You may have seen Sludgey, a/k/a the Last Barrel of Oil, distributing handbills around Portland on First Friday. Sludgey is the six-foot-tall mascot for an in-the-works web series called Vacationlanders, about survival, sustainable living, and life post-petroleum. Its creators are currently trying to drum up buzz and financial support in advance of their planned Earth Day (April 22) premiere; there will be 12 episodes in all.
The premise is this: In 2012, in response to leaked data about fast-diminishing global oil reserves, Congress passes the "Emergency Energy Conservation Act," cutting off six low-population US states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana) from the grid. All remaining infrastructure in those states is left in the hands of those who choose to stay behind — with "No power. No services. No Internet. No law."
Three years later, a documentary film crew travels into the Unorganized Territories of Maine to film instructive videos with the people now known as Vacationlanders — how-to survival clips. "But," according to the synopsis, "things don't go as planned in a land where everything is different."
Here, the Mainers behind Vacationlanders, Jeffrey Day and Marc and Gina Bartholomew, tell us more about the series.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS IDEA? We were having a lot of fun creating 48-Hour Film Projects together (French Door, The Driver's Seat). The three of us sat down one day in late October and tried to brainstorm about how we could do that kind of work — short-form, fast-paced, highly-imaginative — every weekend instead of just once or twice a year. We started playing around with different genres and found out we all had a soft spot for post-apocalypse type stories. Generally, the post-apocalyptic subject matter of television and movies is rife with zombies, plague, extreme climate change, or what have you. We felt we could refresh the genre by giving our characters a choice and a chance at some positive outcomes within a very plausible and realistic eventuality, i.e., peak oil. We began imagining "life at the end of oil" and how a population, having known nothing but oil's relative abundance, would survive with drastically depleted fuel sources in tomorrow's world.
WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST FUN SO FAR? THE MOST CHALLENGING? The reaction we have gotten from people when we give the premise of the story has been phenomenal, especially from people in Maine's film scene, which is pretty close-knit and highly supportive. The casting call was a blast, even though we only provided a brief sample of the script for the readings. A lot of people with limited or no screen experience auditioned at the casting call because the subject matter of Vacationlanders was personal and important to them. We hope to have roles for them, too.
Fundraising is the biggest challenge of any creative media project like this. It always comes down to a situation where you need money to make the project, but it would be so much easier to get funding if the project was fully realized and people could see a tangible show.