After the hiatus: The Blackened Mirror is back!

Blackened MirrorAfter a mid-season hiatus (as is the way of all good shows), The Blackened Mirror returned on Sunday January 26th with the latest instalment.

For those who may have missed things, and in the tradition of all good serials, here’s the story so far:

“It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed!”

OK, ok. The Blackened Mirror isn’t written by Snoopy or nor is it riven by purple prose a-la Edward Bulwer-Lytton. however, it is a taut, Chandleresque TV series written by Da5id Abbott, featuring  a fine twist of Steampunk stirred into a mix of film noir and H.P. Lovecraft.

So, what exactly has been going on?

Harland Quinn
Harland Quinn

In the first season, we were introduced to 1930’s hardboiled PI from the City of Angels, Hardland Quinn. He’d been approached by the mysterious Ms Alais Alleyn (Aisling Sinclair) to help in the resolution of a certain “predicament” she faced – namely the recovery of a certain something she requires to ease her passage, and that of her strange companion, Mr. Biggins (Mavromichali Szondi),  “home”.

Initially unwilling to provide assistance, Quinn increasingly finds himself intrigued by the apparent contradictions in Ms. Alleyn, such as her American accent but use of British English and her decidedly Victorian her style of dress. As a result, he agrees to help them out, a decision he comes to regret as he finds himself taken on a journey through time and space – and into his own past. But by the time he does, he finds he has no choice but to see things through – a decision which leads to his capture by mysterious forces.

Season 2 rejoins the story with Quinn being held at the Redemption Asylum and under the somewhat sadistic thumb of his bespectacled doppelgänger, Adam. Unaware of how much time has passed, Quinn is unexpectedly freed from incarceration by Ms Alleyn and Mr. Biggins. Only their attempt at escape goes slightly awry as they find themselves facing the enigmatic Doctor, who sees Quinn as his key to immortality.

Alais Alleyn and Mr. Biggins
Alais Alleyn and Mr. Biggins

With more of Quinn’s own past emerging, the three use a timely distraction by Jacob Mitchell (Peter Jurasik), another part of Quinn’s mysterious past, to slip free of the Doctor’s clutches and find temporary shelter at Jacob’s house. Here the plot thickens a little more, although some questions are answered, such as how much time has passed since the final events seen in season one, and just what is Mr. Biggin’s first name actually is …

Reunions are interrupted, however, and Ms Alleyn, Mr. Biggins and Quinn are forced to make an escape using the resonator. But after the initial attempt requires Ms. Aisling to reset her device, Quinn makes a jump to Serph City … only to arrive decades into his future …

Now  the story resumes and we find that … well, rather than me spoiling it all by telling you, why don’t you watch the episode yourself? If you want to catch-up on things in full beforehand, you can watch all of season 1 and the aired episodes of season 2 through these options: The Blackened Mirror website, the show’s Treet TV channel, on Aview TV or on YouTube.

Be sure as well to catch the last two episodes of the current season, “No More Angels”, which airs on Sunday February 2nd, and “Decisions”, which airs on Sunday February 9th, both at 14:00 SLT.

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The Blackened Mirror premieres

Blackened MirrorSeason 2 of The Blackened Mirror premiered on Sunday December 1st with a special showing to an invited audience at the Crescent Theatre in Seraph City.

As I’ve previously noted, the new season reunites the main stars of the show, Zander Greene (Scott Simpson in RL), Aisling Sinclair and Mavromichali Szondi, together with returning guest stars from the first season and two special guest stars in the form of Peter Jurasik and Gameela Wright (AvaJean Westland in SL), who will be making their presence felt in voice as the season unfolds.

In the first season, hard-boiled PI Harland Quinn, having been hired by Alais Alleyn, found himself drawn into a strange mystery as he attempted to help her to return “home” – a mystery which suddenly turned its focus very sharply upon Quinn himself as he, Alais and Mr. Biggins were confronted by Adam, Quinn’s bespectacled twin, in the season’s cliffhanger.

Gameela Wright and Peter Jurasik will add their voices to the show as the season progresses
Gameela Wright and Peter Jurasik will add their voices to the show as the season progresses. Gameela also pupeetered a number of the characters on behalf of those actors unable to be in Second Life for the actual filming

Now we rejoin Quinn to find him a prisoner in some kind of asylum or institution, held there by his strange twin, who both resents Quinn and takes a perverse pleasure in seeing him hurt. Doubtless, if left to his own devices, Adam would quite happily put an end to Quinn’s life. However, the choice is not Adam’s to make, because he answers to someone even more mysterious and potentially threatening – the Doctor.

The Doctor; dark intent where Harland Quinn is concerned?
The Doctor: one of the new characters introduced in the season opener

It’s a taut piece of story-telling, neatly opening-up a list of new questions, introducing new characters and which further and deftly twists the story a little more, a move which serves to both draw an audience already familiar with the story further into it, while also setting-up things such that anyone with only a loose understanding of season one will want to go back and watch it again.

Season two allows the show to make use of a number of additional tools to assist in the filming / production process. One of these is ReScene, an advanced choreographing tool developed for Second Life by Logan Bauer. This can best be thought of as a 3D “timeline” of a live cinematic scene that can be played and replayed with any number of avatars playing different roles, allowing precise control of avatar movement, animations and camera movement to be achieved.

“It gives the actors a chance to focus on things like directed looks, expressions and so forth,” series director Saffia Widdershins told me ahead of the premiere screening. “It’s incredibly hard to hit a mark like that in SL. Either you end up miles away, facing in the wrong direction, or looking in the wrong direction and having to turn awkwardly.  Throw into the mix the fact that someone’s lips don’t move, and we have to shoot it all again.”

Operated by season one’s VFx veteran, Terra Volitant, ReScene has allowed the production to aovid many of these time-consuming pitfalls, and has brought a further level of realism to the show.

As a season opener, this episode of The Blackened Mirror has it all: mystery, intrigue, suspense and drama. Just how can Harland Quinn have a brother he does not remember? Are they even brothers by natural birth? The clues are there to suggest they are probably not; but who can tell at this stage? What happened to Alais Alleyn and Mr. Biggins between Adam’s arrival in the bar at the end of season one, and Quinn’s incarceration in the asylum? And who is the malevolent Doctor?

But don’t take my word for it – why not watch the first episode of the new season for yourself? Just make sure you watch it right the way through to after the end credits!

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Londo Mollari joins the cast of The Blackened Mirror

Blackened MirrorUpdate, December 1st: Oopsie on my part. I mis-read information on the show, and Juliet Ceasrio will not be re-joining the cast. Peter Jurasik will, however be joined by Gameela Wright, and I’ve updated the article to reflect this. My apologies to Gameela and the cast and crew!

Sunday December 1st sees the re-opening of Harland Quinn’s toughest case to date, the mystery of The Blackened Mirror.

Those who watched season one of the show will know that things all began when the mysterious Ms Alais Alleyn (Aisling Sinclair) and her faithful companion, Mr. Biggins (Mavromichali Szondi) stepped into Quinn’s office seeking his assistance to “find their way home” – home being something entirely unrelated to what you or I might consider it to be. By the end of the season, Quinn, Ms. Alleyn and Mr. Biggins were trapped in a bar surrounded by murderous zombies when in walks none other than Quinn’s own bespectacled doppelgänger, complete with a sinister greeting.

Season two picks-up the story precisely where season one left-off and promises more twists and rides. As I’ve hinted at in previous posts, the show also features a special guest star: none other than Mr. Peter Jurasik.

Peter Jurasik

While perhaps best-known for his role as the tragic Centauri Ambasssdor (and later Emperor) Londo Mollari in Babylon 5, Mr. Jurasik has had a long and distinguished career on stage and in film and television, including several recurring roles on popular television series over the decades, such as that of Sid “the Snitch” Thurston in Hills Street Blues and its spin-off series, Beverly Hills Buntz.

Interestingly, he also appeared alongside future Babylon 5 co-star Bruce Boxleitner in both Boxleitner’s own TV series The Scarecrow and Mrs. King and in the feature film Tron.

He is also no stranger to Harland Quinn’s world. In 2012 he guest-starred as “George” in the radio show featuring Quinn, Death in Velvet.

Gameela QuinnAlso accompanying Peter Jurasik in joining the cast is Gameela Wright. Based in New York, Ms. Wright has over 15 years experience in theatre, television, voice overs, film and commercials. She has appeared in such top-rated US shows such as Blue Bloods, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Orange is the New Black.

As in AvaJean Westland in Second Life, Ms. Wright has worked with the Avatar Repertory Company, and also developed projects as Virtual Girl Productions in Association with Running Lady Studios. In 2013, she took over hosting duties for the Second Life leg of the 2013 Relay for Life. As well as appearing as the character of Martha Pearse later in the season, Gameela Wright played an invaluable role in the show’s production, puppeteering a number of the characters on behalf of those actors unable to be in Second Life for the actual filming, creating a physicality to the characters to match the voice performances.

Both Mr. Jurasik and Ms. Wright will be joining season one regulars Scott Simpson (Zander Greene in SL) as the enigmatic Harland Quinn, Aisling Sinclair  as the mysterious Alais Alleyn, and  Mavromichali Szondi as the light-on-words Mr Biggins, as well as a host of guest stars.

Scott Simpson

Star of stage, screen and television, Scott Simpson has appeared alongside the likes of James Earl Jones, Teri Hatcher, Katie Holmes, Charles Shaughnessy, Charlotte Ross and Ellen Burstyn, to name but a few. He’s been directed by Michael Apted, and has played the lead in Richard III for NYC’s Looking Glass Theatre, as well as “Vanek” in Audience as part of New York’s 2006 Vaclav Havel Festival. He is also an accomplished voice-over artist.

In Second Life, through his alter-ego, he is an educational and non-profit environment developer for organisations including the American Cancer Society and Valdosta State University and the original moving force behind Fantasy Faire. Not only does he play the hero of the piece in The Blackened Mirror, he also creates the music for the series.

The talent involved in The Blackened Mirror isn’t restricted to in front of the camera, either. David (or Da5id, if you prefer – all the v-spellings had gone when he signed-up, so he improvised), is a writer who has published both fiction and non-fiction and worked in radio. The Blackened Mirror stands as a perfect example of the subject for his next book, You CanNot Do It: The Power of Procrastination, which he would have been writing but for the fact he put it off to write the The Blackened Mirror.  The show is directed and produced by Saffia Widdershins, co-host and executive producer of the show Designing Worlds and CEO of Prim Perfect Publications.

It was Saffia who coaxed Aisling Sinclair, who among many other talents directs the Designing Worlds show, out from behind the camera to star in The Blackened Mirror. Saffia also helped introduce us to the character of Mr. Biggins (now voiced by builder-creator Mavromichali Szondi as noted above) through the New Babbage comic series produced by Prim Perfect.

Alais Alleyn reveals the secret of a blackened mirror to Harland Quinn
Alais Alleyn reveals the secret of a blackened mirror to Harland Quinn

Other talent involved in the show includes Honour McMillan, Petlove Petshop and Emmo Wei, and you can read more about all of the season one cast and crew on the show’s website.

The first instalment of season two of The Blackened Mirror airs at 14:00 SLT on Sunday December 1st, 2013, and you can catch it on Treet TV.

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Great ready to step back into The Blackened Mirror

Blackened MirrorBack in August, I wrote a piece previewing the upcoming return of The Blackened Mirror, a Chandleresque TV series with a fine twist of Steampunk stirred into a mix of film noir and H.P. Lovecraft. Written by David Abbott, the 6-part show was filmed in Second Life and formed the centrepiece of a multimedia event which featured  a game that could be enjoyed within Second Life, together with explorations and puzzles which encompassed the Internet and social media streams, and more.

At the time I wrote that piece, filming for Season 2 was about to start, and there had been a call for people willing to participate to contact the producers.

Well, now the filming is done, as is most of the editing, and Season 2 of The Blackened Mirror will make its debut at 14:00 SLT on Sunday December 1st, 2013, reuniting us with hard-boiled and enigmatic PI Harland Quinn, voiced by the simply fabulous Zander Greene (and yes I still could sit and listen to him read a telephone directory; his voice is that captivating), Ms Alais Alleyn (Aisling Sinclair) and Mr. Biggins (Mavromichali Szondi).

The new story picks-up exactly where Season One left off; Quinn and his companions seemingly trapped in a bar, when a stranger with a very familiar voice and face shows up…

Alais and Harland Quin from Season 2 of The Blackened Mirror (image courtesy of PrimPerfect / Saffia Widdershins)
Alais Alleyn and Harland Quin in a scene from the first season of The Blackened Mirror (image courtesy of PrimPerfect / Saffia Widdershins)

In October, I was graciously extended the opportunity to watch an initial cut of the first episode of the new season by the series’ director, Saffia Widdershins. Having done so, I can honestly say that fans of the show are in for one hack of a ride; the story offers twists, turns and not a few surprises that more than keep one engaged and wanting more.

Alongside the regular cast, a very special guest star will be appearing in the new season, someone once known for seeing others as good, dear friends while in another universe – but I’ll say no more at this point! You’ll have to tune-in to the Blackened Mirror’s Treet TV channel to find out more.

For those new to the world of The Blackened Mirror, now is an ideal time to catch-up with the first season via the Treet TV channel mentioned above or via the show’s  YouTube channel. Those wishing to stay abreast of the latest news on the show should check-out the official website and the show’s Facebook page.

Keep up-to-date on the show via the official website
Keep up-to-date on the show via the official website and Facebook page

If you are up-to-date with Harland Quinn’s television exploits, why not tune-in to the Death in Velvet, a 4-part radio show broadcast in 2012 and featuring another of Quinn’s cases. You can find it on Zander Greene’s YouTube channel, and it features special guests stars of its own. Why not listen to the first part of the show here?

I’ll have a little more on The Blackened Mirror in due course. In the meantime don’t forget: the new season premieres at 14:00 on Sunday December 1st.

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Get ready for the return of The Blackened Mirror – and be a part of the magic!

Blackened MirrorThe Blackened Mirror is a TV series, created Second Life which mixes film noir, steampunk and classic Lovecraft horror together into a unique blend of storytelling.

More than that, however, the first season of The Blackened Mirror was a mutimedia event, featuring a game that could be enjoyed within Second Life, together with explorations and puzzles to be found on the Internet, with clues on the official website, related web-sites, or on social media streams which would point the way to finding more information about the characters and the plot – and for those following the game within Second Life – to in-world prizes as well!

The show premiered in Second Life in 2012, and was an instant hit. The six-part series introduced Harland Quinn, a hardened PI in the City of Angels, voiced by the silken-tongued Zander Greene (have I mentioned I could sit and listen to Zander read a telephone directory? :)).

In the opening episode, Quinn, something of a cynical enigma, finds himself embarking on a strange case when the mysterious and even more enigmatic Ms Alais Alleyn (Aisling Sinclair) arrives in his office on the wrong side of town, accompanied by the odd form of Mr. Biggins (Mavromichali Szondi)…

Quinn (r) meeting Ms Alleyn and Mr. Biggins
The major characters: Harland Quinn (r) meeting Ms Alleyn and Mr. Biggins

If you’re new to the show, you can catch-up via the website, or via Treet TV or You Tube.

Written by David Abbott, the series also spawned a four-part radio play, again featuring Zander Greene (RL: Scott Simpson) as Harland Quinn, with special guests Juliet Cesario (who also guest-starred in the TV series) and none other than Peter Jurasik (Londo Mollari in Babylon 5 and Sid the Snitch in Hill Street Blues among many other roles), which was complete in itself.

The first season of the SL-based television series ended on something of a cliff-hanger as Quinn, Ms. Alleyn and Biggins stand trapped, only for a mysterious stranger to arrive. However, he may not have the best of intentions at heart…

Well, the good news is, Season 2 of the series is not that far away. Due to air in October, it promises to continue the story of Quinn and his associates, and to include a very special guest (and no, I can’t say who; Saffia has sworn me to secrecy for now!).

Step Up into Show Business

Ever wanted to appear in a TV series? Now’s your chance. The team behind The Blackened Mirror have put out a call for people willing to be extras in the production. An in-world group, Blackened Mirror Extras Green Room, has been created. It has open enrollment for anyone wishing to be a part of the magic, but do please read the blog post notes before you apply.

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