The Drama of a Sci-Fi Digital Series

10,000 Days: Surviving the Comet

By Bel Hernandez

It struck with a magnitude of all the nuclear weapons in the world.  Comet 23, sixty kilometers of mass and gases plunges into the Pacific Ocean, knocking the earth away from the sun; causing tsunamis worldwide of up to 4,000 feet high; eventually leading to the planet being encased in snow and ice. 10,000 Days, the digital series (http://www.facebook.com/10kdaystv), written and directed by Eric Small (Penn & Teller’s:  Bullshit), is about four families who survive and after 10,000 days continue to fight the bitter cold and now — each other.

Good friends Isaac Farnwell and William Beck (John Schneider) of Westcliffe Colorado devise a survival plan, sure the comet would be a likelihood.   Through his work as a forest ranger Beck knows of an abandoned observatory in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado.  It is to this mountain sanctum that they will head!

Beck had studied geology in college and his wife infectious diseases. Their neighbor David Ruiz (Jay Montalvo), an aerodynamic engineer, had been part of the defense team responsible for trying to deflect Comet 23. His wife Rita was a biochemist working on stem cell research. They are recruited to join the Becks and Farnwells in their survival plan.

The fourth and final family to be asked to join the group was Fred and Anna Hesse.  Fred a physicist and Anna a medical doctor would compliment the group’s skill set.

Based on the premise of an comet crashing into earth (a scenario that has happened before, only this time it’s 60 kilometers!) Small wanted to do a a series based on scientific theory so he sought out  the top scientists and comet experts – including Brian Marsden who the NY Times called the “go-to guy for anything related to comets.”

Jay Montalvo

Latin Heat sat down with both Eric Small and cast member Jay Montalvo to talk about the drama of creating, producing and launching this ambitious and insightful webseries —  10,000 Days.

LATIN HEAT:  A lot more research goes in to creating a Sci-Fi series, it seems it would be more costly, at least 10,000 Days looks like a million dollar series.  Why a Sci-Fi series on the web?

Eric Small:  That is my expertise.  I began my career writing Sci-Fi and action. But the idea for the webseries came to me during the 2007/2008 writer’s strike.   I was going to make it a feature but thought to myself, why not as a digital show for the web.  Erika Lockridge put some money behind it and here were are.

LATIN HEAT:  Tell us about the premise for your story.

ES:    My premise for the story was ‘what if a comet hit earth?’ It’s all speculative but based on scientific theory.

I spoke to scientists and physicists, one of which was Brian Marsden the utmost expert on comets (he passed away last year). He said no one really knows what would happen if a comet should hit earth.  It depends on how dense it is, how much is made of rock, how much of gas.  So I came up with a 60 kilometer comet  — Marsden said ‘OK you can have a little creative license’.

He calculated that if a 60 kilometer comet crashed into the earth’s ocean it would go straight to the bottom in a Nano second and explode, creating a crater 10 times the diameter of the comet.  Now you have a 600 kilometer crater in the ocean and what that does is displace all that water in every direction traveling 600 kilometers inland.   There would then be heat blasts and fire storms.  Then the freezing would begin, which is exactly what happens in 10,000 Days.

(Watch more of Latin Heat’s interview and behind the scenes footage)

LATIN HEAT:  I am so not a Sci-Fi fan but I did get to see some of the episodes and I really got into them.   What’s going to get everyone excited about seeing this series and not have them feel like it’s a “shoot’em up in outer Space”?

ES:   Seeing a show online that really captures the spirit of storytelling – and the great cast we have put together.  If you get people interested in the characters they will follow the show.  There is also the relatability factor.  When you have people asking themselves ‘What would I do if I had been chosen?  What would I be able to contribute to the clan in some meaningful way to survive if I had been chosen?’  Then they are engaged.

That is what excited our cast.  John Schneider (Smallville, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) came on board because of the concept — and he’s had a great career. He doesn’t need to do a digital series.  All the rest of the cast – James Harvey Ward (Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, Sons of Anarchy); Peter Michael Wingfield (X-Men, Highlander: Endgame); Lisa Pelikan (Lionheart, Julia); Jay Montalvo  (Los Americans, Commander in Chief), Riley Smith (The Glades, Not Another Teen Movie), Kim Myers (Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2, White Palace) …all felt the same thing.   (Watch the first 3 episodes here http://www.facebook.com/10kdaystv?sk=app_331391370235906)

Jay Montalvo:  That’s where I think it pulls differently from other Sci-Fi shows.  I’ve seen other shows…and It’s always been about the ‘what if’ situation or ‘let me show you something you’ve never seen before’ but the aspect of what is true to the nature of humanity isn’t there – at least I haven’t seen it.

I feel Eric has captured that ability to really bring in that tie so that as a viewer you really could feel — allow yourself to be more receptive to what’s being shown to you and finding the real science behind it.

Jules Willcox is Amelie Farnwell

LATIN HEAT: You have a great mix of drama, a love story, intrigue, rivalry, and a good dose of science thrown in.  Give us a few story highlights

ES:  The Love story and rivalry:  Lucas has taken over as leader of the Beck clan who live in the Observatory with the Hesse clan.  Veena Hesse is in love with him but he is in love with the enemy – Amelie who is the sister of Remy Farnwell, who in turn hates the Becks.   Forbidden love — something that at one point might bring the clans together.

LATIN HEAT: Your characters are Anglo-American, Asian, Native American and Latinos one of which is an aerodynamic engineer and the other, his wife Rita, a bio-chemist — not your usual Hollywood stereotypes.  Why was it important to have a diverse cast?

ES:  Westcliffe Colorado is a diverse area. There are Latinos, Native Americans — a melting pot.  That became part of the deal.

America today is such a different place and to be stuck in some old concept of what it is to be Latino-American it’s kind of ridiculous.  We are who we are and we are a product of our environment…and that’s how we built this series…we built it organically.

Jay’s role was specifically designed as part of the history of the series, most of the other roles were open to whomever, 100% open.

 LATIN HEAT:  Now Jay, how long have you waited to play a role like David Ruiz?

Montalvo as David Ruiz

Jay Montalvo:  For me it’s been a long journey. It’s been 25 years and 25 years later I am actually getting a chance to play this role which is – wow!  This character doesn’t become  “just a Latin role”, it loses itself –it’s a fabric that intertwines.   And the idea that we [Latinos] exist in the future is fascinating to me!  Not only as an actor but also as a human being.   And best of all I have an opportunity to speak like I do instead of “talking like dis.” Another reason I am proud to play this role is that hopefully Hollywood will start to get an idea.

LATIN HEAT:  How does your character contribute to the survival of the clans?

JM:  David Ruiz, because of his expertise in science and engineering is in charge of the solar and the wind power that sustains them from a power source and anything that has to do with tech David is the guy. We have all participated in the idea of trying to make this “clan” a unit that will sustain it and have survived as a unit –like a family…literally.  My character loses a daughter during the journey, but there is a grandson whose father is Lucas Beck.

So the Beck’s and Ruiz’s now are connected through their grandson, Milo Beck.

LATIN HEAT:  So what is the difference between a digital series and a TV show audience?

ES:  Web audiences’ attention span is short 2-3 minute, average.  It’s what we call lean forward watching, making it a challenge to get loyal dedicated audiences. Television is lean back viewing.

It’s been documented that the average TV viewing for individuals is 5 hours a day.  Now everyone wants a piece of that 5 hours…online, cable, network wants a piece of that 5 hours.  Things will change, as people will be able to connect their Web-TV viewing to a television screen.  Most new TVs have Netflix and have Wi-Fi and now you just plug in and watch our shows.

LATIN HEAT:  You actually laid out a plan for the life of your webseries.  Can you share that with us?

ES:  Our plan was, shoot the episodes and get a distributor to sell the webseries.  It’s hard to create a show that looks good and ultimately makes money , so we use the website as a sales tool…and we figure out the demographics with Google analytics…again a sales tool.

Our ultimate goal is to get it on TV.   The web is a great place to begin to incubate an idea…but wouldn’t it be fantastic to develop a one-hour show for TV?  But not stop there, after the TV deal, the web show would be developed to present back-story and go back 10,000 days with the characters all recast younger and say here is how they were back then.

LATIN HEAT:  And the response has been good I hear with both the audience and the industry.  Can you project forward?

ES:  Yes, we are in talks with a major studio. If all goes well we’ll have a deal with them; they in turn will make a deal with an online premiere site, whether it’s like Hulu or YouTube or whoever wants to support with marketing and advertising. From there they will window it out to other online video sites, which will then go to iTunes as a download and Amazon for DVD.  Hopefully we will get a mobile deal or sponsorship and then they will spin it out internationally.  That is the goal.

Eric, Jay — Thank you for granting Latin Heat one of the first few interviews in this early stage of the show.  It’s made a Sci-Fi fan out of me — at least a 10,000 Days Sci-Fi fan.