VIU students produce webisodic series

A screenshot from the A Hundred Ways trailer on YouTube.
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On December 17, Odysseus Productions—a production company founded by students of Vancouver Island University (VIU)—releases the first episode of its first production, a webisodic called A Hundred Ways. The company has a total of eight board members, a cross-discipline group of students that includes Creative Writing and Theatre majors.

The webisodic was first pitched by one of those members: fourth-year Creative Writing major Chantelle Nazareth. All but two actors, Erin Butler and Steve Maughan, are also students at VIU.

A Hundred Ways follows Toby Williams, an underachieving college drop-out, played by third-year Exploratory Studies major Stikia Reid. Toby, upon visiting a mysterious tarot card reader, is cursed to die 100 deaths.

“He has been cursed and now it’s up to him to solve his curse before his 100th death. He teams up with an incompetent drunk detective who is forced to help,” Nazareth said. “We’ve also got a medium who tries her best to warn Toby of this curse.”

Nazareth said the inspiration for A Hundred Ways came from the influence of several supernatural shows, and that she wanted to create a series that would toy with the “groundhog effect,” referring to the movie Groundhog Day (1993) in which the protagonist is stuck in a loop where his life repeats itself every single day.

“I’ve done a lot of witches, psychics, and the afterlife so I wanted to put it all together. At the beginning of this semester, I wrote a plot and pitched it to the others and the idea instantly caught on,” Nazareth said.

While some VIU students enjoyed time off during the fall semester study break, the crew of Odysseus Productions and the cast of A Hundred Ways rolled up their sleeves and began filming around Nanaimo. The resources Odysseus Productions needed, such as camera and sound equipment, were available to them through VIU.

“Every single piece of equipment that we have is through the Media Studies Department,” said Patrick Owen, a third-year Creative Writing major and Head of Production at Odysseus Productions. “We’ve been able to shoot a production, as low budget as it is, using the equipment that the school has.”

Before his debut as lead, Reid had only acted in small high school plays and concerts. Upon his audition with Odysseus Productions, Reid was told about talents he didn’t know he had.

“I wasn’t even expecting to get it,” Reid said. “They were very calm when I went in and read for it, and, talking to them after, they said ‘you were the only one we had that was off script.’ I found that amazing since I hadn’t really acted before.”

Owen said Odysseus Productions has other projects lined up after the completion of A Hundred Ways, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

“We already have about a dozen people lined up to take on their own showrunner status under Odysseus,” Owen said. “I’ve got a project I’m currently writing for one of my creative writing classes.”

One of the greatest feats this student-run project boasts is a hands-on editing experience. Nazareth commented on the editing process she and their other film editor, Emir Yasar, use to shape the episodes.

“Emir and I have been doing this on our own time using Adobe Premiere Pro CC. We go about gathering video, then audio. We then cut it up together and place them in the order we want before we insert all the effects,” Nazareth said.

The team of Odysseus Productions and the cast of A Hundred Ways have set in motion a pertinent idea: write or create something that can be produced without a major production company, or start your own.

Odysseus Productions plans 11 episode seasons for A Hundred Ways and the company, after producing more of season one, aims to pitch the series to STORYHIVE, a sister company of Telus that funds web series such as these.