Fans throughout the UK and the world celebrated one of television's longest running television programs recently. Through a counted twelve different regenerations, Dr. Who has been on television for fifty years. Although \this series has generated numerous knock-offs and has no doubt has had its imitators, Pendragon PI is not one of them.
Granted Dr. Who, in whatever regeneration you may refer to and the character Oliver Henry Pendragon P.I. may both be British, and they will both have an attractive companion, despite comparisons made by others who have seen little more than the trailer for Pendragon P.I., that is where the similarity ends.
Private investigator Pendragon (played by Jason Carter, best known for his part in Babylon 5), is more film noir, a composite character based on every classic noir film from the Maltese Falcon to Out of the Past. He's neither a time traveler nor does he fight alien monsters. Looking like an aging hippie, he does dress funny. But he is a brilliant detective.
Being shot as one 90-minute pilot first and foremost, the producers will break that 90 minutes down into 5 minute chunks for Youtube to generate some buzz. "See part 1 and come back next week for part 2." The hope is that some bigger entities will take notice and want to fund a whole series.
Pendraggon PI is a work in progress, one which will be shot in numerous Michigan locations and feature a full Michigan cast.
Fans throughout the UK are celebrating. It seems that Dr. Who has been on television through several incarnations for fifty years now. I have read people think that Pendragon PI looks like Dr. Who. Do you think this is a fair comparison?
No. Pendragon, P.I. will actually have a lot more in common with film noir than Doctor Who. Any comparisons stop at him being British with a pretty companion. He's not a time traveler nor does he fight alien monsters. I'm drawing inspiration from such classic films as The Maltese Falson and Out of the Past and Mickey Spillane novels. However, Jason and I are huge Doctor Who fans so I can't say at least some of that show's design hasn't rubbed off on our project. But no one can copy Doctor Who.
Can you give me a quick sketch as to what Pendragon P.I. is about without risking a spoiler alert?
It's about a security expert working for a London technology firm who is pursuing a corporate thief. During his investigation, he discovers an advanced tech that can make portals. He's pulled through one of these portals and instantaneously lands in a Michigan city. His travel through the portal is so traumatic that he nearly goes insane and a couple of decades later, we find him still in Michigan, having opened a private investigation service.
Who was your character for Pendragon PI based on?
He's a British version of every film noir detective you can think of but he also contains parts of Sherlock Holmes and is highly eccentric. He's a tragic character in that he's battling a lot of inner demons. But he also has a devious sense of humor and a quirkiness that makes him a bit of a joker.
Tell us about the character of Pendragon PI.
There's some question about his sanity. He wears strange clothes that make him look like an aging rock star. He'll often sport a strange steampunk-style top hat. What's not in question is his brilliance at solving crimes that defy explanation. Whether it's ferreting out an invisible assassin or tracking an advanced, untested form of new technology. Police tolerate him. Pendragon is who you call when you have a science-based problem or mystery.
Who is doing the writing for Pendragon PI? If this is a cooperative effort, who are the writers?
I have a writing partner in Tennessee - Dan Bivens - whom I've collaborated with for years. We're writing the initial scripts for the project.
You said that this will be filmed here in Detroit. Are there any landmarks we should watch for?
Anything that fits the film noir atmosphere and aesthetic, like the Guardian building. It depends on what we can get access to. But any of those classic films of the 40's and 50's could have been shot in the Detroit of today easily.
Plus, Pendragon may have his car in the Dream Cruise. That would be fun to write and shoot.
Are there other areas of Michigan in which this will be shot?
Traverse City is a location I've been considering as well. I think it would be a great setting for a mystery. My location scouts are also looking for somewhere in Michigan that can substitute for London, England as the pilot opens there.
As well as Oliver Henry Pendragon, are there other characters in your film that have essential roles?
Pendragon's secretary/assistant is Lucy Manners. She's modeled after a serious role Lucille Ball had in the 1946 film The Dark Corner. Lucy Manners loves old movies and wishes she had been born in an earlier era. She's romantically interested in Pendragon but there's a wide age gap that they can't get around.
There's Police Detective Martin Loudenslager. Loudenslager's beleagured and sort of scruffy. Pendragon's a constant thorn in his side but Loudenslager can't deny his help when he's hit a corner in an investigation.
Pendragon has his own "femme fatale" in the form of Allison Hastings, the magnate of the U.S. arm of the same tech company that Pendragon used to work for. She's powerful, seductive, cunning, and has a hidden agenda.
Jason and I are friends. Before that, I had only been familiar with him from his work on the TV series Babylon 5. We met when I was pursuing him for a sci-fi feature project called Cyber Hunt which we're still looking for funding for. Dan Bivens and I wrote the Pendragon character specifically with Jason in mind because we feel he's such a great actor that we wanted to do something for him that he could have a lot of fun with. It's also thanking him for his support of the Michigan indie film community.
Can you tell us about the other members of your cast?
Like her character of Lucy, April Washko also loves the older film noir era and she contributed a great deal to Lucy's look, from her hairstyles to her clothes. April acts and produces. Acting is her first love. She lives in California but will come to Michigan for the series. Her Web site is http://www.aprilwashko.com.
Michael Clark plays Police Detective Martin Loudenslager. Michael's a Michigan-based actor, writer, and director who owns Scallywag Entertainment, an independent production company.
Ann Filippis, who plays our villain, has appeared in 15 Michigan-made films in both leading and strong supporting roles. She carries the lead role in a recent project, a film called Foggy Relations, which will premiere on August 27 at a film industry event called Collaborations in Royal Oak.
This may become a move, a webisode, or a television show with each episode being 90 minutes in length? Don't you think that this would be easier to handle if shorter, from the writer's perspective to that of your actors in developed into a webisode or television program?
I'm broadening my pitch so that the series can be any of those things. We're shooting one 90-minute pilot first and foremost. We'll break that 90 minutes down into 5 minute chunks for YouTube to generate some buzz. See part 1 and come back next week for part 2. The hope is that some bigger entities will take notice and want to fund a whole series.
Also cost is a consideration. You have a IndieGoGo campaign going on with a goal of $50K. How did you arrive at this figure and do you think it's realistic if you were to be picked up on a per episode basis as a television series?
$50,000 is the cost of making the pilot. For an independently-produced, non-studio production, I think that's pretty good. Most pilots you see can cost $1 million or more. That being said, we'll be stretching every dollar as much as possible. Primarily, the money raised will go towards camera costs, insurance, make-up, and props, to name a few of the things the crew needs to make a successful production. Where possible, we'll be calling in favors from property owners if we need, say, a house or a car for a day.
You have a trailer/teaser now which appears on the web. How far are you otherwise with things? Have you got your principle shooting done?
No, the money we're raising is for the cost of production on the pilot. The finished pilot will be shopped around and the hope is that a studio will want to pick it up. There are so many possibilities of where we can submit the pilot. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are producing original series content. In many ways, our plan or business model of where we want Pendragon P.I. to be keeps changing because independent producers today have tons of options to explore. I've even looked at the possibility of shooting this in 3-D because now there are channels looking for original 3-D content.
We shot the teaser trailer in a day at Detroit-based media company Giant Eel. So at that time, we were just focused on getting a concept out there to help get the ball rolling. Giant Eel was extremely helpful and gracious. Jason was available and we just shot it, seeing that there was some strong potential if we could get more funding put into it.
As you will no doubt be successful in raising the funds for your project by deadline, how long after can we expect to see this completed?
It would most likely be a full year after we've completed principal photography.