Starting April 23, 2014, Riverside County PBS affiliate KVCR is running one Freelancers episode at 845pm PST every Wednesday for five weeks, following episodes of BBC's Robin Hood. The independent show, written and directed by Ignatius Fischer, was produced by Witness Pictures in Southern California's Inland Empire. KVCR is available in Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties (ch. 24 most cable/satellite service and over-the-air, ch. 524 Verizon FIOS, ch. 9 Palm Springs).
Press Release - Apr. 10, 2014 - LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Freelancers The Series, a fantasy action adventure show created by Ignatius Fischer, Founder/Co-Owner Witness Pictures, is an action-packed, fun-filled, sometimes edgy, sometimes comical entry in the fantasy genre. Respectfully acknowledging popular fantasy entertainment like Game Of Thrones and Lord Of The Rings, Fischer and the team at Witness Pictures have infused the genre with a light-hearted tone "similar to Raiders Of The Lost Ark," Fischer says. "[The show] is specifically not a spoof," remarks Brian Dillon, Co-Owner Witness Pictures, series producer. "There are a lot of micro-budget fantasy series out there, but a large percentage of them are spoofs of the genre, presumably due to the perceived costs of producing a serious costume drama. We considered the lack of budget as a challenge to create a believable world with a real sense of scale. We’ve tried to create a genuine epic quality."
Freelancers is set in a world evocative of Dungeons & Dragons and Game Of Thrones. Inspired by fantasy literature, role-playing games and the web series "The Guild", the filmmakers set out to create a show featuring fast-paced, action-packed storytelling that specifically foregoes the fantasy tropes of prophecies, sagas, and saving the world. True to its title, the show features flawed characters with extraordinary talents just trying to survive.
In Season One, two mercenaries stumble across a thief who has stolen an artifact from a powerful sorcerer and quickly find themselves on the run from just about everyone. Eager to turn her in for an extravagant reward, Nick the Bold (swashbuckling warrior, played by Nicholas Givanio) and Ivan Strang [sic] (constantly mind-expanding wizard, played by Ivan Borntrager) fend off rival bounty hunters in order to keep Caitlin Marcks (rapier-wielding cat burglar, played by Caitlin Geier) alive long enough to be able to collect on their “investment”.
Complicating matters, Nick may be falling for his prisoner while Ivan may be falling (again) for his nemesis, his sorceress ex-girlfriend Kristian the Shadowbinder (played by Holiday Kinard). Populated with a wild range of misfits, rogues, royalty and wizards, the show rockets between short scenes of comedy, combat and conflict, including several surprising set pieces accompanying the typical warriors-in-the-woods environs.
Produced in the Inland Empire by Witness Pictures, the deceptively small crew shot most of the show off the Ortega Highway west of Lake Elsinore and in Murrieta, with certain sequences shot in Hemet, Palm Springs and Riverside. Utilizing local talent, including live steel fighters, wardrobe designers, actors, Hollywood stunt choreographers, sharp graphic design, concept art and matte painting by co-producer Bimal Gorajia and digital visual effects by co-producer Derek Nickell and the amazing Oregon-based visual effects team at RefugeVFX (Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars The Clone Wars, NBC’s Grimm), the award-winning filmmakers have been able to put on-screen a surprisingly epic world for "a budget in the same range as the cost of a used Volkswagen," jokes award-winning editor and co-producer Bradley Greenwell. The production team acknowledges their steadfast Kickstarter supporters as well, without whom the show would definitely not be where it is today.
Four of Season One's five episodes are currently available to watch on the official site via BlipTV and RogueFlix with the fifth episode (season finale) premiering simultaneously May 21 on KVCR and on the web shortly after. The episodes range in running time from five to fifteen minutes, averaging 9 minutes per. The official site also features various behind the scenes videos, production stills, character bios, story synopses and links to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Tumblr. Lacking large studio resources, Fisch (as the director is known on-set) and his team emphasized production value by putting together fantastic costumes, props, specific visual effects and a shooting method that somehow provides the illusion of a different world.
The director credits his work on over 40 cinematic book trailers with teaching him how to put just enough detail in a frame to convey a different time and place on an extremely low budget. "Each book trailer, which essentially makes a book look like it's already been turned into a movie, required us to create a totally different time, environment, event in the same basic location. We've made Hemet, CA look like WWII Germany, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, the Old West, prohibition-era South, mythical Greece and even Paris, not to mention several sci-fi and fantasy worlds. Working on these projects really taught us how to use the camera in a way to hide what we needed to and show just enough to get across the illusion of another place and time." These book trailers and additional Witness Pictures products can be seen at the production company's portfolio site.
Another element the team credits as having a huge impact on the overall production value of the show is Dave Holden’s score. “Dave worked with us on almost all of our book trailers and the guy is simply one of the most amazing composers I’ve ever heard,” says Fischer. “We’re just happy if we can come anywhere close to the epic level of Dave’s music with the visuals,” adds Greenwell. “He really upped our game across the board.” Dave Holden has worked for some of the biggest composers in Hollywood, including James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, in addition to creating original music with his band Glacier Park. Cassandra Violet, a soul-stirring songstress in her own right, provides haunting vocals for both Glacier Park and the Freelancers soundtrack.
Edited for a web-viewing audience but lensed for the big screen, Freelancers has already received excellent early reviews:
"Light-hearted fantasy comedy/drama with a grim and gritty pulse that beats hard under the surface ... The acting is superb ... characters are fun interpretations of classic fantasy stereotypes."
- Kurt Van Ristell, comedytvisdead.com
"Hallmarks of the project are ... lush locales, pristine cinematography, well-crafted costumes, vivid visual effects, excellent fight choreography and gorgeous musical score."
- Rod T. Falkner, the7thmatrix.com
"Freelancers The Series ... just might be the most entertaining fantasy web series around today."
- John Fuller, techzwn.com
“When KVCR approached us about airing the show after Robin Hood, we were initially shocked,” laughs Fischer. “We’d never entertained the idea that our web series could actually be seen on broadcast television!” The team quickly worked out how to deliver their content for broadcast, which required a frame-rate conversion, creation of four 40-second teasers that run three times per day on the network and arranging close-captioning for the longer episodes. “The fact that we can premiere the season’s finale on broadcast television is flat-out amazing,” adds Dillon. “And it’s a cliff-hanger, no doubt about that. We’re developing Season Two right now, and if you think Season One is epic, wait ’til you see what we have in store for you in Season Two!”
Inland Empire over-the-air, channel 24 (HD)
Los Angeles County over-the-air, channel 24 (HD)
Orange County over-the-air, channel 24 (HD)
Palm Springs over-the-air, channel 9
ATT Uverse, channel 24 (SD)
DirectTV, channel 24 (SD)
DishTV, channel 24 (SD, HD)
Time Warner Palm Springs, channel 9
Verizon FIOS, channel 524 (HD)
Verizon FIOS, channel 24 (SD)
Be sure to check out Freelancers online: