Award-winning producer Rob Underhill turned his curiosity about the Carrington Event of 1859 into a television series. The show is a survival/disaster/science fiction type show that could potentially attract the same massive fan following of AMC’s hit TV show, “The Walking Dead.”
The Carrington Event television series focuses on what happens in America after a powerful solar flare knocks out the power grid. The Carrington family is followed as they are quickly forced to absorb the shock of living life after the power grid goes down. Massive civil unrest does not take long to occur after the lights go out in America.
Producer Rob Underhill has ten years of experience as a producer, director, and writer. Underhill has also been a leading force behind over 50 short-films that have been screened at more than 100 film festivals from around the globe.
He is also the producer of The Lynching of Emmett Till – which won seven film awards. He is currently in post-production on the feature film, Box Brown. The movie is based on the true story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom in 1849.
What prompted you to make a television series about the Carrington Event and solar flares?
Rob: Larry Gardner, longtime friend, collaborator, and editor on many of my film projects, was originally intrigued about the historic event that took place in 1859, called the Carrington Event, when he ran across a NASA report from 2005. The report sought to determine what effects a solar storm of the same magnitude would have today on the nation’s power grid and communications apparatus. The prognosis was very bleak.
Larry and I sketched how the world would descend into chaos once electricity was removed from the equation. Since everything, even water at the tap, pumping gas, logistics, information, requires power, we would suddenly within days of the event run out of all essentials: food, water. And without communications-radio and TV would be out-folks would overreact, hysteria set in, compounding the problem.
I ran with Larry’s concept and initial feature film draft, working it into a pilot episode for a proposed 13 one-hour episodes-currently written and being marketed to networks and investors. Larry and I wrote the featurette that will have its world premiere May 11 at Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in Wilmington, NC. The 13-part first season was written in large part by my longtime writer friend Allen Gies from Michigan. I’ve played a supporting and editorial role in that process.
What do you think would happen to life as we know it America if a Carrington Event size solar flare happened today?
Rob: Such a powerful electrical current would be generated that transformers, the heart of the electric grid, would literally have inside components melted, rendering them irreparable. The U.S. only has enough replacements for two or three percent of the nation’s transformers. Transformers require 2 to 3 years to build. Doing the math, that’s years in the dark.
The Sun is nearing the peak of its 11-year cycle, making your movie even more timely. How have both past and future solar flare activity predictions impacted the evolution of the movie?
Rob: At the peak of each cycle, solar flares are at their most extreme. And this means real world implications. It’s not theoretical; we have regular reports in national news about radio, satellite, and electrical grid disruptions caused by the solar storms produced by the massive flares. This means folks actually experience the real effects; this can only fuel imagination of what it will be like for the big one. And it causes trepidation and anxiety to know how little is being done to prevent the next Carrington Event size solar storm from causing havoc-this is a real big draw for audiences.
While some Americans have been preparing for life after the lights go out due to fears about our overly-taxed power grid, did experts from either the space science or survivalist realms offer guidance during the writing or production of The Carrington Event?
Rob: We have a lot of preppers and scientist community fans who’ve been thrilled to offer feedback on the processes we are demonstrating. We wanted to grab the gritty realism of a real family going through the most terrifying developments, trying to keep themselves together while the world is crumbling around them.
Did The Carrington Event cast have to learn about the 1859 event and solar flares when preparing for their roles in the television series?
Rob: They did. We spent time discussing real world effects and in filming this we made every effort to keep it as close to the science as possible. It’s grim enough as is, no need to embellish in it. And our film’s Facebook page is a wealth of links to real science on the subject, reports of big solar flares happening in our time.
The Carrington Event trailer gives us a brief glimpse of what to expect from the movie. Does the film focus primarily on the human aspect of life after a massive solar flare hits Earth?
Rob: Without modern conveniences, we find out who of us can lead, who has the mindset for challenges ahead. So this is about the transformation of character, of interpersonal relationships, of struggle. There is a huge psychological component. We also see the dissolution of government civil services, police, fire departments, hospitals-so we explore how infrastructure is affected.
The Carrington Event television series trailer seems to show a melding of the traditional Sci-Fi genre with a docu-drama aspect. Does The Carrington Event feature both an educational and entertainment aspects?
Rob: It is entertaining to the utmost because the audience follows the unknowable developments with the characters; they are on the ride from the beginning of the event, and the TV series, as well as the featurette, takes the viewer over the course of a two week period.
It is educational because we stick to the science of how a modern day Carrington Event would affect the world, the psychology and sociology of how individuals and whole groups would react, and showcasing preppers versus folks that rely on the modern day system to sustain them day-to-day. Since this could happen today, as it does for our characters, our viewers can imagine how they would deal with this situation, how they could survive, and it invites endless debate on the subject between friends, coworkers, family and so on.
How do The Carrington Event characters react to the downed power grid and coming to terms with life after a massive solar flare?
Rob: Different characters will be affected differently. While The Carrington Event is a disaster as dangerous as a meteorite impact or super virus, it is a quiet one with pretty northern lights across the hemisphere for a day or two and the electric grid poofing out. The real danger and the epic struggle is slow to begin. The first night a family may barbecue and have fun with the situation. By the following day, unease will creep in without radio and television to relay that the world is okay.
The Carrington Event synopsis:
Joseph Carrington runs an organic mini-farm on the outskirts of a large, southern town. His rustic lifestyle means he is a bit removed from his family. Carrington’s wife has spent the last 10 years pursuing a pediatrics career. His teen daughter’s goal at the moment is to ditch life in the small town for a big city existence. Joseph Carrington’s 10-year-old son is a typical modern child who would likely go into withdrawal without video games, television, and the internet.
The solar flare (CME) happens and power on the Carrington family farm is soon non-existent. The group learns soon after that the entire area is in the midst of a blackout. The family quickly realizes that they have no way to know what is going on in the outside world. Little do they know, the outside world is experiencing the same woes and rapidly descending into chaos. The Carrington family must look past their individual differences and work together in order to survive in the dark new world.