Johnny Ruckus - Pilot
Johnny Ruckus - Pilot
When the fate of an interstellar criminal organization falls into the hands of two idiot brothers, Johnny Ruckus steps in to help.
When the fate of an interstellar criminal organization falls into the hands of two idiot brothers, Johnny Ruckus steps in to help. Read more
The comedy is an adventure.
The adventure is a treasure hunt.
Let the hunt begin.
Johnny Ruckus had the perfect job. As the only crewmember of a salvage ship that rarely flew and almost never actually tried to salvage anything, he cooked a bit now and again but most of his time was spent drinking and carousing with the two idiot brothers who owned the ship. Johnny’s only real responsibility was to stay sober enough to keep the brother’s from doing something so stupid it jeopardized the seemingly unlimited credit offered to them by every bar, restaurant and entertainment establishment in every spaceport in the commonwealth. But that idyllic life of eternal adolescence ends abruptly when a mysterious accident takes the brothers’ mother and the fate of her vast criminal empire falls into their incompetent hands.
Pepper, the boys’ sly, manipulative and slightly wicked sister, arrives to help, but the sheer magnitude of the mess they have already created, combined with their foolishness, may simply be too much. At every turn, the boys manage to make things ever worse, constantly compounding their troubles with the extremes of foolishness that can only be achieved by the truly incompetent. Fleeing in panic is the only reasonable option, but they can’t even run. Even if they could get their ship to fly, they no longer have their mother coercing all the corrupt bureaucrats into ignoring their ship’s 974 different safety, licensing and code compliance violations. If they launch without clearance, they will surely be chased down, or shot down, if they don’t crash and burn on their own.
From Story to Show
It has been one heck of the year. From the moment we started putting Johnny Ruckus together, we knew that we had something special. It was obvious that twisting a plant-hopping science fiction adventure into a full on comedy, without losing the drama and adventure part of the story, was a good idea, but we were also well aware of the fact that the journey from concept to realization has killed far, far more good ideas than anyone could ever count. Fortunately, others saw what we did. In fact, the people who have joined the team saw more than we first imagined would be possible and through their enthusiasm, hard work and generosity, we are now down to the final piece needed to bring this TV series to life.
Anyone familiar with television and film production will realize that the very modest goal we have set for this kickstarter campaign only represents a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to make the first episode of a television series. We are very proud of the fact that ninety per cent of the production costs have been already covered in one way or another, but the reality of TV production is that blackmail has its limits, embezzlement works far better in theory than in practice, and some things simply cannot be stolen. Some materials must be bought. Alpacas need to be fed. Corrupt judges need to be bribed and many people working in the TV industry, no matter how enthusiastically they may respond to threats of physical harm, simply cannot afford to ‘donate’ the time it takes to make a broadcast-quality pilot. Apparently, ‘starvation wages’ are one of those literal things in the television industry and it turns out that Gaffers are particularly susceptible to scurvy.
Having a corrupt and drunk judge for an uncle helps, but a sober corrupt judge for an uncle would have probably been better. While good old Larry did order Andromeda Spaceways to sponsor Johnny Ruckus, he failed to specify that sponsorship actually meant paying for something, so we’re back up against the limits of what “grey market financing” can provide. Still, having a big corporate sponsor helps. If we don’t get the show off the ground then they’ll actually have to pay off some of those liability judgments so they’re behind us all the way, as long as it doesn’t cost them money.
Our Journey So Far
The Kickstarter guidelines say that every campaign is a story and since this project is being run by a couple of writers, who may or may not also be considered to be jackasses by people who think they are civilized, we decided to take that literally. So we made up the story of a campaign sponsor who was the pinnacle of corruption and corporate malfeasance. And then we ran with it. But first, a bit about how we got there.
Almost exactly a year ago, we started with a title, Johnny Ruckus: In Colour! It was going to be the first real collaboration by the Van Belle Brothers and we knew that we wanted to use James’ screen writing expertise to build on Doug’s reputation for adding a comedic twist to otherwise serious science fiction and fantasy stories. We wanted a comedy that was also a serious drama. We wanted stories with real stakes, characters in real jeopardy and we wanted significant progression of broader story arcs through each episode. We really let the ideas fly, and we played with all kinds of scenes, characters, and story ideas. Even after we settled on the idea of building a comedy out of a planet-hopping science fiction adventure story, it took us a while, and more than a few character sketches and partial drafts of a pilot before we had enough of the basics in place to start asking for advice.
We asked veteran TV Producer Geoff Husson (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0404069/) for his thoughts and it was quickly obvious that the time we spent getting the first full draft of the pilot together was a good investment. Geoff immediately asked to join the team and has been going full tilt since then. After we wrote a few more drafts using his input, and after soliciting some additional advice from an experienced Hollywood screenwriter, we had a draft of the pilot that Geoff felt comfortable sharing with others. It was far from ready to go, but it really captured the spirit of what the show would look like and where we thought it could go.
We needed more than just a script. There are thousands of very good scripts out there so we needed something more to help drum up enough interest to justify investing more of our time and effort into developing the concept further. We needed something engaging enough to convince people to help us out. We needed something to excite people, so we decided to put together a story and concept reel. We wrote a short teaser script that described the series from the perspective of someone desperate for a part in the show and Geoff wrangled a free Saturday afternoon in a small studio and said he’d ask an old friend for a favor.
Geoff’s old friend turned out to be William Kircher (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0456270/?ref_=sr_1 ) who came straight off the set of the Hobbit to lend us a hand. To our surprise, the first thing he said when he arrived was that he wanted on the team. He had read the script and even though he thought it needed some work, he loved the science fiction adventure comedy idea. We tweaked the teaser script on the spot. We changed it to make it look like William was “settling” for the part of Johnny Ruckus and even though we struggled to deliver the lines as fast as he was getting them on tape, William played the part of a desperate actor, begging for a part, to perfection.
Even with William lending his time and effort to getting the show off the ground, we had a lot left to do. Even if we cut every corner we could, we would still need $150,000 to produce anything close to a decent pilot, and a top quality pilot would cost that much again. So we decided to try to raise the cash with a kickstarter campaign, but it was going to be a challenge to raise anything close to $150,000 so we knew that the campaign would have to be something special. We hit on the idea of taking the kickstarter campaign as a story literally and almost as soon as we did, we knew where we would go.
Andromeda Spaceways “Sponsorship”
Doug had often published his fiction and snarky commentary about science fiction in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (If you fancy yourself to be a writer, you have to see (http://www.andromedaspaceways.com/submissions/everyproblem-htm/). ASIM is a quirky little Australian science fiction outlet, that is a perfect fit for the way Doug mixes comedy into otherwise serious stories. (http://www.andromedaspaceways.com). ASIM presents itself as the actual inflight magazine for the almost supernaturally corrupt and irresponsible Andromeda Spaceways and they loved the idea of Andromeda Spaceways sponsoring the kickstarter campaign as its latest selfless act of court-ordered public service.
Adding ASIM to the team did more than just give us a story to tell and a nice connection with our favorite little science fiction mag, it also, indirectly, got us a studio to shoot the pilot.
We decided to make a couple of faux public service announcements from Andromeda Spaceways to support the kickstarter campaign, so Geoff asked around to see if someone would lend us a few hours of down time in a studio. Geoff's description of the show piqued the interest of an executive at Avalon Studios (http://www.avalonstudios.co.nz ) and after a whirlwind couple of days of meetings and discussions, Avalon offered to not only lend us the studio to make the PSAs, they joined the team, providing us full access to the studios and all the equipment we would need to shoot a broadcast quality pilot. All we had to do was raise the cash to pay for some of the things that had to be purchased for the sets, pay the cast a minimum fee (legally required for shooting in a New Zealand studio) and to pay a modest but reasonable fee to the technical people who would be working on the production.
There were a lot of challenges involved in the preproduction process, but getting a cast together really wasn’t one of them. With William signed on for the title role and with word getting out that Avalon was offering us full access to its studios, everyone we asked was eager to read the script and the final decisions on cast came down to finding the right combination of personalities to create a dynamic ensemble. The result was a New Zealand A-list ensemble.
And just confirmed as this Kickstarter goes live...
Risks and challenges
For two relatively inexperienced writers, almost every aspect of getting Johnny Ruckus together has been a challenge and when the Kickstarter is finished and we move into production, we expect those challenges to keep right on rolling in. Our key to confronting those new challenges is the experience that has joined our team. Geoff has produced hundreds of hours of television. William's roles include a lead part in one of the most expensive and complex movies ever made. Antonia has been acting since she was a child. Richard has feature film experience and is an established stand up comedian. Monique is a regular on New Zealand TV and we have all the expertise at Avalon Studios ready to pitch in.
Of course as with any project, we run the risk that last minute changes of heart and/or wallet might get in the way of production. We are already a ways down the road in pre-production, with sets being built and a shooting schedule in hand. Cast and crew have booked travel to the shoot, and we are well on our way.
Should something derail us at the last minute, we will do what we have been doing on this and other projects over the years: re-focus, re-tool, and go after it again.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)