We are VERY BUSY right now

We’re currently doing five things
simultaneously: casting voice actors, reviewing applications for 3D
artist internships, finishing our pre-production Kickstart work and
rewards, training on the software, and planning for our next Kickstarter
which will pay for the production of the pilot episode, “No Children in
Space”. Everything is complicated and interlocked, and I am very busy
camper. But this is pretty fun, I have to admit!

we-are-very-busy-right-now

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a news update for “Lunatics”, but we are very, very, very, very busy, I can assure you!

We’re actually doing about five different things at once, so it’s a
bit of a juggling act — but this is necessary if we’re going to be on
track for producing our pilot episode, and time is always going to be a
factor on a series project. That’s the challenge we’ve chosen, and part
of what makes this fun!

Casting Voice Actors

This has proved both easier and harder than I anticipated. It’s been
very easy to find people interested in acting in “Lunatics”, at least
for the several parts that only require English proficiency. It’s
proving a little harder to find people who can handle the parts of Anya
Titova Farmer and Hiromi Aoki Lerner, because ideally these women are
really bilingual.

I’d like Anya to have an authentic Russian accent and to be able to
speak Russian natively on occasion. This will add a lot of realism to
the part, and should be a lot less cringeworthy to Russian audiences.
Aftter all, any Internet production is international from the start.

We also need a bilingual Russian-English actor to play Sergei Titov,
the cosmonaut and moon shuttle pilot. He’s really a principal in the
pilot episode, although not a series regular. He will have lines in both
Russian and English, though the Russian lines are mostly not written or
translated yet.

Hiromi is even more challenging, because not only should she speak
Japanese fluently, but she should be able to speak English even more
fluently. She’s a 2nd-Generation Japanese-American, after all, so it
would be a little strange if she had a very strong Japanese accent in
English. We’re trying several avenues to see if we can find someone who
can do this.

Of course, we could probably do without the Russian or Japanese
elements in the script, or we could even try using a voice double
(although that could be extremely cheesy if done poorly!).

I think we’ve certainly made the right decision to cast globally and
operate on the assumption of using Internet communications to
coordinate. It would’ve been extremely difficult to work locally with
only local actors and I think we’ll get a much better cast this way. I
hope it will also be easier for our cast to stay with the project and
avoid having to switch voices at some point in the series.

We’ve started to listen to readings for the different characters,
which has been pretty exciting. I don’t want to say too much more about
it until after the 30th, but it’s very promising.

Internships for 3D Artists

Another major question is whether we can actually get the 3D and 2D
artistic talent we need to make “Lunatics”. I had originally expected
that I would learn a lot of Blender skills and do a lot of this work
myself. In fact, though, I’m finding that producing and directing are
pretty much full time jobs in themselves, and since I’m doing both, I’m
basically working double-time on this project already.

So, even if I were an amazing Blender animator, I’d probably have to
defer most of this work to others if I wanted to finish on any kind of
reasonable schedule. But this is probably a good thing anyway, because
there are many much more talented Blender artists out there.

I’ve gotten a number of interested queries about the project in the
past, and now we’re actually finding out who’d be willing to put in some
serious work on the project. We’re going to be paying for a few
“internship” stipends out of our Kickstarter budget. And of course,
anyone participating creatively will also be automatically part of our
“creator-endorsed” profit sharing, though we still have work to do to
figure out how exactly it will be divided.

Since I’ve posted the announcement and gotten it listed on Blender
Nation, I’ve started to get some applications, and it’s pretty exciting
to see the artists’ work. I hope to start reviewing and responding to
these applications this week (though final decisions will have to be
made after the 30th, of course).

Planning Our Budget and Kickstarter

Which brings us to the next thing I’m doing now: planning out a
realistic budget to finish the pilot episode. It’s really pretty
complicated and there are many things we’re going to have to consider,
but we’re going to be launching the Kickstarter on July 20th (Moon Day)
and we’ll be trying to raise about $100,000 for the pilot. Most of the
money will go to 3D artists working on the production, a little bit goes
to writer and director, and some goes for equipment expenses, including
expenses for voice actors, since we are working on a remote basis.

Expenses for a project like ours are highly “front-loaded”. We need
to create a whole lot of 3D assets — characters, sets, vehicles, props,
etc. So it will be a lot more expensive to create the pilot than to
create individual episodes. We’ll be slowly adding assets as we go, of
course, but the pilot is still a huge amount of work.

So one thing that we’re going to do is to offer the additional
episodes as incentive if we can go beyond 100% on the Kickstarter. At
100%, we have just a bare-bones budget to finish the pilot. At about
130% we’ll be at our “basic budget” and we’ll be able to do things like
pay our actors at something like union rates. At just 150%, we’ll be
able to produce an entire new episode — “Earth”.

If we get to 200%, we’ll also be able to produce episode 3, “Cyborg”,
and if we get to 250%, we’ll do all five of the episodes in the first
block of episodes!

Planning the budget is interlocked with the other things we’re doing,
because we have to understand the requirements we have fund and also
have a realistic idea of how much we can raise and therefore how much we
can afford to offer people working on the project. We have to balance
things fairly carefully.

Training on Blender 2.5 and Pyppet

The truth is, most of my Blender knowledge was with version 2.49, and
I still haven’t really gotten caught up with the big interface makeover
that came with version 2.5 (Blender is now on version 2.6, which is
only incrementally different from 2.5 — there was a massive re-write of
the GUI between 2.4 and 2.5). So, I’m going to be reviewing my basic
modeling in Blender this week, with an eye towards learning the new GUI
and features in Blender 2.6 — I’ve realized I really need to get back
up to speed on this.

I also have finally gotten Brett Hartshorn’s “Pyppet” installed and
running on my system. Now I need to train on using it with Blender
models. I have a lot of work to do on that, and I’ll be spending some
time each day this week on that task too. I’ll hopefully be posting more
about this soon. Of course, we’ve bet heavily on this software working,
and I really need to prove it before we can move on to the pilot.

Finishing Up the Pre-Production Work

I have to admit to being quite frustrated with the amount of time
we’re running over on this, but the work is still getting done. We’re
making progress on it.

I’ve made the download page available to backers only at the moment
(it’ll be posted publicly before July 20th), but there’s a lot of
material that still needs to be finished and posted.

I decided to stop worrying about the time though. I’d guess that what
people really want is to see us get the work done to make the pilot
happen, so I’m trying to concentrate on doing the things that are most
important for that goal.

Rosalyn has completed the script for “Earth” and has nearly completed
the script for “No Children in Space”, so both of these will be in the
writers’ guide as examples.

Daniel Fu decided to do some work on the character line-up poster,
which is for the best, since he’s going to be signing those for backers.

I’ve finished the plan views for the LTS Lander. I need to add the
orbiter/service module part, and I need to do the page layout for the
book. I need to also finish up the work on the “Soyuz SF” set (I’m
currently deciphering control panel labels and drawing the updated
console in the “Descent Module” which is the most complicated part of
that set). And there’s more.

So we’re very busy, but it’s a pretty good feeling, and we are getting things done.