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May 14, 2012

'CSI' creator Zuiker turns to cybercrime, shooting online film in Hamilton

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 - By Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - You can't blame Anthony Zuiker for wanting to branch away from forensic science just a little bit.

It was about 12 years ago that the creator of the massively popular "CSI" franchise brought the megahit to TV, and although there are rumours that one or both of its spinoffs are endangered, the core show keeps chugging along.

He's currently spending some time away from his regular TV gig to work in Hamilton, about an hour west of Toronto, on a project that combines two of his latest personal interests: the emerging worlds of cybercrime and online digital distribution of TV and film.

He's executive producing an online film called "Cybergeddon," which is due to premiere on Yahoo! in September. Montreal native Missy Peregrym ("Rookie Blue") stars as an agent investigating efforts to launch a worldwide cyber attack of epic proportions.

"The climate of today, so to speak is, cybercrime, so I went to Washington, D.C., and did a lot of research, worked alongside (security software maker) Symantec in terms of authenticity and wanted to do a big cybercrime movie," said Zuiker.

"I wanted to do something as big as (Jerry Bruckheimer's) 'Armageddon.'"

Of course, "Cybergeddon" won't be quite up to the Bruckheimer-level of production values, but Zuiker said it won't look low budget either.

"It has the same budget in terms of an independent movie but the scale of it will feel much grander," he said.

"There's big money behind it but there's still cognizant budgets, very thoughtful budgets we have to pay attention to. We're still stretching every dollar we can to make the best content possible — but that's all part of the fun."

The film will be split into 10 chunks of about nine minutes each, which will become available to stream weekly. Other bonus content will be posted to keep viewers engaged in the online film between new instalments.

It took a different creative approach to structure the film into 10 parts, Zuiker said.

"We have to be able to commit to a beginning, middle and end with a hard out every nine minutes for the weekly segments, in traditional film it'd be a different format, it'd be a basic three-act structure," he said.

"But because we are launching nine mini-movies inside one big movie there has to be a real rhythm to how we do that.... Once the segment nature of this is over with, you can put the movie together organically to have your 90 minute movie, which probably will be distributed to other platforms like Netflix and DVD to keep having a shelf life beyond the initial launch."

Zuiker admits "Cybergeddon" is very much an experiment in how audiences will respond to the coming wave of designed-for-online films.

"We are in a nascent stage. As we learn more and more about what is the audience behaviour, the proper formats, and how do you tell the story properly for the device ... it will develop into what it needs to be."

Google has aggressively been pushing for content creators to use its online video platform, YouTube, as a delivery vehicle for new shows and films. YouTube recently underwent a major redesign emphasizing channels that encourage users to watch strings of short videos together. And just last week, Google said it would spend $200 million to market YouTube channels, including a forthcoming selection of scripted dramas for women. Called Wigs, it's being helmed by Jon Avnet ("Black Swan," "Fried Green Tomatoes"), director Rodrigo Garcia ("Albert Nobbs," "In Treatment") and actresses Virginia Madsen, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Beals.

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