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Charting new territory
Conyers natives create Web TV series

Modern technology has made producing and distributing entertainment - be it text, music or movies - to the world at large a more realistic proposition than ever, and two Rockdale County brothers are taking advantage of the situation in a unique way.

Darrell Holmes, 29, and his brother Dustin, 27, are the principals in a California-based production company known as SundayNite TV, in which they create the programming to be broadcast from their Web site (www.sundaynitetv.com) on a weekly basis.

Currently available for viewing are the first five episodes of the brothers' first filmed foray, a sci-fi drama titled "Tomorrow Awakes." The series made its debut on the site on Jan. 6 and the final two episodes will roll out over the next two Sundays.

"Our goal is to have something new every Sunday night," said Darrell Holmes during a recent telephone interview from the home he shares with his brother in West Hollywood. "We had kicked around a lot of ideas and realized that while independent film is accepted and growing, there really wasn't anything like independent TV.

"We wanted to make serialized entertainment outside of the traditional studio system and we decided the best way to do that would be to create something ourselves quickly and inexpensively and to put it out on the internet."

Darrell Holmes said the basic storyline for "Tomorrow Awakes" follows a "struggling young man" (Camilo Ramon) whose life is changed by the appearance of a mysterious being (Lily Holleman) when he wakes up in the middle of a desert with an attractive young woman (Charlotte Derby), who was also "summoned" by the same apparition.

The brothers report that the show (which has episodes of 8 to 10 minutes in length) has received some very positive feedback, although they're not quite sure how many people have watched "Tomorrow Awakes."

"We have it (available) in so many different places, so it's hard to say how many people have seen it, although I'm sure it's been several thousand," said Dustin Holmes. "Our plan was to produce the series, so we haven't really focused on the marketing aspects of it yet."

The serial, which has a budget of about $5,000, was filmed over a four-week period last September with Los Angeles-based actors.

"We'd do pre-production during the week and then we'd film on the weekends," said Darrell Holmes, who directed "Tomorrow Awakes" and wrote the script. "There were times when we'd be writing the next episode in the days before we filmed it. We'd shoot two episodes per weekend. Post-production was a little more difficult because of the effects we had, which Dustin did mostly. He's primarily self-taught in that department, so it took a lot more time."

"When I was at Georgia Tech, I studied computer graphics, so I knew a little bit, but when my brother started telling me about the effects he wanted, I had to do a good bit of studying," said Dustin Holmes. "I picked it up as I went along."

The low-low budget figure is a bit surprising, as "Tomorrow Awakes" is of a much better quality than one might expect given the financial investment involved. Both brothers pronounced themselves satisfied with the way the series turned out.

"We were both very pleased," said Dustin Holmes. "At first it was kind of an experiment, but by the end of it, we were wishing we'd spent more time on it. We got a really nice quality (look) in a short amount of time."

"It really doesn't look like Internet video," added Darrell Holmes. "For our next series, and the one after that, we'll get closer and closer to studio-quality images."

And right about the time "Tomorrow Awakes" reaches its culmination, the brothers will be on to their next project, an "L.A. noir" series called "Charlie Brown and the New Black."

"We've already started pre-production and casting and we'll start in about two weeks," said Darrell Holmes. "We should be able to churn this one out even faster than the last one, so it should be up on the site in a month's time."

"The next film will be shorter and easier to produce and then the one after that will be much more extensive, with longer episodes," added Dustin Holmes.

The Holmes' brothers story might make a good movie itself. The two brothers grew up in Conyers and both graduated from Heritage High School (Darrell in 1997 and Dustin in 1999). Darrell earned theatre degrees from the University of Georgia and Hunter College in New York City while Dustin studied computer science at Georgia Tech for three years before dropping out to become a professional poker player.

"I never had any interest in theatre until I got to college and took a drama appreciation class as a lark," said Darrell Holmes. "And then I just stuck with it."

"I played a lot of poker on line and made just enough to pay the rent," said Dustin Holmes. "When I dropped out of school, I had more time to play and I was able to win my way into a couple of live tournaments. Two years ago I finished 19th in the main event of the World Series of Poker and even though SundayNite TV takes up most of my time now, I will probably go back to the World Series (of Poker) again this summer in Las Vegas."

And yes, Darrell Holmes assented that a portion of his brother's poker winnings helped finance "Tomorrow Awakes."

After earning his master's degree from Hunter College, Darrell Holmes moved to the Los Angeles area to write and stage plays, including his 2006 work "The Future of Being Trapped." Dustin Holmes followed his brother to California a few years later, and they set up SundayNite TV last June.

It's fair to say that most entertainment entrepreneurs would take what they've already created and either try to sell it up the show-biz chain or parlay it into a development deal with a studio, but the Holmes brothers - who are the sons of Darrell and Cynthia Holmes of Conyers - are remaining faithful to their vision.

"For now, we're not really interested (in the mainstream)," said Darrell Holmes. "We're happy with where we are and with the creative freedom we have."

"A lot of people do Web series and most of them are doing it to sell it to someone else," said Dustin Holmes. "We think of it as a medium that's completely independent and we can draw more viewers than a lot of indie films, even with our budget. We can get thousands of views just by putting it up (on the internet). Our ultimate goal isn't to get another job, although we'll be open to future things developing."

The brothers agree that creating new product to broadcast every week is a daunting task and Darrell Holmes said that at some point, they will look to other writers and producers to provide content for their site.

"We've got a lot of friends who are writers and directors, but at this point, we want to get better at what we're doing," he said. "As soon as we've cemented all the technical details and get a handle on getting a consistent image control, then we'll invite other people to join us. We know we can't do it all."

And even though they've spent a good portion of their lives together, the Brothers Holmes still enjoy each other's company.

"We get along great," said Darrell Holmes. "We have a nice relationship. As far as being a producer, (Dustin) is great - he gives me a lot of creative freedom."

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.