Fan-supported Kickstarter campaign funds Spokane company’s sci-fi comedy
by Lucas Thayer
Armed with just a green screen and some spray-painted nerf guns, a group of five Eastern Washington University graduates embarked on a journey, a journey to create a sci-fi comedy web series on a budget of $200.
Now, after winning multiple awards and national acclaim for their first season, the intrepid crew of the S. S. StarSpanner is ready to embark on its second season of the web series, Transolar Galactica.
Transolar Galactica (TSG) follows the exploits of the arrogant Captain Elliot “Remmington Trigger” Trig, and his doggedly faithful crew as they bungle their way across the universe with complete disregard for the laws — laws of physics, that is. Transolar Galactica blends sci-fi standards such as Star Trek, Firefly, and of course, Battlestar Galactica. The series parodies the sometimes self-indulgent and sometimes incoherent science fiction genre.
TSG boasts national acclaim, including screenings at San Diego Comic-Con, Emerald City Comic-Con, and the Penny Arcade Expo. TSG was an official selection at the New Media Film Festival in the online competition, and took home four awards at the 2012 Los Angeles Web Series Festival for special effects, ensemble cast, cinematography and best series.
While the series has achieved great success, the team of filmmakers started out as fellow classmates working on overlapping film projects at Eastern Washington University’s film program.
“We just started making movies together,” said Clancy Bundy, one of the show’s co-creators. “We had a good time and we made some fun projects. After college, we all decided to stick around, look for jobs locally. So to stay sharp as filmmakers and stay connected as friends, we decided to do this skit show.”
Kinetic Energy, the production company the group formed to film their sketches, had doubts about getting their project off the ground. After all, Bundy said, there were thousands of other people on the internet with the same aspirations towards internet fame.
“Everyone wants to make a Mitchell and Webb skit show. Everybody wants to make the next ‘SNL’-web-thing, ‘Whitest Kids U Know’-type-thing,” Bundy said.
Despite a lack of funding, Kinetic Energy was able to produce the first episode of Transolar Galactica. The backdrop for the first episode was a collapsible green screen, and improvised desk lamps were used for lighting.
“We made the first one, and we loved it and our friends enjoyed it, and so we decided to make a second one,” Bundy said.
The second episode received positive comments on YouTube. By the third one, internet trolls were criticising the series. When the trolls struck, the Kinetic Energy team knew they had found something successful, Bundy said. If strangers hated it, it must have been good.
By the fifth episode, Bundy said, the crew was beginning to seriously consider the possibility of a second season. By that time, a studio space had been found for the film’s production, and the crew had found various freelance filmmaking jobs in the Spokane area to help pay the bills.
At around the same time, the TSG crew was approached by Zombie Orpheus Entertainment (ZOE), a film production company operating under a simple credo: “Fan Supported, Creator Distributed.” After ZOE asked TSG for a full season’s release schedule, TSG promised another five episodes. After TSG was hosted on ZOE’s YouTube channel, TSG reached a much wider audience.
For the second season, the crew decided better production quality was a must-have, including better special effects, improved equipment, and a dedicated team of set designers and camera crew. For this new season, $30,000 was set as the minimum goal.
Following the Zombie Orpheus Creed, TSG asked the fans for support in the form of a Kickstarter campaign. It was an all or nothing gamble — if they were even $1 short of the $30,000 goal, they wouldn’t receive a single cent.
It was a photo finish. After 30 days of fundraising, the final tally was in on Oct. 28. A total of $30,885 in cash proved just how much the fans supported the homebrewed space series.
Over the next three months, the Transolar Galactica team will be filming the next season of the show and editing it in post-production. Now with enough fan love, and enough rocket fuel, TSG will return this April.
Contact Lucas Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.