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Starring Cameron Daddo, Vince Colosimo, Rachel Carpani and Georgie Parker, Scorched is a telemovie – and part of an evolutionary project that represents the most sophisticated and comprehensive cross-platform presentation yet created for a movie in this country. The interactive online component, directed by Marcus Gillezeau, launches online this week (beginning Aug. 11), leading up to the 90 minute telemovie, directed by Tony Tilse, broadcast on the Nine Network about eight weeks later. And then for sale on DVD. Read the story, watch the interview, start interacting ...

Produced by Goalpost Pictures Australia and Essential Media and Entertainment, in association with Firelight Productions, Scorched is set to revolutionise the way Australians engage with movies on their small screens. A 90 minute telemovie will be augmented by an extensive 8-week online drama series at Scorched TV that will lead into, provide clues for, and ultimately conclude the drama surrounding an ensemble of characters who find themselves engulfed by raging bushfires in a futuristic Sydney that has, due to the effects of global warming, completely run out of water.

Scorched began life as a ”what if” dramatised documentary developed by Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox from Firelight Productions about a fateful day in Sydney’s near future when the city runs out of water. “We took the project to Chris Hilton at Essential Media and Entertainment as our Executive Producer, but as the script became increasingly more a drama project, we were able then to work with Rosemary Blight at Goalpost Pictures Australia as the other Executive Producer,” Ellenor explains.

Ellenor Cox, Marcus Gillezeau and Chris Hilton had previously made a series with the NSW Rural Fire Service, In the Line of Fire, the previous bush fire season, which provided invaluable insight and research for the ambitious Scorched project.

"all-media concept "

“When we started to develop the all-media concept for Scorched there was little that had been done before in Australia that combined such an extensive new media proposition with such a significant television offering as a prime time movie on Australia’s leading network.” says Cox. “We looked at overseas projects and were really making it up as we went along. The knowledge we have gained about all-media delivery through developing Scorched now informs all of our future projects and Firelight has become a leader in cross platform content creation.”

Scorched hooks the viewer in with an intriguing conservation message – the reality of global warming makes the idea of a city that has run out of water seem a likely possibility. Gillezeau and Cox wanted to bring to the mainstream audience’s attention the issues of water scarcity and drought in Australia but needed to find a way of making these subjects seem ‘sexy and entertaining’. Hence the concept of Scorched was borne.

The project presented enormous challenges for the director, producers and the entire production team - just some of the issues to be overcome were how to create a large-scale, disaster movie with an Australian telemovie budget, the need to re-create extreme weather conditions, including bushfires; and the requirement for an enormous cast of lead actors and extras with dozens at any time needing high specialised makeup and wardrobe teams.

A tremendous amount of pre-planning in terms of look, design and special effects gave the production courage to push hard to get as much of the action on camera as possible; while there are some computer-generated effects, they generally for enhancement only.

What Tony Tilse and the producers hadn’t counted on was the weather – during pre-production early this year, it began raining in Sydney and didn’t stop. “We had hoped that it might have been a hot summer and potential for hazy days but, unfortunately, it was like Ireland. Everything became green, the trees were blossoming. So location choices had to quite specific. We then did a lot of tests with grading to see how much we could make green grass and green trees look a bit parched and what the art department could do to help. Thankfully for the effect of smoke and haze, overcast days were quite good for us. So if it was overcast, it was great, but if it was actually raining, it was a problem. But in the end, having said that, we shot a whole day in the pouring rain and it still looks really good. So, you just do every trick you can to keep shooting.”

Tony adds that the rain also contributed, in a positive way, to a sense of chaos and controlled panic he deliberately engendered on set in order to help prepare the actors for the intensity of the bushfire and hospital scenes.

"a challenge, multi-platforming pushed all the boundaries"

If producing the telemovie posed a challenge, multi-platforming pushed all the boundaries. “As a filmmaker,” says Gillezeau, “it was a huge challenge to get to grips with the technicalities of the net … we had to understand it at a very high level. Specifically the biggest challenge was how to serve the media to the public, because streaming is very expensive. And the more popular it is, the more expensive it is.”

Firelight plumped for blip.tv, which is a sophisticated version of YouTube. “Their content management system enables us to integrate the system into our website, and offers remarkable quality,” says Gillezeau. With blip.tv being an advertising business model, the cost of streaming is not an issue, as it is borne by blip.tv. “And they claim they can handle a million viewers worldwide,” adds Gillezeau.

The extended world of Scorched, via the on-line drama at www.scorched.tv features up-coming actors Kate Bell and Zachary Garred. The on-line episodes will begin several weeks before the television broadcast and will continue afterwards.

“Once you enter Scorched TV you can follow a serialised drama (60 minutes of 2-3 minute webisodes) which unfolds on a daily basis. The prequel drama takes the viewer right up to the very first scene of the telemovie. You can correspond and receive emails back from characters who exist in the future and watch faux news reports which involve all of our telemovie cast,” Marcus explains.

“Web enthusiasts will be able to participate in an interactive conspiracy style investigation which will arm them with bonus material to enjoy one of the unfolding storylines in the telemovie.

“After the broadcast the drama continues with the sequel to the online story and continuing news reports. What happened on the fateful day? Why did it happen? What will happen to our main characters Cassie and Jade?

“The audience can then participate in forums to discuss how realistic the scenarios being presented to them were. Throughout the whole engagement with Scorched TV our audience can at any time use the site as a portal to other sites and forums where the themes and topics such as global warming, environmental sustainability, water scarcity etc are discussed.”

"a very ambitious and completely integrated project"

Producer Ellenor Cox describes the production process: “We linked these two aspects of Scorched – the television drama and the on-line component – incredibly well so that when we were shooting the telemovie, we would also have opportunities to film our cast for the online experience. Likewise, we were able to get cameos from some of our online characters in the telemovie as well. It’s a very ambitious and completely integrated project and that’s very exciting.”

The main portal is CPN News, a futuristic 24-hour live news station broadcasting stories from 2012. Our CPN news anchors guide the audience through the headline stories of the week focusing attention on how the ongoing drought and water scarcity across Australia has permeated all aspects of life as we know it. CPN’s main reporter is Susan Shapiro who features in the tele-feature. Many of Susan’s interviews are with characters who we also meet again in the film.

CPN also points viewers to their featured viewer of the week – Cassie Hoffman, an 18-year-old girl living in Bourke who has become obsessed with diarising her life on her website ‘Cassie Has Dreams’ to compensate for the loneliness of being one of the few remaining teenagers left in her dying town.

Frequently in the weeks leading up to the telemovie on Nine, Cassie posts a new 2 – 3 minute drama on her website. Little does she realise at the start of this journey that her life is about to take dramatic turn for the worse which will include kidnapping, murder, water theft and organised crime. During a frantic dash to Sydney, she finds herself becoming inextricably linked to the events in the film.

Cassie increasingly suffers from bad dreams and premonitions and, as the days tick down towards the broadcast, these visions become stronger and more frightening. Something terrible is going to happen in Sydney and somehow Cassie and her boyfriend Jade are there in the midst of it, ending up in pivotal moments of the telemovie.

As the credits roll a ‘to be continued online’ prompt appears. CPN News is reeling from the disaster that has struck Sydney and Cassie and Jade realise that they hold crucial evidence that implicates people at the highest levels …

"Scorched experience"

And consumers will be able to buy the entire Scorched experience on DVD immediately after the telemovie – online, of course, at www.scorched.tv

Published August 14, 2008

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Brittany Byrnes in Scorched (telemovie)



Andrew L. Urban’s in-depth interview with Marcus Gillezeau at the AFTRS CSB - The Knowledge


Kate Bell as Cassie Hoffman in Scorched (online)

Vince Colosimo and Kathryn Beck in Scorched (telemovie)

Firelight Productions won the Award for Innovation in Rich Media Content at the Content and Technology Awards held in Sydney on July 22, 2008, for SCORCHED

Co-directors of Firelight Productions, Ellenor Cox and Marcus Gillezeau, who engineered the cross-platform delivery of Scorched over 2 years, are enthusiastic screen content creators with all-media capabilities who are at the cutting edge of cross-platform content generation in Australia. Their business began in 1997 as a production company specialising in adventure and social political documentaries for international television, but is now focused primarily on all-media projects after the couple identified a considerable niche in the marketplace.

Gillezeau says, “The emergence of new screen technologies created strong demand on content that can deliver across a multitude of platforms. In addition to that, audience interactivity has become paramount to engaging the widest possible audience. Firelight has spent a number of years researching and experimenting in all-media content. Scorched is a breakthrough all-media event that is the culmination of our work to date in this area.”

Scorched is their flagship project, financed by Nine, Granada International, the Film Finance Corp, the New South Wales Film and Television Office and the Australian Film Commission, and developed through the Australian Film Television & Radio School’s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP), Australia’s premier emerging media research and development production lab.

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