I'm pleased to present this interview with Steven Lambert aka jadedeath . One of the co-creators of Aether Dancer, he also serves as the producer and director. Aether Dancer is a steampunk television show, currently in crowdfunding at IndieGoGo to raise money for filming the pilot episode. That campaign is currently at $515 of $50,000 with 27 days left. Let's sit down with Steve and find out what makes this project so exciting!
Aether Dancer comes out of the steampunk genre, something that hasn't appeared much on television. What inspired you to explore this genre in that medium?
I think you summed it up quite nicely. It hasn't been explored much on television, and that was one of the main reasons why we decided to go steampunk with this project. We all love the steampunk style, a little bit classic, a little bit mysterious and a little bit
In an earlier interview, you mentioned wanting to change the shape of science fiction. What do you find missing in available science fiction, or television in general, and what are some things you hope to do differently?
I've found most science fiction lately to be Starship+Crew+plot that fixes itself by the end of the episode, and that results in things in the next episode being the same as what started the episode.
It's time for something different, and we're drawing a good chunk of our inspiration from epic series like Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica, because none of the characters there were the same at the end of the series as they were at the beginning. That's likely what's going to happen with the Aether Dancer.
We've also found that a lot of series that focus on the crew of the ship focus mainly on the crew and don't aim to describe much of the world around them. The Aether Dancer and her crew are merely a vessel for telling the story of humanity.
Early images of the airship and one of its crew, the clockwork creation Pandora, suggest a unified artistic vision for Aether Dancer. What kind of groundwork did you do to create an aesthetic design that would be distinctive, plausible, and appealing?
The groundwork is just a credo of 'everything old is new again' meaning that the things we've been designing have to look like they've slightly been through the ringer, but they have to be recognizable as the Earth that we are on as well.
Too many times you get a sci-fi series that isn't near earth or has no connection to Earth. I think I find (as a fan) series that originate on Earth to have a bit more of a connection to the audience (Star Wars being the notable exception to this rule).
With a three-year plot arc in mind, what kind of writing process does the Aether Dancer project use to balance creativity and structure?
Good question, right now the plot arc is the only thing that we've got solidly nailed down, the story-by-story progression of the characters will be defined by the overarching story just as much as they are changed by the episode by episode plots.
Much like Babylon 5 we are trying to strive for a series where the entire plot makes sense. When our fans go back and watch it again after the series is over, they will pick up on the subtle nuances in the series that we put in as easter eggs of the overplot. We don't want to beat people over the head with these "surprises" at the beginning but they'll be there certainly.
The Aether Dancer project has been three years in the making. What stages has it already gone through, and what lies ahead?
We've gone through some tweaking of the first episode, but Erica did such a great job writing it that only minor changes were needed. Mostly we've been brainstorming the series itself, setting up a series bible so that we know what's going on and so we don't end up writing ourselves into a corner. We've had random 'because we said so' moments and making sure that the physics of this plane were well thought out.
If there's one thing I hate it's when a series can't maintain it's own internal logic and flies off on tangents or has one particular piece being the solution to every problem.
We know a lot of people in the art and film community and we've been fortunate enough to have found a pretty solid crew of people who will be willing to work on this with us. Having the right people is really important, especially when the series is just starting out.
Which of your previous film projects do you think will be most useful as background experience for making Aether Dancer, and why?
Another good question. I'd have to say it was the music video that a friend and I did for Abney Park. I was the videographer/editor and it was a lot of fun to work with the cast on that project. Since it was mainly as promotion for a Steampunk event here in Toronto (with Abney Park headlining), we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted with it. I'm still quite proud of it, 200,000 views on youtube isn't really anything to sneeze at. It was something that gave me experience in working with working with speed, so it will certainly be helpful when we go to the editing room. The entire video was shot and edited within a week!
Why did you decide on crowdfunding as a first choice for funding the pilot, and approaching investors with a proof-of-concept shooting as a backup plan?
I think crowdfunding is the best way to go, it allows the audience to pay money for stuff they want to see, it allows people to pick and choose which projects they want to support.
Realistically, we know that potential investors would really rather see a longer proof of concept. We don't want to go to them with a semi-finished product, since it can't possibly show the potential of the idea as a series. Crowdfunding isn't the only option, but given the costs involved in making this vision a reality, it's a necessary first step.
So far, you've posted a fundraising page on IndieGoGo with a nice set of perks for sponsors, and you've opened a contest inviting sponsors to assist in finding and selecting actors for a character role. Where do you get ideas for the crowdfunding techniques that you choose for this project?
Divine Inspiration, Insanity, A hint of pepper, and let sit in its own juices overnight then put in the oven at 500 degrees for 6 hours and serve warm.
Seriously though, I have a really good team that fires ideas off each other. We try to see what people would want, what works and what should be done differently.
I'm hoping the fans like what we've been doing thus far, and we hope to continue doing it.
How do other members of the production crew and acting cast feel about the crowdfunding aspects of this project?
I'd say they're just as anxious as I am to get the project funded and going, and they realize that crowdfunding is the best way of making that happen in the shortest amount of time with the maximum amount of creative control kept for us.
If people want to make Aether Dancer a success, how can they help?
Donate and spread the word! Preferably donate first, but we all understand that sometimes you just don't have the cash to donate to the things that you would like to donate to. If you can't donate, but you believe in the project, please spread the word to as many people as possible. We'll be posting a pdf of a postcard we created for the Polaris SciFi festival soon. My girlfriend thought it would be cool if people could scan the QR code on the card and fund directly from their phones, so if people want to print a few copies and hand them out, they can.
They can go to the fund raising campaign here:
Or the facebook event designed to help raise awareness here:
Or the main website has all the information that we have brought together
thus far: http://www.aetherdancer.com with more information to come.
But wait, there's more, they can join us on Twitter:
Thank you all for joining us for this interview. If you're following Aether Dancer, what do you think is the coolest thing about this project? Would you like to see more crowdfunded television like this, and if so, why?