Imagine talking about one of your favorite series, when suddenly the creator of the show calls in to join the discussion. That's exactly what happened last night on our podcast, Fandom Access. Riese: Kingdom Falling creator, writer, and producer Ryan Copple surprised the cohosts and the fans by calling in to the show live to answer questions.
According to Copple, the story of Riese did not originally start out as a web series. "It started as a short that I wrote with a friend of mine. And it was really inspired by a lot of personal events, because I’ve traveled a lot, and some anime influences. We took it to Kaleena Kiff, who is the other creator of Riese. We asked her to direct the short and she was like “No, no, no, this isn’t a short; this is a series." So Kaleena and I co-created it into a world. Whereas the short was about Riese herself, traveling with a wolf, it was more of a standalone journey, entering a really weird town and having some sort of moral dilemma that she faced. We were able to build it as a world and a series that had lots of characters to bring it to life and a whole serialized arc that could carry it throughout the show. And it just sort of grew from there, from both of us.
We were actually referencing a lot of [steampunk] before we actually knew what steampunk was, and then eventually I think I found a Wikipedia entry and I said to Kaleena, “This is what we’ve been talking about this whole time. It’s exactly what it is: steampunk.” We always say we’re steampunk-inspired, because we’re not the purest steampunk where it’s more the Victorian era. Instead we see Riese as more of a Dark Ages-Medieval meets World War I time period...It feels very fantasy and medieval, but at times there are certain hints of modern technology. Like when she’s in the hospital there are some very modern things, and it’s sort of the blending of those two eras. And that’s what’s really fun about steampunk, the “what if” of it, just imagining what could be in a different future."
One of the questions a lot of people have had is if the web series will be coming to television. Copple said that there were definitely at least five more episodes coming, but that the rest is still up in the air. "Syfy is definitely looking at it towards television, but right now they're sort of monitoring the online response. So what they sort of gauge, is the views and general comments and sort of engagement, so that's why we've been really stressing people to go back and if you've seen the episodes, watch them again, and if you have watched them and enjoyed it, leave a comment. Because Syfy, I know, is looking at that, and thinking, “Oh people are commenting and saying nice things” and how many views it’s getting. So that will really inform what’s going to happen with the show in the future more than anything else at this point."
Basically, as of now, that means that its fate is up to the viewers. "I think we said on Twitter today, the fate of Elysia is really in your hands. It’s going to be up to you guys to see how many views you can generate as a community and how much positive response you can garner to really stress that, you know, you want to see more of the show and that it’s worth it to Syfy to invest in. It’s sort of interesting that they’re doing this with us, I won’t say that we’re just a web pilot but I think with all the web properties they’re looking at, they’re seeing [what reaction it gets] online and what kind of legs it has for future or other media properties."
Copple does say that Riese is an epic story that won't be completely resolved by the end of the ten webisodes. They always anticipated at least getting to have more webisodes. There will still be questions, and a series would enable them to delve more into that.
They already have part of the future of the story planned out. "We do have a general sense of where the story’s going to go, yeah. And we’ve been lucky that, just because of everything that’s happened, we’ve had a lot of other opportunities to tell the story. We haven’t announced it yet but we have a book deal coming out where it’s sort of a prequel story, it’s all about Riese’s life before the coup and the events leading up to the coup that basically destroyed Elysia.
But yeah, we always wanted to keep a pretty strong notion of where the story was going and what was going to happen just so that…best-case scenario, if anything did happen, we have a plan."
There are also plans for a DVD in the future. "I know in certain territories it’s actually being licensed to them strictly as a DVD, they’re not even going to be releasing it on TV or online; it’s going straight to DVD. I think especially once all ten episodes air on Syfy and internationally we’ll start to see a lot of DVD buildup. More news about things like digital downloads and iTunes or Amazon or DVD sales. Once the ten episodes come on air, more people will be like, "OK now you want to own it; you’ve seen all ten episodes." "
The other thing fans have to look forward to is an alternate reality game for the series. "We’ve talked about it, that’s why we wanted to release the information about the Sect website. That was two-fold. One, we wanted to see what the reaction was to the website, and two, also because we’ve been redirecting traffic to Syfy.com for the time being, since we don’t have episode available on Riesetheseries.com. But we realized viewers might want to know more about the Sect, so let’s start putting that website out some more. And also people are starting to pick up on the fact that there are hidden clues within that website.
Last year we had one going, an alternate reality game...and it was pretty fun to see how many people could delve into the clues and figure it out. We’re definitely looking to jump start it as a way to keep fan engagement up and also provide some more fun additional content."
Another thing people have been curious about, is the decision of using a narrator, as there was none in the original episodes of Riese before they were reedited for Syfy. "The new episodes are really interesting because when we got licensed by Syfy it was their idea to bring in a narrator. And we always kind of wondered how a narrator would work and with Amanda [Tapping]’s involvement we’re actually really happy because she makes it a point not to become a character in the story and not detract from the characters already in the world. Instead her performance is much more one of someone reading a story. Which is intentional; we didn’t want her to become more grandiose than any of the characters on the screen. We wanted her to just sort of be that voice in the back of your head that gives you information that you need to know, or little asides about the characters, without really detracting from your experience of the story, or also questioning what character she is going to be, who is Amanda going to come in as? Instead, it's just, “OK, she’s just a narrator and it’s about the world, and not about Amanda Tapping." "
The reedits were Syfy's idea. "We really embraced it because it was sort of a “do-over.” I think when we first started with the original webisodes that you’ve seen, they were very ambient and sort of building atmosphere but we realized pretty quickly that for a web show that doesn’t really work because it’s not like you’re sitting in a theater and you have to be immersed in the story. These are nine-minute chunks that are being viewed on a laptop or an iPhone and it’s not the same kind of experience you get when you’re watching TV or in a theater. So in our latter five episodes – of which you’ve seen maybe one - they move a lot quicker, and we wanted to bring that quickness to the earlier episodes as well.
So when Syfy said they were looking at re-editing them, we thought, “Ok, that actually works really well, because we can quicken the pace. We can introduce some other characters who come late in the series much earlier and just in general sort of enhance the story that way." "
If the show does move to television, keeping the cast will not be as difficult as it could be. "That’s actually one of the benefits that all our cast that already works for Syfy. If it was going to be a series, it would be pretty easy to coordinate schedules. It would be like “OK, well let’s look at, for example, Sanctuary’s production schedule. When are they shooting and when would be ideal for us to shoot?” And really, beyond Sanctuary, most of the cast isn’t actively in a series right now. Ryan Robbins is obviously quite busy and Amanda [Tapping] is obviously a lead. But besides that, like you guys were saying, Allison [Mack] has stepped away from Smallville. She’s doing a couple of episodes now, I think, as they wrap the season.
But otherwise we have verbal commitments from everyone, they’re definitely keen to move forward with it and they want to continue with the series of it were to go that way. But obviously it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen a month from now with other actors, if they going to get new parts and new leads. We want to keep the main cast as it is but it’s going to depend mainly on scheduling at this point."
Some people have been questioning why Riese is only available thus far to watch in the United States. "It’s funny, digital distribution is not as easy as a lot of people think. If we were still putting these episodes up on YouTube ourselves, we would make it globally available and it would be great. But we wouldn’t see hardly anything. So what we had to do when we were licensed by our distributor, Fireworks - they were able to look at certain territories and license it to them specifically. So Syfy only has a U.S. license and we’re looking at international licenses. And a press release should be coming out very shortly about international territories.
What this is able to do for you, for something like a web show or digital content, is that you can actually get monetization back but still provide the content free for your viewers. And so…Syfy only has the US license but we’re able actually to recoup some of the cost so that if worse came to worst we could then invest that into more chapters or additional webisodes."
A decision on the show's fate has not yet been decided, which is why now is the critical time for commenting on and watching the show. "I think the plan is, Syfy will wait until the tenth episode airs and see how it does, and then I think they’re going to hold their own internal meeting and decide if they want to continue on with it as a show or if they’re going to be done with it. So that’s why we’ve been pushing everyone to try and get as many views as possible now because we want to get that number as high as possible before they have that meeting to ultimately decide the fate of Riese.
So I imagine we’ll know more come December or January. But right now this airing period where the assets are up is the critical mass time. The response we get now is going to inform what’s going to happen with the series in the long run."
To watch Riese: Kingdom Falling and comment on the series, be sure to visit their site.
To listen to the full interview, visit Fandom Access to stream download the podcast from November 10, 2010