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Spies, Social Media and Sci-Fi: Why “Pillars” is One ITV Show to Watch

By Maria Kern

Pillars creator Scott Ludden grew up just as enchanted by Star Wars as the next kid, but it wasn’t until his first brush with Kubrick that he developed an appreciation for sci-fi that he has since parlayed into a show of his own. “My dad introduced me to 2001: A Space Odyssey and that was a game changer for me. I don’t think anyone forgets the first time they saw that film,” Ludden says. As traditional television continues to be eclipsed by the originality, accessibility, and cutting-edge technology of ITV, Pillars delivers a mind-bending mix of science fiction, social commentary, and political conspiracy.

You are watching Episode 1 of Sci-fi series Pillars

In this episode: Michael is kidnapped after he gets too close to Joshua who is a scout for the ISC, a secret organization trying to capture the Pillars. Tim finally reveals himself to the ISC and begins his pursuit to find his brother.

Click to watch Episode 2 of Pillars

At the heart of the series is the International Saints Council (ISC), composed of those perched at the very top of society, an organization headed by world leaders and businessmen whose goal is to capture the Pillars—thirty-six unsuspecting individuals who possess the powers to uphold and ultimately improve society through yet untapped abilities. The thirty-six Pillars balance out the equilibrium of the earth. When one of the thirty-six dies, another is born to replace them. If all thirty-six are killed, or die of natural causes within a sunset to sunrise time period then life, as we know it, will cease to exist. Pillars are about the balance between good and evil. There are 18 females and 18 males. Balanced.

Tim Euler’s brother Michael has been kidnapped by the ISC, and so begins Tim’s quest to expose this secret society and their cruel intentions using the far-reaching powers of modern technology. Realizing that his best chance of raising awareness about the ISC lies in a creative, whistleblowing web campaign, Tim decides to wage a cyber war with these powerful figures in business and politics.My original intention for the series was to make it feel as if this was happening in real time,” says Ludden. “I created a Facebook page and Twitter account for Tim and on my days off I would tweet and Facebook story lines that were meant to feel like they were happening that day.” The show strikes a curious balance between reality and fantasy—while Michael’s kidnapping is fictional, the strategy of integrating the plot into social media use is in tune with the current and sometimes clumsy convergence between technology and society.

Just before the drama unfolds

Pillars represents a stylistic departure from typical scripted fare, applying a handheld camera effect to offer viewers a unique, realistic POV, thereby creating a sense of urgency that is reflected in the plot. “I have never filmed anything with long takes and in a POV style so it was an experiment that I wanted to try,” says Ludden. While the series presents thematic parallels with popular network shows such as Heroes, the distinctive production values are integral to the frightening atmosphere Ludden has created. Incorporating tech-age sci-fi elements with a premise that feeds on some of the most palpable concerns in an era of social unrest and uncertain economic times, Tim operates under the assumption that broadcasting the ISC’s actions via the web will foster public interest, support, and ultimately encourage revolt against the organization. Given the recent influence of social media in encouraging collective action—from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement—Michael may be on to a burgeoning trend. Ludden examines the threats technology presents while simultaneously illuminating a major advantage: social networking breeds engaged ITV audiences, who are now more likely to reach out, contribute to the discussion, and take action.

As a series that intentionally elicits audience participation in a hoax, Pillars operates on a meta level, promoting consideration of the sometimes dangerous realities of technology, the ulterior motives of those in power, and the potential for infringements on citizens’ rights generated by information gathering. The host of new movies and television series that play to these concerns supports what appears to be a growing distrust of those in power and their ability to abuse technology, including the upcoming releases Paranoia and Closed Circuit. Ludden agrees that this distrust has spread, adding, “I think the public has always and will continue to question those at the top.” Edward Snowden’s recent defection to Russia in the aftermath of his National Security Administration WikiLeaks scandal has dominated news outlets in recent weeks, making Big Brother the talk of the town. The newly exposed and highly controversial NSA call log program and ongoing surveillance of individual users’ internet activity has members of the public concerned over potential breaches of privacy laws. Ludden is well aware of the parallels between current events and his work, admitting, “I like using history and current news to work into the overall storyline and then bending that truth to fit into the story.”

To meet growing demand for multi-platform content, Ludden is currently working on a graphic novel adaptation of the series. In the meantime, fans can continue to catch episodes of Pillars on KoldCast TV!

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Maria Kern is a contributing blogger at The Sixth Wall, Supercool Creative, and a graduate of Mills College in Oakland, CA where she earned a degree in Legal Analysis. She is interested in creative marketing, film production, and the science of branding. Maria finds creative inspiration in all things media and pop culture.

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Must Reads 8/21/2014