Much like the rise of the indie film market in the early to mid-90s, filmmakers wishing to explore serialised storytelling are taking the DIY approach. They’re producing TV shows themselves, while bypassing traditional distribution modes and releasing their work online. Pioneer One is just one such project.
Pioneer One is a modern day Cold War drama with a sci-fi twist. Something appears to have spread radiation over hundreds of miles of rural Montana, prompting the protagonists of Pioneer One, agents of the Department of Homeland Security, to explore what’s going on. Their investigations reveal the cause was a crashed Russian space vehicle that landed in Canada. By the end of the pilot episode, viewers are left to question just how much the US goverment seem to know about the Cosmonaut, a Russian who may not have been born of this Earth.
For a DIY production, Pioneer One deserves credit for ambition, if little else. The storyline is large in scope and the filmmakers don’t shy away from embracing all the tropes that go along with the genre. Problematically, attempting the genre on such a small budget simply has the show looking like a low-grade direct-to-video effort. The performances are often patchy, offering people who are clearly ‘acting’, which isn’t helped by a cliché-laden script.
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Despite all of its flaws, it is difficult not to appreciate what filmmakers Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith have endeavored to produce. The pilot of Pioneer One was shot for just US$6,000. Considering the budgetary constraints on the show, any problems with it suddenly become a whole lot more forgivable. Further episodes of the series are in pre-production, made possible by monetary donations from viewers and with time donated by the cast and crew.
If you are curious to know what indie television can look like, be sure to check out Pioneer One.
The details: Pioneer One is distributed by bittorrent file sharing networks — more information on the website.