A Conversation with the Creators of Lucidity
Lucidity is an ongoing "web saga" that follows Jason and George -- alter-egos of creators Sean Oliver and Danny Torgersen -- on their exploration of lucid dreaming and alternate levels of consciousness. Part comedy-adventure, part instruction manual, Lucidity is unique for its refusal to stay on the screen: by bringing awareness to the process of lucid dreaming, the show encourages lucid dreaming and the exploration of consciousness in its viewers. I recently talked with Sean and Danny about how this zero-budget, volunteer-based venture got off the ground, how it works, and where it’s headed next.
Nese: Do you guys have day jobs?
Sean: Pretty much. I do a lot of freelance video editing, and Danny sings at a church.
Danny: I'm like the assistant director.
So how’d you end up doing it?
Danny: I randomly met the guy who was running the choir one day. He said they needed a tenor, they had other paid musicians. I’ve been there for six years.
Sean: I should probably get another job.
Danny: I went to school for music theater, but I left the program immediately.
Sean: I went to school for film for a few years.
Danny: We tried to go for school for it, but it just didn’t work out.
How did Lucidity happen?
Danny: It was such a freak accident.
Sean: Really it started because Danny and I were going to live in the same house for the first time, and we had been working on stuff together, like the music videos for [Captain] Squeegee.... We knew that we wanted to do something together, so we just started to brainstorm on potential ideas that we could do, like a monthly video that would be non-time-consuming.... We didn’t know what a web series was. It really was just Danny and I living together, so I figured we should make something. And then it exploded and we could never possibly do it monthly.
Danny: He made it sound like it was going to be little 5-minute videos, but I knew that that wouldn’t be .
Sean: That was just how we started doing something. I originally had an idea for a short story about a guy who had new neighbors move in, and he started having dreams of their young child’s future that were just horrendous, just like, clearly this is horrible future filled with pain and misery....
Danny: Yeah, it was really different originally....
Sean: But the kid was just this lovely, beautiful baby boy, and as you watched him grow up he was just the nicest kid, so he never knew where he went wrong...but then [the idea] turned into two roommates who shared each others’ dreams.
Danny: Yeah, it’s less confusing, for sure.
How did it get from A to B?
Danny: Just uh...I think the universe correcting us. It just kind of started writing itself when…I don’t know, since Sean and I lived together, we could just imagine dumber versions of ourselves, and then write a fantasy for ourselves.
Sean: There was one night when we storyboarded the whole thing down.
Danny: Yeah, we just binged one night and charted the whole thing out.
Sean: It has every major plot point that happens. There’s one episode less now than there was that night, but that’s the biggest difference, really.
So this is plot points for multiple episodes?
Sean: Yeah, it was the whole series, broken down by episode. That’s maybe the first time we realized that it was going to be a lot bigger than just a monthly show.
Danny: We didn’t really know what we were doing. We’d just write what we wanted to write, without thinking about how hard it would be to make, and usually we were still able to make it, it’s just about how much blood goes into it. But a lot of peoplecame together to help.
So when are you planning to release the next episode?
Sean: The nice thing is that we’re revamping how we go about making some of the episodes, so that we can be making them quicker.
Danny: Yeah, we’re finally just kind of involving more people in production, just even the world of scheduling and making sure props and costumes are ready. For too long we just tried to do everything ourselves, and I think now we’re finally getting to the point where we should just write it and other people are in charge of making sure that it’s ready to go. We’ve also had more people approach us to help now...
Part of the reason our special effects got better is that we had another editor onboard. But we just write what we write and we just kind of hope that we’ll figure out how to do it. It really does happen in the writing, I’ve been realizing it. I mean we just sit down and write it, and we don’t care about how long it should be or what...you know what I mean?
Sean: Yeah, it’s the most free form part of the process
Danny: It just is what it is, and we’re trying to foreshadow.... A lot of things seem like they’re just nonsense, but they’re totally not nonsense. And that’s why we’re hoping that people have the attention span, but I don’t think that should be a prefix for what we make, you know?
Well I feel like there’s enough in it that’s immediately satisfying -- like the special effects -- that keeps people's attention, and then there’s also stuff that’s more long term.
Danny: Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s like we’re trying to inject some of the larger repercussions of our jokes, you know? There was this kid at this smoothie shop that I joined, and he was serving me a smoothie and he said that he watched the episodes. I don’t know how he even got into it or found out, I think maybe he found it through Captain Squeegee. He said that he had lucid dreams, and that he never really knew anyone else who talked about it. And I’ve talked to him before, and he’s totally anti-drug -- just totally against ever wanting to think that drugs could bring something useful. And so I realized just today how important lucid dreaming could be to conscious development, because it’s like a non-toxic alternative -- there’s no pre-hatred for that. People unfortunately get the wrong impression about, like, DMT. Just the fact that it’s a word that’s called a “drug”. But everyone dreams, you can’t even not dream. That just happens and you have to deal with it, and if you’re never going to try something like DMT or LSD, you could have the same revelations happen that are just as meaningful through this other route. I think everyone could reach enlightenment through their own little way, and I think lucidity is a totally underrated vehicle.
Sean: I think people get too hung up on drug experience, non-drug experience, where it’s just experience.
Danny: They’re all just different types of cars.
Sean: I really think that a bunch of people could experience a totally different reality if they just believed that reality was in front of them and that they wanted it.
One thing that I wanted to ask you guys about Lucidity is the role of female characters.
Danny: We knew that you were going to say that!
Sean: It’s funny when you said it, because I had a moment where I was like, oh, yeah, yeah, it’s just uh…she’s right.
It’s just that I feel like the lack of any pseudo-competent women characters is one thing that might turn off an audience that would otherwise be super into it. I was talking to someone about this and they were saying it was for the comic effect, but I feel like it might be really good to draw in some kind of really interesting, complex female characters into the story.
Danny: It is happening!
Sean: Part of the reason...I mean George and Jason really are supposed to be completely negative versions of us, or of people in general.
Danny: So our dreams right now are very foolish, and we may think that we’re lucid dreaming, but really if you watch the show the joke is that we’re just reacting to everything. We’re not in control of anything, at all. So the way that we think about women is totally immature, and the way that our women act in our dreams is totally imature, and as our characters discover the vastness of what we’re tapping into....
Sean: Yeah, it definitely shifts later in the series. What’s ironic is that part of the reason to even start the show with the episode we did was to get an instant sex joke out. We don’t care about that, but we were like, oh, if we start with a sex joke, people might watch us, and if they keep watching they’ll get to this really crazy lucid dreaming stuff. So some of it is a little bit of a bait.
Danny: We’re definitely trying to depict the world that we are departing from. We actually have a main female character that gets introduced in this next episode. She’s from the dream. We pull a female out of the dream world. But later in the series we meet her real-world counter part, who is the true female lead of the show, who complements George and Jason as a lead but of the opposite gender.
Sean: But then we have two versions of the same girl, and it starts to get really confusing. You know, like they morph at one point....
Danny: And the dream girl in the real world starts confronting what it means to be fake or real, and then everyone starts to worry about that, and it gets really existential and crazy.
Sean: Without getting really obviously existential. There’s not going to be a half hour psychiatrist’s scene.
Danny: Honestly, [the gender thing] was really good feedback when we heard about it. And then we thought about it, and we got kind of worried about it, but then we looked at the overall arch of the plot, and we realized that we were introducing someone that was a lot more than that. There’s a lot of depth and intellectuality, and both of us have our own version of love that we stumble onto.
Sean: George stops sleeping around.
Danny: Yeah, George cleans up.
Sean: But yeah, it really is true. We didn’t even notice that it was happening. But it fixes itself! A lot of Lucidity is -- even on the website I think we joke, like when it says who writes the show, we said the universe mostly. Because a lot of it does fall into place better than when we try to put it into place. For instance, I realized something about Keenan’s character just last week, because he plays different characters, like Tallahassee version and the robot version, and he’s got this split personality, and I was like well that makes sense, because George and Jason don’t really know Ricky. They never bothered to actually find out who he is, so in the dream world he’s kind of fractured, because he’s a stranger. And that makes a lot of sense to me. We do so much of the show for very specific and logical reasons, but I think subconsciously that a lot more is seeping in than we’re aware of. And the female character is definitely one of them, And that’s happened for a lot of the stuff in the show.
Yeah, I’m not surprised.
Sean: Yeah, but I don’t really know...like we don’t have a target demographic...I never even thought about how someone would be turned off by that. That’s really interesting. I think that we touch on a lot of stuff right now that seems kind of adolescent, and that’s just part of how much it’s going to change.
Yeah, and I really liked what you were saying about depicting the world where they’re coming from, because I feel like you have a lot of room to grow from that kind of mentality.
Sean: George and Jason are basically all the aspects of ourselves that we don’t like, and the hope is that we can become something else through our dreams and investigating in it.
I love what you’re doing, because you talk about the ideas and you’re also doing it in the show. You’re opening people's minds to these altered states, so it’s a subject and the object of the show, and I was just really impressed with how hilarious it is, but also how profound the ideas are.
Sean: We think that someone needs to be out there doing that version of it. There’s so many ways to interpret and share these discoveries. We just joke about this stuff all day, we joke about dreams, and reality and the future, and extraterrestrials, and consciousness...
Danny: Past lives.
Sean: Yeah, constant reincarnation jokes, just nonstop. I think if we ever did another show it would probably have to do with that.
Sean: I do think a lot of it comes from us separately confronting these issues for one reason or another, because there are definitely some sequences that are dream inspired.
Danny: Yeah, it’s true, some of the dreams that happen are based on our dreams, but that’s the whole point, it’s the same, it’s just an altered experience.
Sean: You know one thing, I think it’s important, we do this in Lucidity: the dream world and the real world are always separate, where you know at the beginning or the end of the scene that they’re awake or not, so it’s not all about, “oh, it was just a dream.” The point of that is that there are these different places, but they both matter always, no matter what. That neither has value over the others because they experience both of them.
Danny: Yeah, we’re going to have some episodes where it’s almost entirely a dream, and some where we’re in reality for most of it, and others that are just going off and on instantaneously. Right now it seems a lot like they’re in their dream world and in their head, but later it gets into, is this a bigger place that almost anyone can go to? Is this really just a product of our imagination, or is it something else that our imagination sort of navigates through? It kind of reflects back like a mirror, but it doesn’t mean you are the mirror.
Right, like have you guys seen the movie Inception? There’s the architect who builds the dream world, so it’s like the projection of the person who’s encountering that geography creates the world, it’s the mixture of something that’s there and the imaginative projection. But the hunter character in Lucidity is definitely something that stands out as like, hmm, what’s going on here?
Sean: And what’s crazy about him is that he’s inspired by -- he’s taken directly out of what our friend Michael Schumer explained.
Danny: He told us that there’s this hunter who will shoot you out of your dreams, and he uses a caulking gun, so we just put that character in there. I think pretty rapidly it just becomes...it’s like Robert Wagner -- I haven’t read his book, but Sean has, and he pointed out this wonderful passage from Robert Wagner’s book....
Sean: The Gateway to the Inner Self.
Danny: He said that it got to a point where it would be almost neurotically egotistical to fathom that he was creating this intricate, incredible other reality, where it would be ridiculous for him to think that it was just him.
It’s a classic DMT experience. It’s like you see things that are happening, you see other beings talking and things going on that you don’t even understand, but it’s functioning and it’s like you’re looking in on something. I think that kind of experience I think is a kind of similar idea.
Sean: Yeah, it’s funny that people think that their dream characters are them, but if you try to control a dream character, it usually doesn’t work.’ You’re still only you in a dream. You can definitely do exercises in expanding your awareness, but they’re kind of the same exercises that you can do here.
Danny: That’s really why the real important aspect of Lucidity isn’t the fact that we’re lucid dreaming, it’s that we share our dreams, because that suggests the co-creation of another reality, which you realize is the goal: to co-create another reality, if you’re not satisfied with whatever one is existent, that’s not sustainable anymore. And that’s kind of where the show goes, you know? What is co-creating reality? What is reality? What are the consequences? What reality should we co-create? What reality are we co-creating? Why are we co-creating that reality? And who all is involved, you know, it’s everybody -- it’s even beings that aren’t human, that are coming from all these dimensions and directions, and it’s really just about what do we all care about? The whole thing is really complex. It’s a new resurgence of ideas and aspects of reality that we need to confront. But what I think is even harder and more complex sometimes is to find a way to make it entertaining. And that is key.
It doesn’t seem that you guys have a hard time with that.
Danny: We’re at the point now that we just want to joke about this stuff, because it’s all we think about. And we haven’t lost our humor along with finding the spiritual universe.
Sean: I think it’s all just generally hilarious anyways.
Well the whole cosmic joke thing, you know?
Danny: It’s just the joke of how stupid we are all the time, and how the only way we could get better is by recognizing that, and keeping a tendency to keep expecting us to do that, and the hope is that we’ll corral everyone into watching the show to connect with George and Jason in a shallow way, and then to really have to confront the stuff that they have to confront. Honestly, the most lucid dreams I’ve ever had have been since the show started. I was into it, and I knew about it, but I’m also...
Sean: I think I was better before the show.
Danny: Since then I’ve been thinking of lucid dreaming so much more just because I’ve been part of the show, so I know that must happen to other people. And I think that there are a lot of people who would just like it because they think it’s kind of crazy, but I think that the people who know what we’re referring to already would maybe appreciate it enough for us to really make a difference, or be a part of something.
That’s exactly the genius of it though, because it appeals to this really base, id-like humor of just, “that’s so funny,” and it draws your attention to these things, and the point of those things is that the more you focus your attention on it, the more it reveals itself, or the more you involve yourself in it, and so it’s kind of drawing people into thinking about it, and then it has these effects because just thinking about things in that way is potentially very powerful.
Sean: Definitely. I know there was one girl who, it was the night after we released Episode V, and she had a lucid dream from rubbing her hands in a dream. She found me on facebook the next day and was like, “It worked, exactly like the episode!” It was such a direct result! It trips people out, you know? I do think we’re able to keep in a large level of slapstick, what’s funny all around, but it almost allows you to realize that these concepts that you thought you couldn’t relate to are just as relatable as getting hit in the gut, you know? Blowing out of your body is just as explainable.
Danny: It is a spiritual punch in the gut when you realize some of this, it makes you fall and giggle and cry at the same time.
Sean: But I’m really excited just because a lot of what we have released is just the groundwork. We built the ship that’s now finally space-worthy. Now it’s the second act, technically.
Danny: He’s got it all figured out with the acts.
Sean: Because we really are just entering the forest -- the whole point of the show is they’re always ignoring it -- even now they only try to lucid dream to try to control it, it wasn’t to search deeper.
Danny: Yeah, it’s almost like we just want to lucid dream because we don’t like our dreams. The astral apocalypse is what George and Jason are now facing, they realize they’re part of an ancient, predestined --
Sean: Dream prophecy.
Danny: --struggle where it’s going to have to go for everybody, and we clearly have a special connection.
Sean: It definitely goes from a buddy comedy to more like, action adventure -- but still comedy!
Danny: It’s definitely going to go action adventure/sci-fi, but the comedy never leaves.
Sean: Hopefully by the end it’s found its heart.
Danny: But not really even sci-fi, you see.
Sean: It’s just science without the fiction.
Sean: Some people feel that humor is insulting.
Danny: Yeah, almost like it detracts from its potential impact on human society. I think that they both need to be there. There’s a bunch of people now who are older than us, that have been developing these things, but now our contribution is just a method of interpretation to maybe widen the audience for all of these people, you know? We even referenced a bunch of books, like DMT: The Spirit Molecule was in there in one episode. We’re talking about things that are real, that’s the funny part.
Sean: I actually had two really good friends, who -- we had watched all five episodes, and I said something about actually leaving my body, and they were like, “Wait, what? It’s real?” I was like, do you not watch the show? “I thought you were just making it up!” Why would I do that? All of Episode IV, all that Bill says is just a lie?. That’s kind of the joke too, and we want to get to that with the website. The more episodes we make and the more people check it out, we are just trying to encourage lucid dreaming. You know Lucidity, the DVD that we get in the show, Bill and everything he says, and even the shirts that we’re wearing -- even if you don’t like the show, if you wanted to lucid dream, just watch this short, 10-minute video. We’re trying to get out to everyone: people that don’t already know about it, people that do know about it....
Danny: We don’t want to insult people by making it too silly. There’s always that worry? And we’ll even try to contact these writers from books and stuff. Like Robert Wagner got back to us.
Sean: Yeah, he really liked it, that was cool. That was probably the most awesome person that we could’ve received feedback from.
Danny: I really think that Episode VI will verify the depth of the subject, and our acknowledgement of that.
Sean: We went up north to a forest to get a big sequence done
Danny: What’s funny is that all our dream locations are just places that look dreamy, you know, dream-like.
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