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Home » Season 4 » SURREAL: The TV Pitch Project Winner

SURREAL: The TV Pitch Project Winner

By Teagan Ladner, Tracy LeBlanc, and Riley Lochhead, VI Form

SURREAL: The TV Pitch Project Winner

Logline: 

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Click Image for Trailer of Surreal

What is real?

Elevator Pitch:

Five adolescents embark on individual journeys to determine what is real, a question that they have been struggling with since early childhood. Surreal will take the viewer through the lives of these characters, bouncing from the “present” to the “future”.  All having the connection of a summer camp, the characters experience what seems like an earthquake during their time at camp that leaves them questioning its significance and legitimacy. As they get older, the characters have more visions that are continually perplexing, and for the majority of the show the characters are trying to find meaning with what they see in the visions. These visions are meant to lead them to the ultimate question “What is real?” and causing them to think about some of the common threads of humanity along the way including emotions, beliefs, connections, personal truths, and more.Synopsis:

Bradley, Aidan, Terra, Brooke, and Slater are not regular teenagers. Each kid is battling with their own problems that makes both society and themselves question their experiences. Bradley is a great athlete, but struggles with finding happiness among the pressures forced upon him by the athletic world and his family. Aidan, a seemingly normal girl, is schizophrenic and has to deal with her illness everyday. She and her imaginary friend Quin take on their world together, though many people do not appreciate it like they do. A set of twins, Terra and Slater, are completely different personalities with, of course, their own set of problems. Terra is a deeply studious girl, but her constant hard work keeps her up late at night and her insomnia makes her hallucinate and envision mysterious scenes that sometimes reference what seemed to be an earthquake when she was at summer camp as a young girl. Her twin, Slater, is intense and misunderstood. He often finds himself in trouble, unlike his sister. Though many people do not see it, he is thoughtful and is often thinking about the experience that his sister had, which he also experienced. Our fifth character, Brooke, is a lucid dreamer. After sharing some of her dreams with her friends, she lost those that were close to her because they did not believe what she had to say. Like the rest of the characters, she finds herself constantly being excluded due to society’s judgement. While the challenges that all five characters face make their lives more difficult, the visions that each experiences, open up their spiritual lives.

Treatment:

Overall Storyline & Plot

The Pilot starts with a young group of children at a summer camp. Each of the five main characters attend this camp, but do not come in contact with each other while there. During their stay, each of them encounter a trembling feeling, seemingly an earthquake, at the same time, but are in a secluded part of the camp, so they do not have anyone to experience this situation with them. Later, when they meet up with their fellow campers and camp leaders, each of the main characters are eager to get answers. However, everyone else at the camp denies anything happened, leaving the five kids questioning whether they experienced this trembling at all. This traumatizing experience is further exacerbated when camp leaders notify their parents of their wild “imaginations”, which creates the foundation of skepticism in their families. After getting a quick glimpse of their camp life, the audience watches as the show flashes to their teen years, which will become the primary time frame for the remainder of the series.

Characters & Relationships

The show has five main characters: Bradley, Aidan, Terra, Brooke, and Slater. Each character’s personalities represents one of the main elements of wood, fire, earth, water, metal. The symbolism is purposefully integrated into the show, because one of the main themes of Surreal is the importance of connection and people coming together as one humanity, which is similar to how the elements interact. According to NationsOnline, “all five elements are equally important and should form a balance, while being in constant move and cyclical change”. We believe that by the end of the series, viewers will see these vastly different characters coming together and, in a sense, completing each other. That being said, while these characters have descriptions and personalities traits attached to their name, they are not one-dimensional. There is flexibility within the elements of the earth’s descriptions that creates room for character growth while still adhering to the template’s values. For example, the element metal has an initial structure, but it can also “accept a new form when molten”. Slater, the metal representative, will start out as a closed-off, independent individual, but over time, he will find outlets that make him more comfortable to open up, or mold to a different form with the same content existing.

Bradley represents the element of wood energy, which according to NationsOnline is described as “rising, expanding, and is the force for growth and expansion. Bradley is also the star athlete. He plays three varsity sports and is under constant pressure from his peers, his father and himself to continue to perform well on the field and in the classroom. Bradley struggles with all of these expectations, especially his father’s. During the episodes focused primarily on Bradley, we will go into detail of the relationship he has with his father and how it has affected him. Due to his background in athletics, he has always been motivated and has been a hard worker, but this can push him over his limit, leading him to struggle with self-confidence. Of all of the characters, he has the strongest desire to figure out what is happening with the visions and get to the root of their existence.

We also have the pair of fraternal twins, Terra and Slater. We made the decision to have twins of opposite genders because we liked the dualism that it brought not only with the element of the twins having completely different personalities but also having the element of different genders, which could affect the way they deal with the visions. With this contrast, we developed a yin yang component. When creating these characters we knew we wanted to cast the Sarafin siblings because they embodied a lot of the qualities of the characters in the show. Terra, which quite literally means “earth”, represents the element of earth. Terra is level headed, calm, and handles situations with poise. She is studious and driven, so most of her time is spent preparing for school, which pays off since she is an honors student. However, because of her dedication academic motivation, she suffers from insomnia. Terra spends many nights struggling to fall asleep and this contributes to her likelihood of having visions. While Slater, the male twin, represents the element of metal. In simple terms, he is a rebel. Slater does what he wants and doesn’t have the same regard for school like his sister does. He has a strong presence when he is on screen and is very internally driven. Slater experiences throughout the show we will be examining their relationship with one another and how having a visions is affecting them differently. Although they start off as being distant from one another over the course of the show they become closer and we particularly see a shift in the way that Slater interacts with his sister (like the way metal can change forms).

Brooke is the lucid dreamer who represents the element of water. Brooke is a kind and gentle soul who keeps to herself most of the time. She doesn’t particularly have a lot of friends at school, except for her boyfriend, Carl. When she’s not spending time with Carl, she spends a lot of her time at home alone. Brooke has dreams that are intense and seem to be very real, until she wakes up… but what if the dreams actually have truth behind them? Every once in awhile, Brooke has dreams of herself waking up her phone buzzing and she can’t shut it off. When she finally answers the phone, no one is there so she calls back. What greets her on the other side is a voice that she does not recognize. It mumbles words that don’t seem to have any coherent meaning or relation to one another. This dream continues to occur over and over. When Brooke wakes up she is left confused and scared, and not sure what to do. Brooke struggles with telling Carl about these uncomfortable dreams because she knows that he is not going to believe her, which creates a constant internal self-battle over whether to confide in him or not. Therefore, trust in relationships is tested. The visions create a tremendous strain on their relationship and the viewers will watch as love struggles to prevail. In the end, love is what leads her to understanding her vision.

Lastly, is Aidan, the most complex character. Aidan represents the element of fire, which is very fitting with her personality traits. Aidan suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which is a disease that produces severe hallucinations, or experiencing an alternate reality.  It is rare for people of Aidan’s age to have symptoms of the disease because they do not typically show up until later on in life. Due to this disorder, Aidan has a hard time differentiating what is real. She doesn’t have very many friends as a result of her disorder which makes it even harder for her to fit in. Her best friend is a boy named Quin and he appears with her throughout the show. It is not until the fourth season that we reveal to the audience that the character Quin they’ve grown attachment to is simply a hallucination caused by the schizophrenia. We chose to do this because it plays off of the topic “what is real?”, since her best friend, someone that she has confided in for most of her young adult life, is a simply figment of her imagination. Quin is the one that continuously reminds Aidan of the camp where she experienced the trembling. Aidan is constantly struggling with managing her visions and eventually, her parents intervene and force her to get help from professional counselors.

Week-by-Week Episodes

Instead of providing conclusions each week, every episode will focus on a specific theme, and the viewers will be left with more questions than answers. Some major questions that serve as the foundations of the episodes are: Do the ends justify the means? Do you believe in miracles? Is there a thing as luck? If so, what is? Does everything happen for a reason? Do you have you a predetermined purpose? Does randomness exist?

We want the show to be thought-provoking and educational to the audience. However, we want to do this by subtly incorporating educational pieces into the show, because if we make the objective too apparent, that might discourage kids from watching it. There’s enough depth and thoughtful symbolism in the show to intrigue the super-fan, but also there’s plenty of emotional, surface-level content for the average viewer to be enthralled.

The Ripple Effect is an integral motif of the show.  This plays in well to the theme of bouncing between the “present” and the “future.” The show is primarily set in the future, when the 5 characters are teenagers. The children can see themselves in the future as they are going about their lives. They see how the ramifications of decisions that they made as children  have affected their lives as teenagers. There will also be pivotal scenes in episodes of all of the characters making difficult decisions as teenagers that will determine their life as adults. This relates to another over-arching theme of humanity and the importance of human connection.

An important aspect of filming is the blurry images and transitions used in the show, as shown in the trailer. This symbolism represents the obscurity of their visions and how difficult it is to determine what they are seeing and what it’s supposed to mean. So much of the show is left unclear and Surreal might leave viewers uncomfortable with what they finished watching. Our audience will have to become content with uncertainty, because there will not be a lot of clarity.

Overall, the main message of Surreal is that it’s impossible to truly, completely “know” anything. All we have are the personal experiences and what limited knowledge the human brain can interpret from these situations.

The Missing Puzzle Piece

The characters have a transcendent experience in which a “being” from the fourth dimension passes through the characters in a specific geographical point in the camp. However, because the characters are so young, what they experience can only be compared to an earthquake, thus makes them question this “earthquake” that no one else seemed to experience, for the rest of their lives. The reason they experience the transcendent is because the camp’s location is a portal where this transcendent being tries to connect with them in a way that seems impossible. The mystery of the transcendent makes for a question that is completely up to the viewer: Is it God or is it fate, destiny, love, or other? If so, perhaps do these things that we assigned as concepts in the physical world have identities of their own that can control the lives of those in the third dimension?

While creating the show, we were very inspired by the book Flatland where a three dimensional object crosses through the world of two-dimensional squares and triangles, in an effort to interact. In a similar way, the fourth dimension is trying to interact with the characters of the show, but to the rest of the people who haven’t gone through this experience, it seems to just have been a hallucination, dream, or simply imagination, bringing up the theme of belief, judgement, as well as society’s need for scientific or evidential reasoning.

Near end (element of time hopping)

The series finale will reveal to the viewers that the “flashbacks” to when the main characters were young and at camp around the time of the “earthquake” were actually the in the present-day and the lives of the five teens characters that the viewers have been accustomed to and have made connections with were actually versions of the kids living their lives in the future. The characters were able to have visions of future experiences due to their encounter with the fourth dimension via the trembling at camp. There will be references made about the 4th dimension in all of their visions, in conjunction with lessons that they take away and apply to their life given their personal situations (for Brooke it will have to do with love, for Bradley it will be about finding his own happiness etc.). The encounter with the fourth dimension enlightens the five characters, who become awakened and are able to think deeper about humanity and question more than the average mind would be able to.

Music

Since our show is set in the “present” we decided that we wanted to incorporate music from this time frame so that the viewers would recognize the song choices. Our theme song is “Come a Little Closer” by the Cage the Elephant. Tracy discovered the song one day while driving in the car and realized that the lyrics directly coordinated with our story line for our show. Here are the lyrics below:

Time shakes, found you at the water

At first you were my father, now I love you like a brother

Earthquakes shake the dust behind you

This world at times will blind you

Still I know I’ll see you there

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Come on, come on, come on

Things aren’t always what they seem to be

Come on, come on, come on

Do you understand the things you been seein’

Come on, come on, come on

Do you understand the things that you’ve been dreaming

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Heartbreaks, the heavy world’s upon your shoulders

Will we burn or we just smolder

Somehow I know I’ll find you there

Ooh, I wanna see if you can change it, change it

Still I know I’ll see you

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Come on, come on, come on

Things aren’t always what they seem to be

Do you understand the things you been seein’

Come on, come on, come on

Do you understand the things that you’ve been dreaming

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Ten thousand people stand alone now

And in the evening the sun sets

Tomorrow it will rise

Time flies by, they all sang along

Time flies by, they all sang along

Time flies by, they all sang along

Time flies, by, by

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Come on, come on, come on

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

Come a little closer, then you’ll see

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Teagan Ladner is a VI former from Shrewsbury, MA. She is Head Monitor, co-captain of the basketball and softball teams, and a Survivor fanatic. Teagan enjoys eating ice cream while playing board games with her family.

Tracy LeBlanc is a VI Form day student living in Sudbury, MA. At St. Mark’s, she is a Monitor, and she is active in the theater and music departments.

Riley Lochhead is a VI Form day student from Southborough, MA. She is the captain of the varsity soccer team, and family is of the utmost importance to her.

 


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