Science fiction is definitely one of the costlier genres to make a movie in, especially if you go off-earth. You'll need to build sets, make costumes, create effects, and spend lots and lots of time in post production. While I like this kind of sci-fi, it does thwart the micro budget ideology. Some go forward anyway, and work toward bringing their vision to life.
Such is Venus Rises, a series of episodes set to be released on the web as 'vidcasts'. Created by writer-director J.G. Birdsall, the show concerns the future of man on colonized Mars and the mines of Venus. While nothing has been released yet, the first episode is currently in post.
There is a lot to look at on the website, including behind-the-scenes footage which give an idea about what to expect. The low budget sets look pretty impressive, and should be an asset to the project. Some of the acting looks a bit suspect (note the scene in the shuttlecraft), but without seeing anything "official", we may just be seeing early takes (or outtakes). There is also a nice gallery of stills, and a message board where you can interact with the filmmakers.
Technology and the Arts recently interviewed Birdsall about Venus Rises, and that podcast is available for a listen or a download on their site. I liked the research he apparently did, not only on the story, but also on the set design and how he incorporated old NASA junk he picked up on eBay.
As far as making money, Venus Rises does have an ad model. Anyone can buy time within an episode, and it appears commercials can run at the beginning and in the middle of each chapter. I'm not sure how well this will work (or how much money they've made), but it is something. There must be some cash coming in, as you can only buy time in Episode 3. The first two must be booked solid! They also accept sponsors.
I'm excited to see how well this tale comes together. It is more evidence that filmmakers want to use the web to its fullest potential, and I wish them success. Any good results achieved by these guys will only benefit the rest of us in the future when we try it.