one medium, and has some real (read experienced) talent behind and in front of the cameras.

So I got in contact with showrunner Damian Kindler and asked him what was going on.

What’s the story of the Sanctuary pilot? Tease us!
Sanctuary follows the exploits of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), physician to beings with extraordinary powers, seeker of new life forms, and when the need arises, out-and-out monster hunter. In the first hour of the pilot, while tracking a young boy with strange and deadly abilities, Magnus encounters a young psychiatric resident named Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), whose talent and open-mindedness make him an attractive candidate for a protege. Soon enough Will is caught up in Magnus’ terrifying yet fascinating world — from which there is, of course, no turning back. We also meet Magnus’ headstrong yet valiant daughter, Ashley, who learns a terrible truth about her mother’s past.

The second hour of the pilot introduces a new trio of (possibly) supernatural guests to the Sanctuary as well as a challenge for Ashley in the wake of the events in hour one.

How does the budget of Sanctuary compare to a TV show? And how has that affected your storytelling?
The budget for Sanctuary is as high if not higher than most internationally-recognized sci fi TV series. It was produced by the same people who make SG-1 and Atlantis. Many of the same producers (myself, Martin Wood, John Smith, George Horie), most of the same crew. Only difference is we put together our own VFX team, as farming out the massive amount of 3-D modeling and rendering would have easily doubled our budget. The only effect on my story telling is that I now have a far bigger palette to work from, seeing as I can set scenes virtually anywhere. That’s the beauty of green screen. We can be in London in 1888 or on a trecherous island off Scotland or moving through a city that doesn’t exist. Anything is possible. That’s a lot of power. I intend to wield it recklessly, of course. ; )

What’s the business model? How are you planning to make your money back?
Sanctuary will employ a simple pay-per-download or subscription model. As a company, our costs are significantly lower than say Warner Bros or Sony Television (we don’t have massive soundstages or plush offices to fund) so we don’t need to sell many millions of downloads in order to be viable (although, hey, millions of downloads would be nice). There will be no advertising – at least not initially. We may explore some creative ad models with companies we like and find entertaining and seamless ways to integrate their products into the show. But nothing gauche or obvious or obtrusive.

You’ve chosen to film Sanctuary in tapeless HD. How has that affected the production pipeline?
It’s made it cheaper, faster and easier to shoot and post the show. We spend less time rendering and transferring media. And we get to see exactly how each shot will look in HD as we edit, composit and render scenes. Many companies were shocked we went this way. But it is the way the world is going and we’ve had no real complaints. The future is friendly!

Which media will Sanctuary be released in? Do you have any confirmed non-web sales yet?
Sanctuary will be available for download or streaming in multiple HD formats. We are exploring other, more traditional forms of distribution (TV and DVD) to be made available after we premiere on the ‘net. We realize there are many people out there with old computers, dial up connections, or who simply prefer to watch the show on TV or DVD. We want as many people as possible to enjoy the show. I know that sounds like hype, but I strongly believe Sanctuary is an accessible-enough series to warrant a wider audience beyond Web — while still giving our online fanbase the interactivity they want from new media.

A TV show structure is defined by the act breaks. Sanctuary is designed to air in multiple media – how has that affected your story structure?
The structure of Sanctuary is at its core a one hour per story format, edited in four roughly 15 min webisodes for online distribution — not too dissimilar to a four act TV episode, just a little bit longer overall. At some point in the future we may recut the webisodes into single TV hours (44mins). The online versions would of course have extra scenes and takes not available on TV. Plus gaming and other web-based sources of info on the show’s stories.

As a writer, what excites you most about the story of Sanctuary?
I just think it’s a cool story. It blends recognizable elements into a new form. It hopefully has the feel of a good graphic novel, but the visceral excitement of a great-looking video game. Sin City, 300, sections of Sith and Phantom Menace had elements, both visual and dramatic, that showed off the potential of what green screen can offer. We intend to take it to the next level.

As a writer, what excites you most about creating Sanctuary in this new format, rather than realising it as a TV show or film?
The use of virtual sets. The non-linear aspects of writing for online (flash gaming, web assets, etc). The freedom to create a show without the usual constraints of the Studio/Network paradigm. I think once people get over their technophobia, there will be many series done on green screen, and many series done mainly for the web. We’re just crazy enough to go first!

Sanctuary has been designed from the get-go for immersive viewer interactivity. What does that mean? How will this be different to an ordinary TV show?
Without giving away too much, the flash-based player application that is now live (just register on will be the basis for all sorts of interactivity while watching the show. Flash games, instant messaging, break out moments — all these will be implemented over the first season of the show. And a lot of what we do and why will depend greatly on feedback from our viewers. Which, if you think about it, is the coolest thing of all. A show that listens to its fans could be the biggest innovation we’re employing!

So there you have it. And as of yesterday, you can watch the trailer and title sequence for the series here.



Ooh, interesting.

Up here in the rooftops, one of the things we look out for is new financial models for TV shows. D2DVD for instance.

Which is why this caught my attention:

Damian Kindler has, among other things, co-exec produced Stargate for several years.

He’s now working on a new show of his own.

But not for distribution via your tellybox. Oh no.

This puppy’s coming out on the Internet. No DRM, subscription model, TV production values from someone who knows how it works.

There’s a blog here which act as combined insight and advertising for the show, the most interesting part so far of which is this statement of principles:

  1. Let the creative people be creative. The best people in the world to make interactive or linear entertainment are the artists who thrive creating it. Give them the tools they need and let them loose.
  2. Distribute directly to our audience. If we are going to self-produce, we can’t set up an entire distribution network, so the internet emerges as a natural medium to effectively provide content to our audience.
  3. Give viewers “TV on demand” – over the ‘net. You Tube has shown that we don’t need executives deciding what content you want. As an executive producer my job is to help you – the viewer – become the studio chiefs presiding over the show. You are now making decisions that will either make this project succeed or fail.
  4. Don’t use digital rights management to the detriment of the end user. There is nothing more frustrating than paying for digital data and not being able to burn it to a DVD or share it with a friend or play it on any damn device you want.
  5. Allow people to participate in the creative process. Copyright laws have not caught up with the enormous cultural revolution occurring due to shared creative development (call it mixing or mash ups) – and it is time for bigger productions like Sanctuary take a leadership role.

That’s five very interesting things right there.

I’ll be posting more on this as I discover it. In the meantime, check out the prodco’s corporate website.

And there’s some publicity photos / music / PR fluff at the official website. But it’s in flash, has music over everything, and generally sucks.

So, like the official websites for most old-school TV then.

More on this over the next few days.

EDIT: I appear to have completely imagined the website being built in flash. Brainrot, I fear.

Watch and Learn

If you’re interested in film and television, you’ve probably watched a commentary track or two.

A commentary track’s where someone involved in the film (usually director, writer or star, but can be anyone) comes along into a recording studio and, usually armed with beer and pretzels, commences to talk over the film as it plays in the background.

When it’s good, it can be a free masterclass in film-making as they explain why they made the decisions they did.
When it’s bad, it’s like being trapped in the kitchen at a party with no-one but Mister Dull for company.

So how can you tell which is which?

Well, lucky for you Scott the Reader has asked what commentaries people would recommend.

And lo and behold the scribosphere has obliged.

Start firing up that Netflix queue.

Andy Barker Online

There’s a new show out called Andy Barker PI. It’s a comedy about an accountant turned private eye. Pedigree’s good (Jane Espenson, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter), and the reviews coming in are strong.

So they’ve scheduled it against Grey’s Anatomy and CSI.

Good: There’s no comedy in that slot on the other channels. So it has a chance of picking up those that don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy or CSI
Bad: It’s up against Grey’s Anatomy and CSI.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Before the show has even aired once, the first six episodes are available to download from And special note – the first six episodes are, in fact, the entire first season. Before one episode has aired on TV.

Now, you have to watch an ad to access the show online, sure. But that’s not going to come anywhere near covering the cost. So why have they done this?

To promote the show.

With luck and a following wind, posting of the episodes on the internet will build enough word-of-mouth to encourage sampling of the show when it airs.

Will the Internet-access stop people watching it online? Yeah, some. They’re gambling that the buzz will make up for those, and add some more.

So they’ll have people sampling their show. After that, it’s down to the quality.

Not a bad gamble to make.

Of course, if you want to watch those episodes from outside the US, you’re shit outta luck.



Some more show bibles have appeared (or re-appeared in the case of Dark Skies) on the Internet since my original bible round-up, so I thought I’d better let you have a look at them too.

The Crow: Stairway to Heaven – Bryce Zabel
Dark Skies – Bryce Zabel and Brent Friedman
Callan – James Mitchell

And if you’d rather have dead trees (and who wouldn’t, really?) you can also find bibles in the following books:

The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Phase II
thirtysomething stories
The Making of Star Trek

Though of them all, it seems that only the DS9 one is actually in print at the moment.

International Screenwriters Festival, Take Two

And when I say International, what I actually mean is In The UK.

In 2006, a bunch of brave souls attempted to set up a screenwriting festival outside of the US mainland. While by all accounts there were some teething troubles, it generally did well enough to return for an encore this year.

It’s divvied up into two parts, one for n00bs and one for pros.

Last time, I was too broke to go to the pro days, and didn’t think it worthwhile going to the beginners area. Which was a good decision by all accounts.  They claim to have fixed it this time by sprinkling more pro stuff into the n00b days, and by opening the pro days up to everyone. 

So I guess the only question is, just the pro days, or go to all four?

Decisions, decisions…