NBC’s Revolution Uses Technology and Large Doses of Creativity

Photo courtesy of NBC

NBC’s “Revolution.”

The NBC series Revolution takes place in the not-too-distant future and follows a family struggling to reunite when every piece of technology in the U.S. has mysteriously been turned off. The power has gone out for lights, phones, cars, computers, TV, etc. That may be hell for some, but others (like me) might actually picture that simpler world as utopia, for a while anyway.

The action-packed show throws in a powerful militia trying to take over the country in the wake of the blackout. But a band of survivalists explore the mystery of why the power failed, and if it can ever be restored. Among the stars of the show are Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Elizabeth Mitchell, David Lyons, and Giancarlo Esposito.

Surprisingly, the post-apocalyptic doomsday family drama comes from creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural creator), who is executive producer along with J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk (Lost, Star Trek). They are guys who embrace technology and infuse their productions with lots of CGI and special effects.

So the question we posed to Kripke and Abrams is — How does technology help their creative process? Kripke said, “Primarily for me, the technology I use in my process almost starts and ends with the Internet, because of the unbelievable amount of information that is at your fingertips. I’m definitely dating myself, but I still remember having to bury myself in the library to research a project, and then photocopy all the research that I needed. Now, at any given moment at any given point of writing a script, I say, you know what, I need to know what this process is. I need to know how this person works. And I can immediately search, find it, get the information, and put it right into a script. I think that’s pretty invaluable. I don’t know if I would be as good a writer without that.”

J.J. Abrams has done movies and TV shows that are considered very high-tech, such as the rebooted Star Trek franchise, and the sci-fi series Fringe and Lost. But when asked if he could be as creative as he is without today’s ground-breaking technology, he explained, “Everything that Eric said is so true in terms of research. And obviously I love what technology allows in terms of visual effects, and in terms of just efficiency, whether it’s getting something quickly, reading something, looking at artwork, composition, or anything. Right now I’m doing visual effects for Star Trek, and it doesn’t matter where I am, I can look at the latest version of a visual effects shot and give notes.”

Abrams added, “While that’s all true, what it all comes down to, and what matters most of all is the idea, and the writing and the execution of that idea. And for that, I usually write it out in longhand first. There’s something about it, the tactile, tangible nature of writing that just feels like I’m feeling the stuff more than I am. You know, when there’s a deadline and it’s crazy, of course, the MacBook Pro is the key. But it’s something that I think ultimately just comes down to — what is that idea you’re scribbling with that pencil?”

Sometimes productions can influence its performers, and that is the case with many of the Revolution actors who have gone with the “un-plugged” theme of the show. Billy Burke revealed that he picks up his guitar and plays when on location in Wilmington, North Carolina. Elizabeth Mitchell said she and her seven-year-old son have “no electronics day.” And Giancarlo Esposito reported he and his family “put down our technology when we went on vacation. We walked and talked, and that came directly from the inspiration of what this show has done in my life.”

Tune in Revolution when it returns to the NBC schedule, Monday, March 25, at 10 p.m.

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