What happens when the lights go out for good?
A faith healer and a repentant programmer navigate the dusk of civilisation.
What happens when the lights go out for good?
A faith healer and a repentant programmer navigate the dusk of civilisation.
OFF follows the journey of Avery, a misanthropic but brilliant Mindstyle Designer, and Gen, a self-ordained faith healer during the last few days before all power supplies are permanently disconnected. Gen believes she needs to save 40 people in order to open a portal to a better dimension. Avery, a skeptic, reluctantly follows Gen with the hopes of supporting her chase for escapist highs and finding her old love along the way.
The relationship that develops between Avery and Gen and the situations the mission throws them into range from dark, touching to humorous and off-beat.
OFF seeks to explore our dependence on energy, the importance of access to information, our insatiable search for meaning and how people deal with the news that their world is imminently ending.
Set in the not-too-distant future. A world that looks familiar but marked with signs of decayed nostalgia. You get the sense of the brutality of a young totalitarian regime.
Every twenty or thirty blocks you’ll come across a queue of people waiting for their weekly Food Block rationing. There's little evidence of natural growth... the streets are mostly dark except for a few street lights and a dim lamp emanating from an apartment block.
After a CME hit the Western Hemisphere four years ago there have been a series of massive global power failures. Whilst the fight for control of energy was not a new thing this crisis led to the rise of totalitarian governments around the world, including The Government*. Countries became increasingly isolationist as they cut off all contact, migration and trade.
In order to deal with the situation, The Government decided the only solution was to take over complete control of how it’s society uses energy. It first decided to halt all animal and vegetable agriculture in favour of the energy efficient Food Block production (a synthetic nutrient block made in a lab). Cities are kept functioning to the most basic levels (pumping a small amount of water, some street lamps, etc). Every person is restricted to a few hours of energy use per day and a specific window of time where they have access to running water.
This so-called Government is more of a corporate conglomerate grown from a former kid media mogul. It bought up all services available to people, controlling food production, housing, water and energy supplies. There is only one news organisation allowed to broadcast and it’s owned and operated by The Government, News Org.
Due to the state of things many black markets have sprung up. There are a few underground shops where one can purchase ‘real food.’ People in the black markets trade in energy- a portable phone charger would buy you a couple tins of beans. Several batteries might buy you some hydroponically grown lettuce. There’s also several underground printed presses free from The Government’s influence.
There has been a revival of analogue and hand-cranked devices that don't rely on power supply, lending this world a retro feel against a backdrop of discarded electronic devices.
The energy crisis has also heavily affected individuals who had a nanochip installed by Mindstyle. Because their brain functions heavily rely on the central servers which are running minimal service, the wearers are in a zombie-like state during the majority of time. The majority of them are out of sight in dedicated asylums, though you will find some in the city, mainly cared for by relatives or living on the street.
The crisis has had a different psychological effect on people. Over the past several years some have turned to extreme religions or cults. Others turned to extreme forms of activism. Others remain apathetic. Some believe The Government has a secret alternative energy source which they are keeping for themselves whilst the rest of civilisation burns out.
The Government controls everything society needs to function including News Org - the only legally permitted news outlet. It's the amalgamation of multi-billionaire Todd Harris’ many business ventures. He got his modest start by creating an app which noted all the food left in your fridge to come up with money-saving recipes thus reducing food waste and helping people save money. He was once someone who wanted to develop apps to help better the world... but eventually money and power got the best of him.
After several financially successful apps he began buying up various companies and realised he could control every aspect of the way people live. He thrived on the fact that he could control not only how people function in their current lives but could determine their futures and The Future. He could essentially run an entire society by controlling their thoughts, desires, what they wanted to buy, who they wanted to be... the world was his and all of the people his playthings. One of his biggest ventures was Mindstyle Corp - a place where he could create a race of 'superhumans' which he controlled by AI enhancing their brains, who in turn depended on his programmers and servers.
After the CME, people were panicked and worried about their futures... they needed a 'leader' they could 'trust.'
Since Todd owned pretty much everything anyway, he eventually bought The Government. He promised the people he would use his business savvy to help save them. Bit by bit people had to accept restraints in their freedom of movement and communication in return for basic civic services and survival created a totalitarian state. Between his inexperience, greed and need to cater to his wealthy friends this was the only way he knew how to lead.
When the people started to revolt against The Government he created News Org and banned all other news outlets. It was too dangerous for the people to have access to so much information.
It's now been 4 years since Todd's been in power.
As our two heroines are thrown together to navigate the impending apocalypse, they encounter an eclectic selection of other characters in each episode.
GEN, 20's, an ethereal punk, a self ordained faith healer
Fearful of an impending AI apocalypse, Gen’s father, a former big wig tech exec, decided to raise Gen underground to keep her safe from machine learning overlords.
Below the Earth’s surface, Gen learned to grow hydroponic vegetables, defend herself with a bow and arrow and educate herself on all things physics, multiverses and space/time theorem. She also had a soft spot for science fiction novels.
One day whilst reading H.G. Wells’ ‘Men Like Gods’ for the tenth time it suddenly clicked... there must be a dimension out there better than this one. She knew she had to be the one to access it. After piecing together various facts from her considerable library, Gen figured out how she could reach it.
The desire to reach this dimension became an obsession, a religion, her life’s cause. She created her own bible and a set of tenets to live by.
One day when a flier for a music gig dropped through an opening in her bunker she took it as a sign. Now was the time to escape and start her mission.
There’s something special about Gen, something almost mystical that makes you believe, even a little, that there’s something else out there...
AVERY, 30's, a bitter but brilliant former Mindstyle Designer
Avery is a ‘head’ person, believing every problem can be solved rationally. This comes at the cost of allowing herself to feel hurt, disappointment or other emotions that make her feel out-of-control. She has a tendency to bottle up feelings until she explodes. She also believes there is a solution to the energy crisis but The Government is hiding it.
A brilliant programmer, she used to work as a Mindstyle Designer - a company owned by Todd Harris which started offering AI enhancements for humans ten years ago. The process involved implanting a nanochip into a person’s skull, allowing their brain to learn and grow beyond its natural capability by accessing a vast central server. Mindstyle Corp's programmers filtered & curated the vast information stream depending on client, constantly looking to improve their capabilities which also gave them access to their overall brain functions.
After ‘the love of her life’ Eloy dumped her two years ago, embittered Avery hacked his nanochip, thus presumably disabling his breakthrough energy research and plunging him back into manic-depression. After her late-night trespass is discovered by Mindstyle security she loses her access and can't undo the bug and is convinced she has permanently messed up his life.
She’s completely shut down emotionally and has detached herself from the disintegrating world. She's also succumbed to an addiction to Twinkle Dust… a new and highly addictive Escapist drug. She lives alone on a canal boat and when she’s not smoking Twinkle Dust she’s drinking homemade booze she fashions in pickle jars.
Though she won’t admit it openly, Avery's main drive aside from dulling the pain through drugs, is to find Eloy and ask for forgiveness.
ELOY, 30's, a manic-depressive physicist and nanochip wearer
Eloy is a physicist specialising in fusion energy. Convinced that he was on the path of discovering a clean and infinite energy source, the two hurdles he needed to overcome were the slow progress of accessing and digesting the vast amount of research done in this field and the bouts of depression that would render him incapable to work for months on end.
He turns to Mindstyle Corp to have a newly developed nanochip implant that promises to solve both his dilemmas. The procedure is successful and his project makes promising process.
Around that time he meets Avery and deeply falls for her independent spirit. Their relationship lasts two years, during which they witness the CME, making his research more urgent than ever. Conflicts arising mainly from his habitual insecurity about his mental stability, eventhough the nanochip has levelled him out, and her jealousy for the passion he has for his work. When Eloy discovers that Avery works for Mindstyle and has orchestrated their initial meeting without telling him, he breaks up with her, questioning the independence of his mind & decisions.
Since Avery has tampered with his nanochip function in a rage, he hasn't been seen or heard of.
A series of dystopian streets with propaganda posters about energy usage and people in varying states of hopelessness.
An electronic device is alive with the blood of energy. It fades to a dead version of itself.
Gen, 20s, an ethereal punk, finishes painting a sandwich board that reads “Free Soul Saving- Get Yours Today” before rushing out the door.
Avery, 30s, a steely exterior shielding a vulnerable intelligence, inhales a bong full of glittery smoke. She falls back into the dirty velvet pillows of a 2020’s opium style parlour, and closes her eyes as we transcend into her vivid dream…
We catch an intimate glimpse of Avery’s life before the CME hit. Avery is torn from her dream by a giant man with a tattooed head who tells her not show her face there again unless she has 200 batteries to trade.
Gen makes several ill-fated attempts at offering her services to people she encounters on the streets. Her final attempt is a homeless man who can’t form a coherent sentence. It becomes clear to her he must have been one of the neglected AI’s when he shuts down.
Avery and Gen collide into one another. Just as Avery stumbles back a cat falls from the sky and hits her on the head.
Gen searches for her first aid kit when she comes across an old flier for a music gig- ’The Spirit Animals’. She’s transported back in time as she reaches to pick it up.
We get a quick peak into Gen’s life growing up in the bunker.
Avery wakes up in Gen’s tiny apartment which looks like a sci-fi church on an acid trip. She’s convinced Gen must have been another drugged out hook up and as she’s about to leave there’s a loud banging on the door and sounds of chaos breaking out on the streets.
We hear a Government report (via a hand cranked radio) that the last generator has failed and The Government will no longer be able to supply Food Blocks. They announce that over the next 10 days they will be winding down all power and advise everyone to say their goodbyes and pick up a free Escape Pill.
Avery, skeptical, tries to leave Gen’s apartment but notices some batteries she could steal underneath Gen’s bed. Gen explains her plan to open the portal to a better dimension. Avery is only half listening until something Gen says connects her to a personal past memory.
Knowing there are only 10 days left, Gen needs to finish her mission before it’s too late. As she heads for the door she asks Avery if she’s coming with her.
We hear a door open and close. A countdown starts from 10D 24H 00M 00S.
The rest of the series follows Gen and Avery as they try to save the last 10 people. Through each episode we learn more about their back stories along with how the world came to be whilst also watching it slowly deteriorate. In every subsequent episode our heroines need to cope with less and less power and more and more anxiety whilst their personalities at times clash and other times propel one another.
Gen knocks on a door and whispers a password through a slot. They meet a group of activist programmers who are trying to hack and stop The Government via their make-shift generated computer lab. They are convinced an alternative energy source is out there but is being hidden and saved for an elite few who will go on living in luxury after the masses have been weeded out. We learn that Avery is a genius programmer and garner snippets from her past as a Mindstyle Designer. Gen finds the individual she needs to save as he is about to take the Escape Pill. She instills hope in him and convinces him to continue with his mission. Gen catches Avery pocketing a bunch of the activist's batteries, though before she can stop her Avery runs off. Gen searches the streets and instinctively approaches another door.
The door opens to a run-down art deco opium-style den. Gen finds Avery trading the batteries for a bag of Twinkle Dust but is too late to stop her from getting high. Waiting for Avery to awake from her stupor, Gen explores the den to find her next mission. The tattooed brute from Episode 1 is bullying a bunch of addicts, taking advantage of them in their impaired state. Gen puts him in a headlock and coerces him to do some soul-searching - he cries for the first time in decades as he is forced to face the reasons for his bullish behaviour in his own past. As Avery awakes she sees Gen wiping the guy's tears and finds it in her heart to agree to accompany Gen on her next mission. They are hungry and hankering for some 'real' food... Avery takes Gen to an iron door.
Gen and Avery arrive at a black market where hydroponically grown vegetables are for sale in exchange for power sources. We get a sense of the imminent power cut as even the black market is running out of food. Avery has a handful of batteries left which they trade for some lettuce leaves and cucumbers. For them this is a feast of the senses after living off the Food Blocks for months on end. A power cut and complete darkness causes a panic attack in Gen who is thrown back into her childhood experience in the bunker. A riot breaks out. This time it's Avery's street smarts that gets them out of trouble and they hide in an abandoned staircase.
Gen knocks on a door. No answer. Her knocks get desperate, she is convinced the person inside needs her. Avery picks the lock. Gen finds an octogenarian cat lady inside shouting “darling, come in, I didn’t expect you this early.” She clearly has a level of dementia. Gen plays along whilst Avery observes from the sidelines. The old lady reveals she has a cat with whom she shares her last food block and tells them she wishes she could remember her children… So Gen takes some old photos and makes up stories convincing the old lady that these events actually happened, giving her a sense of peace.
We learn about the preferential treatment of certain age groups by The Government.
The girls explore an underground press. We learn about the extent of the information control by The Government and more alernative theories on the actual plan of the surviving elite.
The girls end up in a cult session. The cult has turned from altruism to a completely self-centred philosophy. The members are starving themselves to feed the leader in the promise of salvation. Gen manages to free two members from their brainwashed state and convinces them to join them on the rest of their mission.
They end up in a secret asylum for the AI enhanced people who lost their capability to think for themselves. Avery finds the man whose nanochip she hacked and realises it's too late to undo her mistakes. She has a nervous breakdown and escapes.
Gen finds Avery on her canal boat. They explore Avery's history and a way for her to forgive herself.
The sense of imminent doom is palpable and Gen and Avery are running out of time...
OFF explores what might happen if our current political and environmental situations combined with technological advances are pushed to the extreme and fast forwarded into the future.
Society has become so reliant on seemingly endless energy that we easily ignore the 'power' energy suppliers hold and how rapidly society would decline should those supplies fail. Our reliance on technology for everything we do would mean survival takes on a whole new meaning.
We also want to explore what people need psychologically to keep going. What would drive us to push forwards and search for meaning when there’s a clear end in sight?
Other themes we will touch on are information control and fake news; totalitarian regimes (how in order to survive people will give up a lot of freedoms), the unequal distribution of 'power' and the limits of Artificial Intelligence.
OFF tackles these themes with a sense of humanity and situational humour. Our characters are flawed and sometimes hapless but determined in their own beliefs.
Although high concept this series can be achieved with a mid-range budget. We will utilise urban spaces which already have a Dystopian feel and supplement the rest with our talented production design team. We won't rely heavily on CG/post and create most effects in camera. The mix of abandoned technology and repurposed analog devices along with cultish and surreal environments will give the series a unique and almost nightmarish look.
Each episode ends with the opening of the start of the next mission- keeping viewers intrigued to see what lies behind the next door.