Whatcom County professional filmmaker Wilson Large is moving forward on the next phase of the successful locally-produced and directed adventure-comedy-fantasy web series, Dark Darkness. With four episodes of Season Zero under his belt, now touring at festivals and winning awards, Large is motivated by the support of local businesses and artists to begin pre-production on Seasons One and Two. He plans to expand both scale and budget while continuing to keep it local.
An Epic Journey
Dark Darkness was first inspired by a 2007 serial play by Ben Eisner at Bellingham’s Idiom Theatre (now part of the new Sylvia Center for the Arts). The story is both an odyssey and an homage inspired by some of the best science fiction/fantasy comic books, board and video games, and films. “I call it Saturday morning cartoons for the YouTube generation,” explains Large of Season Zero.
The web series follows four flawed but powerful “Dark Lords” who must become reluctant allies as they solve a mystery that will clear their names of a murder they didn’t commit. They must ultimately learn how to be friends in order to survive. “The underlying message is that even Dark Lords can be compelled to do positive things,” adds Large.
Large had been immersed in Bellingham’s filmmaking community since before 1998 when he bought the Bellingham video production company, Camcord and Company, which he changed to Camcord at Large.
When the serial play was first presented on stage, Large was going through a personal odyssey of his own. His sister, Autumn Gariss, had been battling cancer off and on since 2000. “Real life in 2007 was a hard time for me and my family,” remembers Large. “Going to the weekly play of Dark Darkness was one healthy way to escape that personal sadness. I was really engaged by the clever, funny, complex characters.”
At the time, Large had no idea that he was about to embark on a decade-long journey of his own. Autumn’s passing in 2008 hit Large hard. “Her way of dealing with the cancer was to never acknowledge that dying was an option,” remembers Large. “She had a child and so many unfulfilled dreams. Losing her inspired me to go after my own dreams because she couldn’t. Since then, pursuing Dark Darkness has been my way to stay connected to her energy, her passion, her desire to fulfill her own dreams.”
In 2011, Large changed the name of his company to Current Media Productions and sold it to local filmmaker Jordan Donovan, who owns and operates it today. Over time, Donovan and Large became close friends. Large continued to make commercials and training videos via his company, One World Productions, all the while writing and developing Dark Darkness and his team of local film artists.
The first episode of Large’s passion project, Season Zero’s “Ronald’s Summoning,” debuted in mid-2012. Episodes II and III came out in 2014 and 2015 and eventually Donovan was cast as Snakeman in Season Zero’s Episode IV “Snakeman’s Solitude,” which appeared in January 2016.
Large’s drive to fulfill his dreams has garnered attention and accolades. Several episodes were screened and won awards at film festivals in Bellingham and Seattle as well as Vancouver Web Fest in B.C., Canada. In October 2016, Episode IV “Snakeman’s Solitude” was an official selection at the 24th Annual Raindance Film Festival in the Web Fest UK division in London, England. Large attended the festival with his wife, Joanna, who also played a sorceress in Episode I. While in London, Large was also a panelist in the Web Fest Panel: Successful Crowdfunding. “It was a big honor. I made some great contacts and had the privilege of pitching to studio executives and distributers. I got some valuable feedback that really improved my pitch,” notes Large. “I learned a lot from my co-panelists while sharing my own experience.”
In November 2016 Large took Dark Darkness to the American Film Market (AFM) annual conference in Santa Monica, California. Filmmakers who attend learn about the industry, network, and pitch their projects to the feature film industry’s global leaders, decision makers, and experts. “Going to AFM was confirmation that Dark Darkness is a marketable product,” explains Large. “The reaction from distributers and production partners was very positive and supportive. It was great to see the faces of marketing professionals light up. They get the material and can see its potential.”
Built on a Foundation of Local Support
Large was confident taking the project outside Whatcom County because of the tremendous support the project has received within it. His local productions spanned the past four years and have involved more than 90 Washington State artists, most residing in the Bellingham area. The project also has included the skills of connected and incredibly experienced Los Angeles filmmakers who have retired to Whatcom County or who commute back and forth including CSI: NY’s Jesse Collver, set designer Mel Cooper, and production designer Garvin Eddy.
“We’ve also secured Mel Damski as the director of either future episodes or a full-length feature,” adds Large. Damski lives in Bellingham and is known for his work directing dozens of movies and hundreds of hours of series television including M*A*S*H (1972), Boston Legal (2004), Psych (2006), and Scorpion (2014).
More than 30 local businesses have also backed the project as sponsors and in-kind donors since 2012. Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro, Bellingham FrameWorks, and Attorney Andrew Subin are just a few of the long-time business supporters.
Planning for the Next Chapter
Large is in the planning phase for the future of Seasons One and Two of the series with a projected budget of $1.2 million. He will pursue fundraising and state incentives for the project as either a continued web series or a full-length feature film. “We have several distributers eager to help us deliver a feature-length version. Their letters of intent will help us as we move forward,” explains Large of the development process. “We’ve set up D4 Productions, LLC and are officially accepting additional investors.”
Several of the principal cast and crew are shareholders in the new venture with 33% still available to outside investment. Large continues to work as a commercial producer and editor via his company One World Productions.
Dark Darkness is also expanding to include much more than a film. “It’s such a big universe,” notes Large. “We’re in talks and developing spin-off web series, a board game, comics, and books. It’s turning into an intellectual-property, trans-media franchise. It’s very exciting for us.” The board game is being developed by Dark Darkness creator Ben Eisner with his brother Tim by their Portland-based company, Weird City Games.
Even though Dark Darkness’ seems to be blasting off, Large plans to keep future productions in the Whatcom County area. “I love the vibe in Bellingham because the filmmaking community here is talented, collaborative and supportive,” explains Large. “We’re excited to use as many locals as possible to dive into the next phase with the Dark Darkness Universe.”