Guidestones, a Canadian interactive web series, has 14 awards and nominations under its belt. Its most recent? An International Emmy Award, fresh from Cannes, France.
“You don’t do it for the awards at all, but the recognition is very nice, because there are a lot of days when you don’t get awards,” said Jay Ferguson, writer, director, and co-producer of the series.
Released in February 2012, the series follows journalism students Sandy Rai (Supinder Wraich) and Trevor Shale (Dan Fox) as they try to unearth the mystery behind the Georgia Guidestones. It’s a mixture of fact and fiction—the Guidestones are an actual monument that’s surrounded by conspiracy theories. They bear an unnerving message for humanity, but nobody knows who it’s from.
It may sound like just another mystery, but the real draw is the interactivity that’s weaved into the series. With 50 bite-sized videos, each episode holds a clue that viewers can search up on Google. In other words, you can solve the mystery along with the characters.
To add to the sense of realism, you can also watch the videos in real time, while the story unfolds. Of course, if you just can’t wait, you can watch the episodes one after another. The series is accommodating like that. For Ferguson on the other hand, it wasn’t.
“I do remember at one point, in the midst of post-production, saying to myself, ‘Why didn’t I just make a feature film? This is crazy!’ It really is the most complicated thing I’ve ever worked on.”
Besides the actual series, Ferguson and his team had to create over three hours of bonus material and 34 websites to serve as the hidden clues. It was an ambitious undertaking, especially considering their small budget of $300,000.
“We had a little bit of funding—probably more than most web-based content, but considerably less compared to anything else out there, in terms of broadcast-quality stuff. I had very little to work with, so we had to shoot this very efficiently. It was very much like a guerrilla-style production.”
Instead of filming with expensive cinema grade equipment, Ferguson used mostly DSLRs and natural lighting to get the same great look of a high budget film. But one area that he did not cut back on was the location. Toronto, Buffalo, New Delhi, and of course, the Georgia Guidestones were all backdrops for the series.
Admittedly, the Guidestones didn’t exactly meet Ferguson’s expectations.
“I was underwhelmed because I couldn’t believe how easily accessible they are. They’re just there. When you get there, you’re almost expecting something strange to happen. But the fact is, nothing strange happened.”
Whether the conspiracy surrounding the Guidestones has any truth to it remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the series is here to stay. The second season is already in the works, with darker characters and more action in the mix.
“Sandy’s going to be a ball of fire, let’s say. She’s really going to kick ass.”
You can watch the first season of Guidestones here.