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. Guided by symbols from a science fiction novel she considers her bible, Gen believes she needs to save 10 more 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, the harsh effects of climate change and a loss of order and civic behaviour. 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...a rusty old sign that reads 'Pussy Police Off Duty- Enter at Your Own Risk'... the streets are mostly dark except for a few street lights and a dim lamp emanating from an apartment block.
After a sun flare 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). Each household is allowed one lamp which they can keep on for 5 hours a day and are allotted a specific window of time where they have access to running water. Beyond that everyone gets 60 minutes of 'other' energy use per day. They can decide how to spend these 60 minutes however they like. Some might choose to spend their 60 minutes a day watching old home videos or listening to a favourite band on a record player. All travel has been 'temporarily' banned and there is currently no communication allowed outside zoned areas. There have been cases of unequal distribution of energy rumoured.
This so-called Government is more of a corporate conglomerate grown from a former kid media mogul. It has 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 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.
As soon as The Government announces that the world can no longer sustain itself and there will be a complete shutdown of all energy supplies in 10 days - a countdown clock appears on the top of everyone’s device screen. If there was any semblance of order before there definitely isn’t now.
The Government also announces there will be no more Food Block distribution and instead people can pick up their free Escape Pill to help them leave this world peacefully and quickly.
Our series opens with The Announcement being made. Each subsequent episode is a countdown day to the end of the world. We watch as the world starts to shut down bit-by-bit, the lights literally going out... and explore what people do to survive in a world that is due to end soon.
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, a self ordained faith healer
Gen left home when she was 16. Her parents were overbearing and overprotective. They were so fearful of the outside world they made her live underground in a bunker sheltered from any 'dangerous' external influence. Bored and lonely as a child she always felt she had a greater calling in life. She knew there had to be something more to this world than her four irons walls.
One day whilst staring at the ceiling, a leaflet for a music gig fell through a crack in the entry way. Entranced by the colourful pictures, and the thought that there was something greater out there, she took it as a sign. The next day she ran away from home and met the lead singer in the band and fell in love. He was part of the Happy Faith Healers who believe that if they save enough people a magical portal will open to a better dimension. This guy and his beliefs gave her a sense of purpose in what otherwise felt like a purposeless world.
She eventually broke up with the guy but carried on with her mission of saving people. She now lives alone in a small squat. Her tiny apartment is messy and cluttered with tacky religious paraphernalia- testamints (religious mints), plastic icons, neon candles in various states of melted-ness, a blanket with a cross embroidered on it draped over her small bed. In one corner there's a makeshift pulpit she's fashioned out of cardboard and gold spray paint. On another wall there's a chart indicating how many people she needs to save before the world ends. It’s an intricate mess, something you would see on the walls in a detective’s office trying to link an entire crime syndicate.
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 curmodgeongly 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 to humans ten years ago. The AI enhancement process involved implanting a nanochip into a person’s head allowing their brain to learn and grow beyond it's natural capability by accessing a vast central server. Think of it as having a mini computer living in your head which is continually teaching itself from the masses of web-based information. Minstyle Corp's programmers were constantly creating updates and looking for ways to improve the chip's capabilities.
After ‘the love of her life’ dumped her two years ago Avery, hacked the nanochip of her ex-girlfriend, rendering her unable to open up to anyone else. She was later discovered by one of her colleagues and got the sack. Even if she wanted to she doesn’t have access to change the code and she’s convinced it messed up her life.
The rationing of energy has also affected the nanochip servers, rendering AI-enhanced individuals incapable for most of the day as they have become so heavily reliant on the data stream. The worst affected have been placed in secret mental asylums to hide the The Government's shortcomings.
Despite the fact that she won’t admit it openly, Avery wants to find her ex to ask for forgiveness.
She’s completely shut down emotionally and has detached herself from the 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.
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 sun flares, 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.
We open on a wide empty shot of an industrial street. The street shows signs of dystopian decay, little evidence of natural life, discarded technology and repurposed analog devices and a rusty old sign that reads 'Pussy Police Off Duty- Enter at Your Own Risk'.
Gen finishes up painting a sandwich board that reads “Free Soul Saving- Get Yours Today” before rushing out the door. Cut to a dingy art deco style opium den to find Avery inhaling from a bong like device full of glittery smoke. As she leans her head back to fall into the most beautiful lucid dream, a giant man with a tattooed head shakes her violently and tells her she needs to get out and not show her face there again unless she has 20 batteries to trade.
Gen walks down the street wearing the sandwich board shouting “Don’t let this End be Your End” as people pass her on the street staring blankly at phones with blank screens. She approaches a homeless guy who short circuits mid-sentence - he must have been one of the AI's.
Avery glides down the street in a stupor cursing at everything in sight. She takes a drink from a puddle on the street. A cat falls from the sky and hits Avery on the head just as she and Gen collide into one another.
Avery wakes up in Gen’s tiny squat, decorated to look like a church on an acid trip - full of crazy brightly coloured religious paraphernalia. She’s built a pulpit out of cardboard and spray painted it gold. There are plastic snakes hanging from every corner and her bed has a dirty blanket with a cross embroidered on it.
As Avery starts to come to we hear a radio 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 also announce that over the next 10 days they will be winding down all power and advise everyone to say their goodbyes and pick up an Escape Pill.
Everyone’s device will automatically be programmed with a countdown clock so they can manage their time accordingly. Electricity usage will now be limited from 60 to 30 minutes a day and will gradually decrease until the last day.
Avery tries to escape Gen's apartment once she realises this isn't one of her lucid dreams. She refuses to believe the radio report and Gen seems completely insane. Gen begs her to stay and says that she can actually help save her. She explains that if she saves 10 more people before the world ends a magic portal will open up and take them into a better dimension. Avery thinks this is all nuts but when Gen mentions Avery needing to find forgiveness from a person whose head she has tampered with, Avery is intrigued and decides to stick around for a little while longer.
The world outside goes into complete chaos. We can hear the sounds of riots breaking out from inside Gen’s apartment.
Gen shows Avery the chart on her wall which is marked with various symbols and links between locations and explains her plan to save the last 9 people. Avery is skeptical and shuts down Gen’s theories. Gen brushes it off with her annoyingly positive and optimistic responses.
Gen needs to visit places where people have given up hope - gambling dens, boozers, places people go to forget the state of things and which the positive sides of humanity have long deserted. She references her book 'Marla Goes to Mars' as a sort of bible which contains clues to help her find the people she needs to save.
Knowing there are only 9 days left, Gen convinces Avery to head out on the first mission. Avery tags along with the hopes of finding more Twinkle Dust to score or batteries to trade. They make their way up a derelict staircase and Gen knocks on a door. The episode ends.
The rest of the series follows Gen and Avery as they try to track down the people on Gen’s list. 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 others propel each other.
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 of Gen's former group. They have turned from altruism to a completely self-centred philosophy. The members are starving themselves to feed the leader (Gen's ex-boyfriend) 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 girl 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. Society would need to learn new/relearn old skills.
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? Where do people find meaning and a sense of purpose when everything seems futile?
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 limits of Artificial Intelligence - it’s still biased depending on who ‘curated’ the information.
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 too heavily on 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.