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Pioneer One is definitely an exciting project.  It’s the first series ever to be distributed through the torrent system, and this represents a sure step towards what will be the future of what we now call “television” series.  It is distributed by the Vodo platform, it is also available for free download through all the main torrent websites (from Pirate Bay to EZTV), and through a system of donations it is possible to support and finance the making of future episodes.  Produced with the laughable sum of six thousand dollars, it defies the whole system of great productions, as it displays all the elements of passion and professionalism which go back to the fundamentals of cinema, which is by now more and more dependent on visual wonders and on the great blackmail of audience shares.
After making the independent film The Lionshare in 2009, the pair Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith plunged into the production of this serial project which will perhaps give positive encouragement to all young or aspirant movie makers who wish to make their ideas and dreams come true.
The story Pioneer One tells is intriguing.  A mysterious space shuttle crashes in Canada, leaving hundreds of miles of radiation behind it, all through Montana.  The American government sends a team to make light on the situation, and the disturbing surprise is that not only is it an old Soviet Union shuttle, but they find a young man inside it who wears an ancient spacesuit and is seriously sick with a cancer which is devastating his body.
These are the premises with which this pilot episode introduces this undoubtedly interesting series.
Let’s talk to the pilot’s director, Bracey Smith.

-How did the Pioneer One project come about?

After the success we had with “The Lionshare,” the good people at Vodo said they would like to distribute our next project. Josh had been rolling around the idea of this series in his head for a while. We had come to a point where we were both unhappy with our jobs and truly felt that this was the time to tell this story. So we left our jobs and started to plan. 

It was early March. In order to launch in June we knew we needed to be completely done by May. This left us a little over four weeks to finish the pilot script, cast, organize a crew, scout locations, and rehearse before we started shooting. We allocated a week for Josh to write the script, he finished it in 3 days. After reading it I felt it was solid enough to move forward, so we did.

-The choice of actors is always important in a TV series, and the cast of Pioneer One seems to be absolutely professional. How did casting take place?

We posted casting calls in and around Manhattan. Due to the limited time we had, we were looking for actors who seemed to get the style we were aiming for, and not need too much direction. Most importantly, we were looking for people who were excited about the project, would be fun to work with, and would be will to share their talents with us for no money. I think we were extremely lucky to find the amazing cast we have with only two days of auditions and no money to offer them.

- Has the whole story already been written, or are you waiting for funds before proceeding with the rest of the script?

The entire series has been mapped out.

The story has a definitive end that I’m very excited to be a part of telling. We are however, waiting to see what type of budget we’ll be working with before we get too far ahead with our planning and writing.

- Last year we saw Joss Whedon launching a new concept of TV serial distribution through the Internet with his Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, with great success. What do you think the future of television will be? Do you think that internet distribution might be the future of television serials?

I loved Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. I have no doubt that the internet will be one of the major distribution means for television serials. I don’t think anyone truly doubts that at this point. Its only a matter of how and when. I believe it’s imperative that we find a way to offer Television style shows for free, and I’m pretty sure we’re on the right path.

-It’s rather impressive to see such a professional result on such a low budget. How is it possible to produce something which is in some ways better than a ten million dollar production, with just six thousand dollars? What’s your secret? Did anyone actually get paid?

It makes me happy to hear that you think it looks professional. Any success we’ve had with producing this show has come down to planning, luck, and kindness. There really is no secret. We knew we had very little time to plan, less time to shoot, and very little time to edit. So every decision we made was done to show what our capabilities we’re within our time, crew, and resource limits, while still telling the story thats meant to set up an entire 5 season story arc. 

The result was getting the actors to think of the script more like a play so we could do longer takes and edit less. We knew that this might result in a slower pace than we wanted, but allow us to get out the show in the time we needed.

Unfortunately we were not able to pay anyone in anything other than food, drinks, and our deepest gratitude.

- Have you any idea how many times Pioneer One has been downloaded through the torrent system?

As of now, (Sunday 06/20/10), I believe its over 150,000 downloads.

-How are donations for future episodes going? Are there good chances of seeing more episodes?

The response has been overwhelming. We’ve had over 500 amazing people donate thus far. I have no doubt that we will be filming the rest of season one if the pilot continues this type momentum.

So let’s hope that more and more people will download this pilot episode and contribute to the future of this series.  Who knows what Josh Barnhard and Bracey Smith will be able to do with a few more dollars.  It’s worth it.

Translations by Ippolita Vigo