When we call Andrew Lee Potts to talk about his online drama, it’s early in the morning and he’s still waking up, but that doesn’t stop his enthusiasm shining through for Wireless, an online drama Potts has made that features what life would be like if the police force used AI and why British humour is important in all his projects.
Where did the concept for Wireless come from?
It was in the last year of filming Primeval. I was developing short films, as I always do, with co-creator Alex Moss, and we’d been chatting a lot. I wanted to take what I had learnt from what I thought worked in Primeval, which was it was very high-concept with an ensemble, as it were. There was a character in it for everybody. I liked working with that idea. I don’t know where the AI idea came from.
This was seven years ago we started talking about it. It was before the influx of robotics, your Chappie and your Ex Machina and all the stuff that is happening now. It was before that – it was still vampires still trending at the time. We were going to try and develop it. We were talking to Nick Willing [who directed Potts in Alice.] He became a really good friend of mine, and he helped me through developing it, the more I talked to him the more I realised – watching him doing his shows and stuff – the less control you get. He asked me one day if that would make me happy, and I was like, “I don’t think it would actually, that’s not why I’m doing it.”
I was lucky enough to be working all the time anyway, so it was definitely a passion project on the side, so I put it on the back burner, and I stopped thinking about pitching it, and thought “I will just leave it there” and thought about it for a bit. Last year I just thought it was too good of an idea to do not do anything with. So I thought: “Why not do it the way I do stuff?” Which is do it myself and put it out on YouTube.
Once it started, the ball just kept rolling, and the cast that wanted to get involved were fantastic. That changed how we could do it now the robot wasn’t going to be a physical presence in the car because we couldn’t do that any more because it was self-funded, so we had to figure out how to do that. And the availability of actors when they’re doing stuff for free, obviously they’re my friends and they want to help me out, but they’re really busy as well. You have to work a way that they can come in and out of the story and I thought watt better way than to put the technology in the car. So obviously I’m travelling, so I’m almost travelling to the actors that I need [laughs]. It worked really well.
Obviously there have been parallels drawn with Knightrider, but I don’t think it is like Knightrider, apart from the car does talk. But Unit White can travel into any wireless device, not just the car, so we will be very free soon.
At the end of episode 6 you get to see what she can accomplish more so than any other episodes.
Oh, that’s not going to stop. Obviously I had to set up a story, and with my nine-minute episodes I’ve got a lot to do. I’ve got a lot of characters to place in. So the first five were just introducing the characters and now the story has kicked in, and things are going to start coming together, as much as I want you to see at the moment. Because it’s going to be about 15 or 16 episodes in the first season. We have to get to the end of the day, installation day, but obviously Unit White is starting to show problems with her anger issues. She’s just rapidly learning, and also Jacob Crow is also not the best person for her to learn from.
He’s a bit of a fire cracker. He’s very driven and not very willing to be controlled by this robot.
That’s the idea. And she is going to learn that, but she’s potentially a lot more powerful than any other policeman would be. When she learns to harness that, it’s which way is she going to go?
What was it like working with Lucy Brown again after working with her on Primeval?
She is the only person I never see [laughs]. Lucy has just had a baby so she is super busy being a mum, and she has been travelling a lot with her partner. So she has been out of the country. So I send her the script, and she sends me the lines back recorded. And then we go from there. I have to edit her lines together, a lot of the time, with the gaps I think it will take for me to do my lines or other people’s lines and we play it either in the car or I play it in my ear piece, so we have to kind of do it like a play. It’s a real way of doing it. But it’s the only way we can do it at the moment without having Lucy there to do the off lines. It seems to work so far, it’s thrown up problems through the end subs, but that’s what I like about Wireless, I’ve set myself up for problems and then I’m solving it, which I’m proud of in the end.
I’m learning all the time. I’m a self-taught editor. I have a passion for this stuff. Even thought I’ve been acting since I was seven and been on some huge gigs and all that jazz, but it still fascinates me how to tell a story. Which was awesome this year because I won the Reed Grand Prix, the Reed Short Film Awards which is the biggest in the country, and that was a film that I made in my cupboard. And it’s one locked off shot. It was really nice, actually, it was at BAFTA and there was about seven judges, I think, and it was up against big CGI stuff and the fact that they chose Photo Finish, one shot, one idea I stuck with from start to finish, the fact that it was chosen to win was really good; it shows that they are just interested in telling a story.
When you were making Wireless, what sort of challenges were you facing?
Loads of challenges. I’m winging it most of the time! We used GoPro cameras – which are fucking phenomenal little cameras – and they came in such a good time. If I had done this a few years ago there wouldn’t have been around as much. And also they keep bringing out new editions with new features, so I grab them. It’s thrown up problems every step of the way, I might even put the camera on the wrong setting, or something ridiculous. Or I might not monitor the sound.
Because I’m driving, a lot of it is on my own. I might not monitor the sound and I might not check it until I get home, and then I realise that something had gone majorly wrong. Either it’s not recorded sound, or I’ve not turned the mic on for some reason, which has happened. It’s just human error at the end of the day. I’m learning as a film maker, but every episode has thrown up a different challenge. My biggest challenge is probably actors availability. You try to coordinate everybody…
We did Comic Con, and they’d very kindly given up the Gold Stage to show the new trailer and I had six of the cast with me, but getting that six of the cast in one room was quite hard [laughs], [but] it was great for us. The response was phenomenal. I was really touched.
Do you have anything planned beyond series one?
We know the story beyond that, we would really like to tell the story, obviously. I have focussed a year of my life while I was working on filming Lucky Man this year, and stuff, I would dedicate a year, not make any short films, and just push it and get as far as I can with the story in a day, then at the end of the year readdress. But it’s getting a really good following, people seem to be really interested in it, and that’s driven me on. I will definitely finish the season, which will take me into next year. I thought I would be able to do it by the end of the year, but it’s just impossible with the availability of every one. Which is fine, but then I want to sit back at the end of series one, see what people are saying about it. And then have a think about what I want to do.
Season Two it would help if we had some sort of sponsorship, or something like that. I never want to be a terrestrial show, nor will I ever. If somebody came to me and said ‘We would like to make the first series of this on telly’ I don’t know if I could do that. It would take away from what I want it to be. It started as a free show on YouTube, so for Season Two it would be great to have some sort of injection of cash to take the world bigger, but I’ve not even spoken to GoPro. GoPro don’t even know that I’m doing it with all their cameras and everything. I’m making it without contacting people. We’ll see. It’s exciting though and that’s what I kind of like about it.
What are the other major elements in Wireless?
I think it was important to get – something that I learnt in Primeval – which I had never done before early, was putting humour with drama. So you have high-scale situation going on, when I played Connor, and when I played Hatter in Alice, humour was a good little route for me. So I used that in Wireless, and it’s really important to say. All of the pitches make it look mean and moody which it is supposed to be, it’s supposed to be cool and sexy but there is always this underlining British humour, which I think we’re quite good at.
You’re seem to be good at delivering it too.
I can’t help it! I get a script and I can see the humour points in it instantly. I go I’m going to do that there and I’m going to do that there. I do find it sits quite comfortably with that. It’s a buddy cop movie really, Unit White is the straight one, and then I’m the straight one, we swap over. But the humour was really important to put into it, but there will be a lot of drama in it.
You can catch-up with Wireless now at www.wirelessweb.london/ and find updates on his Twitter page @andrewleepotts.