Digital series set for big screen

The big-budget sci-fi Sanctuary has been playing on the little screen for sci-fi fans and netheads since May, but will hit the big screen at this fall's Vancouver International Digital Festival

VANCOUVER — Stage 3 Media launched its sci-fi series Sanctuary directly into the Guinness Book of World Records, which notes that it has the ‘highest budget for a direct-to-web broadcast.’

The $4.5 million 8 x 15 series premiered in May at sanctuaryforall.com, and is now set to make its big-screen debut at this year’s Vancouver International Digital Festival, September 22-25. This year, the festival is partnering for the first time with the Trade Forum of the Vancouver International Film Festival and moving from Granville Island to VIFF headquarters.

But the series has already snagged the eyeballs of sci-fi fans who shell out $1.99 per episode to follow star and executive producer Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1) as Dr. Helen Magnus — who seeks out monstrous creatures with the help of a reluctant protégé (Robin Dunne of Dawson’s Creek) and daughter (Emilie Ullerup).

‘This is the future,’ says Damian Kindler, writer/creator and executive producer. ‘It all started when a friend of mine who worked at [Electronic Arts] and I were discussing the Internet, where it was going and whether what happened to the music industry would happen to the visual industry. What prevents somebody from being their own distributor, their own network?’

Coming from a sci-fi background that includes the Stargate series, Kindler knew the concept would fly with fans and gamers. ‘Sci-fi people spend all the time on the ‘net,’ he notes. ‘They go to TV under duress and even then, they’re still on their laptops during commercials.’

But the net isn’t the end of the line for Sanctuary. ‘We’re laying the multi-platform pipeline for all possibilities: DVDs, TV, gaming, film — we want to push eyeballs back and forth,’ says Kindler. ‘But we’re not big. We want to create a revenue stream for Canadians, by Canadians. And we could only have done it in Vancouver. The gaming, digital, visual effects talent pool was vital.’

Kindler, Tapping and Martin Wood (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis), who directs, exec produce with N. John Smith, also from the Stargate family, and Marc Aubanel.