Opting for a small New England garage in a residential neighborhood instead of a Hollywood-style studio, the team behind The Oligarch Duplicity took the indie approach to making their spy-thriller. Coming off the success of the daily News for Blondes in 2006 and 2007, which was viewed nearly 100,000 times a day at its peak, writer-director J. Sibley Law (who goes by “Sib”) wanted to try something new: a spy-thriller webseries. He started writing in 2008 and had cast Kathryn Fumie as the lead before writing was complete.
“We had cameras, we had lights, we had a green screen, and we had the incredibly diverse scenery of New England at our disposal,” Law explained. “So, we created a series that could be shot within those parameters.” However, when it came time to begin principle photography, it was twenty-two degrees (Fahrenheit) and Fumie’s costume was designed for fifty-five degrees. The team persevered, shooting all the scenes with Fumie between February and July 2009. Ironically, it was ninety-nine degrees on Fumie’s last day of photography.
In its original conception, producers anticipated releasing twenty-three short weekly episodes and edited the series accordingly. But, the results weren’t what producers hoped for. Being completely self-funded and tied only to self-imposed deadlines, producers went back to the original script to look for natural opportunities to enhance the work they had begun. “I remember looking at the script and the solution became incredibly clear,” Law described his realization. “Tell the other side of the story about what was going on for the people back home trying to help her, and even show more of her nemesis.”
Hersham Acorn Newspapers, which publishes the local newspaper where the team was based, stepped in and offered their headquarters as the publishing office for the main character. So, additional storylines were written for an ensemble cast. The original story was retold to include flashbacks. And now, a multiplicity of storylines would run concurrently in multiple locations. If there was a motto behind the production it could be summed up: “Local, indie, keep it real!”
This motto was applied most obviously when the team went to construct a scene with Fumie on a train overlooking Minsk. They found indie European travel photographer Izabella Aci. She recommended one of her stunning photographs of Minsk at night. Placing that in the background, the team constructed all the images in the scene and then placed the actress in it. The effect works and Aci’s photograph helps make the scene memorable.
Starting without a distributor, the team plans to initially release the series on YouTube and syndicate through Blip.tv. Additionally, the webseries is supported by a complex and robust website that includes many features of a news paper, including layout and articles from the city featured in The Oligarch Duplicity and a parallel mystery, written by Kristin Santa Maria and Mike Chaiken.
The Oligarch Duplicity releases Tuesdays starting September 21, 2010 at http://www.TheOligarchDuplicity.com.
Produced, Written, and Directed by J. Sibley Law. Starring Kathryn Fumie. Co-Starring Jeremy Funke, John Pyron, Sara Alvarez. Guest Stars include Alexandra McDougall, Jeffrey Sherman Thompson,
Jaspar Law, Joseph Mallon, Tucker Chase, and Wendy Olafson.