JAMES MORAN - co-creator, writer, director
Seen the trailer for Girl Number 9 yet? Intrigued? It’s a new web-thriller created by Torchwood and Doctor Who scripter James Moran and director Dan Turner, starring a number of familiar telefantasy names (Tracy-Ann Oberman, Gareth David Lloyd) and Joe Absolom of EastEnders fame. It launches at canyousaveher.com on 30 October, but the sites already up and running so feel free to visit and there’s also lots of related shenmanigans going on over on twitter.com/girlnumber9 where you may even find some of the character tweeting.
SFX had an exclusive chat with James Moran and Gareth David Lloyd about their new cyber venture.
How did the idea for Girl Number 9 evolve?
"Once Dan and I knew the basic idea and decided it would be six five-minute episodes, we sat in a cafe and worked out most of the rough beats, trying to figure out what happened next after each major twist. After that, I went off and did an outline, making sure that each episode ended on a strong cliffhanger and had enough story progression. We passed that back and forth a few times, refining it, and then I wrote the script in one long, manic session. It didn't change much from that first draft, it came out quite fully formed. Sometimes it just works like that, thankfully.”
What is the basic storyline?
"Vincent Boylan has just been arrested, suspected of being the man behind a series of brutal murders. But the evidence is all circumstantial at the moment, so they need to get a confession out of him, or they might have to release him. They soon discover that all is not as it seems, and the twisted mind games begin. I can't say any more than that, because we cram so many twists into each episode, it would give too much away to say even one more sentence. And then I'd have to come to your office, get the subscriber list, and travel around the country murdering every single one of them, so they don't blab. Is that what you want? Cause that's what'll happen.”
What are the challenges of writing for the internet?
“Pretty much the same as writing for TV and film. You have a bit less time to hook the audience, so you have to jump straight into the action and drama, but I like to do that anyway, so it wasn't too different. The biggest challenge was making sure every episode had a big cliffhanger, and keeping the pace and energy going all the way through.”
Are you aiming to stretch the format of webisodic TV in any way?
"In the sense that it's extremely cinematic and capable of being shown on a big screen, yes. We wanted to make it as big and glossy as possible, so it looks good wherever you watch it. We've got well known TV actors in it, the music is composed by Ben Foster who did the music for Torchwood, it's a pretty big number all round. As for the format, I think it can be anything you want it to be - you don't have to fit into any time slots, so you can choose one that best fits the type of story you want to tell. It's fun too, because we're able to use other elements of the web to promote it - a Facebook page, Twitter account, and Twitter feeds for some of the main characters, which forms an interactive backstory narrative leading right up to just before the first scene of Episode 1. Obviously the show is self contained, you don't need to follow the Twitter characters to understand anything, but it's a fun extra for anyone who wants to join in."
How was the cast assembled? Were any of them initially wary of or confused by the format?
"Sounds simple, but we just approached them and asked if they'd be willing to do it - we briefly explained that it was a short web thriller series, and they all got it straight away. They were all extremely positive and willing to jump in and take a chance on something new and different. And they were fantastic, they really brought their A game and blew us away with what they did on screen."
Are you aiming to make more? Either sequels or other serials in the same way?
"Definitely. We'd love to do another serial, and maybe a sequel or prequel to this too, if it does well. We all had so much fun making it, it was such a creative, positive experience. The aim is that once this is out there and proves that it can be done, we can get some funding up front to make the next one. So we're really hoping that everyone will get the word out to all their friends - we're not some big TV channel that can put adverts on buses, this is an independent production, so we're relying on word of mouth to get the show out there."
Is web TV the future? Will it give creators more control over their output?
"It's part of the future. I don't think it's going to replace TV, it's just another medium to tell stories on. TV didn't kill the cinema, the web won't kill TV, they can all co-exist quite happily together. The best thing about the web is the speed - we can come up with an idea, I can write a script, and then a month later we're shooting at Elstree Studios with a full crew, in the same place where they made The Shining. It's fast, exciting, we have complete control, and I get to see the whole thing through from beginning to end."
Can you make the next one SF or fantasy please?
"That's the plan – we really want to do a science fiction one next. As long as people watch this and tell all their friends to watch. Otherwise we'll blame you. And your subscribers. And anyone reading this. And anyone else nearby."
GARETH DAVID LLOYD - star
Is it a very different role to Ianto?
"Very. Mattheson is much less worried about his appearance. Quite unkempt."
How did you become involved?
"I was asked personally by James Moran and jumped at the chance. I love his dark scribings."
How did it compare to filming for TV?
"Making a film that is something of a personal project feels far less like going to work and more like creating a piece of art."
Could your character be back in any sequels?
How did the shoot go? Where were you shooting?
“The shoot was great fun and in some ways spontaneous in how we would approach the scenes. We shot at Elstree - Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Shining, Labyrinth. Need I say more. We'll forget Who Wants to be a Milionnaire and Big Brother."
Were you surprised about the reaction to Ianto’s death?
"I was a little disturbed but mainly very flattered."