ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico filmmakers have long sought to be the gold standard for cutting edge in the industry.
Enter Clay Space.
The University of New Mexico senior is on the cusp of something that has never been done before with his project, “Back to Earth.”
“Back to Earth” is a web series that is using revolutionary concepts to fund the production and even to guide the direction the story takes.
The story line itself follows a new technology that has turned the human race into aggressive and brain-dead animals. A few survivors must brave this new world to rediscover humanity and save themselves.
While watching the web series, viewers are led by the story to apps, virtual reality, other websites, social media pages, graphic novels, phone numbers and physical locations that blur the lines between fact and fiction and may cause the viewer to question reality.
With buzz growing about the project, Space is trying to remain calm.
“It’s all more than I could have asked for,” he says. “I thought we would get someone my age to direct and hire a bunch of locals. I originally had the idea for the script and a max of 10 to
20 people on set. I got out to set this week, and we have 70
people working to produce the project. Every department is filled, and it’s amazing to see it come together.”
“Back to Earth” is an experience aimed at a mass audience, but even that goal tests new ground by focusing, at least in the beginning, on attracting an unusual crowd: the cryptocurrency community.
Viewers of the web series can essentially become players of the story by using a proprietary form of digital token called a StarCredit that is purchased online.
Besides using StarCredits to affect story outcomes, players can also unlock special features, discover hidden puzzles and purchase specific story lines.
Think it’s an odd way to raise money? Think again.
Space was able to raise $1.2 million for the project in 48 hours.
One StarCredit will cost about 25 cents.
The game portion of “Back to Earth” has 20 million tokens available, and tokens will be destroyed upon use.
“I’ve always been a fan of blockchain and bitcoin,” Space says. “I’ve always wanted to put together how blockchain works, and I’ve always had a love for film. I thought, how can I form and create something that I can do dually?”
Basically, blockchain is a decentralized technology that allows digital information to be distributed but not copied. It was originally devised for bitcoin.
“Back to Earth” is directed by Buenos Aires, Argentina-based filmmaker Federico Heller.
It is being produced by locals Shad Adair, Kevin Schulmeister, Keagan Karnes and Tiffany Sherie Neeley.
Besides Space, who plays the antagonist in the series, it stars Bruno Gunn, Eimanne Zein and Delyn and Keziah Wall.
Gunn – who has appeared in “The Hunger Games” and “Westworld” – jumped at the chance to work on the project.
“It’s a combination of the story and the people involved,” Gunn says. “Shad and his whole production team. Clay the creator and Federico, these guys are doing some ground-breaking stuff. They are smart and have a clear vision. It was a no-brainer for me.”
Gunn plays Vince in the series, and he is the driving force.
“He’s taking care of these two people at the beginning of the story,” Gunn says. “What I like most about him is on the platforms, he’s able to change every day. He can be a certain type in one of the platforms and the opposite in another. It’s really got me intrigued.”
Space says “Back to Earth” was originally going to be a short film.
After realizing that funding for a short film was nearly impossible to raise, he thought outside the box and raised the money through bitcoin.
Then, finding a director and actors were next on the list.
Adair says the production had its eyes on Heller and Gunn a couple months ago.
“We reached out and found that Federico shares the same vision,” Adair says. “And to get someone as versatile as Bruno is amazing for this project.”
As the pilot wrapped up filming after a week, Space says the team is getting the pilot for the web series, as well as the graphic novel and the animated graphic novel ready for pilot season in November.
“This has been in my head for well over a year and a half,” Space says. “We’re hoping to release the content in the first quarter of 2018.”
UpFront is a regular Journal news and opinion column. Comment directly to Arts editor Adrian Gomez at 823-3921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.