'The best creative experience of my career': 24 star Kiefer Sutherland on why his new web- only drama is the future of TV
The actor appears alongside John Hurt in The Confession, a new ten-part series which can be viewed online from today in five to nine-minute 'webisodes'
By JANE MULKERRINS
Last updated at 7:24 PM on 28th March 2011
Kiefer Sutherland today launches his first television series since 24, and this time, the man who played government agent Jack Bauer, is tackling a new challenge: digital distribution on the internet.
The Confession, which will be aired online only, for free, via the website hulu.com, premiered last night at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel.
Sutherland, the 45 year-old actor who is also the creator and executive producer of the series, called the show: ‘The most unique project I have ever been involved with, and one of the greatest creative experiences I have had in my career’.
All-star cast: John Hurt (left) and Kiefer Sutherland (right) at a screening of their new web-only drama, The Confession, in New York last night
‘The internet is the largest network in the world and offers phenomenal access to an audience. We can easily access a hundred million people in the blink of an eye,’ Sutherland told MailOnline.
‘I liken the internet to the fastest racehorse in the world, which no one has figured out how to put a saddle on it yet. I hope we will be part of the much larger group of people trying to do just that.’The ten-part series, in which Sutherland plays a hit man, apparently untroubled by his conscience, is divided into so-called ‘webisodes’. The first three episodes are available to download today, and the remaining seven will be delivered in weekly instalments. ‘When I started working, there were only three television networks in the United States, then there were four, and now there’s 500,’ said Sutherland.
‘Thanks to that level of competition, the quality has got better, and having television available on the internet can only make it better still.’
High-quality: Sutherland plays a hit man in The Confession, which was created with the same level of talent as a big screen production
The series co-stars veteran British actor John Hurt, as the priest whom Sutherland forces to hear his confession.
‘It’s terrifically exciting - making something directly for the internet is a completely new concept,’ said the 71 year-old star of films including The Elephant Man and Midnight Express. ‘It really is breaking new ground’.
Contrary to his co-star Sutherland, Hurt was, however, scornful of the state of television today. ‘Television is out of the window,’ he said. ‘Apart from HBO, you can forget about the rest of it completely.’
Hurt, whose small screen CV includes roles as Alan Clark in the BBC’s Alan Clark Diaries, and Quentin Crisp in the 1975 ITV classic, The Naked Civil Servant, said: ‘Television has nothing to offer, no great people to offer any more. It is just hopelessly inadequate people running an inadequate business.’
Unlike a traditional television series, The Confession is told in shorter chapters, of between five and nine minutes in length. Maura Mandt, one of the show’s producers, said this was an advantage offered by internet distribution.
‘One of the great things about this medium is that there isn’t a time limit. Each episode is as long as that story needs to be. It doesn’t have the restrictions of network television, so they can all be different lengths,’ said Mandt.
She also said that The Confession was unusual in its high-quality production. ‘When you hear the words ‘web series’ or ‘webisode’, it brings to mind certain ideas. We wanted ours to have high production values, to be like something you would see on a big screen.’
The web factor: Unlike a traditional television series, The Confession is told in shorter chapters, of between five and nine minutes in length
Sutherland himself came up with the concept for the show, then drafted in the highly regarded Hollywood scriptwriter Brad Mirman, who penned The Good Shepherd, to write and direct it.The series was then shot in just seven days in New York, during December’s heavy snow storms. The scenes which take place between Sutherland and Hurt, in the confessional, and which make up half of the entire air-time, were shot in just two days.
‘It was like doing a play, except that we didn’t get the four weeks rehearsal time,’ said Sutherland, who is currently starring in That Championship Season on Broadway, alongside Chris Noth and Brian Cox.
‘Getting an actor like John Hurt on board was instrumental in making that work.’ The series was produced by New York-based company Digital Broadcasting Group. The company’s CEO, Chris Young said he believed viewers would embrace the new format.‘Now that we are all empowered consumers, everything is on demand. I can’t remember the last time I actually tuned in to watch a TV show live,’ he said.
‘We think this is definitely a watershed moment. We are proving that this kind of production can originate online and live online, and it’s really indicative of where we are in 2011, being able to consume programming across all different types of media.’
Last updated at 7:24 PM on 28th March 2011
All-star cast: John Hurt (left) and Kiefer Sutherland (right)
at a screening of their new web-only drama, The Confession,
in New York last night
High-quality: Sutherland plays a hit man in The Confession,
which was created with the same level of talent as a big screen production
The web factor: Unlike a traditional television series,
The Confession is told in shorter chapters, of between
five and nine minutes in length