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After two years of production ‘The Underwater Realm,” one of the most impressive Kickstarter campaigns, is finally available for free online. Let’s not beat around the bush here, they’ve had a lot of hype for films (thanks to their excellent marketing campaign, great posters and terrific social networking) which are “just” for the internet, so there has been a lot of high expectations.

I was supposed to be at the theatrical premiere of the 5 short films last month but the unfortunate December I had meant I was in the wrong part of the world and had to miss it…it was part of my perk for my Kickstarter support actually! I somehow actually ended up donating $1000 to them! I had huge faith and belief in them, even though there was zero financial return for me – I truly wanted to see these get made. $1000 is a whopping lot of dosh and perhaps too much in retrospect for an investment with no actual return for me. But that is the problem with Kickstarter for non product backing. You are really donating, not investing. UWR, for short, did offer loads of great incentives for backers though, rather than the usual copy of the film, signed photos etc…their campaign should serve as a case study of how to successfully get people to support you in a very overcrowded crowed-funding time. I do get asked constantly to RT or back projects and it’s hard not to do it as I want to support everyone, but I am not made of money at all, I wish I could. 

The films went online on YouTube at Christmas and today have finally (after much nagging from me!) gone onto Vimeo (there is a reason why and this is covered later).

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I actually only saw them just after New Year. Initially on my small laptop (a mistake, don’t do this) and was, to be totally honest, a bit disappointed. It was only on second viewing at home on my 55″ TV that I was able to watch them properly, and this did make a massive difference. They still have their problems for me, mainly when it comes to coherence of the 5 shorts and their links to a whole, some of the acting didn’t work for me and the actual stories themselves didn’t feel complete…that is part of the problem…they are teasers for potential future features, but they are not clearly billed as such, so many will watch expecting a complete story and come away disappointed.

That is the biggest problem with things which are hyped. It sets expectations levels really high. It happens with Hollywood movies all the time. Sometimes the hype pays off. Very often it doesn’t. It’s always better in my opinion going into something knowing as little about it as possible. Of course for UWR, this was not possible due to their immense openness with the project from the very beginning.

Some I really enjoyed, some I didn’t as much as I wanted to,  despite some amazing special effects and production. I wanted them all to be simply amazing, I am a backer and as associate producer via this, but more than that. If you’ve followed their journey, which they have been so open about, you want them to succeed beyond all measure. These are young filmmakers with enormous ambition, vision and confidence. They have to be, to attempt something like this! On top of that, Eve the DP has become a really good friend through this project. So of course I want the end result to be mind blowing. 

I think a couple suffered due to the too-brief running time and for me, partly down to the problem that there is no dialogue from the Underwater people, which made it look like these were people holding their breath…not breathing down there. Don’t get me wrong. These are incredible pieces of work and I am in awe at the job they have done. I could not have done this or anything close to this. The cinematography by Eve Hazelton is brilliant. The production design was fabulous (we are looking at swimming pools most of the time!) and it was especially amazing that all the underwater stuff truly was underwater. Those actors can really hold their breath for a long time (an amazing thing despite my misgivings about the downside of just holding your breath). What these guys have achieved is utterly astonishing, let’s not forget that! 

The Realm Team have been completely open throughout the whole process – talking about all of their challenges and problems through a weekly warts and all blog. I asked them if they would do this blog post with me and talk about the release, reaction, feelings and the future. 

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Bloom: Now they are finally out there, how do you feel?

DAVE: If you look hard enough, you will find people eager to teach the creative aspects of film – writing, lighting, shooting, cutting, visual effects – and there are a million inspirational messages to keep you going through all of your challenges along the way – but there is one really important area that I don’t think is talked about enough, the scariest part of the creative process by far: putting your work out there!

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Bloom: How has it been hearing what people actually think of what essentially has been the last two years of your lives?

EVE: It comes with a load of excitement, and fear! What if people hate them, what if it was all for nothing?!

The first thing to remember with all of this is that it is never EVER for nothing. It doesn’t matter if everyone hates your work – nobody can take the experience and lessons away

RICH: it’s been really interesting watching the release, and seeing all the feedback come in. This is the first time I have put anything out there in a big way – it’s sort of terrifying! To have something this big, and to suddenly be totally at the mercy of the audience.

JEN: obviously Dave, Eve, Shaz, Jon – they have all been here before, they did their first big release when they were still kids. But for a lot of the crew it’s our first time!

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Bloom: What sort of feedback have you been getting? I have read some and it’s very mixed. Some great some bad, many citing that it had so much potential but didn’t fulfil it. Youtube commentators are not ones for holding back…

EVE: The films have been getting some great feedback – some positive, some negative. The positive feedback is easy to deal with right? But the negative feedback can be tough – if you let it get to you.

JON: What has been most interesting about UWR feedback is the huge difference we have had between industry feedback and public feedback.IIndustry feedback has been enormously positive (Richard Taylor – head of WETA Workshops simply said “Ha, Incredible!”) whereas some comments, especially on YouTube have been less than favourable.

Bloom: Why do you think there is that division? Industry feedback is great but these are films and therefore are not made for the industry but for the audience so that feedback is as important if not more so…

ALAN: I think a large part of it is the format we chose, and the films we were imitating. We looked at a lot of short films that had become Internet hits and lead to feature deals – Alive in Joburg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le3y0QlLjJE), Panic Attack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dadPWhEhVk) , Pixels (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou8vRWTSsJo) , Mama (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRqS6pBC42w). We decided to push that idea forward, to introduce not only the world and the idea but characters, snippets of stories. I think the industry recognised this format – while ironically the feedback on YouTube has been that there isn’t enough story!

MARK: I think some people in the audience were so caught up in the blogs, the posters, the trailer – they forgot that we were making five teasers, not five features!

JEN: I think we got a bit carried away sometimes and over-marketed the films, made it seem like there was more than just 5 x four minute shorts…

Bloom: I think that is my biggest problem. Some of the teasers simply didn’t tease me quite as much as I like to be teased…you want to be left with more but I felt we were cut short before that moment on some and I screamed out…don’t end there, I want to be left gagging for more! I didn’t need 5 cliff-hangers but I wanted each one to end with more of a punch…Any particular comments that are really memorable?

SHAZ:  My personal faves are: ”Peter Jackson would have made 2 1/2 hours with this. Depressing.”

“With all that money you should have made a feature of this”

Of course, the Hobbit spent twice our budget just on Coffee [fact!]  - but nevermind… there are seven billion people on the planet, don’t let one of them ruin your day!

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Bloom: What about the really hard feedback – the stuff you know is a little bit true, as opposed to the completely irrational stuff? When you are so close to something it’s hard to hear things you might not agree with…it’s like being told you kid is stupid, ugly or that your mother was a hamster and you smell of elderberries!

DAVE: Personally, I love getting bad feedback – it keeps you grounded, it keeps you a little bit unhappy with your work. I think that’s a really heathy way to stay if you can handle it. I see some people finish their work all proud as punch, and then spend five years marketing it – never letting the idea enter their head that maybe they should just try again – try to be better.

I try to find a balance between being proud as hell of my achievements and being a little embarrassed about my work. It sounds grim, but the moment you stop wincing at your own work is the moment you stop seeing ways to improve.

Watch out for all the positive feedback - it’s easy to be convinced that you are already where you need to be. You aren’t. Never stop learning.

Bloom: Admirable stuff Dave. I can’t admit to be being anywhere as near as positive in the face of bad stuff. But then I have always been an oversensitive drama queen! So you guys are now out and proud… so what now?

EVE: The biggest thing we are up against now is getting the films out there. This is by no means the end of the story – these are just five teasers for the feature films we want to make! We need people to help us get them out there – help us tell the story to the world.

JON: We need to get the films to 1 million views, and soon. It’s just like our kickstarter all over again. Just because the films are finished doesn’t mean the job is done – there is still a long way to go to get these features made!

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Bloom:That is a huge challenge Jon. Going viral is not easy and a million views is a fair amount. My biggest viewed video on youtube has had 29 million views, an accidental viral, but mostly because it has the words “naked’ and “women” in it…my other biggest video had had a few million but we set out to make just that a viral for Adidas and a fair amount of cash was sunk into it. Fiction films ironically tend to be hardest to go viral …so with that in mind do you have any advice to help people who are putting their own work out there into the big wide world for the first time?

DAVE:   We all know the expression: “success is getting up one more time than you get knocked down” and never is it truer than in this industry. Except maybe professional wrestling. Better than a nice ‘quote for the day’ are these factual examples:

Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper for having a ‘lack of imagination and no original ideas’.

J K Rowling’s Manuscript for Harry Potter was rejected by twelve separate publishers before it was finally accepted by Bloomsbury.

Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor because her bosses thought she ‘wasn’t fit for television’.

At 30 Steve Jobs was forcibly ejected from Apple – the company he had spend years building from nothing.

So -

1. If you aren’t getting bad feedback, maybe you aren’t rocking the boat hard enough. There is enough mediocre out there already – and guess what? It doesn’t get bad feedback. It’s just average.

2. If you went your entire career without bad feedback – where the hell are you going to learn the strength to dig in and fight when it really counts?

For Disney and the others above it isn’t just a setback to be avoided

- it’s a really important part of the character building process that made them who they were. Pursue this!

3. If your career goes to the top like you want it to you are going to have to go toe to toe with some hard, mean people that don’t like what you do. And they will certainly not always be wrong. You just have to learn to deal with it – take it on board, but dont take it to heart.

EVE: An don’t let some spotty kid on YouTube scare you off before you even get started!

Bloom: Very true Eve. Youtube can be one nasty mean place, mostly populated by those spotty teenagers in their mother’s basements which of course brings me onto this last question – you released the films on YouTube to start with – why on earth no Vimeo release?

JON: We love Vimeo – we have always put our blogs up there because the customisation options are terrific and it’s where our community hangs out.

We talked about putting the films on Vimeo – we certainly wouldn’t have had to deal with the negative comments – but there were two main benefits of YouTube:

1. YouTube supports 4k – the films were shot in 4K, they look much better – even on a 1080p monitor. It’s also a great marketing opportunity, because there isn’t much 4K up there.

2. YouTube is where the audience is. The most viewed videos on Vimeo are 20 million, 10 million, even 5 million by the time you get to the top 5. YouTube has just passed a BILLION!

If our last film Zomblies was ranked on Vimeo with its 5 million  YouTube views it would be the 5th most viewed video on the site!

The market for these films is not just filmmakers – it’s people everywhere. It needs to be where those people are.

DAVE: If getting a higher quality video and a bigger audience means we have to risk some trolls and negative comments – that’s a no brainer.

That said – we have now uploaded them to Vimeo too, to expand into the audience of people who  don’t like to use YouTube.

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Bloom: Thank god…As much as I respect Youtube for what it has done, its lack of moderation and the difficulty in finding quality stuff drives me nuts! I love Vimeo, clean site, great community too…personally, I recommend either clicking on the watch later on the below embed, get yourself an Apple TV, or a lovely modern Samsung Internet TV like me with Vimeo built into it and watch them on that OR even simpler, simply download them, there is no 4K, download the “original version” which is 1080p and stick them through your media player on your TV. Any Vimeo member can download, even free ones (although there is a cap on how many free downloads are available a day) PRO and PLUS members don’t have this issue. Also get some good sound and crank it up! Please don’t watch these on your iphone, even if it’s 3 cms from your eye to emulate a 5 foot screen!!

Anyway thanks to the UWR team for taking the time to chat. Please check out their website for all the BTS you can want…Now sit back and enjoy the films. I am sure they will want your totally honest feedback, good and bad in the comments below. Remember there are no trolls on my site. Just lovely constructive people! :)

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The Underwater Realm – Part I – Present Day (HD) from Realm Pictures on Vimeo.

The Underwater Realm – Part II – 1942 (HD) from Realm Pictures on Vimeo.

The Underwater Realm – Part III – 1588 (HD) from Realm Pictures on Vimeo.

The Underwater Realm – Part IV – 1208 (HD) from Realm Pictures on Vimeo.

The Underwater Realm – Part V – 149 BC (HD) from Realm Pictures on Vimeo.

 

Comments

  1. Hadjimurad says:

    they sure look pretty, but (and I hate to be the armchair director) i wonder if the money could’ve been better used to create one truly show-stopping piece, 15 minutes long, that set up a stronger sense of character, so that we might feel interested in where the story is going to go once it ends. as it is, these scenes all feel somewhat mercenary… interested in throwing out a lot of pitches to see which on sticks, but giving short shrift to why we really watch films to begin with: solid characters. if i’m going to take this as a kind of mega sizzle reel, all this tells me is that they got a lot of great technicians on board, but no writer… and there are too many of those kinds of films already.

    1. RPG Intertainment says:

      All due respect, I think any campaign that meets it’s goal deserves the right to use the funds as they desire to make a great piece of work. You’re right these are pretty and I think that was the intention of the team here, sometimes story isn’t needed to show your creativity. These pieces are clean and beautiful to watch and sometimes that will reach the right person so kudos…

      1. Hadjimurad says:

        Whether or not they have the right to do as they wish is completely besides the point. Of course they do. But when you make something and put it out there, it’s our job to think critically about what we’re being presented. Because I have a background in film, that means I’m going to criticize from a specific angle. My take is that this project feels more professional than personal. They’ve talked openly about how they’re making a film to break into the industry… and that they’ve followed the rubric of other filmmakers who have made it big via internet videos. I guess the difference here is that those other filmmakers were not so open about their ambitions, and in a lot of cases had far fewer resources at their command to make their groundbreaking films… and in the case of those other films, they actually feel like passion projects, a young filmmaker with a dream and some time on their hands. this, on the other hand, reads like a corporate game plan from head to toe.

    2. That’s interesting feedback HADJIMURAD.

      As Alan said in the interview above, our project started with a number of case studies – other short films whose online popularity has led to feature film development.

      While I understand your viewpoint – I think compared to the successful films we studied like MAMA, Alive in Joburg, Pixels and Panic Attack – our films have a great deal of character development, relatively speaking. Those films now have feature development with the likes of Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and Sam Raimi.

      I think our greatest problem was inf act crossing the threshold – by creating too much character for an abstract piece, and not enough for a character piece!

  2. kirstystark says:

    Congratulations guys. I’ve been following your project since its Kickstarter days (and am also a backer) and it’s been fantastic to follow your journey so far.

    Philip, it’s fantastic to see a review of the films that is as critical (in a good way) as it is supportive. Such honest feedback makes such a difference, and it was great to read your thoughts, so thank you for that.

    We are also attempting a similar project online from Australia (trying to develop a TV series from our project’s beginnings as a 3 minute teaser trailer) and The Underwater Realm has partly inspired our process, so I hope you won’t mind me asking a few questions.

    1. As with others, I loved what I saw, and there were some great moments within each episode, but I was disappointed not to see a more cohesive narrative. Why did you make the decision to shoot five ‘teasers’ and keep them to four minutes each, rather than, say, two 8-10 minute shorts that gave fuller story, but still left the audience wanting more?

    2. What was behind your decision to release on Christmas Day, when many of your viewers were away from their computers over the holiday period (as well as many bloggers etc. who may have written about the release)?

    3. You mentioned that you want to get the videos up to 1 million views – is this each, or as a total across the five episodes? As the internet tends to favour recent content, and view counts tend to tail off after an initial burst of activity, what are you planning to do to continue to promote the episodes and continue their viral spread?

    4. How do you feel that the video blogging aspect of your project has contributed to its overall success? While we are well aware of the benefits of being open online about the process of creating our own project (in fact; it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support of our online community, through our crowdfunding campaign, donations of costumes and production design elements, sourcing a location and people coming along as extras), I’m interested as to whether you found that the consistency of making a video blog every week detracted from the time and energy you had available to put into the production itself. Do you have any thoughts on the ideal balance between promotion and production?

    5. Did you utilise your existing fan base in a targeted way during the release period (i.e. give instructions about how to help spread the word) or simply hope that they would share the project once it was released?

    Sorry for the in-depth questions – it’s been amazing to follow your progress and we are keen to learn as much as we can from your efforts in the lead-up to our own release in the next few months. Feel free to ignore any you don’t wish to answer, or contact me via email if you would prefer to answer in a less public forum. My address (without the spaces) is kirsty @ kirstystark.com

    Congratulations again for what you’ve achieved so far. It’s incredibly inspiring, and I wish you all the best for the feature versions of the project, because I honestly can’t wait to see more!

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      Hi Kirsty, we will try an send you an email answering some of your questions :D

      1. Hi Kirsty – I don’t usually post on comment threads like this – but let my try and answer some questions for you. No need to keep it to email, after all – other people might be wondering the same things!

        1. The project was originally conceived to follow a more traditional path – we planned a 15 minute short story following a drowned Roman who failed to die, and woke up at the bottom of the sea. It was a fun, mysterious story that I enjoyed, but I felt it was geared towards a standard 3 act structure that would be idea for the festival circuit.

        I had no desire to see these films bogged down in a slow, political festival circuit just so that a handful of people could see them. Free, internet distribution was our best option for audience outreach.

        The decision to narrow the films down to multiple short segments was to allow us to flirt with familiar, established genre before introducing our new content. This gave us the opportunity to work with vastly different visual styles, production designs elements and challenges – as well as show the gradual deterioration of these people over two thousand years.

        2. I think if we had listened to common advice, we would never have run a kickstarter campaign over Christmas. The common thought was that people would be broke, pre occupied and away from computers. This proved to be completely untrue, and in fact Christmas goodwill was a major contributing factor to our success.

        Films are regularly released in theatres on Christmas day, and there is usually quite a lot of social media activity. We were flattered by a number of people tweeting/facebooking pictures of themselves and their families sat in the lounge watching the films after Christmas dinner!

        3. I think that trend of views is certainly true for ‘viral’ videos that are usually very short and funny, but with no real content. By contrast, our last film ‘Zomblies’ has been steadily climbing to around 20,000 views a day. When it was first released it took nearly a month to get to 20,000. I think it all depends on the content and the audience.

        I’m talking about 1,000,000 views as an aggregate of all the views, although it’s largely academic – we want as many views as possible of course!

        4.The project simply could not have been done without the blog.

        Obviously there are the many and varied benefits of transparency, honesty, sharing and broadcasting, but it goes deeper than that.

        Without the constant support and expectations of the fan base, there are times when the pressure of such a challenging project would have overcome us. I know personally, there are times where I would have quite if if wasn’t for the huge responsibility upon my shoulders to damn well get it done!

        As for the time and resource drain – it’s all about streamlining the process. When you live and work together as we do – it quickly becomes part of the routine. It may mean making some sacrifices – but then most things do!

        5. We shared the films through our channels of course – but we stopped short of telling people specifically how they should move them forward from there. It really depends upon your relationship with your fans!

        Hopefully that helps – best of luck with your project, I’d love to see it once it’s done!

        1. kirstystark says:

          Hi David,

          I forgot to check back on this thread and have only just seen it, so I’m sorry for the delay. Thanks for taking the time to respond in detail – it’s great to have your feedback.

          I definitely agree with you that the film festival circuit is no longer the way to go. Before making Wastelander Panda, we sent two of our previous short films out to festivals around the world, and while we had some success, it took 18 months before we were able to put them online, and meanwhile, maybe a couple of hundred people at most had seen them at five or six separate festival screenings. Although festival accolades are great and can help with recognition, I think times have changed, and financiers are more and more likely to look at view counts and online popularity as a test, rather than looking for you to have awards.

          I also loved that you showed many different elements over the course of the five films – it shows that you have the ability to pull off different types of stories, and I’m sure this will go a long way in showing what you have planned for the overall narrative. On second viewing, I think I was too overwhelmed the first time by the fantastic visuals and there being so many different elements to notice the more subtle ties between the story of the underwater people over the long timespan.

          Again, absolutely agree that interaction with fans is critical in helping you not only have the support you need to get things done, but the pressure of expectation to help push you through the low points. I’m sure it’s amazing also to look back on everything you’ve done with the blogs, and see the project with different eyes.

          It’s also been really interesting to hear about your different approach and plans for the release of the episodes. I think the difference here is that we plan to release ours with a ‘bang’ and try to get as much attention for them as possible in the first couple of weeks, as was the case with our Prologue. On the other hand, your experience with Zomblies has shown a steady increase in views over time thanks to the power of your audience. It’s great to hear that both scenarios can work.

          Thanks again for taking the time to respond – I’m sure the whole internet film community is learning a huge amount from you, and you’re helping to set future trends in filmmaking and distribution. Congratulations again on all you’ve achieved.

          Kirsty

  3. ckrieg says:

    Youtube does in fact NO LONGER SUPPORT 4K.
    If you select original quality and then right click and select Video info, you’ll see it is play at 2K, not even 2.5K :(
    After watching some behind the scenes videos, I was quite excited for this series. I too felt it was cut short and was left a little confused in the end as to what the story line was or how they were all connected.

    1. Will says:

      False. It is most likely displaying the playback resolution. Unless you have a 4k screen, it won’t actually give you the full 4k, its just a lower/different compression than the 1080p version. Youtube technically supports any resolution now, as there is no true 4k standard as with 1080p. 4k can be 4096 x 2048 or 3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160, among others. If I pull up motion or after effects that was 3000 x 3000 for example, and uploaded it, Youtube would create an “original” that you send you the highest resolution possible based off of the youtube 3k compression up to 3000 x 3000 pixels. I don’t know why it says 2k, that may just be your playback res because you don’t have a 4k monitor. I remember reading about this in an article when Youtube first started supporting non-standard resolutions, which at the time were meant for photo slideshows.

      1. Will says:

        Simply put, Youtube has no resolution cap, thats not how it works.

    2. gharrow says:

      This comment annoys the crap out of me. I own a RED and have uploaded multiple 4k projects to youtube. I actually know that 4k works, as I also have a 4k monitor. You also are kind of missing the point. If you don’t have a 4k monitor it shouldn’t make a difference if its playing back at 2k, right? WRONG. If Youtube makes a compression based on what you upload. Uploading in 4k circumvents a lot of that compression. Any time you can watch something in “original”, it means that it wasn’t uploaded at 1080, 720, or 480, 240, 360, etc. If it were uploaded higher than 1080, then you will get less compression playing it back at 1080 on your screen. You site no sources and are, in fact, wrong. It is common knowledge to filmmakers that YouTube plays 4k, and a change to this would be big news. For people who have a basic understanding of the compression technology that YouTube uses, this comment is rather asinine. Sorry to beat on you. I dont mean any offense. I have unknowingly posted my wrong “discoveries” in the past and gotten shit on. Its all good.

      1. Philip Bloom says:

        dont get annoyed. life is too short. just educate and enlighten! then you are doing a good deed. :)

        1. RPG Intertainment says:

          I agree with Phillip on that one :)

  4. Sondhi says:

    Hi guys. Thanks so much for opening up about your experiences, and thanks Philip for hosting this conversation.

    If you don’t mind my honesty, I feel there are a couple of misguided notions being expressed here. I speak from the experience of editing the short film site Short of the Week, and having regular contact with producers from major studios and agents looking for web talent.

    The first is a misunderstanding of what Hollywood is looking for. Technical execution is important, but far from the leading factor. There is an understanding that if you are to progress in their system you’ll have a budget in which to hire professionals. Yes they want cheap—that is the number one reason they are looking to the internet for the creators of tomorrow—and yes, creators need to know how to plan and integrate animation and digital effects, but what is most prized is concept, style and world building.

    After all, Jesus Orellana is being fast tracked for a live-action version of ROSA, and he’s never even directed anything live-action before. Same for Wes Ball with RUIN. But those shorts showed a depth of world-building and a command of action filmmaking that enticed.

    That seems to me the missed opportunity with these shorts. You animated a plane and executed the dogfight really well! But it was a a simple dogfight I’ve seen many times over. Same for the Sea Battle. The twist, the idea that you needed to sell was that of the Underwater Realm. What are these people like? What is their world like? What is their history or mythology? We don’t know. You did a very good job of supplementing them with elements from our world, and while those elements are executed well, they are familiar.

    Also, while it is always a great goal to be seen as widely as possible, and audience-building is important, especially if you’re going to continue to crowdfund, don’t worry that much about going viral. Industry looks at online very closely now and they hear about projects very early in their life cycles. Ultimately how many views something gets is nice validation, but they trust their own instincts. I know filmmakers on Vimeo in production on features now off the strength of 50k-100k views. At least 7 Vimeo vids were optioned for development this year and all of them had less than 1M views (and this is a better track record than YouTube by the way).

    I think you will get attention for this, you probably already have, and I’ll help out how I can, so I hope you’ve got the feature script and are ready to pitch!

    1. Kellyhunt says:

      Well said with kind words.

      1. Eve Hazelton says:

        Yes, agreed. Thank you for your honest, constructive feedback.

    2. We do Indeed SONDHI – we have six projects ready to pitch at various budgets, including the Underwater Realm trilogy.

      Thanks for the feedback – I’m glad you saw something familiar in the dry sequences, this was in fact our intention. ‘found footage’ is certainly not my style, nor is the Michael Bay dogfight – referencing Pearl Harbour very strongly. Each of the ‘dry’ sequences is designed to reference a familiar established genre before subverting it with our new world.

      Part V is all me, although you may notice how it references the other 5 films visually.

      I wonder if anyone picked up on the most subtle link between the films – that is the connection between the first and last frames?

      Film one ends staring blankly at a pair of flight goggles in the ‘Sea Hag’s’ collection. The first shot of Part 2 is those same flight goggles – now on the pilot’s face.

      Part 2 ends with our pilot staring out across the water at a pair of ships in the distance – mirroring the first shot of Part 3.

      The films are full of these subtle connections – I wonder who out there sees them….

    3. kirstystark says:

      Sondhi, this is incredibly valuable feedback – thank you.

      I’d love to talk to you more about the world-building side of things and get some advice for our project, which we plan to launch in the next couple of months. Do you mind if I email you? Is the Short of the Week contact form the best way to do this?

      Thanks,

      KIrsty

  5. alexnking says:

    Great job guys! I enjoyed them even more the second time – wish I would have contributed to the kickstarter! There are always other ways you could have told a story, but the trick is picking one, and I think it worked. Episodes 1, 4, and 5 were probably my favorites as far as moving the plot forward, but they were all really well made.

  6. Nigel says:

    As showreels for director, camera, colour-grading – really great. As examples of storytelling – really not great. The first two films are scenes from a bigger story, but since we have no connection to the characters there’s just a ton of time-wasting with really ho-hum pay-offs.

    Why have a tiny bit of dialogue on the surf ski then a long boring wait as the couple get into the water and go? Nice vision underwater, more nice vision underwater, more vision underwater, Blair Witch-type relics litter the bottom, then…a human skull! Shock! Whip Pan! What the?! Was that a figure in the background!? Ohmigod!!!, what’s happening!?! Well, I have to confess, that I did not expect… I have not seen that before…

    Then we have a long sequence of a Spitfire pilot shooting down an ME109, then being shot down by a ME109… Why do we see him shoot the first guy down? Pursued by two enemy planes, sure. Overwhelming odds, sure. But shooting someone down first? Why do we need that? Then, after an impossible-to-survive crash into the sea we are treated to what feels like a very casual process of working out how to escape his sinking plane. The entire process. Casual. But wait! There’s a ghostly figure curiously watching the process. She doesn’t help, she doesn’t hinder. She just watches. We see her clearly. Does he see her clearly? After wrenching his goggles off? Apparently. Is she close enough to touch? Not really. Is she wearing some kind of kelp macrame ensemble? I’m afraid she is.

    Reminded me of Sucker Punch – visually impressive, story engagement negligible.

  7. allstars says:

    Congratulations. Speechless really, incredible diligence and artistry!

  8. francisShephard says:

    They’ve been an inspiration to thousands of film makers across the planet, who aspire to make their own films. They’ve provided great e-learning grabs along the way. They’ve opened a private door into a private world and shared their journey.

    I think the real jewel here perhaps is not the end product, but rather its the “we can do it” culture they’ve helped bring back to life. The essence of indy filming is to seriously step up and believe – right from the outset in getting your film made, no matter what.

    If their final work isn’t 100% where one would want it to be then so be it. Much of Holywood pumps out s**te like an industrial sewerage plant, so who’s to judge the underwater realm guys to harshly. Yes a narrative line throughout the films would help tie it all together.

    The real gold here is in the effort, the sustained teamwork and their brilliant relaying of what was really going on from week to week. I think their level of ambition with such limited resources was quite astounding and has enabled me to think beyond limitation into the real of possibility and innovation to solve problems.

    If we all put in the same level of commitment and effort into our films as this team did, we’d be much further down our paths as film makers.

    Just to see that these films are completed is a moment worth cheering about. I salute them.

    Congratulations to the Underwater Realm folks – you’ve been an inspiration

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      Oh wow! This is such a shame! Thank you for pointing this out. All though, they still look pretty epic on YouTube as 2K :)

      1. Eve Hazelton says:

        Ah, sorry. Replying from iPhone means I’m replying to wrong comments. Very sorry Francis. I was going to thank you for your support and kind words :D

  9. Great visual work and watching the behind the scenes it looked like a lot of effort was put into this project. I am along the same lines that although visually entertaining it left a lot to be desired from the narrative stand point. After all, in my opinion, films are made to inform and entertain with a story. It is why they are shown on big screens in front of many people.

    This to me feels more like a static art piece, it’s there just to look at. I don’t agree that film is the right medium for that. Photography, painting, sculptures this is where these efforts belong. Cinema differs in where you have the ability to tell a story in detail and I think the sweat blood and tears put in to this project would have been better received with a great story.

    I certainly applaud the effort but it seems like a whole lot of resources used up to just show that people could do it. We know it can be done. It get’s done very day.

    In short, in my opinion, which never counts for much :), it was a bad idea that was executed to perfection.

    1. Couldn’t disagree more. Cinema doesn’t always have to have a strong narrative, and can often rely upon the beauty of its visuals and sound to either impart emotion or allude to larger themes. I submit as proof any Terrence Malick film.

      1. Cinema is highly subjective. Although the masses speak with their wallets, there are people who have had a dislike for great movies.

        Just because people don’t agree does not mean they are right or wrong.

        My observation in its simplest form is Terrence Malick’s films have way more substance in their loglines than in the one provided by Underwater Realm for their work. If no one really knows what it is how do you get onboard?

        It’s a fantastic visual accomplishment for the budget that they had. It certainly is far beyond my capabilities. Maybe their final full feature may have more substance but for 15 minutes of final footage it left a lot to be desired.

        1. Really interesting feedback Kevin, although I hope the irony of your post on this forum is not lost on you!

          I think if there is ever a community more focussed on creating stunning, moving visual art rather than narrative storytelling, surely it is here?

          As for ‘it gets done every day’ – I’d go so far as to say there are only a handful of underwater sequences in cinema history that have the same level of complexity, scale and duration as part V of the Underwater Realm. You many not like my story – but give credit to my team where it is due!

        2. Really interesting feedback Kevin, thanks. Although I hope the irony of your post here isn’t lost on you..

          I think if ever there was a community of people more focussed on creating stunning visual works of moving art rather than narrative storytelling, it is here!

          As for ‘it gets done every day’ – I’d go so far as to say there are only a handful of underwater scenes in cinema history with the complexity, scale and duration of Part V of The Underwater Realm. Now you may not like my story – but give ym team credit where it is due!

          1. I don’t believe an imbalance in either or, narrative or visual is good. I’m not rooting for one or the other. I believe the balance between the two is what makes a great film.

            As far as credit, as I said “It’s a fantastic visual accomplishment for the budget that they had. It certainly is far beyond my capabilities.”

  10. They look great, especially knowing the budget. As any producer of anything knows, it’s impossible to please everyone and, for whatever reason, detractors who value their time and energy will nonetheless take time out of their busy, busy day to crap all over your work, however well done.

    Having only been introduced by these five shorts, and having not actually read the blog article yet, here’s what I took away… the shorts are more to expose the history and deteriorating attitude of the underwater folk toward mankind. They commonly encounter humanity in times of war… at first, they tried to save humanity from itself, and could (pt5). As time passed, they could no longer save humanity (pt4). They evolved progressively to cleaning up man’s messes (pt3), detatched observation (pt4), moving eventually to outright hostility (pt1). The main questions, then: why has man’s relationship with the seafolk changed? How might it be repaired?

    If this is anywhere near the mark, I applaud the makers for keeping their sights affixed on the grander, deeper tale they’re spinning, instead of becoming bogged down in forgettable shallow rivers of common human interaction interspersed by naked exploding dubstep zombie ninja robots.

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      Kevin, you are spot on! Thank you for your awesome comments! Made our day, all though, it’s kinda put a downer on our next dub step zombie robot film. Thought we had that niche covered ;)

    2. Kevin – I’m glad someone is paying attention!

      And yes Honey – we are going to have to rethink those Ninjas too…

  11. Eve Hazelton says:

    Thank you ALL for all your comments. We really do appreciate the constructive criticism, and praise you have all offered. Thank you for taking the time to watch & discuss the films with us. :D

    1. Kellyhunt says:

      Putting all the constructive criticism aside you guys did an awesome job and you should hold your heads high. You inspired a lot of people, myself included, and if nothing else, your futures are very bright. If you should ever need a hand downunder, I would have no hesitation to be involved. All the best for the future projects.

  12. TimFok says:

    Glad you posted this Philip.

    I’ve been following UWR since the Kickstarter campaign, and was also eagerly awaiting the release of them, to be slightly let down by the lack of inter linking between the stories/dramatic cliff hanger/s.

    Unfortunately none of my piers have followed the project, so I haven’t had a chance to hear any else’s opinion on them, or voice my own.

    1. pgarcia says:

      Hello,

      I’d like to know if possible the reason you didn’t send UNDERWATER REALM to film festivals before showing in internet. In my opinion, it would been more productive to do that first since many film festivals doesn’t allow you
      to participate if you have already shown your film in internet.

      Thank you and congratulations for your great work!
      Paco

      1. Paco – I’m not a big believer in the festival system. I’d rather our films were our there for people to see rather than being posted around the world on DVD!

        We also knew from the outset – these films are not designed for festival audiences!

  13. Jon Braeley says:

    I think because of the amazing tools we all get too caught up in the visual process even knowing that story and dialog are the driving force. It’s a guilty pleasure I share as photographer first and filmmaker second.
    I had not heard about about this project when I watched the trailer. It looks like the trailer was made from one part of the movie only – which I now understand is true. Like other comments, I was waiting for a hint of what the story is about.
    So then I looked for a synopsis on their website… no luck again. There is a short history lesson on the mythology of the sea but no synopsis.
    If the story does match the quality of the filming then it will be a blockbuster, no doubt about that. Let’s hope so.

  14. Nigel says:

    OK, I saw the other three Underwater Realm films. They look absolutely beautiful. Truly an amazing achievement.

    Getting to the end of the fifth film, and hearing David Reynolds say that the team wanted to make three full length feature films on this theme made me shake my head. About what? The underwater people progress from wanting to help those who enter their realm to wanting to strike out at a couple of snorkelers. It took them 2000 years to finally get the sh*ts with above water people? Talk about slow learners.

    3 feature-length films. Do the underwater people have somewhere they can talk, or is it all meaningful looks and blowing bubbles? What is at stake? Is this an aquatic Avatar? In Avatar didn’t we all want to run free in the jungle realm like the Navi? Do people generally want to swim around, really slowly, deep underwater? Don’t people kind of find deep water incredibly claustrophobic, cold and, well, wet? Are the underwater people good? Who cares?

    What do the filmmakers reckon? Eve? David? You must have asked yourselves these sort of questions? What were your answers?

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      Hey Nigel,

      We have indeed asked our selves these questions, and (even though I am not one of the writers of the trilogy features) I know that there is an entire world that has been created behind this idea.

      The “Underwater Realm” is a high concept idea. Avatar, and the world created in it, being a massive inspiration. I for one have never wanted to be a really tall blue type person, who can run around a jungle and fly around on giant bird type creatures. I have however, ALWAYS wanted to be able to live under the water (maybe a case of too much little mermaid as a young girl.) However, after watching Avatar, I was totally sold on their idea of the world, and would have done ANYTHING to have been able to visit Pandora.

      I don’t want to/ can’t (for risk of getting slapped wrists by the creative writing team here) give too much away about the Three feature length films, but the underwater world is a place that so many people wish to explore, and that we know so very little about, and I think is a perfect place to set something of a similar “high fantasy/concept” level to Avatar.

    2. Hi Nigel – thanks for asking.

      From the outset I have always said this of the UWR feature films: ‘when you come out of Avatar or the Lord of The Rings you are inspired with the desire to visit a world that doesn’t exist. When you come out of a theatre having watched an Underwater Realm feature – you actually /can/ go an interact with that world. It’s not fantasy – it’s all there for you to explore.

      I have to say – I have only met two types of people who share your opinion of the ocean: Those who suffer from claustrophobia, and those who have never dived. Remember – it was the oceans that inspired Pandora in the first place! It truly is an amazing, vibrant world where you really can fly!

      And yes – three fantasy features with no dialogue would be madness. From the ice caves of the north to the underwater volcanoes of the south, from the sweeping barren plains to their coral temples – our various tribes and communities of the sea talk, fight, love and dream just like the rest of us.

  15. Will says:

    This really reminds me of Cloud Atlas. A really loosely tied story across multiple time periods with a ton of eye candy and good snippets of story. Great job! If this were a feature I’d definitely see it in theaters. I really think that this just goes to show how much the playing field has been leveled. The cinematography in these shorts matches what we are seeing in theaters today (well they seem to be using most of the same tools anyways with the REDs).

  16. Nick Hilton says:

    Fascinating interview, it’s good to see the team being candid about the reaction rather than closing their eyes to any negative comments.

    I toyed with commenting on YouTube but worried that I might be dismissed as a spotty adolescent or a troll. I’ve followed this project since early days (I didn’t catch it in time to contribute to the crowdfunding) and I spent this summer working with Phil Arntz who camera operated for you. So I basically have a reasonable understanding of the project and, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed with it. For me, the problem is not so much the lack of a coherent storyline (I’m happy to accept that we are only being shown snippets that move between the centuries, showing how human and underwater life have changed) but the lack of narrative drive. The films felt a little insipid- as though the cinematography and production design would be enough to sustain interest, even over 4 minutes. Terrence Malick did the same thing with his brilliant but self-indulgent middle section to Tree of Life, so you’re in good company! It’s not that the story is either good or bad, it’s just that it seems inconsequential and, if you can’t involve yourself in the story, then you’re forced to concentrate on the superficial elements of the film which makes the dichotomy between the excellent production work and the weak narrative all the more apparent.

    I would be careful not to dismiss every negative YouTube comment. There are a lot of people on there who clearly don’t love the films, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Others will have loved them and, equally, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve seen very few comments on those videos that seem to be actively trolling, so take their criticisms just as seriously as you’d take criticisms from a cinema audience.

    But you have done tremendous work, not just on filmmaking terms but in terms of social media marketing for crowdfunding. The Underwater Realm campaign was one of the strongest influences on my own crowdfunding campaign last summer, and I think that it has served a fantastic role in broadening the crowdfunding audience and validating socially funded projects. So, for that, you deserve many congratulations!

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      Hi Nick, Thanks for your response. It was indeed a pretty big step for us as a team to open up and talk about how we feel after the release of UWR.

      I can’t speak for the others of course, as we all deal with criticism in very different ways, but I for one take on board every comment, negative or positive. I don’t think a day hasn’t gone past that I haven’t checked the videos to see what people are thinking/ saying. However, that being said, I think the way you deal with the response is absolutely crucial.

      As Dave said in the article above, negative comments give us things to think about, keep us grounded, and actually inspire us to make our work better. Of course I love seeing people say nice, encouraging things about my work. I think that’s only natural after pouring so much into a project for over two years, but really, if anything it’s the negative comments that maybe grab my attention MORE. Not in an over self conscious kinda “ahhh I’m never picking up a camera ever again!” kinda way, but more just in a “wow….OK, I need to keep pushing myself to improve if I wanna keep working” Kinda way :D

      1. Exactly – as I said in the article, negative feedback is a very important part of our creative process!

        It’s really only the completely irrational comments that get brushed aside – such as the ones suggesting that $100k should have created a 2 1/2 hour underwater feature film…

  17. EddieG says:

    Philip, Thanks for posting these here. I too have been following UWR from the first few weeks thanks to you and Eve Hazelton. So the general consensus seems to be that everyone thought they were going to get a story. From seenig the artwork – (The huge whale, the kingdom, drawings of what looks like a warrior with certain fighting armor, etc…) we were all looking forward to seeing a deep story line about the world under the sea. There is no question that everything looked epic and great and they used lighting, underwater technique such as we’ve never seen, and that jazz and did it brilliantly.

    So in conclusion here’s my question, since we did not get a deep story, I feel as if we got a nice teaser. So was that the goal? Get enough people interested, here’s what we did with 100k, now let’s raise money and show you what we can do with 500k? Then next December release a full length feature film? My wife and I saw it and thought, “Hm that must be their goal then, if it isn’t to tell the story, but get you interested and buzz going around the internet, then they must be wanting to raise more money and do a full length feature film next year?” If that’s the case then kudos to them and I hope they do that because I’m sure we all want to see what amazing story telling can be done with this feature.

    Heck I’m curious to see if they decide to add audio to the voices. How do they communicate? Maybe by telepathy. You can have one character look at another and you’ll here what they’re thinking out loud but their mouth won’t need to move. And every time you link a human to one from the sea, the human develops this same amazing telepathic speaking ability. But what happens when they come up out of the sea? Do they breathe like fish do? Will they die on land? No I’m not suggesting create a new Little Mermaid buuuuuuuut, we definitely want to see more.

    So here then is my petition, let the kickstarter commence once again, and let’s begin fundraising for them to create the Underwater Realm, the movie to be released in theaters in 2014. Who knows, maybe it can be a trilogy?

    Anyway great work and hope to see the story continue…

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      EDDIEG, You are pretty spot spot on here :D There is indeed much more of a story behind this little introduction to the underwater world. We have discussed the issue of dialogue to some extent, and unfortunately, as I am not one of the writers, I do not think I would be allowed to divulge any idea’s we have had on the subject :D HOWEVER, I will say. your ideas were VERY interesting.

      Thank you for your support, and (hopefully) your continued interest as the Underwater Realm grows.

      1. Eduardo says:

        Thanks Eve, there is so much that could be done to this story it will be very exciting to see what you guys
        do next.

        - Eduardo (EddieG) don’t know why it posts my name two different ways

    2. Thanks EDDIEG – I’m glad you liked the films!

      To answer your question about the communication:

      Our characters speak to each other by passing water from their lungs across their vocal chords, very much the same and we do on land. Of course – they have nowhere near the same vocal range as us, it actually sounds like a small scale version of whale song.

      Now obviously – three feature films filled with whale song would be unbearable – like being trapped in an alternative soap shop for 9 hours!

      Without giving too much away – suffice to say that our protagonist for the features understands this speech, and after a brief transition, the audience begins to hear heavily modulated English speech.

      1. Eduardo says:

        Very cool David,

        Yep hearing whale song would be annoying I totally understand. LOL@alternative soap shop comment.
        Nice, so with the audience hearing the modulated English speech is that something that will be coming in
        the next feature?

        Love the creativity!

  18. Eduardo says:

    Eve, what can I say, your lighting was exquisite. My wife knows I have a video production crush on you. haha. You
    are inspiring to watch. I hope you inspire more women to join the industry as now women will have their video production guru to admire. Your cinematography and editing were superb.
    My dream – to have you on my crew one day.

    To the writers of the story and the camera crew, wow. AMAZING! You started with nothing and built that? I will whole heartedly support the full length movie should you choose to go there. If not, I will let everyone know about your brilliant work.

    Herr Director Westwood, if that’s what you can do with 100k buddy you are on the right track to success! Well done and I’m glad you stuck with it even in times when you weren’t sure you’d get it done.

    Mr. Dupont, keep on writing and producing as you will be one this industry needs. Great work

    Mr. Abdullah, wow wow and wow, did I say wow? Creative mind buddy!

    Can I steal Rob Westwood to write music for my next movie?

    Rich your underwater cinematography is brilliant and I’m sure your expertise in doing what you just did will have many calling upon you for more.

    To the all the rest, great work!

    1. Eve Hazelton says:

      Hey Edaurdo, WOW! Thank you for your very kind comments. It is lovely to hear such a positive reaction! Those who know me know that I am not one for an all out “feminist” take over of the industry, but it’s great that you think it may inspire other women to consider the job role. I like to think, if you love what you do, and have the guts to do it, then go for it. Male, or female. Just do it to your best abilities. (and try not too blush when people say nice things about your work.) ;)

      1. Oi! keep off my wife!

        1. Eduardo says:

          HAHA no worries David. My wife and I really enjoyed what you guys put together here wow.
          Indeed Eve, I think it is inspiring to do what you love period and glad you guys are living the
          dream.

          Eduardo

  19. pask74 says:

    Great post and comments!

    I’ve been following you from the early blog days and have learnt a lot thanks to your openess – I’m very grateful for that.
    The production quality is really amazing! Pirate-ish / world war sequences especially. Congrats on that.

    Now, I have a few questions, if you don’t mind :
    -

    1. pask74 says:

      Oops – sorry I hit “enter” by mistake.
      So, questions :

      - How has the team come to the idea of filming underwater? Isn’t it one of the most technically challenging concept to translate into film? The risk of making it look fake was huge… is it something that you had thoroughly considered before spending 2 years in such a project?

      - I’d also be interested to know the writing/conceptualizing/story-boarding/rehearsal time vs. actual production time ratio.
      I need to admit that I find the story-telling and even acting weaker than the technical/production level and knowing how these aspects have been balanced would be very interesting.

      Overall, I am extremely impressed by your achievement and see you as pioneers paving the way for a new generation of producers.
      Congrats again!

      Cheers,

  20. tatum says:

    Brilliant work.
    Great epic story in such a short amount of time…

    I love the way it progressed in reverse!

    By the end I was like “so thats why they didn’t want the guy to save the girl… She probably did survive… A bit like the spaniard going and wiping out the Aztecs with disease!”

    I really hope the studios and the money powerhouses buy into this! Just don’t go all 3D + HFR on me :) just joking on that one btw…

  21. Billy says:

    Hello friends,
    I did watch these movies via YouTube on my Apple TV. While the production and cinematography was awesome the stories left more to be desired. My opinions are similar to that of Philip’s.

    I’ve caught some of the “making of” along the way and it’s definitely a nice learning tool. I’m impressed that were able to come up with your own underwater lighting.

    I look forward to the stories being fleshed out and a full length feature to be made.

    - Billy

  22. sevenforest says:

    I think this project stipulates were filmmaking flaws these days. We are very amazed about the special effects, the effort, the quality that all this is possible within low budget. But we are not amazed by the millions of dollars in movies that are spent on Actors, which makes movie making almost impossible. Al this results in many movies with weak storylines. Thinking that screenwriters know what the audience wants, they all fall back on regulated scriptwriting, which actually is insulting the public intelligence.

    Its all form and less content aware.

    Philip Bloom many times makes beautiful products with perfect balance with very strong story telling and intens balanced imagery.

    This underwater product shows many talents, almost everything is superb and great. Except the pace and the story telling. That is really not good, And like many makers they are blinded by the effort and form. There are so many things very well, like the effort , the fact that it is underwater. The light, the special effects. All that should not be used to dismiss the bad story line and the lack of good pace.

    I know that filmmaking is extremely difficult to do well
    But making a real good story does not recquire the same difficult effort of shooting a movie.

    If you built a house and all the workers are qualified, the materials are all perfect. You have bought the ground have a beautiful view.

    Why the hell doesn’t one put total effort in a good foundation of the house. Because of a wrong foundation a lot of all the quality effort, and brilliance are all just off and make less sense.

    To much focus on form instead of content. And by fear of being rude, the team is subconciously not willing to admit this.

  23. This was great. Not in the sense of these films were great (great looking and excellent production, but lacking otherwise), but this actually gave me a pause and I started thinking what is important.

    I’m also starting preproduction on a shortfilm and I’ve been on the fence about it for a long time. But looking at these I realized what I have is actually really good. I don’t have the production capability but I think I can nail down the narrative drive better. And the story and the characters is why I personally watch narrative films. That’s why I don’t care for Terrence Malick films. But Private Ryan stuff works wonders for me.

    About these films, they would’ve needed just something a little bit more. No huge changes were necessary, maybe even just edit fixes (not just tightening but creating contrasts) and a bit more character. That’s it. Otherwise these look absolutely gorgeous. Eventhough I’m not that fond of the modern grading style where blacks are up, everything is sharp and there is no grain.

    A great example is Corridor Digitals specpiece. I enjoyed it way more eventhough it does not look or sound as good. It’s sometimes not about the look, or lighting or expertise in certain aspects. It’s about character.

  24. jason ovac says:

    David –
    if ‘found footage’ is certainly not your style, nor the Michael Bay dogfight, then why include it in YOUR film? surely the mark of a good director is the confidence to follow his own vision not imitate those that have gone before (even if it’s under the excuse of homage).
    to me the series of shorts come across as a very technically proficient series of special effects showcases with the underwater aquatic vampires (?) tagged on at the end, a formula that became predictable by the third instalment.

    but small criticisms aside you should all be very proud of the level of accomplishment attained, and there’s some truly beautiful cinematography in these films.

    best of luck in developing these further.

  25. cmchsmjm says:

    Amazing achievement, very addictive production videos/blog. Very well done all invloved BUT….the story is so thin it spoils the whole thing for me. Sorry.

    The production value are stupid high for the budget but I really do feel effort should have gone into producing a shorter, tighter film with a stronger script, a tighter story and some way of giving the underwater race a ‘voice’

    I watched the films in both reverse and standard chronological order but frankly I had no interest in the people living underwater. There wasn’t anything about the story that made feel that I wanted to see more or invest any emotion in these people. This type of story (and it is just me opinion) needs strong, thoughtful dialogue if we are going to be able care about the lives of the characters involved.

    Part of me feels bad saying anything negative about such an amazing achievement but if a piece of work is put up there for others to see then I guess opinions are going to be given!

    I do, however, look forward to what ever comes next.

  26. alanc says:

    I’ve been a film writer for many years and I can tell you from experience of development and thrashing out stories on all budget levels – the concept of an underwater adventure film (or a trilogy of such) is a very strong idea and would likely be of interest to high level executives.

    I’m sorry, I haven’t really had time to look at the full concepts and blogs from the site yet, I’ve only watched the shorts and read the “reviews” but the ideas offered here are high concept in the classic sense – a simple idea that everyone can “get” straight away. This is still a real incentive for high level production and has been since the idea was established in the 80s (some say a term coined by Don Simpson in believe).

    As for the openness from the filmmakers about trying to use these films to get feature project or other development, I can tell you this, every serious attempt at making a short narrative film is an attempt at this. Unless the filmmaker is an artist in the true sense, and the work is simple a piece unto itself, the entire motivation for short films is in some way to attract attention for further advancement. I have never met a short filmmaker who didn’t want a career in filmmaking. Myself included (although I haven’t made a short for a long time – and that’s exactly the point. You can’t, you have to move on. Therefore, the short is rarely a means unto itself).

    What this team have done is create a high concept pitch. As many will know, a pitch is usually the first step in a development process, usually by a writer and sometimes a writer/producer team. Usually the aim of a pitch is for the writer to write a script of the idea, and then the project would move on, sometimes to another team with their own writers (that’s the common Hollywood route at least, it’s different here – but this is a very expensive proposal we are talking about so Hollywood studios are the likely route). Sometimes at an initial pitch, a writer and/or producer team will have sketches or other images to sell the idea. But the Realm team are showing the execs that this is a pitch that they want to stay in house, and demonstrates that they can at least talk seriously about remaining involved as a production team. In that regard, I would say they have been very successful. It would need to be backed up with a great script though.

    Now, there would be a long way to go in terms of production development if this was to be taken to feature level. But that process would be taken on by an executive producer who would be assigned to the project. There would also, as I said, be a long way to go in terms of written development (from what I’ve seen of the story and character spread in the shorts) but I, and no one else except the writing team themselves, know how much of this has been achieved. It’s no use saying the shorts wouldn’t work as a feature when you have no knowledge of the vision of the feature piece (only the narrow vision of the short as presented in the films).

    As a writer I tire of opinion on my work that has no merit. Many writers feel this way. What constitutes merit is simply an objective view. Often, producers themselves will stress opinion on work that I decide is simply wrong. They will often use trite statements they read in a book, like character arc, turning point, interior motivation, whatever. Sometimes, they have commissioned the work and failing a strong enough argument for my opinion, they will always win the battle because they are the boss! Compromise is unavoidable. Sometimes, the producer is really good at what they do and I’ll take the ideas with greater confidence. Producers give these opinion based on business decisions and are usually specific. Viewers, i.e. the audience most often give opinion based on an immediate response to the whole. “I didn’t like the story”; “I didn’t like the characters”; “I like the special effects”. In the end these people are laymen and don’t appoint the necessary parameters to their opinion. Their ideas are not useful to the artist because the artist is working under conditions that directly affects the work. Conditions that are not known by the viewer.

    The point is, both the professional opinion and that of the audience should not matter emotionally to the artist.

    The problem is that words used to judge art of any sort, words like “merit”, “wrong”, “good” and “bad”, etc are always subjective. So who decides how these terms relate to the work? Answer: The artist. That is, the writer, the director, whoever you are. He or she is the only true arbiter of the work because it is their creation. I like to hear people say they loved what I did, I don’t mind hearing they didn’t like it. My reaction is always the same – thank you for your opinion. And then I think about it no more. It’s nice hearing a view though. At least they spent the time to watch and then comment. But both those reactions mean the same to me. And that is, to be honest, very little.

    So what are we talking about? Criticism and how to handle it. I would disagree with what most people are saying about criticism – in that I do think it needs to be ignored beyond what I just said. You cannot get emotional about it. Any film, any art work, is criticised by some. The Godfather has people who say they think it’s boring. Some don’t like Taxi Driver – too violent. Some hate Citizen Kane – black and white. I personally didn’t like Avatar, I much preferred Dances with Wolves! I loved The Abyss. In the end, and honestly you learn this after spending many years in the trenches, you make the work for YOURSELF. I know that’s hard for people to understand and easily dismissed because these days all opinions are considered valid (even on that statement!) And I’m not arguing for a return to elitism by any means. To suggest that the audience don’t matter at all is of course wrong. But you cannot control, ever, how the audience will react. The audience, in the end, has to be YOU. So that means you do the best you can for yourself. Be happy with the work and if you are not, do better next time (better, that is, by your own standards, not someone else’s). I’ve spoken to many about this, some of them major filmmakers, some of them relatively new. Those with experience agree that it’s just a waste of energy worrying what people think about what you do. When they say they don’t read reviews, it’s really true. Many have valued friends with opinions that matter, and also established critics who they admire and value but that’s about it. The value of the audience comes from broad consensus, not individual comment.

    What you hope for is success, and that can mean many things to different people. Financial is always a useful measure, what your mum thinks can be nice. But for me, that success is inside yourself and I am the only true judge of my work, good or bad, right or wrong.

    As I said, I believe, the Realm films were a success. Judging by what I believe they were trying to achieve. But that’s my opinion and shouldn’t mean much to the Realm team!

    Sorry, this was a brain dump and has turned out quite long. (It’s a typical first draft). Some will think it’s too long and badly written, a bit rambling, with a loss of focus about 1/3 through. But I created this essay and I’m happy with it and happy for it to be published! And that’s all that really matters in the end…