OFF follows the journey of Avery, a misanthropic but brilliant neural-enhancement designer, and Gen, a self-ordained spiritual healer as they navigate the labyrinth of a post-power society. Avery's penchant for escapist highs impedes her mission to find a long-lost love who might hold the key to an infinite energy source, whilst Gen believes she can open a portal to a better dimension by turning enough people's negative energy to positive. Though their agendas and personalities seem irreconcilable, as their paths cross a glimmer of hope shines through the cracks of dystopia...
With humour and relatable characters at its heart and wrapped in layers of stylish cinematography, OFF explores our dependence on energy, our willingness to accept censorship for a sense of security and our insatiable search for meaning, especially after world-changing events.
This world looks familiar but is marked with signs of a decaying dystopia. You can feel the presence 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.
Whilst the fight for control of energy was not a new thing, the Solar Crisis, 4 years ago, crystallised the rise of totalitarian corporate governments around the world. With satellites, transport systems and major communication paths incapacitated by the strong solar flares of a CME, countries and even cities have become increasingly isolationist.
In order to deal with the situation, The Government in London decided that the only solution was to take over complete control over how its citizens use energy. It first decided to halt all animal and vegetable agriculture in favour of the energy efficient production of Food Blocks - nutrient blocks synthesised in a lab. Cities are kept functioning to the most basic levels - pumping a small amount of water, some street lighting, 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. Alternative energy sources are totally illegal under the pretext of poor safety standards of home-made generators, wind and solar sources.
Due to the state of things many black markets have sprung up. There are a few underground markets where one can purchase ‘real food', grown on rooftops or indoor planting systems. People 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.
Aside from homemade battery systems, 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 during the optimistic AI revolution prior to the Solar Crisis. Because their chip-enhanced brain functions heavily rely on the central servers which are running minimal service, the wearers are in a zombie-like state for most of the day. The majority of them are cared for out of sight in dedicated asylums on the peripheries, though some individuals still live in the city, mainly cared for by relatives or living on the street.
The crisis has had a different psychological effect on people. The majority have succumb to apathy and basic existence mode, fulfilling their role as good citizens and social beings through their handheld devices. Some have, however, turned to extreme forms of activism, religion and cults in a search for meaning in this new world.
The Government originated from a start-up founded by tech prodigy, Todd Harris. In it's ascent to becoming the biggest corporate conglomerate, over the years it monopolised all services available to people: communication, food production, housing, water and energy supplies.
After several financially successful apps Todd began buying up various companies and realised he could control every aspect of the way people lived, supported by a stream of data on peoples behaviours and desires. He thrived on the fact that he could control not only how people function in their current lives but could optimise their futures and The Future. He could essentially run an entire society by controlling their thoughts, desires, what they wanted to buy, and who they wanted to be. One of his biggest ventures was Mindstyle Corp - a place where he could create a race of 'superhumans' by AI enhancing customers brains through nanochip implants, and who would in turn depend on his programmers and servers.
After the Solar Crash which collapsed the electricity and technology-dependent infrastracture, people needed a 'leader' they could 'trust.'
Since Todd owned pretty much everything anyway and the state of emergency required a bold move, he was elected and formed The Government. He promised the people he would use his business savvy to help save them and return their lives to normal as soon as possible. People accepted restraints in their freedom of movement and communication in return for basic civic services and survival.
In order to keep order in a transitional society, there is only one news organisation allowed to broadcast and it's owned and operated by The Government: News Org. People are allowed to have a Government issued portable device which operates on their censored internet network. Society has in large adapted to rely on one source for all of their information in exchange for basic supplies and orderliness.
However, there is a conspiracy murmuring underground that The Government is diverting energy in order to build a utopia populated by the tech elite whilst letting the rest of civilisation burn out.
As our two heroines are thrown together to navigate the impending apocalypse, they encounter an eclectic selection of other characters.
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 cognitive machine 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 and multi-faith mythologies. Most importantly she grew up without the inherent sense of fear and insecurity instilled into her contemporaries by growing up in a social media infused environment.
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 access 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 after hearing about the Solar Flare crisis, she felt a sense that time was running out. Now was the time to escape and start her mission.
There’s something special about Gen, something mystical that makes you believe, even a little, that there really is 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.
A brilliant programmer, she used to work as a designer at Mindstyle - a company owned by Todd Harris which started offering AI enhancements for humans five 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'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 three 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's security she loses her access and can't undo the bug and is convinced she has permanently messed up his life and with it prevented a solution to the energy crisis.
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. Though her fear of finding the truth is what really paralyses her.
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 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 the nights when Avery tampered with his nanochip function in a rage, he hasn't been seen or heard from.
OFF explores what might happen if our current political, social and environmental tendencies combined with technological advances are fast forwarded into the future.
Society has become so reliant on seemingly infinite amounts of energy, that we easily ignore the 'power' energy suppliers hold and how rapidly society would decline should those supplies fail. Already today everything grinds to a halt when internet's down for half an hour at work. Now imagine no power for a week... communication systems and GPS down, supermarkets will be empty by week two and transport systems made obsolete. Our dependence on technology for everything we do would mean survival taking on a whole new meaning.
It is likely that someone like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg could take over leadership in such a situation as the tech giants would by then have our lives, and trust, in their hands. And whilst this person might start off with the best of intentions to create a better society through technological advancements, a natural disaster which heavily reduced energy resources, might lead them to divide what power is left unfairly: 5% enjoying innovation, freedoms and old comforts whilst the other 95% are kept functioning to a basic level, and left in ignorance to avoid an uprising. OFF seeks to explore who the power really belongs to in the future... What are the dangerous of putting our trust in the hands of a few?
We also want to explore what people need psychologically to keep going. What would drive us to push forwards and believe in a meaningful society when there’s a clear end in sight? In a world where we are constantly bombarded by things to make us feel a false sense of purpose do we still have an insatiable desire for true, human contact?
Other themes we touch on are information control and fake news; totalitarian regimes and 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 relatable 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 CGI by creating most effects in camera. Lighting will play an important role in creating the moods reflected by a society low on energy but still controlled by technology. The mix of abandoned gadgets and repurposed analog devices along with cultish characters and surreal environments will give the series a unique look and feel.