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 awaiting their weekly Food Block rationing. There's little evidence of natural growth... the city is mostly dark except for the odd street light 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 decided the only solution was to assume 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. Citizens are restricted to a few hours of energy use per day and a specific window of time where they have access to running water. The Government supplied everyone with a device to help track and guide their seemingly onerous existence.
Alternative energy sources are illegal under the pretext of poor safety standards of home-made generators, wind and solar sources.
There are underground markets where one can purchase ‘real food' such as vegetables grown on rooftops or indoor planting systems. People in these black markets trade in energy, for instance a portable phone charger might buy you a couple tins of beans. Several batteries might buy you some hydroponically grown lettuce.
There are also several underground printing presses free from The Government’s influence.
Aside from illegal 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 also heavily affected individuals who had a nanochip installed in their brains by Mindstyle during the Optimistic AI Revolution. Because their chip-enhanced brain functions 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.
The Solar Crisis has had varying psychological effects 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 or cults in a search for meaning in this new world.
Following the Solar Crash which collapsed the electricity and technology-dependent infrastracture, people needed a 'leader' they could 'trust.'
The Government was born out of a humble start-up founded by tech prodigy, Todd Harris. After several financially successful apps Todd realised he could control every aspect of the way people lived, supported by a stream of data on peoples behaviours and desires.
In Todd's ascent to running the biggest corporate conglomerate, he monopolised all services available to people: communication, food production, housing, water and energy supplies. One of his biggest ventures was Mindstyle Corp - which allowed people to design their 'perfect brain' through AI neural enhancements.
Todd 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.
To maintain 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 use a Government issued portable device which operates on their censored intranet.
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 to 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 promising to solve both his dilemmas. The procedure is successful and his project makes auspicious 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. When Eloy discovers 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 nano chip 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 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.
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.
A series of dystopian streets filled 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 and gain an insight into what used to drive her.
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.
Gen finds Avery in the opium den and rescues her from a desperate dilemma.
Waking up in Gen's tiny apartment, which looks like a sci-fi church on an acid trip, Avery is convinced Gen must have been another drugged out hook up. 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 is distracted by some batteries she could steal underneath Gen’s bed. Gen explains her master plan for opening the portal to a better dimension. Avery is dismissive until something Gen says connects her to a personal 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 on her mission to save the last 10 people needed to open the portal and Avery, who follows but has an agenda of her own. 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...