Netflix’s ‘Sense8’ Hopes To Do For TV What ‘The Matrix’ Did For Film

Earlier this year, we learned that Netflix secured the exclusive rights to a new sci-fi thriller series called Sense8, which comes from the Wachowskis (of The Matrix fame) and Babylon 5 writer J. Mich...
Netflix’s ‘Sense8’ Hopes To Do For TV What ‘The Matrix’ Did For Film
Written by Chris Crum
  • Earlier this year, we learned that Netflix secured the exclusive rights to a new sci-fi thriller series called Sense8, which comes from the Wachowskis (of The Matrix fame) and Babylon 5 writer J. Michael Straczynski.

    So far, little is known about the plot, but there’s a good reason for that. Straczynski talked a little bit about the show in an interview with Comic Book Resources:

    “We wrote the first three scripts on our own,” he says. “We specced it out, brought it to Netflix, and the funny thing is we had four days of pitches planned. Netflix was our first meeting at I think 11:00AM on a Tuesday, and then we were gonna go to HBO….”

    By 2:00, he said, Netflix had called and said they wanted the show.

    “The series is contemporaneous with current events,” he explains. “It is somewhat science fiction in some respects. It concerns eight characters around the world, who are joined telepathically with each other, or empathically, and those who are after them and hunting them to try and stop this next evolution. And the cool thing is that we’re gonna shoot this in the countries that the stories are taking place.”

    He said that shooting will take place in Mumbai, Nairobi, London, Mexico, the U.S., Germany, and possibly Russia.

    “This is gonna be a show that will be shot around the world simultaneously,” he says. “We’re gonna have five different units shooting at the same time to tell the story, and it’s gonna be ridiculously huge, and the cool thing about working with the Wachowskis…when they did The Matrix, they didn’t want to do a show like anything else they’d ever seen before, and The Matrix created a whole new cinema language. And they said, ‘If we’re gonna do television, then we have to do the same thing. We have to create a whole new vocabulary for television production…for television, which you can do in TV. And so coming into this, working with them, we’re pioneering some new techniques and new approaches in television storytelling. It’s quite extraordinary.”

    When asked about how they convinced Netflix to put up a budget for this kind of thing, he says, “The international marketplace is a large part of this certainly. We had to come at them with a production model that said we can control the costs on this. We start shooting in Chicago, doing our stuff on set, jump out, blow out the set, jump out to locations in and around Chicago, then we jump out to our individual locations having four or five units shooting at the same time….mainly outside locations….using local production teams – camera teams – so that each area has its own distinct look, and we did the budget, worked it out, and said we can make this for this kind of money, and they said, ‘Go for it.'”

    He didn’t give any figures, but it certainly makes you wonder just how large the budget for this project is. It’s even more interesting to consider in light of recent comments from Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos, who said last week, that Netflix will be doubling its budget for original content over the coming years.

    “Each episode cuts back and fourth though,” Straczynski says of the Sense8 format. “Your anchor is the original stuff you started with on set. That kind of sets your style and your tone…”

    He says each location will have its own look, but the set stuff will provide a general continuity.

    He said he wouldn’t go much beyond that in terms of the plot, because “they like to keep things very close to the vest,” and he supports that. He says that’s why there isn’t much online about the story.

    “What we’re doing is really kind of new and innovative,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to have someone else eat their lunch.

    He did say he’ll be directing the London sequence. They’ll be shooting about three weeks in London next year.

    “Andy and Lana Wachowski and Joe Straczynski are among the most imaginative writers and gifted visual storytellers of our time,” said Sarandos when the project was announced. “Their incredible creations are favorites of Netflix members globally and we can’t wait to bring Sense8 to life.”

    “We’re excited to work with Netflix and Georgeville Television on this project, and we’ve wanted to work with Joe Straczynski for years, chiefly due to the fact his name is harder to pronounce than ours, but also because we share a love of genre and all things nerdy,” said Andy and Lana Wachowski in a joint statement at the time. “Several years ago, we had a late night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us, and out of that paradox Sense8 was born.”

    So far, Netflix has hardly disappointed with its original content offerings, and from the sound of it, Sense8 could its most ambitious project yet. It’s hard to say when we’ll see the first season debut, since it doesn’t even start shooting until next year, but it’s scheduled for sometime in late 2014. It will start with ten episodes.

    Image: Comic Book Resources

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