The following is a guest post by Kim Lessing.
Just about five years ago, Glen Trotiner, a filmmaker who’s had every job from p.a. to producer, and his buddy, Jeff Hephner, a television actor, were in bar in the East Village drunk talking about two of their favorite subjects: conspiracy theories, and fixing the world’s problems.
Somehow, that night, the two discussions became linked and a story that needed to be told began to unfold:
It began with one of their favorite conspiracy theories. Just before he died, in 1943, the 87 year-old reclusive inventor, Nikola Tesla, who had given the world alternating current, radio, radar, and x-rays, claimed to have invented a device that could produce energy from a free and unlimited source, and distribute it without wires or cables.
The device was never publicly demonstrated.
The conspiracy theory claims the device was removed from the inventor’s lab by Government Agents on the night the inventor died, and has been suppressed by the authorities for all these years.
Their story would begin almost seventy years later as two roommates, Jeff, a conspiracy theorist, and Sam, a debunker, go out in search of the one remaining surviving witness to the events of the night of Tesla’s death.
Just as the premise for The 9th Dot was hatching, Jake Wasserman, an ambitious and talented high school student, came to work for Glen as a production assistant. Jake is one of those kids born with a camera in his hands. Glen recognized his potential and immediately took Jake under his wing.
With Jake’s input on the script, The 9th Dot began to take shape (the title comes from the nine dot puzzle, developed by Disney, that tests for thinking outside the box).
The search for an actor to play Sam ended during a difficult film shoot in Maine. Ariel Shafir, who was coincidently, (or not so coincidently) playing conspiracy theorist in that very movie, read an early draft of the 9th Dot and came aboard to play Sam.
It seemed then that the project was ready for take off. Unfortunately shooting was put on hold when Glen went off to Romania to work on the movie Blood Creek.
Luckily, right after Glen returned, he learned Titan-TV, was looking for web content that could be launched into episodic material. Titian, read and loved the script and suggested it be conceived as a web-blog. Each episode would be a short segment of the investigation. The audience would be participating in real time, blogging along with Sam.
Just as the scripts were finished, however, Titan-TV stopped making original content. A disappointing blow, but like any good story, it didn’t end there.
The gang went ahead with shooting. They shot at locations all over New York City, including the New Yorker Hotel, where Tesla had died, Bryant Park, where Samuel Morse had once first shown the world the dots and dashes of Morse code at the very first New York Worlds Fair, and The Engineers Club, where Tesla had once belonged.
Soon, Jake took on the daunting task on editing, and furthered his role as a valuable collaborator. He singlehandedly created a unique look for the episodes, alternating between the handheld investigative footage with carefully crafted animations.
The finished product looks and feels like nothing ever done before; a true demonstration to the powerful content that can be created when passion meets craft.
CBS interactive saw the first three episodes and offered to pick up the series.
But then CBS Interactive was folded into CNET, so the series lacked an outlet once again.
At that point it became clear that if the project would never meet it’s full potential waiting around for the networks.
Five years after the bar stool meeting, the show is finally ready to launch, on August 1st, on it’s very own homegrown website (www.the9thdot.com).
A preview of the investigation is already up on the site, ready to watch. Self-made and self-promoted, it’s been a labor of love for all concerned and its birth is testament to power of interactive story telling in every sense of the world.
In the same way the character Jeff distrusts corporations, the 9th Dot’s creative team Glen, Jake, Jeff and Ariel want The 9th Dot and its followers to speak for themselves,
The cost of energy is still a global problem. The price of gas is still too high. And Tesla’s invention is still missing. There is much to be considered, and discussed and there is problem solving to be done. The 9th Dot is the place to listen and be heard. Above all else, we want to hear from you.
Posted in Storytelling audience transmedia