UCF students hope to produce million-dollar sci-fi show

UCF student Alex Moore said he hopes to see his sci-fi show “Contingency Plan” air on HBO one day.

Moore, a 21-year-old film major, was inspired to create the show while interning this summer for PCH Films in Los Angeles, California. He spent his downtime walking the popular street Rodeo Drive and letting his mind wander, he said.

Then the idea came to him.

“Contingency Plan” follows a group of eight astronauts on a mission to set up a base on the moon after an incurable virus infests Earth.

But something goes wrong, and the team is drastically thrown off course.

The mission is cancelled, and they are sent to orbit the sun in order to get back to Earth while their loved ones fight for their lives.

“I really honed in on this one story between this husband and wife, Nate and Adina, who wanted to be together but everything is just pulling them apart,” Moore said. “That is the core of the story at the end of the day.”

Moore recruited other UCF students to work on the show. He said his team of six writers meet every week in his dorm room or the John C. Hitt library on UCF’s main campus for several hours to discuss everything from plot to character development.

“I didn’t expect the scale of this,” Alan De Oliveira, a UCF film major and writer for the show, said. “I’m in Nicholson all the time, and I will just learn that more people are a part of it. I’ll be talking to a friend of mine and they’ll just be like ‘Yeah I’m part of the art department for ‘Contingency Plan.’ ”

Moore said he hopes to have the trailer and part of the first episode completed within the next few months so he can pitch it to different film agencies such as Nine Stories Productions, a New York-based production company that is partially founded by actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

But his ultimate goal is to get it on HBO. 

“That’s been the best part of this whole adventure is being ambitious because Alex is so ambitious, and he has this mind set if we don’t go for it we will never get it, so just seeing that in someone, it’s just romantic,” De Oliveira said. “It makes all of us want to do more.”

During the summer, Moore pitched the show to PCH Films.

“When Alex and I brought the idea to film agencies we were working for, we got a lot of positive responses for it,” Nicole Mariutto, a UCF cinema studies major and writer for the show, said.

The writing team has already finished the pilot episode script, Moore said, and they are currently working on casting, finishing the rest of the first season and getting started on the production of the trailer.

Moore said one of the biggest challenges with “Contingency Plan” is the budget.

Science fiction shows can cost millions of dollars per episode. “The X-Files,” a sci-fi drama, had an estimated budget of $1.5 million per episode, according to the Internet Movie Database.

For “Contingency Plan,” the trailer and half the pilot alone will cost around $10,000 to make, Moore said.

The team is currently fundraising and will be launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo this January.

“We’re basically writing like a $5 million per episode series,” Moore said. “Everything they tell you not to do in film school, I’m doing.”

Although Moore said film school warned him not to make a sci-fi show, his love for sci-fi shows that have a lot of “actual science” pushed him to do it anyway. One of Moore’s biggest inspirations is the show “Lost” because of the plot lines, compelling characters and acting, he said.

“We have a major deficit of scientific literacy in America right now, and I really want to combine as much real science with an interesting sci-fi show with an intriguing cast and characters that you want to follow on a weekly basis,” Moore said.

Studies show many Americans don’t know much about science. Only 6 percent of Americans got a perfect store on a 2015 Pew Research survey about science, which asked questions ranging from the definition of a light year to choosing Earth’s hottest layer

A lot of research is done to ensure everything on the show is as accurate as possible, De Oliveira said.

“They say write what you know, so I need to learn a lot before I can write,” he said.

Although it’s a lot of work, Mariutto said it’s been an amazing experience to get to work with “such creative and smart people who have amazing ideas,” and she hopes to continue working on the project.

“Alex has been very clear about making sure all of us who are on the team right now are part of the deal, which I really appreciate,” Mariutto said. “[He said] if a production company takes us on ‘I want to make sure we’re all on the team.’ ”

The “Contingency Plan” team allows the audience to follow their journey on its website, which posts logs and updates about the show.

To avoid being overwhelmed, Moore said he tries not to think about how large the scope of the show is.

“Alex wants to do something huge, something big,” De Oliveira said. “Film is one of those things where if you’re intimidated by it you should probably do it or else its always going to be intimidating to you.”