'The Outer Rim': Vermont-produced sci-fi series about to launch

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HIGHGATE, Vt. (WCAX) It's a big, wide world out there with so much to explore beyond our beautiful corner of the Northeast.

But what if I told you the expanded universe can be found by taking a little drive through Highgate, Vermont? Down a country road is the portal to the outer rim.

This is a first look at a locally produced sci-fi web series that has been in the works for years. Tonight, we go on a voyage to show how it got here.

Cameras roll as a crew of actors gets ready for takeoff.

"We've been having an absolute blast," James Bray said.

Bray lives in Highgate and is one of the lead pilots of this project.

"This is the model [ship] that really started it all," he said.

In his family's basement is the hanger for his spaceships. Each model created of his own design and with whatever he can find.

"I just look at all the junk I have lying around," he said, "and I go, what kind of form could this take?"

Through a little TV magic, a hand-held shuttle can park itself next to your Camry.

"They look and they go, 'Oh my god, it looks like it's really sitting over there in the parking lot,'" James said.

"Sweepers" is the first installment of a series called "The Outer Rim."

"Imagine a future where the industries and corporations have taken over the government," James said. "Our first story shows you a mining service vessel called the Audrey. They're called sweepers because what they do is they sweep over planets with sensors, looking for rare minerals and things like that."

Capt. R.J. Cage is played by James' wife of 29 years, Jodi.

James Bray: Look at the engines on this bad boy, OK? That's all Trulicity pens.
Jodi Bray: Your diabetes is paying off.
James Bray: Ha-ha, that's right!

They're able to poke fun now but it's been a long road. Together, they took ideas from a "Star Trek" fan film they helped produce and repurposed it into something new all their own.

Jodi's character, Capt. Cage, has PTSD.

"You can identify with them better if they have flaws, if they're human," Jodi explained.

Reporter Galen Ettlin: So, it sounds like you're incorporating a lot of different social, economic and current event issues into your sci-fi series. Why did you do that?
James Bray: Well, that's the beauty of science fiction, you can use it as a vehicle to discuss today's problems and issues... And that's what I want to do, I want to tell moral tales to discuss these kinds of things that we all need to be talking about... We pulled all the 'Star Trek' out and said, you know what? We have a good story here.

And new friends agreed. Effect artists, editors, musicians and actors from all over joined the project.

"At one point, we had a CGI artist from Australia helping us out," James said.

He played into his own past experience.

"I ended up getting a job in Florida working for companies that did work for Disney and Universal Studios," he said.

Taking his skills from the Sunshine State to the Enosburg Opera House in Vermont, offering space for James' hand-built sets.

Many in the production traveled to the Bray's Vermont home, staying there once a year to help shoot the series.

Galen Ettlin: What has that been like for you?
Jodi Bray: A lot of towels [laughs]... No, it's been a lot of fun, and it's been a real bonding experience, and that's important. Out of all of this, I don't care if we make money. I'm just having a good time. And that's all I care about really. It's fun.

The bonus, this family says, would be if a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu shows interest. But for now...

Galen Ettlin: So you're really just riding the ride.
James Bray: I'm just riding the ride... You still have to stay grounded, otherwise, you crash and burn... So we're looking to see how this goes, and if it's well-received, we'll incorporate and fire up.

A labor of love six years in the making about to take off.

"I couldn't be more proud of the work that they've done. It's just remarkable," James said.

"The Outer Rim" debuts this Saturday at the Vermont Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo. I will be there to moderate a Q&A with the team. Find us at the Champlain Valley Expo at 2 p.m. to see the pilot episode and ask questions at a panel discussion. And feel free to reach out to me over social media if you can't make it. It will be broadcast on Facebook Live and I can bring your questions with me!

After that, the series will air on some local Vermont access channels and it will be online. Click here for more information.