"Lunatics" Free-Culture Series -- Pilot Episode Kickstarter

Terry Hancock is an editor at QuestionCopyright.org, a prolific writer about free software and free culture, and a driving force behind Lunatics, the crowd-funded and freely-licensed science fiction web TV series — about which he brings us an update:

We had a successful Kickstarter back in December to fund pre-production for Lunatics (mainly the character design), and now we're running another much larger Kickstarter to fund the production of a pilot. This is probably the hardest step for the Lunatics Project: in order to get a sustainable cycle of support for a free-culture series (Lunatics will be released under the Creative Commons By-SA license), we first have to find people willing to risk a little on producing our very first episode. Fortunately, we've got a great team together already, and it's clear that the pilot will be really good -- but only we can get funded to pay the artists for the time they need to work on it.

 

UPDATE: Although this was canceled we are near the end of a replacement campaign to pay for just the next step, which is Voice and Audio Production with an Animatic

If we succeed, we'll be breaking new ground in several areas with the Lunatics series:

  • This is already a larger project than most free-culture productions, and it will grow: we currently have about 20 people directly involved to a greater or lesser degree (and closer to 100, if you count all of the passive collaboration from appropriated free-culture materials such as music tracks and sound effects).

  • Part of our plan is to give back to the community, both in terms of the new assets created for the project (such as 3D models and graphics), but also by paying shares of our "Creator Endorsed" sales to actively-contributing artists as well as some passively-contributing artists (such as musical artists whose tracks are in our soundtrack).

  • By doing so, we are encouraging a sustainable commercial free-culture industry to develop.

  • We will also be scaling up both fan-funding models and collaborative, open-source movie production.

  • We will also be pushing the envelope on free-software tools for creating film and video, with new technologies such as the Pyppet digital puppetry system.

  • Since our project is a series, it has the potential to grow beyond even that, providing more opportunities.

We deliberately chose an ambitious goal which would require a team effort to achieve. One of the gaols of the "Lunatics" project is to demonstrate that fan-funded free-culture projects of this size can be created (i.e. that there's not some kind of practical ceiling beyond which a media project has to be proprietary in order to succeed). There's no question that $100,000 is a lot of money to raise this way (though several game projects have done it).

On the other hand, it's a very small budget for a film of this type. It's actually only about 1/6th as much as what the Blender Foundation's "Sintel" cost and a little bit less than what "Elephants Dream" cost -- and with it we plan to make a movie about four-times longer (roughly an hour) with a fully-dramatized story, many 3D modeled virtual sets and characters, and a cast of speaking roles (seven principals and a dozen or so supporting parts). We have a few tricks in mind to make this possible, and it does involve people working for a lot less than industry-standard rates. The artists working on this project are working on it because they're really excited about it. But they do need to pay bills while they do it, and the stipend we've budgeted for them will give them the freedom to work on this project.

For this pilot episode, we've already got a small team of six Blender modeling and rigging experts, a Synfig expert who will be doing animatics and also final animation for the show, and a cast of seven principal voice actors for the pilot episode (six series regulars and a guest).

This story is itself about a crowd-funded vision of the future of space settlement, since our fictional "International Space Foundation" is essentially a grass-roots crowd-funded operation.

Georgiana Lerner (age 7) on the first leg of her journey to the Moon, going up into orbit on a specially-modifiedy Soyuz (Couch model by Sathish Kumar, Character model by Andrew Pray) 

Georgiana Lerner (age 7) on the first leg of her journey to the Moon, going up into orbit on a specially-modifiedy Soyuz (Couch model by Sathish Kumar, Character model by Andrew Pray)

The pilot episode follows young Georgiana Lerner (age 7) on her way to the Moon with her mother to join the rest of the colonists. That's because it's really her arrival that turns "ISF-1" into a settlement instead of a mere "base" on the Moon. Along the way, we pick up most (not quite all) of the series regular cast, and we take a kind of "voyage into the future" where we start from the rather archaic (19th-century) technology of trains, pass through 20th century technologies up to and including spaceflight into orbit, and then depart into the science-fiction realm with the Moon Shuttle that takes us beyond the present. It's a vision of the future, versy much tied to the present -- a smoothly integrated future that always feels "just around the corner" from where we are now.

Sets and characters will be rendered using Blender (Model by Cosmin Planchon, Display graphics by Timothée Giet, Concept by Terry Hancock, based on existin Soyuz-TMA design by RosCosmos) 
Sets and characters will be rendered using Blender (Model by Cosmin Planchon, Display graphics by Timothée Giet, Concept by Terry Hancock, based on existin Soyuz-TMA design by RosCosmos)

If this sounds like your kind of fun, please help us make it happen by backing our Kickstarter or telling more people about it. We have less than 25 days left to raise about $100,000 to fund it -- so we could really use your help!

Rewards include DVD and Lib-Ray editions of the video. The soundtrack on CD (you can also get a nice download package). There are also posters and other tie-ins. You can even buy the T-shirt.

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