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The new web series "Snatchers" is the story of a high-school girl who loses her virginity one day and gives birth to a murderous alien creature the next. It's scary and funny and gory and more than a little bit crazy.
And it was filmed here in Utah, which surprised even the three filmmakers who made it.
Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman and Scott Yacyshyn filmed a 6-minute version of "Snatchers" in 2015, and the producers of that short recommended they look to Utah when Warner Bros. Digital Networks' Stage 13 ordered a full web series.
"They told us that Utah has this incredible film industry that we had no idea about," Cedars said. "So we went up there and it was beautiful and it was different from Los Angeles and Atlanta, where everyone shoots everything. So we thought, 'This is a great place to shoot this thing.' ''
So when we meet status-obsessed teen Sara (Mary Nepi), it's at Highland High. Neither the school nor the city is identified, but you can see mountains in the background as the narrative unfolds.
Sara agrees to have sex in order to hang on to popular guy Skyler (Austin Fryberger), who just got back from a trip to Mexico. And he brings with him an illegal alien that he implants in Sara, leading to all sorts of mayhem.
"We are all younger brothers to older sisters, so we kind of were witnesses to the tumultuous times that they had in high school," said Cedars. "And we thought that was a great backdrop for this wild, kind of wacky story of this alien pregnancy."
It's over the top. But, at the same time, Sara and her friend Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse) come across as real-ish teens in an incredibly heightened reality. The goal, Kleiman said, was to "write a story that was grounded in believable characters that everyone could relate to before we took it to the crazy end."
Cedars, 30, Kleiman, 30, and Yacyshyn, 32, who met at UCLA, co-wrote and are executive producers; Cedars and Kleiman co-directed and edited the project, which they originally conceived as a full-length movie script. Beginning Thursday, it will stream as eight 6-to-10-minute episodes.
"We modified the script only slightly to break it into episodes," Cedars said.
They had what Cedars described as a "scrappy budget," but "Snatchers" doesn't look like something done on the cheap. They had a bit of good fortune when it came to a big shootout scene at police headquarters they got access to the old Midvale City offices before they were demolished.
"Midvale was kind enough to let us have our way with it. We really tore it apart," Cedars said.
That "lucky break" helped stretch their limited budget.
"It felt very much like shooting an independent film," Kleiman said. The organizers of Sundance agreed, because "Snatchers" screened at the film festival back in January.
"We were sitting on the floor complaining to each other about how hard the entire process was when we got the phone call," Cedars said. "It gave us the energy to finish up.
"I don't think any of us had any idea that a web series, let alone one in this genre, would be accepted to Sundance. We were as surprised as anyone."
And the experience left them feeling validated.
"We wanted to make a movie, and we stand by that," Kleiman said with a laugh. "And it was great when it went to Sundance, too, because we got to watch it in a cinematic setting. Hopefully, when we finish the second season it will feel even more like a complete film."
The Season 1 finale of "Snatchers" reaches a climax, but there's also a cliffhanger.
"The first season goes to about the halfway point of the story," Yacyshyn said. "So rest assured, there's more craziness on the way. Fingers crossed."
They're hoping to get the go-ahead for Season 2 shortly. If they do, they'll return to Utah to film it.
"Absolutely!" Kleiman said. "We wouldn't do it anywhere else."
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter: @ScottDPierce.