STILL: The Web Series is the chilling new science fiction thriller written by Jonathan Holbrook, and produced by Chronicle Factory.
Set in the fictional, picturesque town of Sloughtown, Washington, the series opens on a seemingly ordinary day in the lives of its citizens.
Yet, you immediately get a sense, something is off-kilter as the camera pans to a minister on the street corner hawking a “bake sale for Jesus.”
Soon you are introduced to Mark and John, who are employees of the local print shop. By their interactions with customers, you can discern Sloughtown has its fair share of eccentrics.
As one of the the store patrons describes her weird discovery of dozens of dead birds on her property, mysterious sounds are heard in the sky.
These haunting sounds are harbingers of eerie and terrifying events to come.
Is it the beginning of the end of days? Are aliens invading? Is it a zombie apocalypse, or does this strange aural phenomenon have a natural origin?
These questions remain unanswered at the end of the eight minute pilot episode, but I was left captivated by its mystery. I want to know more about this world, and explore it further.
STILL shares many similarities to the cult hit television show Twin Peaks.
The production values are very impressive, giving the series a broadcast-worthy look.
Shot on location in Washington state, the lush scenery itself is a character.
The cinematography is sensational, with the project shot in sepia tones. The slightly washed-out aesthetic tinges Sloughtown’s quaint veneer with a strong sense of foreboding.
The plotting is tight with the actors delivering very natural performances as the inhabitants of a small, northwestern town.
The overall effect is both chilling and intriguing.
The producers have created a slew of clever viral videos which provide deeper insights into the overall mystery.
I strongly encourage you to check them out on the YouTube channel of creator/director Jonathan Holbrook.
Future series episodes will also debut there.
STILL: The Web Series is a sci-fi thriller that shows a lot of promise.
I am going to extend my stay in Sloughtown. After watching the premiere episode, I believe you will too.
Zombies have long been a popular part of the horror genre, and have been part of some of the most fondly remembered TV shows and films, from AMC’s hit series THE WALKING DEAD, to movies like DAWN OF THE DEAD, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and WORLD WAR Z. Terrifying tales of the undead have also been a huge part of web series, and the new thriller STILL, written, produced, directed and created by Jonathan Holbrook (a jack of all trades, as you’ll see later), is the latest entry in one of modern horror’s most popular sub-genres. Premiering its first three episodes this October on its official Youtube page (to launch soon), with possibly 15 episodes scheduled for its first season, STILL takes place in the small, peaceful Pacific Northwest town of Sloughtown (the series is actually filmed in Arlington, Washington), where daily life is suddenly turned upside down after an unexplained series of electromagnetic storms strike, leaving the town’s residents both stunned - and susceptible to a deadly plague that slowly starts to turn them into monsters. While the show is not currently closed-captioned, Holbrook hopes that it will be in the near future.
The series stars Tim Forehand as local school teacher Gabriel Hayes, who witnesses first-hand the frightening impact that the infection has had on the town’s residents. The ensemble cast also features Chloe Holbrook as Nina, one of Hayes’ pupils who tries to help him make sense of the strange events that surround him and the town’s residents, while she tries to keep herself and her teacher safe from the now-infected townspeople, including Levi (Dave Shecter), a worker for the local company Sloughtown Engineering - and a violent, mentally ill man who threatens all people in his path, including his co-worker Cassandra (Angela Andrews), who somehow is the subject of his bizarre delusion that he’s connected to her by the way she eats egg-salad sandwiches during lunch hour.
Simone Leorin (who also appeared in a season two episode of the popular NBC series GRIMM) plays Luca, the wealthy owner of Sloughtown Engineering who tries to escape Levi’s wrath with the company’s lead machinist Hank, played by Joseph R. Porter, who in addition to being a stuntman on STILL, was also one of Mel Gibson’s stunt performers in LETHAL WEAPON 2. Rounding out the cast is Kael Wagner as Mark, who tries to figure out the meaning of both the storms, and the deadly infection that plagues the town, and Tabitha Bastien as Emily, a waitress at a local cafe who, like Nina, finds herself trying to escape from her now-infected family.
Described by Holbrook as a cross between THE WALKING DEAD and the classic 1958 sci-fi thriller INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, STILL was originally conceived as a feature film, but when Holbrook started watching web series, he found new possibilities with the format, as well as a chance to expand the overall scope of his story of a small town whose people are struggling to cope with the unexplained events that take place, and who end up becoming closer because of them. “(T)here are so many avenues you could go with a web series. You could change the plot; you could stay online and have recognition for a long time, as opposed to when you have a short film or a film, when it’s done, it’s done, and then you have to go on to the next thing. I thought it would be a nice challenge to see where I could go with this web series, and to build a fan base,” he says.
It’s also a series that takes a different and refreshing approach to the zombie sub-genre, one that makes it a rare exception amidst the otherwise violent fare already prominent in movies and TV series. “It’s going to be very character driven. We’re not really going for the gore, but we’re going for the creep factor. We’ll have some gory scenes, but it’ll have purpose. It won’t just be for the gore hound,” Holbrook says.
For Holbrook, a series of bizarre real life events played a significant role in the development of the series. “I had been stewing on it (the idea for STILL) for a couple of years. It started when there were newscasts in Arkansas, it was on CNN or something like that, and a bunch of birds fell out of the sky. I did some research on that, and some people said it was because of fireworks. There were other places where there weren’t fireworks; it was around July 2011. The scientists were saying that it was possibly caused by electromagnetic storms. Electromagnetic storms affect animals with some type of sonars, like birds, because they fly south for the winter, and then there’s the whales and the dolphins.” Even though such events take place in STILL, given the low budget of a web series, some artistic liberties had to be taken. “Obviously we don’t have a budget for whales and dolphins. We might in the future do some fake newscasts and use some after effects, and maybe get a beach or show some whales, but I don’t even know if we will have time to do that. We do imply it on radio newscasts (in the series).”
Producing and filming each episode of STILL was surprisingly easier than expected, given the fact that Holbrook is not only the show’s creator, but also its writer, producer, director, editor, location scout, director of photography, and even caterer. It also helped that he had a very talented cast of actors, many of which he found through the Seattle-based Performers’ Callboard, a message board on Yahoo that posts casting calls for local actors. In addition, Holbrook worked with a dedicated volunteer production crew. that also made the production process run smoothly. However, one key factor in the show’s production - and especially its storyline - provides its own set of difficulties. “With having makeup in almost every episode, it’s a challenge because we have to work around the makeup person. There’s some times when there’s a transition stage with some of the actors, so they’re partly infected and sick. After they go into full blown infection, we have to put the makeup on them for that, and we have to stop production when that makeup person is done. Just working around the makeup person is the hardest part,” he says.
Citing the works of David Lynch (primarily the film BLUE VELVET and the cult TV series TWIN PEAKS) as among his chief inspirations as a filmmaker, Holbrook eventually hopes to have some big names from the horror genre in future episodes making cameo appearances as part of Sloughtown’s undead population, his main goal for the success of STILL is that it will not only be a showcase for some of Seattle’s best actors and filmmakers, but that it will portray the story of a town - and lives - forever changed by a series of extraordinary events. “We’re going to have this subliminal message, which is basically how everyone’s kind of connected somehow. It’s kind of like the red thread theory, because people are going to start seeing that it turns more into a love story, somewhat. If you become infected, you’re still connected to the loved ones, and so they know how to find the people who aren’t infected yet.”
OUTTAKE with Angela Andrew : Dream Sequence