With a vast number of websites, blogs, and cat videos on the Internet, it’s no easy task to capture the attention of the surfing masses from the endless possibilities available on the web. Falls Church-based Philip Cook has, in the face of that dilemma, created a web-based film series to keep Internet users hooked as the writer, producer, photographer, financer, and editor of Malice, a new dark and edgy series filmed at his home in Falls Church.
“We turned my house into a film production studio and had the actors live in there for two months,” Cook said. “It controls cost and the Falls Church area has an interesting community and fun support.”
The web series project was inspired in part by the changing landscape of the film industry.
“By the early 2000s, brick and mortar video stores are gone, so I wrote for the independent film scene. DVD sales have gone dead, so the Internet was what’s left,” Cook said. “I asked myself, ‘How do you tell a story that works on the Internet? How do you tell a concise, mystery hook in five minute chunks?’ I found it intriguing. It’s quite an exploration.”
Five episodes of the Malice series have been released online, each about five minutes long, in addition to a few music videos and promotional trailers on the show’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/malicedownunder.
Cook said creating an attention-grabbing story is key to making a web series work.
“First and foremost, I wanted an experience that people on their busy work schedule could take five minutes out of their day to catch up on an episode,” Cook said.
Cook’s decision to create a compelling narrative evolved into the story of Malice, which he describes as “Juno meets The Shining.” The plot of Malice is centered on Alice Turner, an independent 16-year-old girl with a dry sense of humor. Alice, played by Brittany Martz, finds her family is in danger after moving to the childhood home of her mother, Jesse, played by Leanna Chamish, alongside her sister, Abbey, played by Rebekkah Johnson, and father, Nate, played by Mark Hyde. Events quickly take a thriller-like turn as the silhouette of a strange, disappearing boy appears and eyes begin to follow Alice from the shadows of her home.
“The whole family thing, I think people can relate to,” Cook stated. “It makes the stakes pretty high when you’re fighting for your pesky sister, who you love to hate but couldn’t live without.”
“The things I like most about Alice are the things I don’t, as a person in real life, identify with,” said Martz, the 20-year-old actress who plays Alice. “I think she’s incredibly brave, tough, and no-nonsense. When we were filming a lot of the scary scenes, or scenes where Alice does something brave, the director would look at me and ask, ‘OK, what would you do in this situation?’ and I almost always replied, ‘Pass out!'”
Martz drew inspiration for her character from her experiences when she was Alice’s age.
“Just trying to remember what it was like to be younger and not know as much and be in a new environment with a new school. She’s a little weird and us theater kids can definitely relate to being the weird one,” Martz said with a laugh.
Cook plans to release a new episode about every two weeks, beyond a short break following the sixth episode, and release the entire series by the fall or summer.
“The episodes will get more involved and elaborate,” Cook said. “In my view, as soon as your attention starts to flag, you’re one click away from boredom. I’m trying to keep it from having a single lagging moment.”
The first five episodes of Malice can be found on the show’s YouTube channel or at www.eaglefilms.com/Malice/Malice_Home.htm.