Anomalie (DEU) follows a young man’s journey of discovering the mystery behind his heritage. It is his quest to find the truth, whilst uncovering a connection to his city.

Director Christian Stadach spoke to Melbourne WebFest about his series and the powerful message behind it.

Why choose the web format for your series?

We created “Anomalie” because we really wanted to create a new and original show and to prove that we are able to craft an exciting narrative. After our first digital series “MEM” everyone knew us as the guys who could create beautiful visuals… we didn’t want to stick with this image. Of course, we still create beautiful imagery but we really wanted to step it up. Since we were already part of the independent digital series family we chose to develop something new to stay in the game and to not lose the connection to the community. Apart from that, we feel that almost all new and important series are happening mostly online now.

How did you decide on the subject matter?

The core of the narrative came to us surprisingly easy. We just wanted to craft a story we would like to watch. There were other specifications that we’re pretty sure from the get-go. The story should be placed within our direct environment. The story should be told nowadays but contain mystery and Sci-Fi elements. The story should revolve around a central character. Then we started to throw in ideas and to iterate towards a first story arc.

Your series has been nominated for Best Original Score. In how much of capacity did the score help you develop Anomalie?

Our team at Tag & Nacht Media consists of three people of which two are composers, so the score was very important right from the start. We even had early music sketches while we were still shooting. Also, we constantly talked about the score and the soundscape, exchanging ideas and listening to reference tracks. As we are located inside a studio complex, all departments are in close contact all the time. Same goes for the VFX. I do have a background in compositing and worked on projects such as Game of Thrones, Hugo, Super 8, After Earth, etc. in this area for some time.

Doing a lot of 3D animation and other corporate work in the company we have assembled quite a range of artists that supported us with shots we could not achieve ourselves. So from the beginning, there was a sensibility for both topics. While we wanted to have a vibrant score that stood out at times and stepped back when necessary, we wanted the VFX to be as invisible as possible for most of the time. There is a total of about 200 VFX shots in the first season and I hope that people won’t get past 40 when they try to count them.

When we wrote the script we deliberately didn’t think about what it meant for VFX, so we would not limit ourselves in the writing process. Same goes for the actual shooting, apart from the green screen parts, of course. I think most fellow filmmakers will agree when I say, that good VFX and score help the story and do not draw too much attention on themselves. At least that was, what we wanted to achieve and that’s how we tried to develop both aspects within our narrative. Still, both are crucial in telling what we wanted to tell.

Anomalie (DEU)

What is the most interesting element of your series for the audience?

That is difficult to determine. As a creator, you want to say: “Everything!”. If I try to see it from the audience’s point of view I would say, the most interesting element is the dramatic structure. The first season has a lot of twists, turns plus tempo and genre shifts. The story does not give itself away at first sight. While this might be a risk it is also really rewarding if the viewer takes the time to get involved and accept the pacing of the show.

What was your greatest challenge creating the series?

The greatest challenge in creating “Anomalie” was the combination of massive scope and a tiny budget. As you can imagine this lead to a multitude of challenges associated with it. Everyone had and still has to cover multiple jobs during the whole production process. Surely this is true for most digital independent series and it was not new to ourselves but the scale was really different this time. We received no external funding and so we didn’t just have to do double the work but also in half the time. The series’ 10 episodes now have a combined runtime of approx. 210 minutes that were shot on only 50 days of shooting. That sounds a lot, but since we had set a really high standard for every production aspect it was a real rush at times. From a directors perspective, one of the most challenging aspects was to keep track of the initial vision. While this might sound silly it was a huge task. Mainly because the 50 shooting days were spread throughout a whole year and we obviously didn’t shoot in chronological order.

How important was the Sci-Fi & mystery theme within your series?

The short answer is: Very important! I do not want to take away to much but the series goes through different stages.
For me, it starts out as a classic drama with a slight touch of mystery. Over the course of the season, the mystery and Sci-Fi parts grow a lot. We put a lot of thought into the confrontation of the characters with the supernatural and scientific elements. How would a normal person react if they were exposed to events like this? These events and story elements are also very important on the meta-level of the narrative. The abilities of our protagonist Jan are also a metaphor for his personal progress and his state of mind.

What was the development process like for the production design of the series?

Being kids of the 80s we love Retro Sci-Fi. Alien, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Star Wars, The Fly, You name it… It was important for us to have a production design that was somehow grounded in reality. So that was basically the starting point. From there we started to extrapolate. Soon it became clear, that we needed to set different locations and narrative branches apart from each other on a visual level. Soon we developed an internal compass for what felt right without talking too much about it anymore. For some parts, like the design of set pieces and UI-elements, we brought in artists we had worked with before. I have to highlight my co-author and one of the co-produces (as well as composer and sound designer…), Stephan Böhl who took a lot of responsibility for the selection of locations, wardrobe and set decoration. That way the communication was really direct and the whole process felt amazingly cooperative.

When building the basis of Alex’s heritage – what components were the most important in telling the story of his background?

It’s really interesting that you ask about Alex! Most people don’t see the extent of his importance to the course of the story since he is not the main character. Essentially his past decision, which I can’t go into without spoiling the story, is a turning point for the whole plot. All the incidents after that and the fate of our protagonist Jan revolve around that singular moment. Since Alex is introduced pretty late in the story we had to rely on a series of flashbacks and even more important the design of his habitat, as well as clothing, and associated set decoration. I think one of the defining moments in the flashback at the beginning of episode 6 which shows the contrast between past and present and how the Alex we see in the present came to be.

Anomalie (DEU)

What’s next for your series, and where would you like it to progress in the near future?

As of now, we have almost finished post-production for the whole season and the series hasn’t been released yet. Right now we are looking for interested buyers, networks and platforms. We want to be able to show the series to the world in a proper environment, to reach as many audiences as possible. So, of course, we are hoping that it will be picked up by one of the larger platforms or networks. It’s a steal, by the way…

Overall, what message would you like audiences to take away from your series?

I have to say, that I don’t really deal in messages. Though we have a lot of topics associated with the journey of our protagonist. Of course, there is some sort of moral conclusion to the story, but what’s more interesting in my opinion, is the feeling and the mood we are trying to induce in the audience. Let me expand on that. Do you remember what it was like to see, let’s say, “E.T.” for the first time? I have to admit it has been a long time since I have seen that movie and I should probably watch it again sometime soon… The point is: I do not remember a lot of the actual plot, but what I do remember is the chills and feelings it gave me. That’s what I want the audience to take away from our series. A feeling that sticks with them and moves them in a unique way.