Bound in Visuals: New horror web series shows more with less

Shadow Bound Web SeriesIf you’re looking for inspiration on how to say more with less, look no further than the old silent-era of filmmaking.  Think about how — through imagery only! – Metropolis conveyed such wonder and dread.  Lillian Gish, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and others grabbed the audience’s attention as their stories unfolded on the silver screen.  Now, of course the advent of sound was a great thing.  We all love the rich voices, the witty dialogue, and the sweeping soundtracks, but there’s much to learn about storytelling from studying the silent era’s techniques.

Enter Shadow Bound.  A new five-part horror web series that’s picked up the gauntlet of “show, don’t tell” by re-creating the silent era through noir-style imagery… and an occasional dialogue card for exposition (hey! The oldies did it, too). The series is created, produced and stars quite a few of Epilogue‘s award-winning cast & crew.   Here’s a quick rundown on the series which has very much a Lovecraftian feel to it.  So far, they’ve released episode #1 (more to come in the weeks ahead):

Welcome to the town of Veritas; an old place with a long memory. A place of shadows and hidden terrors long forgotten by the modern world of the 1930s. But as famed horror writer, Jack Pickman, soon discovers, some things in the shadows are best left forgotten.  The series follows famed horror writer, Jack Pickman, as he returns to his childhood home after the mysterious death of his estranged father. Jack finds his brother institutionalized in an asylum and later discovers evidence insisting that his father’s last case was the cause of his untimely death. Jack sets out with his two childhood friends to uncover the truth of the disturbing happenings in Veritas. However, as their investigation unfolds, Jack finds himself in a desperate race to save the world from an ancient evil emerging from the shadows.

While I love dialogue (I’m not a Sorkin fan for nothing), as a writer and writing instructor, I’m often found wrestling with the “show, don’t tell”  mantra. It’s not like you want to give every little detail in a character’s life as they move from scene to scene (unless you’re Jack Bauer of 24, and even then — hello! It’s not like we see him use the toilet, clip his toenails, and snore in his sleep), but that’s not really what’s meant by the repeated mantra in writing workshops and heart-breaking critiques.

In other words, don’t tell us what a character thinks or feels or how their past affects their present.  Show it.  And no, that doesn’t mean you have to rely on dialogue to get across their realizations, fears, hopes, or even their backstory.  It’s about the visuals.  It’s about connecting us directly to a character — be it in prose or script form – through the actions they take, the imagery that surrounds them, the sounds that permeate the setting, (and in the case of prose, the smells and textures of what they feel).   If you need to get a piece of backstory across, think about how you can use a character’s setting — the photographs on their desk, the books on their shelves.  More importantly, think about how you can get across that setting actively… By having your character interact with what’s important to the scene.

Here’s another way to look at Show, Don’t Tell:  The key word in the phrase “action description” is ACTION. Don’t slow things down with info-dump descriptions. Keep your story character-driven.  As a writing instructor, I often suggest watching the opening sequence for the Pixar animated film WALL-E.  Within minutes you learn everything you need about the protagonist (Wall-e), how his world came to be, and more importantly, what he wants, what he fears, and how he lives his day-to-day life (that’s ‘Ordinary World” for you writing fools):

While we’re on the subject of watching… Here’s the trailer for Shadow Bound.  Creator/star/make-up FX artist Nathan Shelton (that’s Arch for you Epilogue followers) is off to a fun start with more episodes to come soon:

SHADOW BOUND – Official Trailer from SHADOW BOUND on Vimeo.

For more info on showing versus telling, I recommend the following articles from the InterTubes:


Epilogue Receives Two IAWTV Nominations

Short, but very sweet:

EPILOGUE – the science fiction web series created and produced with Missouri State University this past year has been nominated for two International Academy of Web Television Awards!  Congratulations to our Makeup FX Designer, Nathan Shelton, and our Composer, Tyler Durham, for an extraordinary job well done.   The competition was fierce with 473 web series submitted for consideration including works by Bryan Singer (yes, that Bryan Singer) and the ubiquitous writer/producer Jane Espenson (Buffy, BSG, Warehouse 13, Once Upon A Time).

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Epilogue – there’s no time like the present.   Here’s the series’ concept in a nutshell:

When a modern world-wide plague becomes resistant to all cures, time-travelers must seek answers in a legendary 14th century rural French village known for its immunity to the original Bubonic Plague. The team gets more than they’ve bargained for when the inevitable twists of time travel force them into discovering the modern plague’s origins… ending in an unexpected confrontation to prevent humanity’s extinction.

And for those of you who like to hit that play button once and watch all… We’ve compiled a playlist of all six episodes.  Grab the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy our IAMTV-nominated series… EPILOGUE:


Coming up for air!

Why work on 1 project when you can work on 2 or 3 or…

Just a few days away from delivering THE DRIFT to the publishers.  It’s been a nutty 8 months, filled with things both wondrous and heartbreaking.  You’re curious?  Another time, perhaps.  Once the book is out the door, the semester started, and in other words, sometime next week.

In the meantime…

A cry for for fundraising help!
It’s been a crazy 8 months developing this SF web series entitled, “epilogue.”   A few months of stirring around my own insanity, and then dragging in the amazing student-writers at Missouri State University.  Thing is, words are free. Production costs. Help these students experience the opportunity to produce a dramatic SF series and multimedia experience unlike on the air or online so far!

New Feature – Dis ‘n Dat

Leaving Antarctica

I still have two days of my Antarctica Journal to put up and yes, you’ll get to see those this week, but in the meantime, I’ve decided to do a weekly round of internet doings that either relate directly or indirectly to my own blatherings on this blog.

Around the Web:

On the subject of Antarctica, Retronaut has put up a page of Frank Hurley’s famous early color photographs of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated ‘Endurance’ voyage.

Since Favorite Female Characters seems to be a favorite page on this blog, this list of 10 Most Ass Kickingly Awesome Women Warrior Characters from Big Smudge seemed like an appropriate addendum.  Of course, there’s also the Science Channel’s Top 10 Alien Chicks to ponder.  (Gotta wonder where the Top 10 Alien Dudes list is — maybe I need to start one to balance things out).

Stargate SG-1 “Four Dragons” is now available for eBooks thanks to CrossRoads Press at $5.99 a pop versus $7.95 for the print edition.

The Science Channel is rerunning the very awesome Joss Whedon Firefly series on Sunday nights.  Best part?  star of Science Channel’s Sci-Fi Science, and the cofounder of string field theory, Dr. Michio Kaku, will be commentating on the science each episode.

Gabbed with Star Trek/Farscape Novelist extraordinare Keith DeCandido on his weekly podcast, The Chronic Rift.  We discussed writing for Stargate (natch), teaching screenwriting, and the infamous glass ceiling in Hollywood.  (You can also download the podcast on iTunes).  The Chronic Rift does a great job of pulling in authors and other pop culture contributors on a weekly basis.  I can see that it’s going to quickly become a favorite for me in my long drives in and out of town.

Lastly, but not leastly (is that a word?), SpaceGypsies caught up with me at TrekTrax Atlanta.  They put up a nice little video interview covering Four Dragons.