SURREY — When J.S. (or Jesse) Oliver was a tyke and discovered that grownups have jobs, he yearned to be a zookeeper. But as fate would have it, that all changed when he saw a short movie about the making of Star Wars: A New Hope, and realized that movies don’t just appear, they’re made by people.
“Let someone else ride the giraffes, or whatever zookeepers did, I was going to be a filmmaker,” recalled the Surrey-raised Oliver.
More than two decades later, Oliver is full-on into filmmaking, and his latest project involves a core group of pals who also went to school at Kwantlen Park Secondary.
They’re planning to make a film series called She Sees Beyond, and they need a little help.
The episodic show, billed as equal parts The X-Files, The Twilight Zone and classic ’80s horror, begins filming in October, in Surrey and other places in the South Fraser region.
“There are about four people in this who are Kwantlen Park grads, and the rest of them I met at university, at SFU,” explained Oliver.
“Itʼs a bit surreal to think of all the work our team has put into this,” he added. “Even though we are where we are, our roots are in the suburbs of Surrey, and there is forever a part of us that is just a group of kids running around Guildford and Whalley with a mini-DVR camcorder.”
Other key people involved in the creation of She Sees Beyond include actor Adam Slamang, series lead Emily Bandel, editor Daniel Jeffery and line producer Mark Rathgeber.
Together, the team is working to raise funds to create the series, in an Indiegogo campaign that runs until the third week of August.
So far, they’ve generated close to $2,000 in capital – just five per cent of the $40,000 goal for the crowdfunding campaign, which involves “perks” for donors, including “Your Name on Screen” (a $5 donation) to “Executive Producer Credit” ($2,500).
“The fundraising part is kind of a different side of the brain I’m not used to working, so I’m figuring that out on the fly,” Oliver admitted. “But the creative stuff is what I’m working on. Tomorrow we’re having our first table read with the actors, the entire script, and whenever we have spare time, we’re working on this.”
The ultimate goal is to have She Sees Beyond added to a video-on-demand service, such as shudder.com.
“They’re rather new and take a lot of independent content, so we’re hoping to get it on there,” Oliver said.
A 10-minute promo video for She Sees Beyond is posted on the group’s Indiegogo campaign website, posted at indiegogo.com/projects/she-sees-beyond-tv-film. The project is also online at facebook.com/ssbfilm.
The series is set in the Pacific Northwest town of Pemburrough, where nine children lost their lives to the so-called “Groom Lake Killer” in the early 1980s. As the murder toll begins to rise again, the daughter of a reclusive horror author realizes that she has gained abilities that wouldn’t be out of place in one of her dad’s books.
Things move around her of their own volition. She can hear people’s thoughts. She sees things she cannot explain. She sees horrors beyond our world. Simply, she sees beyond.
The series involves three lead actors and about 25 speaking roles in total.
”It’s exciting putting this together, definitely,” Oliver said. “Whenever I’m not working (as a freelance video editor), I’m working on this. It always feels like I have more work to do on it, but when I take a breath and kind of look back, I’m happy with how much progress I’ve made, and that’s exciting. The script is written, and we’ll film it with any budget we have.”
Right now, with the production schedule in place, time and money are most crucial ingredients needed to make She Sees Beyond, Oliver said.
“The first is more important than the second, but we understand that with bills to pay, itʼs unrealistic, and unethical, to expect the help of qualified people without offering compensation. We can then buy the time that it takes to properly do a project in a way that matches our vision.”
The series is inspired by quintessential aspects of growing up in the Pacific Northwest, especially Surrey, he noted.
“I think thatʼs the reason The X-Files and Twin Peaks, both personal inspirations, filmed in and around here,” Oliver added. “There are memories I have from childhood that Iʼve woven in: the gloom, the wildness, the quiet of the suburbs, the uncanny feeling you get when youʼre walking beside houses at sunset and you see the light fading behind distant, ancient mountains. And then going home and watching a John Carpenter, a Wes Craven, or the scarier Spielbergs – part of you knowing youʼre safe on the couch, part of you scared out of your wits.”