It began long, long ago in a small seaside town not that far away from where I’m currently typing this. I was technically homeless and living out of a dozen cardboard boxes. It’s not that dramatic, as I was moving to Edinburgh in around a fortnight’s time and was crashing at my folks place during the transition. Lovely though a visit home is, living out in the countryside at twenty nine years old can be a pretty dull experience for someone who spent the last eleven years rolling around in every city the UK had to offer. I found myself suddenly disconnected from the noise and blinking lights of London, York, Cardiff and… even Hull. It was during this brief stay at Hotel de Parent that I blew the dust off my Xbox 360, discovered that I didn’t own any games, and found myself tumbling through the dashboard seeking entertainment.
Several hours later, and I had consumed the entire first three seasons of The Guild. Until Felicia Day appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was 100% all about Faith Lehane… but once Vi showed up it was all over between me and the baddest Slayer that ever there was. There’s something about the nerdy girls I just can’t resist. Velma over Daphne, Annie over Britta. Willow and Vi in the same episode? Destroyed. So when I saw Felicia Day had an entire show online I had to click play.
But wait… what is this? Why are these episodes so short? What on Earth is a webisode? A web series? What’s happening? It was 2010, and the entire filmmaking population of the Universe hadn’t started making web series at this point, and in the Great Island of Britain I’m almost certain that we were still using the Internet for such archaic purposes as sending emails, or waiting eight days for a JPEG to download. But I knew I wanted to play, I wanted to make something like this… but what?
In 2005 I had dipped a toe briefly into filmmaking, shooting the terrible short film “Zombie Force.” The script was 14 pages of location hopping stupidity with a cast of eight and crew of one. I shot it on a DV camcorder and edited it in Windows Movie Maker or something equally horrific. We showed it to a small audience, who sat silently as twenty four minutes of garbage rolled by, the only saving grace the performance from the actors. I returned to directing and writing for theatre with my tail between my legs. Film was not for me. I didn’t understand it. Theatre had limitations, it had rules. I couldn’t hop location with a cut or edge wipe into a new scene. It was slower, more delicate and considered. I felt safer on the boards, spending a month in rehearsals with actors working over every line. Film was savage and fast, it moved like quicksilver and I wanted nothing more to do with it.
So to find myself sat in a the guest bedroom of my parental home, with this bizarre unscratchable itch to make a web series was very bizarre. I turned to my box of old and unproduced scripts. I liked to print everything I wrote out and place it lovingly in a plastic folder, a habit that has evolved into flat out refusing to embrace a Kindle as I climb higher into my thirties. Nothing fit that breakneck storytelling style that the web wanted. I knew that to attempt to film something cinematic, something that demanded careful lighting and camerawork would be foolish as I didn’t have access to the technology. I knew nothing about cameras at this point, less about recording good audio. Then I found it. The original script for “Zombie Force.” Slightly yellow in colour and foxed around the edges, but still protected by a glorious plastic folder.
On the front cover the words “SEVERAL EPISODES? SHORTER!”
A brutal rewrite, a harsh expulsion of characters and locations and I had a script. Three main characters, three minor characters. One location, and outside during a lovely and warm Summer. Monster Hunter Timothy Ronald Helsing and sidekick Poncho de la Cruz had replaced the eight strong zombie slaying force, and the idea was streamlined and simplified but still had that easier to shoot on a small budget documentary structure. “I AM TIM HELSING” was born.
I launched a Facebook group (where all good projects begin) and asked for help. I had an idea. I had a script. I had a decade of theatre production experience and a small budget / infinite supply of teabags. Actors got in touch, a small but excellent crew signed up and suddenly we had a day locked in for filming.
What could possibly go wrong?
Coming up next – “WHAT WENT WRONG, AND HOW WE SURVIVED IT.”
You can see the entire series of I Am Tim Helsing right here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p4ThgBshjo&index=1&list=PL0F2FAF41C40D03EE
Visit RedShirt Films YouTube channel here – https://www.youtube.com/c/redshirtfilms