In the years leading up to my momentous move to Los Angeles, word spread about a writing contest looking for scripts to be considered as part of an anthology Science Fiction series called Dark/Web. I was thrilled to learn that my script was one of the few that became semi-finalist.
Since then I have been tracking this series with the regularity of a GPS. Thankfully, the wait is over! Dark/Web will be released July 19th, 2019 exclusively on Amazon Prime in the US and UK.
I’m glad I moved to LA, because of that I was able to interview Allison Vanore in person. Not having technology between us was especially welcomed since Dark/Web is a cautionary tale on the trappings of tech. There we were, face to face, with a well earned Emmy award perched behind Allison’s right shoulder.
Curt Wiser: How would you describe Dark/Web?
Allison Vanore: it is a sci-fi anthology series about a woman who suddenly disappears. She has left a trail of clues for her friends and contacts, who are now tasked with searching for her. In doing so, we experience all these sub-stories, that are about the Dark Web and technology and the horror that comes with the increase in access that we all have online.
CW: How did this series come about, and how did you become a producer on it?
AV: I wasn’t involved from day one. I was referred to some of the other producers, Michael Nardelli and Mario Miscione who are co-creators of the show and have written-directed pieces of the anthology. They approached me because, like Circle [a feature Michael and Mario made together], it was a smaller indie project that grew to be a lot bigger, in a good way. So I have a lot of experience with bigger projects and filming in LA.
They wanted to bring someone on who could help them manage a project that kept expanding. I jumped on board in time to work with them on three of the pieces that they haven’t shot yet, [the episodes] “Transplant” “Hacked” and “Viral”. Then we did more shoots for the A-Story as well.
CW: I noticed a lot of prominent actors were involved with Dark/Web, how was it working with these actors and what can you tell us about casting?
AV: Some of the casting needed to be done for those pieces when I came on board. So it was really fun to see who we were able to get for these B-Story roles. We got recognizable cast members in each of them. That was really fun, working with Robert Davi, Duane R. Shepard Sr. and Dora Madison, they were all great. They were all one hundred percent in, and gave their all. I’m sure you’ll see that when you watch it.
CW: Full Disclosure for our readers I did write a script that was a semi-finalist for the Dark/Web contest. What were they looking for in these scripts and what led to deciding on the winning script “Hacked”?
AV: I wasn’t heavily involved at that time, I came in later. But what I do know is the producers and creators of this show were really passionate about having great stories that were dark, twisted and enhanced the overall story. I know that the process for them, was a difficult one.
Hacked coming out of it, I felt was a really good choice and working with that team, was really fun. [Hacked] definitely feels like it is part of the overall story. Michael, Tim and Mario, their passion and enthusiasm for making the show as awesome as it can be, comes through in their choices…. with the script, and with the people that were involved.
CW: Some may compare Dark/Web to the Black Mirror series. Were any of these shows an influence at all?
AV: I believe so. There’s an un-ending pit of ideas that can come out of our fear of the unknown, and technology. It’s a human thing to fear those things, but to also be incredibly intrigued by it. I think that’s why there’s such an interest in these types of stories, especially right now, because we as a society are grappling with those questions.
How much is too far? How do people take advantage, all the criminals out there. It makes sense to me, that we’re seeing stories like Dark/Web, like Black Mirror because of the place and time we are in right now.
(Allison’s well phrased answer, filled my head with thoughts about this topic, Moore’s Law and all. This was the follow up that I came up with in the moment.)
CW: Yeah, it definitely is a common part of our life, and technology moves so fast, that is part of it too.
AV: Exactly, it’s like this uncontrollable thing. We’re on this train, it’s moving, and there’s really no stopping it. And that’s why it’s a little scary. It’s like, how do we harness it, even a little bit. How do we protect ourselves?
CW: Scary, yet convenient.
AV: Yes, we buy into it. It makes our lives so much easier…. but what do we give up?
(That was a fun rabbit hole to go down. I’m glad we elaborated. Now back to our regularly scheduled interview.)
CW: What makes Dark/Web unique from other shows of this type, is the character who is a constant narrative thread, who connects these episodes together. Can you tell us more about that?
AV: That’s why the show is fun, and is exciting for the viewers because there are a lot of clues throughout. If you’re an active watcher, there is a lot to uncover and discover, as apposed to just anthology pieces that have a similar theme but don’t connect in any way. Dark/Web certainly does have a lot of connections. Maybe more so than you’ll even notice in the first watch. Everyone took great effort to embed those Easter Eggs throughout.
(Because I’m old school, when I hear the term Easter Eggs, I think of hidden features on a DVD menu screen. I decided to ask more on this.)
CW: By Easter Eggs you mean elements that connect these episodes to each other?
AV: They connect the A stories to the B stories and therefore, you’re able to start seeing what’s happening.
CW: The Sci-Fi and Horror genres are able to comment on our society in ways other genres cannot. Was this a consideration while producing Dark/Web?
AV: Yeah. Everyone involved was super passionate about the story, and now it relates to the way we interact with technology today. Everyone involved is a fan of Sci Fi and is a fan of talking about these dark subjects, but in a way that entertains as well. It’s like an ode to all the other Sci Fi-technology-anthology tv shows that we’ve seen in the past because we are a fan of those too.
CW: Your Husband Rob Gokee is a composer on the episode “Hacked”. What was that process like?
(Thankfully, Rob Gokee was there to answer this question. So he sat in the hot seat for a minute and here’s what rose out of it.)
Rob Gokee: I knew Michael Nardelli through Allison and then he approached me about scoring Hacked. So I met with Eric Salberg who directed it and Mario who also helped It was fun, they’re all super creative and knew what they wanted. So it was easier for me coming in because there was not a lot of me guessing tonally. We wanted to keep it similar to what the A-story score was going to be, so it didn’t feel it was out of left field.
It was a pretty fast process, I feel like we did a couple rounds of notes and locked it in. It’s an ambient, effects heavy score. Almost like a Horror score, if you were listening to it by itself, you would think you’re listening to a Horror movie.
CW: So the A-Story had a similar score?
RG: They had already shot and scored most of the A-Story segments. The A-Story composer, scored the main and then each director got to pick their composer for the rest of their episode. But they also wanted it to sound uninformed to a point. It was interesting because they let me listen to the other stuff they had, so I had it in my head, in terms of how it lies musically.
CW: Allison, what was the biggest challenge you faced while producing Dark/Web?
AV: For a project that was this ambitious, and because there wasn’t studio money behind it, it’s always the trick of having enough people to do the work that’s necessary. When I came on board they had already shot a portion of it, and we had to bring the team back together. And to have it match what had already been done.
In a few instances, that meant rebuilding a set that had already been used in the past. Using lots of reference images, lots of things to figure out, how do we make this look exactly the way it did when we shot. It’s just about keeping that same consistency of the craft throughout from beginning to end.
CW: Was this set that was rebuilt from an earlier episode?
AV: Yes, from the A-Story. It’s fun and it’s not fun to do. It’s a different type of challenge.
CW: It is a struggle for film and TV shows competing against all the other content these days. How do you feel Dark/Web will stand out from the crowd?
AV: I have been impressed with all of the talent that went into making the series. I think it’s come together so nicely, and it’s going to be right up there with the other shows people are watching. There is certainly a risk when you are making something outside of the studio system, that you might have quality suffer because there’s not huge budgets involved, but you’re not going to find that in this. Nothing was ever “Okay that’s good enough,” that was never the answer, the answer was always we want it to be the best, and you’ll be able to see that.
CW: With this first season, you are releasing 8 of the 14 episodes that were produced, what are the plans for the other episodes or future seasons of Dark/Web?
AV: I can’t really talk about anything beyond the eight. We all love to binge stuff, you’ll be satisfied binging these eight episodes. It will be a lot of fun, a whirlwind for sure.
CW: How long are each episode?
AV: They range, some are a half hour, some are longer. That is the nice thing that we get with the digital streaming technology, that we are not held to specific broadcast standards with timing, in that way. So the episodes could breath a little bit, and be the length that they needed to be.
CW: What question do you wish I would ask about Dark/Web? Now is your chance to answer it.
AV: I don’t know if it’s a specific question. For me it’s the behind the scenes secrets and the way we were able to pull off something that looks really high quality. That’s always the movie magic part of things. The scenes like, you would never know we weren’t in a real hospital. We definitely used our spaces and resources to the max. We used every corner, of every space available to us to create something that felt different and exciting.
I for one am ready to get my Sci Fi anthology fix on, the bots tell me you are too. Be sure to watch Dark/Web on Amazon starting July 19th, 2019. If you need more reason, Dark/Web features a cast that includes Sibongile Mlambo (“Lost in Space (TV)”, “MacGyver (TV)”), Julie Benz (“Dexter (TV)”, “Rambo (2018)”, “Saw V”), Clare Kramer (“The Rules of Attraction”, “Tales of Halloween”), Nicholas Brendan (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV)”), Gabriel Luna (“Terminator Dark Fate”, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV)”), and Michael Nardelli (“Circle”, “The People vs. OJ Simpson”)
This stellar cast also includes: Hannah Marks (“The Amazing Spider-Man“), Zelda Williams (“Teen Wolf (TV)”), Robert Davi (“Die Hard”, “The Expendables 3”), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (“Funny Games”), Hayley Marie Norman (“Top Five”), Dora Madison (“Friday Night Lights (TV)”), Molly Hagan (“Sully“, “True Detective (TV)”), Cassie Thomson (“The Alienist (TV)”), Amin El Gamal (“Prison Break (TV)”), Lana McKissack (“Shameless (TV)”), Brian Elerding (“Mad Men (TV)”), and Noemi Gonzalez (“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”, “Rosewood (TV)”).