Peer Review : The Darkest Timeline

The Darkest Timeline : episode 4

History is with me. What say you?

Do you remember BerenstAin Bears or BerentstEin Bears?

The multiverse is real! Any one who remembers BerenstAin is from this reality, but any one who remembers BerenstEin is from an alternate reality.

I am Thomas Tulak, executive producer, writer, director, and editor for The Darkest Timeline, and I’m asking for a review of this episode.

This is the rough cut of a proof of concept. This is episode 4. We are planning to use this episode to sell the show and get funding to complete season 1. So I would like some feed back on the edit of this cut. How well does it flow? does it feel laggy? does the edit work? is it interesting? does it keep you engaged?

As I said, this is a rough cut, it has temp music, place holder VFX, and the audio is only a rough mix. (We are well aware of the problem with the mic pops and are working toward fixing it for the future). The final draft will have better special effects, and an original score.

Also, as we will be reshooting this episode with some different actors (not the entire cast), along with the rest of the 1st season, I’d like to ask what works and what doesn’t work about it. We will have the chance to completely re do all of this. Hopefully you can see where I tried to go with it. Does it get there?


the video’s restricted for me. is that due to my school’s wifi or is there an error with the link?

(can’t wait to watch though)

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we really need more indie sic fi, so i’m psyched about this. best of luck with funding, my dude.

my big takeaway-
there are a lot of camera angles, and since they’re all handheld and usually at a dutch angle, it can get really distracting. it’s hard to focus in the scene. dutch angles, imo, are some of the most overused camera tropes when trying to show someone’s world getting rocked, and when you use that angle on every single piece of coverage, it’s hella hard to follow the scene. especially when you’re doing so much cutting around- i think i counted five separate kinds of coverage of one dude in the living room scene, which is unnecessary. also, and this might just be me, but i’m not a fan of when the actor is framed so that the free third or two thirds of the screen are behind them, not in front of them in line with their eyeline (especially when it happens for every piece of coverage, and not just distinct ones to draw a contrast). but that might just be personal preference so take it or leave it.

the handheld camera got really shaky at some points too, so you might want to get your dp a better rig.


i didn’t have a problem with it, but i’m just on my home computer. is it maybe a country thing? are you in the usa or elsewhere?

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The good: The concept is fucking hysterical. Finally, someone is exploring the TRUTH. I also really dug the way you’re sort of lovingly deconstructing a lot of alternate universe/ alternate timeline tropes. It’s a really fun idea executed by people who clearly love what they’re doing.

Critiques: Particularly in the flashback but even during the episode itself, the acting tends towards the melodramatic, and not in a funny satirical way. In a way that reads like “we’re being over dramatic because this is a silly concept we’re taking too seriously” and not in a “oh wow these people are super into this silly concept,” if that distinction makes any sense. Put a different way, the actors seem to not believe in their own melodrama, which is important in a semi-satirical kind of concept. I have to believe they believe in their own insanity, otherwise it comes off as amateurish, and for an indie sci-fi series, amateurish acting can really hurt you because you’re already on an uphill battle competing with blockbusters. The redheaded girl specifically.

Also, if you’re going to use handheld and not sticks (which I love- I’m a big fan of a free-floating camera because I think it makes scenes look more natural), you should invest in a stabilizing rig or a cameraperson with a steadier hand, because there are some moments of coverage so shaky I thought I was in an earthquake and again, it didn’t look intentional, it looked like a mistake. There’s a fine line between a stylistic choice and a mistake, and it’s important that when it’s a choice, it looks like one.

oh true I’m out here in canada. maybe that’s why.

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I mean there shouldn’t be country restrictions on YouTube… @Thomas_Tulak can you advise? Do you have country restrictions on your link?

I’m sorry the link isn’t working. I double checked just now and there is no country restrictions set on the link. In fact it is specifically set to play in all countries. I’m not sure why the link won’t work for you.

I would say perhaps it’s related to the recent laws that passed regarding net neutrality, but that’s just in the US. so I don’t know.


Well technically nothing has happened yet with net neutrality. The decision yesterday has no direct changes associated with it- it still has to be upheld by courts and then needs a timeline to be put into affect.

@kmd It also might be your school blocking it :woman_shrugging:


The pacing is a off for a comedy- people don’t usually give each other that much space to make quips and banter. Some of that is in the acting which was choppy at times, but ore overlap or at least less pause time in between cuts and line exchanges would help a lot.

Is there a reason you’re doing episode 4 as your proof of concept, and not an earlier one, so you don’t have to have a “previously on” to present to someone with no other context?


yes, because episode 4 is the where the main plot and over all back drop of the show really starts to unfold. the previous episodes set up characters and begin things rolling, but it isn’t until this episode where they hit on the main point, which is the Berenstain Bears Mandela Effect, which is the point I wanted to get across the most.

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it’s probably my school blocking it. I’ll watch when I’m home!


Have you considered just making this your pilot? If it takes 3 episodes to gets to stuff interesting enough for someone to want to buy it or help pay for it, something is wrong. It shouldn’t take 3 episodes to set up a premise. And honestly, if there wasn’t a “previously on” segment, most of the episode made sense out of context. If you started with the dead body and went right to the conversation in the house, I didn’t need to know who red haired girl was or any of that. You should start in the action.

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there are several other plot points that get set up in the previous episodes as well. plus the previous episodes introduce the characters. starting with this episode, the four of them in the living having this discussion, you aren’t curious who they are, or how they came to be having such a discussion?

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I am curious who they are, but only because the situation is weird and cool. It’s an action-packed way to get the story started- I trust you as the filmmaker enough to give me character info later, but I don’t want to get to know the characters outside of the story, you know? They’re just people. I want a story. And if this story doesn’t start until ep 4 really, then I don’t care about them before it?

I just think if you had to skip three episodes to get to one where you think you’ll get the best response from buyers and audiences, something is up. That’s what the pilot is supposed to do. IT’s like telling that you had to skip three episodes for it to get exciting enough to present as a proof of concept.


Besides what’s already been said, the knocking-out-with-the-gun stunt didn’t really work for me. It seemed too deliberate and not forceful enough.

PS I’m in Canada and it plays fine for me :slight_smile:

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“too deliberate and not forceful enough.”

I’m not sure I understand what you mean, perhaps you could elaborate?

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It looks like they’re actors doing a stunt instead of one character beating up another. I’ve been in the same situation where, as a director, your first priority is everyone’s safety, so the stunt ends up looking safe and rehearsed :slight_smile:

The swing, in terms of speed and power, looks like it would hurt but not knock someone out. Also, the actress didn’t “follow through” on the swing enough to my eye. A full-power follow through over-extends a bit at the end, then comes back a little, instead of just stopping dead.

Hope this is more clear.

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I like it, both the concept and the execution. The show has a good energy and pace, and as an editor that’s usually one of the things that pull me out. I’m picky about that sort of thing, so kudos on the pacing of the episode itself. :slight_smile:

My main concern is with the excess of camera angles when they’re talking in the living room. I get the intent behind it, but instead of making me unsettled with the characters I’m more distracted and pulled out of the show. Streamlining that (especially in scenes with more than two characters) will help the flow of the scene and also save you some time on set.

I’m also not a fan of having the extra space in frame behind the person as they’re talking. It’s a cool idea, but it’s used a lot and doesn’t appear to be motivated in this scene. I think if you want to play around with timelines and time travel that type of shot can be quite effective, especially if a character is just walking into frame or staring off at something. If anything, the folks in “main timeline” could be more centered, with people in different timelines taking up space in different parts of the frame depending on where they exist. And sometimes the standard over-the-shoulder shot is perfectly fine for a moment in the conversation as it can let the actors do their thing.

Hope this helps! Love what you’re doing with this.


I’m actually quite happy to hear so many people aren’t fans of the extra space behind the actor in the shot. That means you become slightly uncomfortable watching it, which was exactly my intent. This was the point in the story where things start feeling off-kilter, so to speak, so im happy that the audience is feeling unfomfortable with the camera angles.

I always have a reason for my camera placement and angles, I’m utilizing camera angles to help drive the audience’s feeling of discomfort and raise tension and it seems to be doing exactly what I want. so thank you, every one.

as far as the shakey cam, that was a stylistic choice from the onset, but so many people here, and even before I posted it here, disliked it. in fact I’m the only person who likes it so far. This is why we have such test screenings, now I know to steady the cam more when we get to it.

@hermdelica thank you for your critique of the stunt, I’ll work on trying to make it more effective next time around.

thank you every one for your reviews, much of this has been helpful.

is any one else having trouble viewing the video?

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