‘Project Revelation’ delves into post-apocalypse

It is common throughout various mediums of entertainment for audiences to expect the hero or heroine to successfully protect the world from impending doom.

But what if said hero or heroine actually failed to complete their mission? What kind of catastrophic effects would their actions have worldwide?

That’s the idea aspiring screenwriter Meghan Dubitsky played around with in her head when she began developing the concept for her new web series, Project Revelation:

“I like the idea of when you’re watching a TV show and you’re kind of following along that everything happens and then at the very end, something happens that completely flips your entire perspective.”

With the idea fresh in her mind – as well as the final scene of the entire series – she began writing the full script earlier in March and completed it three weeks later.

Now five months later, she is ready to share her vision with the world as Project Revelation goes online via its official website for its Sept. 19 premiere.

Dubitsky – a graduate of San Francisco State University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism – told SFBay she is very excited for the series premiere since it is the first project she’s done that people other than her friends are excited to see.

She also said it was very surreal seeing her ideas come to life during filming since she’s always considered herself a print writer:

“As a journalist, we don’t intend to be on camera. Any story that you’re writing as a journalist has already happened – it’s something that you don’t create. But doing it this way, you have such a clear picture in your head. The first day we filmed – and seeing these scenes come to life – it was really crazy and it was really interesting to see how the vision in your head changes to what comes out on screen.”

While Project Revelation is not the first full script Dubitsky has ever written, her transition into screenwriting was challenging since she is very accustomed to writing in The Associated Press style.

Even with her knack for writing short stories, she couldn’t write like a novelist because of how direct she was trained to write during her time as a SF State journalism major:

“We were so trained to write a certain way, especially for more print journalism. You write very direct, you know, short sentences. You’re not making anything fluffy. They taught us, ‘Take out all the adjectives! It doesn’t matter!’”

Dubitsky eventually taught herself the basics of screenwriting and acknowledged its simplicity.

Based on her experiences writing and filming Project Revelation, she plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting full-time.

 The series – which consists of three 10-15 minute long episodes – was filmed during the first two weekends in August. Interior shots were filmed in Daly City while exterior shooting happened in San Francisco, Clayton and Antioch.

Inspired by Dubitsky’s love of post-apocalyptic fiction, the series focuses on CIA agent Olivia Walker, played by Nicole Garcia.

She is tasked with protecting the world from a deadly computer virus, but fails and wakes up two years later in a post-apocalyptic world with no recollection of what happened.

She then meets apocalypse survivor Ben Bishop (Alessandro Zanet) and together, they decide to try and complete the mission. But along the way, Olivia discovers that not everything is as seems.

Soon after developing the show’s concept, Dubitsky pitched it to her good friend – and Garcia’s sister – Michelle Crisologo, who served alongside Dubitsky as executive producer.

Once she found out that Garcia wanted to help out with the project, Dubitsky immediately cast her as Olivia without an audition.

Despite never seeing Garcia act prior to filming her first scene, Dubitsky said the Los Angeles-based actress embodied everything that she envisioned Olivia as:

“She kind of had done all this research on her own, like reading the script and developing the character. Olivia’s fatal flaw is her loyalty. So you see later in the series that she kind of suspects the CIA may have been behind some things. But she’s still working for them because they’re her family, so to speak. Nicole got that and I didn’t even know if I knew that. She kind of got that and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ Everything she did as Olivia was just how I pictured it in my head.”

While developing the character, Dubitsky considered how women in film are portrayed as one-dimensional as well as her belief that the term “strong female” gets constantly misconstrued.

She said Olivia ultimately stems from three notable female characters on television: Kate Beckett from Castle, Olivia Dunham from Fringe and Sarah Walker from Chuck – all of whom she considers three-dimensional:

“They are three-dimensional in the sense that they’re not just looking for a boyfriend or they’re not just that typical girl who gets scared and cries all the time. Olivia finds herself in this really messed up situation where she got shot, she has no idea where she is. She had this mission to save the world – which is a huge responsibility – and she failed. Not only that, but she decides, ‘You know what? I’m still going to try to fix this.’”

Finding an actor for the role of Ben was not as simple as Dubitsky and Crisologo posted numerous ads on Craigslist and all over SF State’s cinema department and creative arts building without receiving any responses.

But after posting one last Craigslist ad, the Bay Area-born Zanet – who studies acting at the College of Fine Arts at Boston University – answered the call and delivered a great audition.

For a character who wasn’t as completely developed while she was writing the script, Dubitsky said Zanet brought more of a gentleness to Ben, which ultimately made his character somewhat of a polar opposite to Olivia:

“It offsets the two of them – Olivia who is so hardcore and she just wants to punch people and then Ben’s really calm and he doesn’t like violence. Alessandro really brought that to the character.”

 In addition to his performance, Dubitsky also acknowledged his dedication to the character, such as identifying pop culture references and taking notes on how Ben would react to certain emotional exchanges with Olivia.

Project Revelation also features three unique characters: Veronica DeSilva, Mindy Huertas and Nico Quintana – all of whom Dubitsky previously introduced in another web series she wrote and directed called Veronica Vlogs the Apocalypse.

Starring Dubitsky’s friend Samantha Vethavanam in the titular role, the series follows YouTube star and computer science student Veronica as she continues filming her web series following the end of the world.

But without even trying, she discovers what caused the apocalypse and tries to reverse it.

While writing the script for Project Revelation, Dubitsky realized that bringing Veronica back was obvious because of the character’s computer savvy, which Dubitsky described as the bridge between Olivia and her mission.

But she decided to bring Mindy and Nico back after realizing that halfway through the script, something essential was still missing from the storytelling:

“You really needed the flashbacks to ground the story. If it’s just in the apocalypse, then you don’t really have a reason to care.”

 Unlike Project Revelation, Veronica Vlogs the Apocalypse was filmed on a very small budget that was mainly used to buy food and drinks for the cast.

Looking back at her previous series and considering the entire creative process that went into bringing Project Revelation to life, Dubitsky said she is amazed at how far she and the cast have come not only as a team, but also filmmakers in general:

“In all aspects, it was a completely different shoot. So it was great to see where we came from, starting out with Veronica that was (filmed in) just one room in my sister’s house with an actual webcam and going to Project Revelation that is all on sets and locations and you have actual actors. All of that was really crazy to see.”

As proud as she is of the finished product, Dubitsky is also humbled by all the help she received throughout filming, especially from friends like Vethavanam and Garcia who traveled from Southern California to the Bay Area just to contribute to the project:

“You never really know how much people love you until you ask them to do you a favor that really has no impact on them. You know like when you ask your friends to move, you figure out which ones really like you and they help you. It was kind of the same like this. Nobody got paid. A lot of people had to fly up on their own dime from Southern California because we had no money to do it. It was just really great to see how many people believed in the project, believed in me, and really wanted to help out.”

With Project Revelation set to launch Saturday, Dubitsky hopes the series can help her and actors like Garcia and Zanet get their foot in the door to Hollywood.

She also hopes that viewers recognize how her voice reflects through the storytelling and presentation – and how that same voice ultimately embodies her as both a writer and artist.

“Seeing some other projects I’ve written, I see that kind of style emerge. So I think that 20 years from now, when I have five successful TV shows and a bunch of Emmys, I would like people to go back to Project Revelation and Veronica Vlogs the Apocalypse and see that it’s the same voice as all those other projects.”