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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Lexx Revival Project

Originally posted 3-19-13.

I’ve taken part in a few of the debates over whether there should be more Lexx. I think there should be, if for no other reason than to breathe life back into Lexx merchandising. I’d even be happy (there, I said it) if Disney paid Abrams to do it, and I’m not exactly his biggest fan.

One of Lexx’s biggest fans is uber geek Kirill Yarovoy of Russia, and he definitely thinks there should be more Lexx. In fact, Kirill has been conducting his own research into whether fans want more Lexx, and exactly what they’d like to see in more Lexx. Years of polls and forum debates point overwhelmingly to removing season four from canon and simply returning Lexx to its season one roots that started it all, along with creating spinoffs and prequels in similar fashion.

This is nothing new among the Lexx fandom, but what is different when Kirill starts discussing Lexx is that he’s dead serious. While a number of Lexx fans have created a variety of fan fictions, artwork, actual literature, comics, and even short film, Kirill has gone the next step trying to contact producers, studios, and investors, and he’s done some impressive research into cost and hiring and what fans desire to see in more Lexx.

So what is stopping him?

Aside from needing to get licensed from the Lexx copyright holders, basically the only thing stopping this project is funding. It’s easy to scoff at this point and blow the whole idea off, the big nail in many film project coffins, but Kirill has an idea, and surprisingly, that idea is actually working for other filmmakers. In fact, American fans might not quite appreciate how well this idea has been working for some time around the world.

Crowdfunding is the new fan wave. We’ve all recently seen the wild success of The Veronica Mars Movie Project on Kickstarter. Basically, an account is set up for donations to a specified project, info and links are tweeted and posted around social networks like facebook and youtube, and, fans pretty much help filmmakers nickel and dime their way through production. A sweet reward for this fan loyalty is getting to see the production process as it happens, step by step through filming and editing, and then submitting to film festivals. I’ve been watching two projects in particular the last few months- “COLD” by Eoin Macken and Stolen Light by Andrew Lee Potts. Both filmmakers (we know them as actors in Merlin and Primeval, along with other shows they’ve been in or helped to create) use twitter to alert fans in real time to the daily work they put into their projects, supplementing with image and video media such as instagram and vimeo (for example), and they are very open with fan interaction, which is smart when they solicit fans for production funding.

This gives fans much more access to the entire process than was available even just ten years ago. If fans want to see a project get done, they now have the power to help make that happen, which is so much more fulfilling than waiting for studios to find investors that often cancel the projects before they see completion. (So many shows I love have been canceled in the first or second season because an investor or studio deemed it not worth finishing, even though fans are very vocal about wanting to purchase a completed product.)

Kirill recognizes that fans would like to have an impact on the outcome of the show they love, in this case, Lexx. Kirill set up a forum where fans could discuss the future of Lexx, and asked specifically what they’d like to see, what direction should Lexx go if there is more. He has years of documentation and discussion (mostly in Russian) under his belt and has spent considerable time and effort on trying to develop the idea of a centralized world fandom through “LexxTV“, a site that could become a broadcasting fan forum (it’s not developed yet due to licensing restrictions), strongly reminding me of a metacafe style website, akin to the original Babylon 5 dotcom, only bigger.

This sounds cool, right? So why isn’t it happening yet? Well, mostly because much of this process has been happening in Russia, and despite our wonderful technology, translator programs are still cumbersome and inaccurate enough to make a lot of work for non Russian fans to keep up. Also, international crowdfunding is limiting with U.S. and standard European tech and money exchange. But it certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying.

Kirill started with paypal a few years ago and received between $700-$800 in donations, but since that wasn’t enough to get the project off the ground, he gave all the donations back. Kickstarter was only allowing U.S. funds, and Amazon required U.S. ID. In order to sell the idea (and this is how new projects generally get their start), Kirill needs to make a top-notch promo video with original cast and a lot of VFX to show to producers and studios. This is a delicate process before getting licensed, as fans who have already tried writing books and making videos have discovered. The main thing is to have an idea that a producer can show to the license holder that convinces them what you’re doing is worth some money to them.

I got a little tough on Kirill and asked a list of questions about cost, crew, and production, mostly to see if I could trip him up and discover whether this was all a big-worded dream. What I got back was an impressive mix of information, enthusiasm, and the kind of frustration that comes with hitting walls for a few years, and I believe if anybody outside the U.S. could actually get Lexx back into space, it would be Kirill.

Along with a short lesson in budget issues and the substages of preproduction, Kirill has adjusted his cost estimate a couple of times based on production cost then and now. For example, a quote from his correspondence- “I can tell you about CGI production cost made about a year ago based on price of Toronto-based Spin-VFX Studio with which I have some contacts and plan to use for Lexx CGI (btw this studio has some former CORE digital employees, that was the studio which worked on CGI in the first season of Lexx). Since Lexx is CGI heavy, my estimated calculation was about $10 million U.S. dollars for CGI alone (minimum), but it’s not a perfect calculation and a little old. After that I found out that the guys from Energia made great Iron Sky CGI for about $2 million, so I guess there is a chance that CGI could be cheaper in terms of production cost and very good in terms of quality.”

Kirill went on to say that the cost needed for a 20-25 episode season five would be $20-$25 million, with $1 million minimum per episode, but preferably having $2-$5 million available per episode, which is the standard price for most U.S. TV dramas these days, totaling anywhere from $40-$100 million for an entire season. He noted some episodes would naturally be less production heavy and therefore not as costly.

But what Kirill is aiming for is at least one promotional episode that would not be directly aired, but shown to more producers and investors, kind of like Paul Donovan did in 1992. So that is where the fans come in, helping to get the initial project off the ground so bigger investors can be pitched. A good example of how this works is CGSociety – Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome.

Kirill told me he has pitched a script synopsis to several producers and studios, and it sounded like a lot of work. He seems to be pretty familiar with the process, but thinks it’s becoming outdated. “What I think is better about crowdfunding is the direct relationships between the people who make the product and the customers, so that customers pay directly to the team that makes the product, and get the products directly once they are made”, and there is a refreshing paragraph on how he feels ratings let everyone down because they’re inaccurate for today’s tech access to the industry, which I agree with. Now that fans around the planet can live stream their favorite shows, regional broadcaster programming and scheduling may have to be dramatically revised if they are to thrive. But that’s going off topic.

This is a lot of stuff. There was quite a lot more. I mentioned to Kirill that some fans are confused about Lexx being an international production, and that Americans in particular don’t understand (I’ve seen this) why Russian fans are interested in Lexx. Why is Lexx meaningful to YOU?

Besides him comparing Putin to His Shadow, Kirill said Lexx was the challenge that started him thinking about society around him at the tender age of ten when Lexx premiered. He stopped taking things as they were for granted and started questioning everything from politics to education to social life. To quote in part-

“Why is Lexx meaningful to me? It’s really hard to tell, it’s a love from first sight, I guess. Once I saw the opening of the first episode with that charming dark space ambience, the rotating legs of the Foreshadow with the purple nebula behind, that speech of Kai’s, the last of the Brunnen-G, about a victory in the war against an Insect Civilization, and a Time Prophet who predicted he would be the one to destroy the Divine Order, and that someday this will happen, but not today as today is the day of his death, the day his story begins- I realized that I already loved it, and every next minute doubled my love. Soon after this episode I started to read everything about protein, DNA, amino acids and space, black holes, fractals, and so on. Lexx influenced me a lot and made me believe in science, instead of the god I was forced to believe before. I was so addicted to protein and gene themes after Lexx that I almost became a microbiologist. Also, the idea of time cycles swayed my philosophical views on the world, as did many other themes of Lexx. Despite it looking like a purely entertaining show, Lexx in fact is quite educational, and education with Lexx was real fun.”

And, again, there was much more. Kirill Yarovoy has a passion for Lexx that has already spanned twenty years and will undoubtedly span twenty more. He’s been persistent and amazingly patient in his quest to keep Lexx growing. If you’d like to contact Kirill directly, he can be reached through a link on his site. Click this pic to go there.



Want to know more about Lexx? You can find Kirill’s Lexx blog at http://vk.com/iwhds, and the links near the bottom of my own Lexx Index will take you to lots more sites about Lexx.

Want to know more about what could go into more Lexx before you help fund the filming process? Kirill has put together a summary for me that he compiled from his research into what fans want. He would ultimately like to have the original producers and directors back, or at least to do a review of the script. He has spent the years since 2005 on development of the complex concept of the scripts for season 5 and three prequels about the Insect Wars. This is the summary, with a couple of things in parentheses added by me.

1- carefully preserved style, atmoshpere and feel of old lexx, with a lot of dark satire and philoshopical themes about problems of modern society
2- well-developed and finished plot that ties all seasons and prequels together with natural feel like everything was planned from beginning by supreme beans
3- all plot holes of previous seasons patched, no new holes created… perhaps
4- every old question answered and even more new brain-drilling questions asked
5- possible production issues and workarounds taken into account
6- well balanced compromise between the desires of all kinds of old Lexx fans and fans of other scifi series and movies
7- very intriguing epic finale that will turn the entire Lexx story upside down and will leave you wondering “WHAT THE HELL THIS ALL SUPPOSE TO MEAN?” just like the David Lynch movies and Twin Peaks did
8- and before its does, it will return LEXX to fan-favorite season 1 roots, which includes 2 hours episode format with more lexxploration of violent dark zone and enigmatic origin of Prince, less sex and more romantic dreaming with Eva Habermann as Zev and Michael McManus as ALIVE but still deadly Kai. But don’t worry! Xenia Seeberg as Xev will not be replaced by Zev, and still present with Brian Downey as Stan and hopefully Jeff Hirshfield as 790, which wants to make love with 2 persons this time (Zev and Xev? intriguing), so you will still have your passion and sexual tension. Also you should not worry about the aging of actors, as with the magic of make-up and today’s VFX you will barely notice the difference, however if you will do, even aging already explained by plot. (I would point to the movie Surrogates as a good example of the magic of makeup.)

A crowdfunding account is still in process of being created that satisfies the exchange structure for a world fandom. I will edit here with a link as soon as that happens.

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http://lexxperience.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-lexx-revival-project.html 

:edit: 4-2-13
Want to see how Lexx was made the first time? Click the button!

:edit: 8-28-14

I've been fairly verbal about thinking Bradley James would make an awesome Thodin if backstory ever gets filmed --> click.







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