From Blood and Donuts and Ginger Snaps to Splice and, his latest, Haunter, producer Steve Hoban has been a staple in the Canadian horror scene since the mid Nineties.
He’s now working again with director Vincenzo Natali on a new experimental web series called Darknet that should be making its way onto television here in the States in the near future. For now, as of 12:01am this morning, fans can watch the first installment over at Darknetfiles.com. And, believe me, it’s worth checking out. Consisting of interweaving storylines and connected characters in different instances of urban horror, the first episode runs about 25 minutes and features some really solid, well-crafted moments. Just before the debut, Hoban was kind of enough to speak with us for a few minutes to talk about the series.
Dread Central: Since the idea of the Darknet files has been kept close to the chest and the teasers don’t really show too much, can you expand on the concept and talk about what horror fans can expect from the series?
Steve Hoban: Sure. We kind of flew under the radar because of the way we put it together. We ended up shooting six episodes but really we shot them as a prototype block of six. They are an adaptation of a very successful Japanese show called “Torihada” and they really key off on what that show originally was. Their show was very lo-fi and really just had creepy or scary or horrific things that felt very immediate and felt like they were things that could happen in the real world. Our show is a little more polished than that show is but we started with that. It’s short, visceral, fast, scary things that should feel like it could happen to anybody in the audience. You should watch this show and think as you’re stepping out your door that night or the next morning, ‘Hmm, maybe I should keep my eyes open.’
DC: With “Torihada”, it’s difficult for fans here to find a version with English subtitles but apparently it’s available everywhere in Japan. Are you taking any moments from that series or is it completely original?
SH: We’ve done both. We have a combination of episodes that are literally the same stories that were in “Torihada” episodes and then we have others that are originals. Then, we have some that mix them. The biggest difference is that we could have four segments within a half-hour episode. In Darknet they tend to be interrelated, so there are characters that go from one to another or there are elements that connect the stories. So, in a way, it’s a little bit more like a pulp fiction TV-series in that there are connected episodes. We even have characters that go from one episode to another even though each segment is its own unique story with a beginning, middle, and an end.
DC: Now, how do those connections work with different directors? When they sign on, do they have to use a certain character or a certain moment?
SH: Yeah, the way we did it is that Vincenzo [Natali] and I develop the scripts in-house with six different writers, so we were developing all of the scripts. Then, we put it to the writers initially to find the connections within the segments within their episode; then, we worked with them to further enhance those. Then, we took the six scripts and said, ‘Let’s take this character – she’s in the first episode – and let’s put her in episode three and in episode six.’ So, in some cases, it was to take a character that a writer was writing in one episode and make her a slightly different character or make him a her or vice-versa. Vincenzo and I were really just marshalling along the screenwriting. Vincenzo directed the first episode and I directed the second, so we had seen so many actors by the time we got to the third episode that we had a very good idea of what actors could fill a lot of the roles. It was done as a very collaborative thing.
DC: Well, I like the inner connections like that, especially with actors playing different characters. That’s been proven successful with something like “American Horror Story.”
SH: Absolutely. In a way, I think fans of “American Horror Story” would like this show and in another way it’s very very different. “American Horror Story,” of course, gets a whole season to explore these characters. In ours, you can have a whole story, beginning and end, and never see any of the characters again or hear anything about that story in four minutes. Or, then a character can reappear a number of times. I’m a huge fan of short story fiction and have been for years, so, to me, it’s what makes short stories so fun. They’re so visceral; they’re so fast and so satisfying as opposed to waiting so long to find out what’s happening. I would say, for any of our ongoing elements, nobody needs to see an episode where a character reappears because they get everything out of every discrete episode itself.
DC: How interactive will the Darknet site actually be? After the first six episodes, the series is opening up for fans and other filmmakers to direct or to contribute, right?
SH: That’s one of the things we’re most excited about. Once we get up and running in the new year, people will be able to submit their own scripts or even finished stories or finished segments that can be compiled into other episodes. Ultimately, we’d like to have those play on the website and some of the selected ones would ultimately become part of a TV show and end up on the DVDs that will follow the broadcast of the show. It’s a real opportunity for people out there to start becoming part of the show and make the show themselves. Even though we haven’t put a call out or anything, people have become aware of the show in, I guess, a grassroots kind of way. So, the core of people that are already interested in this type of thing already know about it. We’re not at all set up right now to handle submissions; we really don’t want them yet. We may put out our ten favorite scripts online and get people to vote on them.
DC: I’ll be sure to put a little disclaimer saying, ‘Screenwriters, do NOT send your scripts in yet!’
SH: (laughs) Yes, please. Not yet. We definitely want them; we just don’t want them quite yet!
Darknet is directed by Natali, Hoban, Brett Sullivan (“Orphan Black,” Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed), Rodrigo Gudiño (The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) and newcomers Anthony Scott Burns and Jeremy Ball. The writers are Natali, Pascal Trottier, Doug Taylor (Splice), James Kee, Randall Cole (388 Arletta Ave) and Sarah Larsen. Darknet is executive produced by Vincenzo Natali and Steven Hoban, producers are Jensenne Roculan, Mark Smith (Haunter, 388 Arletta Ave), Paul Rapovski (Lost Girl) and supervising producer Kana Koido.
To learn more about this mysterious project, “like” Darknet on Facebook!
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