A roundup of some of the best made-in-Calgary web series

Thursday 30th, July 2015 / 01:55
By Kraig Brachman and Skye Anderson
Among the web series produced in Calgary is One Hit Die, which Spencer Estabrooks describes as Dungeons and Dragons meets The Office.

Among the web series produced in Calgary is One Hit Die, which Spencer Estabrooks describes as Dungeons and Dragons meets The Office.

CALGARY — If you haven’t kept on top of the web series being produced out of Calgary, you’re missing out – high quality episodic content is just a click away. BeatRoute writers Kraig Brachman and Skye Anderson profiled some of the big hitters.

ONE HIT DIE

Outside the city of Calgary, a web series is being filmed – and it isn’t about cowboys, which all notable productions seem to be about here. This series is about wizards, rogues, warriors and clerics; giggling goblins and talking daggers; deadpan deliveries to the camera and surprisingly relatable heroes.

One Hit Die (Dungeons and Dragons meets The Office, according to series creator Spencer Estabrooks) is the locally produced fantasy-comedy webseries. Despite the series’ low budget, it still finds a way to impress.

“Fantasy and period piece shows are very cost-prohibitive because of the money needed for costumes, props and sets. You can’t just buy your wardrobe at Value Village and shoot in your basement,” Estabrooks says. “I’m pretty lucky because the people that work on One Hit Die are very passionate about what they do and love creating. Victoria Smith did the wardrobe in season one, and Odessa Bennett tackled it for season two. Both did an amazing job building and then aging the costumes.”

Estabrooks takes his “old-school” fantasy trappings from the second edition of Dungeons and Dragons, but the comedy is firmly rooted in the modern. With a comedic sense close to shows like Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, One Hit Die roots the mundanity of office work in a D&D adventure group and finds the humour in humanity despite some of the characters not being human.

Through his series, Estabrooks hopes “with the success of Game Of Thrones there’s more interest in the fantasy genre. I’d like to think One Hit Die is a gateway show to more nerdy behaviour,” and could lead to his goal of “world domination.”

Season one of One Hit Die is available on YouTube and season two will likely air early October. For more information, visit onehitdie.com. (KB)

HORSE MASK

Children’s toy masks are pretty fucked up. They have a sort of resemblance to something – Donatello, cats, Obama – made out of the most non-realistic substance, cheap plastic or rubber, and an object so removed from looking from anything in real life that its fuel for nightmares is created. This is why the locally produced crime thriller Horse Mask focuses on them.

Horse Mask is a web series “heavily influenced by Michael Haneke and Kiyoshi Kurosawa,” says series director Hussein Juma. “It’s [now] evolved to fit more with the web format and modern television and keep things paced a lot more quickly.” In this writer’s opinion, it shares some resemblance to David Fincher’s crime films. The series is about a husband looking for his missing daughter and a horse mask is his only clue, and a wife struggling with her mental stability.

The low budget series is shot and filmed in Calgary. Those from the area might recognise some of the communities and buildings. There are also many little nods of Canadian-ness throughout the series. These Canadian iconographies aren’t an intentional result, says Juma.

“We didn’t intentionally put in Canadian iconography. It’s likely in there because we work with pretty low budgets and just end up filming in our own and friends’ homes and use the props and decorations that are already there.”

Intentional or not, Juma and series writer Jun K. Lee have created a series that feels like a liveable world as a result of their indie style.

The series’ strong camera work is easily the highlight. The camera direction uses many advanced techniques to their full effect. For a series of this scale, it is amazing to see such confident camera work with such purpose.

Horse Mask’s first season is available on YouTube now, and after raising some funds for season two, Hussein Juma and company hope to have it out by next summer. For more information, visit facebook.com/horsemaskseries (KB)

WORD OF MOUTH

It is a common occurrence to see a busy dental office. Usually, children are running all over the chairs in the waiting room while their parents are pretending to be nose deep in a magazine, or awkward teenagers sit slouched down in the chairs, dreading oral surgery that will make the next few days at school a living hell. Regardless, there are usually people in a dental office… but not at Langford Square Dental Works. Dr. Bruce D. Paddington, DDS, (played by Jayson Therrien) is in desperate need of patients… and time is running out as his apathetic staff loses faith in his practice.

However, life coach Dwayne ‘the Elephant’ Johnson (played by Lonni Olson) is willing to offer his marketing expertise to turn Langford Square Dental Works around. Unfortunately for the oblivious Dr. Paddington, Johnson’s… well… interesting ideas and techniques seem to create more elephants in the room, rather than eliminate them.

Word of Mouth is a witty, amusing sitcom anchored by awkward situational humour. It’s refreshing for sitcoms due to the fact it has a continuous storyline alongside real life situations. Director, producer and co-writer John Kissack says the idea for this series came naturally after talking with local dentist and executive producer Dr. Bryce P. Adamson. Originally Dr. Adamson hired Kissack for marketing videos, but their natural chemistry spawned the idea to have a story line with “Office style satire.”

“When we met with Dr. Adamson, and just through having conversations with him, we realized the dental world is this kind of weird and fascinating place,” Kissack explains. “It’s intimate for them in a weird way because their office is your mouth, which is totally a weird area of the body to work in all day long, so I think they are forced to kind of have a funny sense of humour.”

Season one of the Word of Mouth web series can be found online at wordofmouthshow.com. (SA)

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