August Phineas, a World War II flying ace, has just come home to Toronto from the horrors of seeing his brother killed in battle, to discover his fiancé has left him for a one-eyed musician. Just when he thinks life can't get any worse, his medal of honour pops off his uniform and falls down a storm drain. When he opens the storm drain to retrieve it, he slips. He and his medal fall into the Underworld and he finds himself stuck in a world stranger and far more frightening than the one he left behind. To make things worse, his medal, which, it turns out houses his soul, gets stolen by a Trickster. In search of his medal, luck is on August's side when he meets Poppy, a beautiful and street-smart woman, who saves him moments before he is devoured by a three-headed dog. Poppy has spent years in the Underworld trying to find her lost love and her own soul and she begrudgingly agrees to help August find his soul so he can get back up to Toronto. Unfortunately, the Underworld is undergoing its own crisis as well. The new Lord of the Underworld, Eik (along with a large, smelly slug named Lord Dung) and his posse of Slugs are destroying the balance of good and evil, making it doubly difficult to find a lost soul! To make matters worse, the only one who can help is Satan, who has been 'uslurped' (that's right, the slugs got him!) and now he's relegated to bartending in a nightclub called ''Hell". August and Poppy take on the evil Lord Eik, in an effort to retrieve their lost souls. On their quest, they meet scads of creatures from all the world's mythologies, battle an army of slugs, strike a deadly bargain with the devil, survive the Realm of the Elements and negotiate the pitfalls of falling in love. Their final battle against Eik and his army of hungry Slugs, not only decides the fate of the Underworld but becomes the only way to retrieve their souls and return home to the 'Overworld'.
August in the Underworld is a 13 episode web series. Each episode has a running time of approximately 7minutes and will be released on a weekly basis. The episodes will follow the structure of the episodic adventure serials of the 40s and 50s with each episode beginning where the last one left off and ending with a mini cliffhanger. Each episode will also have an Additional Content Episode that will be released a few days after the series episode, to double the content and keep the release schedule full at two new posts per week. Bonus content will include interviews, behind the scenes footage, bloopers etc. and will be specific to the newly released episode.
August in the Underworld is a puppet adventure film with a wicked sense of humour, appealing to audiences who love whimsy, comedy, adventure and romance. Our target audience has interests in science-fiction/fantasy and its sub-genres (such as steampunk), mythology, puppetry and geek culture in general. Both exciting and irreverent, this story re-writes mythology and populates the Underworld with a wild array of unique and surprisingly familiar characters. By creating a world of ridiculous inaccuracies in regards to world mythology, we are able to precisely satirize current politics, pop-culture, stereotypes and societal trends, all within the fun of a comic, romantic adventure. First and foremost, we wrote a story that we want to watch.
With the freedom of scope possible with puppets, we can send August on an enormous journey, limited only by our imaginations. The world of puppetry appeals to us more as the culture of CGI and 3D technology inundates us with special effects. Sometimes CGI results are incredible, but all too often there is a 'disconnect' when digital special effects take the audience out of the story - when a creature or world is suddenly perceived as not believable. The revival in puppetry is taking advantage of this disparity because puppets and the handcrafted world they live in are united in their shared reality. The movement of each character is not a special effect; it is performance. Each character is a handcrafted piece of art unto itself: sculpted, painted, and costumed with meticulous detail. The puppet world is a tangible space where every prop and set piece is real. It creates a special connection with the audience; it sparks their imagination as they generate meaning from the actions of authentic puppet characters in a fantastical world. Traditional puppetry taps into a very basic part of the human psyche, bypassing cynicism and creating a direct line to the imagination. The end result: There's magic in knowing that everything on the screen is genuine.
The entire world will be designed and built specifically for the series. Every puppet, set, prop, background and piece of wardrobe will be handmade. Making everything from scratch also allows for playfulness, artistry and creativity in creating the world. From killer sharks made from dogs' squeaky toys, to knitted hats for the bullying slugs of the Underworld, to an aquarium full of sea plants to stand in for the River Styx, August in the Underworld provides an opportunity for Marchlight to turn their experience and passion into an unforgettable journey for the audience hungry for the handcrafted and heartfelt.
Claire Frances Muir and Mark Huisman are the founders of Marchlight, an award winning, independent production company. In their stories, magical wrinkles alter the fabric of a mundane world. With each project, their unique voice has become stronger. Their stories more fantastic. They started by including puppets in their short films and then moved on to theatre, like the critically acclaimed Kissing Swinburne, where actors and puppets worked seamlessly together to tell a beautiful, funny tragedy. August in the Underworld is their first all puppet project. It takes the best of everything they've done leading up to this point and pours it all into creating a brand new world. A world of adventure, romance and humour populated with some of the strangest characters you've ever seen, who are as easily relatable as they are otherworldly. The creation of August in the Underworld will give Claire Frances Muir and Mark Huisman a chance to really flex their master-crafter muscles. They have been crafting puppets for over ten years and in that time have developed a unique style. While they are comfortable building puppets in any style and out of any materials – from sculpted clay to woolen blankets to cricket bats – many of their puppets are made in a Marchlight signature style with the lower half of the puppet's mouth not attached to the rest of the puppet's sculpted head. This gives their puppets both a distinctive look and a huge range of playable emotions. With nearly forty featured puppets and over a dozen sets to be created, this will be a project to really solidify the Marchlight style.
Marchlight has put together an amazing team for August in the Underworld. Marchlight's own Claire Frances Muir and Mark Huisman are brilliant actors and puppeteers with extensive training in movement and choreography. Their short films have won best film, acting and writing awards across North America. Their last play, Kissing Swinburne featured a cast of three humans and eighteen puppets and garnered Critic's Pick, Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Production from NOW Magazine. We are extremely fortunate to have puppeteer extraordinaire Ben Deutsch on board as our lead puppeteer. Ben was trained by Henson protégés and is one of Canada's premiere puppeteers with dozens of television and film credits and thousands of live shows to his name. Two other award winning actresses round out the principal cast. Lori Nancy Kalamanski has studied acting across Canada and the UK and even spent some time at a circus school. Moving easily between stage and screen, she was most recently seen in the Mirvish musical production of My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wedding and on TV in SyFy's Warehouse 13. Dora nominated actress, Mary Krohnert, first worked with Marchlight on Kissing Swinburne. Her most recent work includes a role opposite Neve Campbell in the pilot for An Amish Murder, Murdoch Mysteries, Warehouse 13 and the Indiegogo funded feature film currently enjoying a hugely successful theatrical run in Canada - Sex After Kids. Anthony Grani will be directing and producing. In his nearly 20 years in film and television he has worked on over 40 productions and his latest credits include producing the 2010 feature, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard and co-directing two documentary series – The Land Between and A Desert Between Us and Them, both of which aired on TVO in 2013. We've just welcomed producer Yvonne Drebert and cinematographers Zach Melnick and Ann Tipper on board to bring their years of experience producing outstanding content for film and television to the mix. And last but not least, Social Media wiz, Abby Ho, an award winning interactive producer who has created multiple mobile apps, video and social content for the iconic Degrassi series.