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July/August 2020

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DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 10 POST JULY/AUG 2020 ver the past 25 years, Emmy- winning writer/producer/direc- tor Greg Daniels has helped shape the landscape of television comedy, thanks to his influential and inspired work on such hit shows as Parks and Recreation, The Office, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, The Mindy Project, Saturday Night Live and King of the Hill. His new show, Upload, is a wild genre mash up — a sci-fi comedy series and a scathing satire of capitalism — set in the technologically-advanced future of 2033, where hologram phones, 3D food printers and automated grocery stores are the norm. Most uniquely, humans can choose to be "uploaded" into a virtual afterlife when they find themselves near- death — but at a price, of course. The series follows a young app de- veloper, Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell), who winds up in the hospital, fatally wounded, following a self-driving car ac- cident, and who needs to quickly decide his fate — die naturally or be upload- ed. After a rushed deliberation with his rich and shallow girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), he chooses to be uploaded to her family's luxurious virtual afterlife, the Horizen company's Lakeview. Once uploaded in Lakeview, Nathan meets his customer service angel, Nora Anthony (Andy Allo), who at first is his charismat- ic concierge and guide, but quickly be- comes his friend and confidante, helping him navigate this new digital extension of life, and all its pros (an endless supply of bacon donuts) and cons (relentless pop-up ads). Here, in an exclusive Post interview, Daniels talks about making the Amazon Original show, the challenges, and why he loves post. You obviously love a lot of different genres, given the sort of show you made? "I do, you're right. The Office was a comedy but it also had romance, drama, and a lot of different storylines, so you weren't sure when it was going for a joke or more emotional moments. And that's really good for the comedy, as you can't prepare yourself so much for the jokes. So with this, I called it a philosophical, sci-fi, romantic comedy mystery, and that's a lot of genres. But I think if you're going to ask someone to commit to a show in a universe of 600 shows, it has to be worth it and have things you can't get elsewhere, and I just wanted to maximize all the elements for the viewer. And back in 2014 when I started on this whole idea, I was reading Harry Potter to my kids, and enjoying how many different flavors there were in that, so all that played into my thinking as I developed it." Stories set in the future inevitably present extra challenges. What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together? "The big problem is that there's no place you can just walk out on the street to and shoot, and you have to construct the whole 2033 world from scratch. So even a simple scene, like having two people talking in a self-driving car, becomes very complicated as everything out the win- dow has to be futuristic, and the other cars have to be futuristic, so it quickly becomes a big undertaking. So when you know you're having to design all this, and you want to do it in a very thoughtful, considered way, you might as well have some jokes in the background, so it does become a very fun process, although very time-intensive." Did your background in animation help? "It did, as it's half animation in a way, so all the work I did on The Simpsons and King of the Hill really helped." How much experience did you have with VFX before this and how early on did you start integrating post and all the VFX? "Pretty early on. We did a pilot in January 2018, and then I spent the next six months doing all the VFX for it, and I learned so much from that. Then we did Season 1 in Vancouver with a totally dif- ferent crew and post team, and I learned a lot more. And a couple of years be- fore, I knew I wanted to direct Upload, so I took on the job of directing the pilot and some episodes of the sci-fi show People of Earth, with the goal of gaining more VFX expertise and working with green screen, and that helped prepare me for this." Did you do a lot of previs? "I actually storyboarded the whole pilot myself, and the same for Episode 2, which I also directed, but the other direc- tors had different techniques, including previs and various software programs and shot designers." What cameras do you shoot with and how tough was the shoot? "Arri Alexas, and they were tough shoots, especially the pilot. I wanted it to be very cinematic, and I had two great DPs — Simon Chapman for the series and Amy Vincent for the pilot, but it's always a battle with the schedule when you want to focus on both the cinematography and also the performances, and have the actors try stuff and improvise, especially for the comedy bits. So there was some tension there." UPLOAD'S GREG DANIELS BY IAIN BLAIR O MIXING SCI-FI & SATIRE FOR THIS AMAZON ORIGINAL SHOW Upload star Robbie Amell and Greg Daniels, on set.

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