Five years later

It turned out Wakefield (the movie we had nothing to do about) was no big deal. I mean, no offense intended for any filmmaker involved, I’m talking about The Wakefield Variation: yes, the source material is (almost) the same, and yes it sort of upset me.

I haven’t read the updated short story by E L Doctorow the film claims to be based on, but the narration is linear and ends exactly as Hawthorne’s original story does. That is, without an ending. Which was our premise to the series.

The film relies entirely on Bryan Cranston’s performance, with almost the whole story told in voice over, often breaking the fourth wall, something that also goes back to Hawthorne’s novella.

The story chooses to be all about Wakefield and doesn’t make much of the other characters, and the overall tone felt like an adult, dark-ish comedy with some hint of drama. So the atmosphere is pretty far from my idea for the (mini)series. Also, not exploring much beyond the original story, it is leaving us space to do so. At least I think it does.

Did it take me four months to elaborate such thoughts? Not really, as I came up with this five seconds after the lights went back on at the Princess of Wales Theatre during the TIFF premiere. And the above is actually part of an email I sent to a few friends and colleagues after the screening.

So what’s the point? Five years ago today I set up this blog and against all adversities I’m still here, discussing The Wakefield Variation. A vaguely similar movie will not stop me… after all, it is what the film industry is all about.

Geneviève Bujold and Cliff Robertson in the opening credits of Brian De Palma's Obsession (hint hint...)

Geneviève Bujold and Cliff Robertson in the opening credits of Brian De Palma’s Obsession (hint hint…)

So, as 2017 will see my effort focus on moving more or less permanently to Toronto, I’ll also do my best to make something as big happen for The Wakefield Variation.

Happy New Year to all of our the loyal followers 😉

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Maple Syrup

I apologize for the stereotype in the title. But not only is this a symbol of my Canadian days – I’ve been staying in Toronto for over three months now – it is also a fine metaphor for the taste left in my [mediterranean-taste-adjusted] mouth after the news: They made a movie about Wakefield. And we had nothing to do with it.

As you can see by the lack of posts, nothing terribly important really happened in the last six months, in regards to The Wakefield Variation.

Something happened to me though, as I decided to take the opportunity to experience Canada on a working holiday visa. Pushed to find work and network with fellow filmmakers in an all-new and still competitive setting, I didn’t forget about our beloved project. After all, Canada has always been a big part of the deal, being the home country of the lead actors and of Toronto-based story editor Jonathan Robbins (who I met again in person 4 years after Marseille! Yay!).

So, long story short: in the time that I have been here in Toronto, I have met some very talented filmmakers (all tied with MAD Resilience Films: thanks Mark!) and while talking about our respective projects, Wakefield comes up. Cards and links are exchanged, and plans of injecting new life into our dormant series are discussed! It looked like all that miniseries (re)development material was going to be taken out of the virtual drawer…

wakefield_01

…not just yet. I was browsing the catalogue of the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, until Bryan Cranston with a beard appears. TIFF will screen the international premiere of Wakefield, directed by Robin Swicord and based on the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne E. L. Doctorow. The late Doctorow retooled the original, public domain short story into an updated piece, published by The New Yorker in 2008. And no, we didn’t know about this.

So, I don’t know if this will affect the future of The Wakefield Variation. If it will, I hope it’s in a positive way. Somehow this is a perfect follow-up to the previous post: the nice thing is that it proves we might have had a good idea, using Wakefield as source material/inspiration. Needless to say, I’m utterly curious to see this movie. No matter what is actually in it, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bittersweet feeling. After years of thinking of all of this as a solitary run… we’ve been overtaken.

Although… the race isn’t over yet 🙂

Christmas at Wakefield’s (one year later)

A Charlie Brown (or is it Wakefield?) Christmas

All right, there are two ways this thing can go: one is you remembering the previous post, with all the high hopes about 2015, TV development, treatments and such, and then bursting giant laughter. The other one is you thinking of this one-year long silence as the way Wakefield himself would have… after all, if you want to vanish and make everybody believe you’re dead, writing a blog doesn’t sound like a solid strategy.

I guess I’m in the middle of the above. I’m more inclined to pout than laugh about missing all the objectives for our project in 2015, but truth is that in the last twelve months some other work issues pushed us away from The Wakefield Variation. It’s almost three years since we filmed the pilot and we have not managed to go any further (so far). Development materials actually exist, I still think that this show has potential and I keep working on story ideas.

But without the right chance and/or the right people to pitch the whole thing to, there won’t be any steps forward. I haven’t lost hope, yet spying on people from a bunker is getting boring. I definitely need a plan to come out. Any suggestions?

P.S.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Living the exile

Today I was thinking that we’re about to enter the fourth year of The Wakefield Variation: the project was conceived in late 2011 when Alessandro and I finally agreed on which previously-written-material should be the base of our creative vision. Soon after we picked up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” I wrote the first draft of the screenplay of what should have become a one-off cutting-edge short film to showcase our filmmaking skills.
The project was developed during 2012 and went through several stages (check out the previous posts!) morphing into a series; the pilot episode was set to be shot on early 2013, involving an international cast, a whole crew of film pros, and the need of a lot of money.
The huge storm that hit us on the last day of shooting should have warned us that 2013 wasn’t going to be easy… and it proved right. All is still stuck, not a festival accepted our work, and the continuation of the series is still in our head.
2014 will see a new cut of the pilot episode, split in three mini-episodes tailored for the 21st century-superfast-casual-websurfer. Will it work? We definetely hope so. In the meantime, time goes by… in a fancy we would expect to see in a future (but currently unlikely) episode of The Wakefield Variation.
I guarantee there will be happier posts :-): for now, Effetto Espanso wishes all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a great 2014!

Wakefield is watching you.
Oggi stavo pensando che stiamo per entrare nel quarto anno di The Wakefield Variation: il progetto fu concepito alla fine del 2011 quando I e Alessandro scegliemmo su quale materiale-precedentemente-edito basare la nostra visione creativa. Poco dopo aver scelto “Wakefield” di Nathaniel Hawthorne scrissi la prima stesura della sceneggiatura di quello che sarebbe dovuto diventare un eccezionale cortometraggio per mostrare le nostre capacità nella produzione cinematografica.
Il progetto fu sviluppato nel corso del 2012 attraversando varie fasi (date un’occhiata ai post precedenti!) fino a diventare una serie; le riprese del pilota furono fissate per l’inizio del 2013, con un cast internazionale, un’intera troupe di professionisti e la necessità di un sacco di soldi.
L’incredibile tempesta che ci trovammo davanti l’ultimo giorno di riprese avrebbe dovuto avvertirci che il 2013 non sarebbe stato facile… e aveva ragione. È tutto ancora bloccato, non c’è un festival che abbia accettato il nostro lavoro, e la continuazione della serie è ancora nella nostra testa.
Il 2014 vedrà un nuovo montaggio dell’episodio pilota, diviso in 3 mini-episodi fatti su misura per il navigante del 21esimo secolo, casuale e superveloce. Servirà? Lo speriamo con tutto il cuore. Nel frattempo il tempo passa, nel modo che ci aspetteremmo di vedere in un futuro (ma al momento improbabile) episodio di The Wakefield Variation.
Garantisco che ci saranno post più allegri :-): per adesso, Effetto Espanso augura a tutti voi buon Natale, delle piacevoli vacanze e un fantastico 2014!

My Weakness

This is going to be a major post. Not in terms of lenght,  but because of its importance in the whole Wakefield universe. I’m revealing one of the major sources of inspiration here, and the title is not only a reference to my Songs in the key of Wakefield series, it does define an undeniable truth. My Weakness, from 1999 album Play by Moby, was the first “external” song included in the soundtrack of The X-Files (the episode was 7×11 “Closure”) and my devotion to that show is the weakness meant in the subtext.

Not that The Wakefield Variation is going to dig into paranormal anytime soon, but the atmosphere, the mistery, the unresolved tension between the main characters is something I’ve always been looking at when developing our project. The X-Files sits among the best television series ever, and has been the first popular culture phenomenon to spread across the internet back in the 90s. These two things alone should be enough make it a model to us. But that grim chorus repeating itself, mixing so perfectly with Mark Snow‘s music (who praised the choice instead of complaining), kind of made me preview the expression of Wakefield, then greatly portrayed by Michael Brian.

That episode, and that music, marked one the darkest revelations of the show, that is Mulder finding out his sister (whom he spent looking for over two decades of personal and professional life) was dead. Seeing the closure of that obsession – or it becoming immortal – made me think it was the same Wakefield needed to feel towards his relationship with Eleanor… that it was all his experiment was about, overcoming his obsession and being at peace with the world.

If you’re eager to know whether Wakefield is going to succed or not, well we’re even more!

Songs in the key of Wakefield

Great news: I’m getting back at writing in first person – for a few posts, at least. And I don’t want to give up on making this place a real diary about everything that happens about this project. I just got back from Rome where I had two things scheduled: attending a screening of the pilot to a small but selected audience at Caffè Letterario, and a business meeting with some important (yet undisclosed) person who might mean a lot to the continuation of our series.

Shortly after I got home, I received an e-mail from Michael Brian, our lead actor, that is Wakefield himself! He was asking news about the project, as it looked stuck from “outside”… and I must say he’s right. There haven’t been any major updates lately, and that is because dealing with development, distribution, funding, etc is time consuming, and being our production company still made of just two people, there is no much time left for promotion, updating, advertising.

And this is bad. It really is. A project like this is kept alive by audience, readers, bloggers, casual surfers too: being born from the internet, for the internet, it needs to be appealing to the people of the internet. I tried to figure out something to change things… and I thought about going back a little bit.. back to the origin of this project, of its story, its atmosphere, its inspiration.
I couldn’t help thinking about music, and I mean way before Michele Bettali, Stefano Carrara and Fabrizio Castanìa delivered their great score. Some specific music was in my head while developing the concept behind The Wakefield Variation, and it provided a lot of inspiration for what I thought this series needed.

So I thought it could be a nice move to share with you the beginning of the creative process through the music. I’d like to start with a song that has long been in may favourite playlist, and has kept me thinking about the lyrics since the first time I listened to it. It’s Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce. In those words lies a lot of Wakefield’s “experiment”…

Casting directors (and a new call)

Adrian Hughes and David Thomas performing on stage

Adrian Hughes and David Thomas performing on stage

Here we are, another step forward while in pre-production for the pilot episode of The Wakefield Variation. Yes, we’re not hiding anymore, this is going to be a (web)series, and we have to think big! That is why we asked the founders of the English Theatre Company in Pisa to help us casting the new characters of the series. They were happy to join the team – as much as we are happy to have them on board – so you should know a little more about them:

ADRIAN HUGHES is a trained ballet dancer and is a graduate of UCT Drama School (South Africa).  He received his Masters degree in Contemporary Performance & Theatre Directing from Brunel University (London, UK).

Plays include: Shakespeare Unplugged (volumes 1-3); Boy Meets Boy (Nico Arena, Market Theatre); Dario Fo’s Elizabeth I; The Marat/Sade; A Little Hotel on The Side; Twelfth Night; The Trial; Blood on The Cat’s Neck; The Possibilities; Quartet; The Bacchae; Trick (Zip Zap Circus); The Blue House(Man in the Moon & Teatro Agorà, Rome); Narrow Rooms; Theatresports SA.  He wrote and directed Sad Since Tuesday, which was invited to Escrita Na Paisagem & Festival Y in Portugal.

DAVID THOMAS is a graduate of the University of Cape Town Drama School.

Theatre Includes: Shakespeare Unplugged (volumes 1-3), Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth, Cabaret, Boy Meets Boy, Trick, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Grin and Bare It, The Normal Heart, Sad Since Tuesday(UK & Portugal), The Blue House (Teatro Agora @ Man in the Moon Theatre, Chelsea).  Film includes Options, Sweet Murder, Traitors.  TV includes Othello (ITV- UK and ABC- USA), The Adventures of Sinbad (USA), Heritage (Canale 5, France), Poison Butterfly.  He was a cradle trapeze artist and clown in The Dream Circus and Zip Zap Circus and performed with Theatresports SA.

Beside their website mentioned above, you can learn more about the English Theatre Company on Facebook and Twitter!

Did we mention a new casting call? Well, the pilot episode won’t be just Michael and Kelsey… We might a need hint of what the rest of the series is going to be: so if you’re a tall (1.80/5’11” at least) male actor, native english speaker (but living in Italy) playing age 28-35… we’ll be happy to schedule an audition!

Shooting days locked down!

Here is some news I’m sure you were all waiting for: The Wakefield Variation – that is, the pilot episode – will be shot next january, on the 17th-18th-19th. It took a little more than we originally expected, but we’re happy to finally do it. Pre-production is going to hit its craze peak during the next weeks, so keep following us as we’ll tell you a lot more!

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Ecco una notizia che sicuramente molti di voi stavano aspettando: The Wakefield Variation – cioè, l’episodio pilota – sarà girato il prossimo gennaio, il 17, 18 e 19. C’è voluto un più tempo di quanto immaginassimo, ma siamo felici di poterlo finalmente annunciare. I preparativi raggiungerano il massimo livello di frenesia nelle prossime settimane, quindi continuate a seguirci e vi racconteremo molto di più…

The French Connection

Unfortunately we didn’t get through the selection for the pitch at the Marseille Web Fest. It could have been a great opportunity to officially introduce our project to a bigger audience and potential investors but… we didn’t make it. Well, disappointment aside we decided to go there anyway, to take a look at other succesful webseries (including our story editor Jonathan Robbins’ Clutch) and see if we get to talk to someone who matters, regardless of the official pitch selection. Given our previous experience in pitching events (did we mention our past and shared present as documentary filmmakers?) we know it is possible 🙂 Oh, and since Jonathan will be there to get his LA Webfest jury award… expect to catch on video some live international (and otherwise unlikely) writing-team briefing! See you in Marseilles on Saturday, October 13th!

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Sfortunatamente non siamo stati selezionati per il pitch (l’evento mercato) del Marseille Web Fest. Sarebbe stata una fantastica opportunità di presentare ufficialmente il nostro progetto ad un pubblico più vasto e a potenziali investitori ma… non ce l’abbiamo fatta. Bene, delusione a parte, abbiamo deciso di andarci lo stesso, per dare un’occhiata ad altre webserie di successo (compresa Clutch, del nostro story editor Jonathan Robbins) e cercare di parlare con qualcuno che conta, indipendentemente dalla selezione ufficiale. Data la nostra precedente esperienza ad eventi analoghi (vi abbiamo già detto di avere un passato e ogni tanto anche un presente come documentaristi?) sappiamo che è possibile 🙂 Oh, e siccome Jonathan sarà presente per ritirare il premio della giuria del LA Webfest…aspettatevi un video di una riunione internazionale (altrimenti improbabile) tra sceneggiatori! Ci vediamo sabato 13 ottobre a Marsiglia!

Help MakeMySeries!

The Wakefield Variation knows no summer break (you decide if this is good or bad: we’re still unsure)! Our former, infamous, home-made teaser trailer went under a little restyling to enter the MakeMySeries competition! Now renamed “episode alpha”, you can watch it here.

Anyway, if we manage to win this higly-competitive run for webseries pilot, we’ll get USD 10,000, which is something we could really use to make our project the webseries we always dreamed of! To help us, you just need to have a facebook account and click “like” after visiting our page on the MakeMySeries website!

The Wakefield Variation non conosce pausa per le vacanze (decidete voi se è una cosa buona o cattiva: noi non siamo ancora sicuri)! Il nostro precedente, famigerato teaser trailer fatto in casa ha subito un leggero restyling per partecipare al concorso di MakeMySeries!

Se riuscissimo a vincere questo concorso sbaragliando l’agguerrita concorrenza, potremmo vincere 10000 dollari, qualcosa che ci farebbe molto comodo per realizzare la webserie che abbiamo sempre sognato! Per aiutarci, basta avere facebook e cliccare “mi piace” dopo aver visitato la nostra pagina sul sito di MakeMySeries!