Personal Space tackles themes of isolation, rivalry, and hope in deep space.
Personal Space takes place in an alternate timeline where the American space program has been decades ahead of actual history. Generation ship Overture was launched on a very long journey in 1991 to a distant star. The crew serves in 25 year shifts, with each shift passing the torch to the one after. We’re watching current events aboard the ship unfold in 2016, as the second shift is supposed to take command, while the crew of Overture speak in confidence to the ship’s therapy computer.
The key phrase here is “supposed to.”
There is nothing magical about $45,000 - it is simply the minimum for which we can deliver Personal Space. Every dollar we raise over our goal will go toward value onscreen. It will go into the set, the studio, the sound equipment, and the lighting gear. If we raise enough, it also could prevent us from needing to do additional fundraising to cover post-production costs such as editing, color correction, sound mixing, music composition, and visual effects.
And if we raise $50,000 - just $5,000 over our original goal - then we will open up a new reward to backers.
If that happens, then anyone who pledges $30 or over will have a chance to become a part of the soundtrack! During an ominous scene, we’d add your chanting to a vocal part of the score, for a haunting choir effect, similar to the way The Dark Knight Rises crowdsourced their choir. So if that sounds exciting, keep spreading the word!
Starry-eyed scientist and second shift commander Gail Gartner (Clyne) is eager and excited to take charge and steer Overture ever closer to its destination. Gartner and the rest of her crew - flight engineer and American hero Leonard Freeman (Yaeger), ambitious but aloof botanist Deborah Li (Thai), and oddball sophist doctor Stan “Blasto” Blaszkiewicz (Persaud) - are in for a rude awakening when they realize that first shift commander Robert King (Hatch) doesn’t trust them with the fate of the mission, the ship, or his life. So he refuses to go into cryosleep, and Overture’s crew descends into petty squabbles and trickery which risks devolving into outright sabotage. They must solve their problems themselves in the isolated depths of space, or risk waking the much-feared Captain (Penikett), who might not find a solution they would like.
Meanwhile, on Earth, the space program sold Overture to a reality TV company, Actaeon Entertainment, known for airing shows like Say Maybe to the Baby and Did Aliens Build This? Actaeon hijacks the scheduled update of the ship’s therapy computer, AMI (Vox/Benning), to create more drama and conflict among the Overture crew with the aim of broadcasting their private therapy sessions as a reality show.
No one has told the crew that this is happening, but the hosts of the show - bubbly and personable Stephanie Park (Aks), passionate science-minded Trevor Richards (Bailey), and meek scientist Kelly Schreckengost (Morgan) - won’t let a little thing like that get in the way of their jobs. Probably.
Overture is now far past the locations of the other furthest human-built spacecraft. She has crossed out of the solar system, and into the space between stars. The Second Shift is going to take the ship into a vast, mysterious structure only hypothesized to exist: the Oort Cloud.
Personal Space will run 28 episodes, each 4-7 minutes long, for a total runtime of about 170 minutes - longer than a feature film. The series will be released in “real time”, as if the episodes are airing live as the recordings from the ship arrive on Earth.
The episodes deal with homesickness, the growing conflict between Gartner and King, and roommate issues in space. Personal Space is about the sacrifices we make in order to live with other people.
The show will be shot vlog-style, meaning that most scenes take place from the perspective of AMI, the therapy computer. We hear about things happening all over the ship from the characters pouring out their feelings to us. When the characters do interact with each other onscreen, it is generally within the therapy room. We'll be avoiding the use of greenscreen wherever possible, opting instead for practical effects and sets.
The show will be available worldwide for free, on YouTube's platform. Our videos will also be distributed on ShareTV.
Personal Space is a thrifty production, not a cheap one. By using our Kickstarter funds in a strategic way, we can create a show that looks as good as anything on TV. Building a good-looking set from scratch would cost more than we can afford even if we hit our goal. Instead, we will start with a set that was used for another production. We'll acquire this set for less than the cost of its raw materials. It will need to be redressed, repainted, and modified so its aesthetic is late 80s rather than 70s. There's work to be done to make the set uniquely ours. So the images below, which show the set as-is, are a worst case scenario for how the show is going to look.
It's also much too clean for a ship that's been a home to four people for 25 years, so we're going to have to take our lunch breaks in it and deliberately spill coffee. Now that's a challenge we look forward to!
Outside of the therapy room, there will be scenes in Mission Control, as well as two spacewalk sequences, which we'll go all-out on. We want them to be visually striking. And if we substantially exceed our goal, we'll look into building additional interior sets. $45,000 is not a magic number - it's just the hard minimum for which we can make this show. The more we raise, the better the show is going to look.
ShareTV has generously agreed to distribute our show as an original series, and TV Tropes has agreed to promote it in the vein of other Troper-created works. But this is an independent passion project, and if we want it to get made, we're going to have to fund it ourselves.
Personal Space was structured to be as realistic as a show about interstellar travel can be. All the shipboard systems are based on technology that has at least been proposed, if not built. Overture is not capable of breaking the speed of light - not even by exploding hundreds of nukes behind her drive plate. And if that method of creating thrust sounds absurdly awesome, well, it's based on a real proposal from the mid-20th century called an “Orion drive”.
Other aspects of the show were also inspired by real science. The idea that even well-qualified, intelligent people would start to annoy each other after being locked together for extended periods of time is backed up by experiments like Biosphere. AMI, the ship’s therapy computer, is based on an early therapy chatbot named ELIZA from the 70s. The Oort Cloud, Gartner’s area of study, is a real thing - at least in theory, since no one has seen it. Hence her curiosity.
Although there are moments of artistic license, when real scientists have proposed blowing nukes up to take a ship to another star system, it's not really necessary to make big departures from science to tell an exciting story.
We've also created Science Marches Han, a prequel miniseries, with the purpose of explaining the show's science. The show is a Bill Nye homage, created to look as if it aired on public television from 1989 - 1991. Four episodes of the miniseries will come out during our Kickstarter campaign.
Personal Space features a disabled character in its principal cast, Leonard Freeman, played by Kurt Yaeger, a disabled actor. Freeman was involved in an accident on a return trip from Mars, and his leg had to be amputated by a pilot who knew only basic first aid, guided by doctors on Earth, with a six-minute communication time delay. Freeman survived, but such an injury would normally ground an astronaut permanently. He successfully argued that the space program would benefit from sending a national hero on Overture, and went through rigorous training to prove he was capable of the job. In the end, he prevailed.
There have been other portrayals of disabled characters in science fiction, but many stories tend to show characters transcending disability rather than living with it. For example, someone in a wheelchair miraculously walks again by the end, or a blind character has bat-like hearing that makes them effectively able to see. Such portrayals, though well-intentioned, don’t always reflect disability as it is actually lived and experienced. Personal Space portrays Leonard Freeman as an engineer who happens to be disabled, not as a cyborg.
Personal Space was created by Tom R. Pike, Zack Wallnau, and Dana Luery Shaw. We'd always wanted to make something set in space, but everything we wrote tended to be too big and expensive. When we tried to take big, expensive story concepts and cram them into a webseries format, we ended up with stories that clearly wanted to be something bigger. We didn't want to create a cheap scifi webseries that wished it were a big blockbuster movie - it would only end up showing off how cheap it was.
Eventually, we stopped trying to work against the constraints of the webseries medium. We asked instead, what kinds of stories can be told well with a budget we could actually raise?
Zack came up with an idea to do the show vlog-style for the most part, with us seeing the therapy records of a spaceship crew. This limited the number of sets we had to build, while still allowing us to tell an expansive story. With that puzzle piece in place, we put together a writer's room and got to work.
Tom is excited to have an excuse to ask for advice from his family members who actually work in space-related fields - they are his heroes. By the way, he knows it’s silly that an accidental 10-minute phone call with an astronaut had an outsized role in shaping his sense of self, but that’s kinda the point. How could he not make this show?
We're turning to Kickstarter because this is the exact kind of project crowdfunding is suited for: the oddball idea that could never get made through the traditional system, but appeals directly to fans.
We want you to share this journey with us. We want to share with you our behind-the-scenes photos and videos, so you're right there with us on our quest to make this show happen. Every backer will see backers-only story content that will never be released publicly.
The money we raise here will go toward purchasing and refurbishing the set, renting the studio, creating the visual effects, designing the costumes, renting the gear, buying meals for the cast and crew, and, yes, paying them.
We've got people in place, ready to get to work. All we need is the budget to pull it all together. You can help today by making a pledge.
Another way you can help is to spread the word. Here are links to our:
We've got some awesome rewards planned for those of you who decide to join us!
Below is the mission badge design. Custom badges will have your names across the center. The badges are otherwise identical to the ones used on our show, and can easily be sewn onto clothing by you or your mom, who told us she'd be happy to do it.
By the way, any reward tier that mentions pre-screening simply means that anyone who wants to talk to our cast or crew is expected to be respectful.
Risks and challenges
We are a small project with some big actors attached. Scheduling issues are always possible. However, since shooting Personal Space will be a modest time commitment for the cast, we are optimistic that we'll be able to get studio time with everyone.
Another risk is that a real generation ship could be built, which would beat us to the scoop. Obviously, we're being facetious - but consider that there's nothing scientific preventing this from happening. The barriers facing space exploration are political.
We hope you'll join us in space!
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