Touch gets its own original web series spin-off this June, with the five-installment drama, Daybreak . Created by Tim Kring with AT&T and ad agency BBDO, Daybreak charts the dangerous journey of Ben Wilkens (Ryan Eggold) as his life intersects with the appearance of a mysterious dodecahedron that’s also impacting the lives of Martin and Jake Bohm in Touch .
Daybreak is directed by Emmy award-winning director Jon Cassar ( 24 , Terra Nova ) who also helmed an episode of Touch this spring. In an exclusive interview with SFX , Cassar gave us some details about this unique web project and his work on the new Canadian sci-fi hit, Continuum.
SFX is also indebted to Zak Cassar ( www.zakcassar.com ) for use of the images.
Interview by Tara Bennett
You directed the tenth episode of Touch this season. Did that lead to the director’s job for Daybreak ?
Yes. Coincidentally, I virtually just finished a Touch [“Tessellations”] when Tim Kring approached me and said there was this project. I met with Ridley Scott’s company, RSA, and talked to those people and it all worked out. One of my [suggestions] was I knew the Touch crew was off [for the season] soon and I said, “The second they’re off, let’s do this thing because I can roll those guys right into this.”
So the Daybreak crew was made up of the Touch production team?
Yeah, it was fun too, because we had the producing team from Parenthood , the production designer from Awake , so it was a really big melt of different television shows and that is fun.
You haven’t delved into the world of webseries much so what was it about Daybreak that wooed you into the medium?
First of all when Tim Kring is involved and Ridley Scott’s company is involved right away there’s a calibre there you can count on. I also realised that AT&T and BBDO, the ad agency, they really had an inkling to do something really big and really special. Put it this way: I said to them, “If you guys want to do something that looks like an episode of 24 then I can do that.” We put it together that way and that was always my thought process behind it. Quite honestly, I think it transcends that because I think it feels more like an independent action film than a television show.
Plus the second they started talking about Tesla, I was in! Tesla’s become the steam punk “it guy” of 2012. That’s pretty incredible so I thought it was very timely that way, also. Amazingly enough, in my episode of Touch we dealt with the dodecahedron already so this was almost an extension of that [episode].
The series consists of five chapters. Was the story approached as one big piece?
The story is great and when you put it together it’s basically a one-hour TV show. When you put it together it’s 50 minutes. Virtually, it’s five acts, which is exactly like a TV show and we put it together and looked at it that way. It’s been an unbelievably quick project and this has been faster than television production.
Recently you directed the first two episodes of the new Canadian sci-fi series, Continuum , about a detective (Rachel Nichols) from 2077 trapped in present day Vancouver. Sci-fi TV in Canada ( Forever Knight, Mutant X ) was your domain for a while. Was it nice to go back?
I did have a sci-fi background in Canada so I went back to re-examine that. I love Rachel (Nichols) and she was wonderful to work with on this. And then Simon Barry, the creator, was great. All the guys up there put together a really great project and kind of let me do my thing. They gave me freedom and I was very happy with the first two episodes. And Canada was too because it did unbelievable numbers.
Kiera Cameron (Nichols) is from 2077 so what were the creative discussions about how to portray that future in the series?
We had a lot of conversations and a lot of meetings about what the future was, so everything had a reason. It wasn’t just about “Hey, let’s make a cool coffee cup!” It was all really thought out, about what the transportation would be and the fact that the cities have flooded, with the waters rising the way they are. I thought it was really smart and maybe not a lot came through in the first episode but it doesn’t matter because just having that back story to explain why the characters are doing what they’re doing in the world they live in just made it wonderful. Simon has a really great handle on all that stuff and he’s put together a wonderful show.
You were the producer/director on 24 and most recently for Terra Nova . Are you looking to find a new permanent show home for the upcoming season?
Well quite honestly I’ve been offered quite a few as a regular producer/director but I’ve decided not to go back to that because it’s a full-time job, not that I’m complaining. But for the last two or three years, I’ve been developing so many different television shows and features and some are realistically getting close to getting made so I’m holding out a little bit to see what happens with those. In the meantime, I’ll probably be doing single [television] episodes here and there are a couple of sci-fi ones involved.
New episodes of Daybreak premiere on Thursdays in June.