Off The Grid News recently sat down with producer Rob Underhill and author/Doomsday Preppers star William Simpson (Captain Bill) to discuss their new collaborative projects. The pair met via OTG News after both men sat down for interviews about their respective endeavors. Underhill is an award-winning producer who recently finished developing The Carrington Event television series. Simpson’s The Nautical Prepper book will soon be available to the masses.
Rob Underhill and Bill Simpson are currently working together on two projects, The Bunker Diaries, a prepper fiction series, and Missionary Wars, a docudrama TV series.
OTG: You two connected after Off The Grid News had the opportunity to interview you both about your preparedness and filming endeavors. How did the relationship between you develop and lead to the creation of a new television series?
Bill: I had been interested in the 1859 Carrington solar event since college, when I read about it in a physics book. So when I saw your articles about Rob Underhill and his movie The Carrington Event, it caught my attention. I reached out to Rob via email and we started a back-and-forth dialog about projects and interests, and it wasn’t long until we felt there was a great fit between our talents. We decided to team-up on Missionary Wars and Bunker Diaries. For me, it was exciting to be working with someone who could take my ideas and words, and transform them into compelling visuals, creating dramatic adventure edutainment in the case of Missionary Wars, and in the case of Bunker Diaries, an edge-of-your-seat dramatic doomsday thriller.
Rob: To be honest, I’m approached by a lot of folks with a ‘good idea.’ It’s daily. But I tend to err towards giving folks a chance. Captain William Simpson is making quite a name for himself in the prepper and literary community, so of course I did pay closer attention to what he had to offer. One quick review and I was hooked: Missionary Wars with the fantastical landscape right out of your best lucid dream in the morning, while at the same time being a place of real-life nightmares. I saw the connection, something we can showcase in order to do something about it, while celebrating and sharing the indigenous culture with the world through a TV series. Soon after Bill brought up Bunker Diaries, I was again hooked—just like our future viewers of the series will be—at the outset. Episode 1 you get a final view of the world as we know it through the eyes of a modern family before the family descends into a bunker to try to weather a world that is rapidly descending into chaos. Thrilling stuff. Something one can spin around a campfire and enthrall all ages for a whole night of storytelling.
OTG: Rob, what can you tell prospective viewers about the concept of Bunker Diaries?
Rob: Bunker Diaries plays on our greatest fears. In a way it is a play on genre and expectations. A bunker, much like a “safe room” is a place to retreat to, to be protected, to have all you need to sustain yourself and others until the time of trouble passes. But just like a safe-room, a bunker is not such a swell place to be if you have to hide out there indefinitely. After time, and with even the simplest complications (you have to worry about food, air purification, handling waste), boredom and stir-craziness becomes an enemy. Your safe house bunker begins to feel like your tomb. We couple the challenge of long-term existence underground while you see the world above dissolving further and further into chaos. Living zombies literally comb the earth above. Everyone is starting to starve, infight, and fires go unchecked. Civil services have ceased to function just days into the crisis and the population of the city resorts to barbarism. So, staying in this little retreat doesn’t seem so bad, boredom or not. But, when even a couple of simple things go wrong in this tiny space where you’re co-living with your loved ones, the bunker can rapidly become toxic and life-threatening. It’s like Apollo 13 meets The Walking Dead—trying to “McGuiver” your limited resources in a tiny living space in order to hold out, feeling as trapped as if a thousand miles above earth, but “escaping” to the dangers above seeming more and more probable. But if one waits long enough, will that buy enough time to overcome what is above and execute an escape plan? Or would it be total lawlessness and a constant meat-grinder of killing above. And escape to where for that matter? We take the viewer on this frightening journey.
OTG: Bill, what can you share about the Missionary Wars concept?
Bill: The basic concept behind Missionary Wars is to raise global awareness regarding the serious challenges that are currently faced by aboriginal peoples around the world, starting with the Pacific Islanders. Using a reality TV format, we intend to provide “infotainment” to audiences in a way that allows audience members to truly understand the issues. There will be the opportunity to provide financial support directly to medical missionary teams on the ground by crowd-funding directly to the missionaries through their websites using PayPal. And what may be even more exciting is then potentially seeing the results of sponsorships in action, on screen. It’s something that I don’t believe has ever been done before on TV.
I had the idea for a documentary about the Pacific Islanders ever since my first involvement with a team of medical missionaries back in 1995, when I was both amazed and saddened by what I saw in videos made by the missionaries about the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands. I was amazed by their understanding of the natural world around them and their many skills, which rival those of any survivalist here in the western world. These people have mastered their domain, in the same way North American Indians had done prior to the arrival of European settlers.
For more than a thousand years, these islanders and their ancestors have carved out a living in one of the most remote locations on earth using methods and techniques that are representative of the pinnacle of bush-craft skills. In additional to fishing skills, these islanders are highly effective in their use of coconut tree fibers for a host of uses, including the manufacture of textiles and ropes. They are skilled craftsmen when it comes to using other materials, like palm trees to construct durable housing and ocean-going vessels that are capable of long-distance voyaging using primitive, yet effective, navigation methods. They are experts in utilizing various sea and terrestrial plant materials for both food and medicines. Even young children can make fire without any matches or modern strikers. However, I was saddened by the effects of the arrival of “modern ways” and products on some of these islands via the copra trading boats. The islanders have fallen prey to modern vices (high-carb packaged foods, sugar, alcohol, etc.) and illnesses that are brought into the islands.
OTG: What are the real world problems faced by the people of the Republic of Kiribati?
Bill: The problems the people of Kiribati face today are daunting, even for people as tough and as adaptive as these. First, and possibly foremost, are the issues surrounding the difficulty in maintaining a water supply that is suitable for consumption and agricultural use. The Republic of Kiribati is made up of 32 coral atolls and one raised coral island. The coral atolls are basically made up of permeable limestone (ancient decomposed coral and sand), and as such, the seawater can penetrate deeply into the limestone rock. When it rains, fresh water percolates a few feet down into the decomposed coral rock and sandy topsoil, forming into a fresh water layer that virtually floats on top of the seawater. Generally, the sea water has a higher specific gravity than fresh water, so the fresh water floats on top, forming what might be termed a lens-shaped layer of fresh water.
Of course, plants and trees draw from this layer of fresh water, as do the islanders, using hand-dug wells. Even though the water is somewhat brackish, it is potable drinking water. However, as a result of many factors, including increased demands for water by a growing population, a slight rise in the sea level, and the level of sea water within the limestone, the thin layer of fresh water is reduced further. And already in many cases, the fresh water is now too salty for drinking or agricultural use. The seawater contamination, also known as salinization, is also affecting vegetation. In some areas, traditional crops of taro, coconut palms, and other plants are dying off.
Adding to the problem is that some islanders traditionally use the mangroves and the beaches as toilets. Given the greatly increased populations, combined with a lack of sanitation infrastructure, and these numerous sources of sewage tend to contaminate the shallow groundwater reserves, which results in increased incidents of serious water-borne diseases. The combination of ground water depletion and contamination on some islands results in heavy dependency on catchment water, and there are issues there too, including a serious lack of catchments with adequate volume.
With these issues as the backdrop, islanders are now plagued by illnesses that are the direct result of western foods and beverages, which are actively traded to the islanders for their copra and other coconut palm products. Previously unknown in the islander’s diets, these new foods and beverages (which are extremely high in cane sugar), have dramatically and adversely affected the heath of these aboriginal people. One example is diabetes. Prior to the introduction of western foods and beverages, diabetes was not present in the islands. Today, the islanders have one of highest incidences of diabetes anywhere in the world. Complicating matters are serious dental issues, in children and adults, where having a tooth abscess can be a death sentence.
The problems that the islands face are in fact synergistic in their adverse impact on the people… one problem leads to another. For instance, as a result of the lack of potable drinking water on many islands, all drinking water must be boiled. This requires the use of more naturally occurring fuel for stoves, which places excessive demands upon available fuel for cooking. More people are sick and in pain than ever before, and the lack of electrical power on most islands eliminates any option for communications for medical services or water purification systems of any significance.
The impact of the proposed TV show Missionary Wars will be immediate and positive for the population of at least one island. For instance, the recent equipment sponsorships for Missionary Wars by manufacturers who make products for disaster preparedness and off-grid use can be effectively used by the indigenous peoples, while supporting the film production on location.
Timely communications between the islands is impossible in some areas as result of a lack of equipment. People who are injured or who are seriously ill have no way to call for help. That problem will be changed on at least one island by the installation of the shortwave radio that Icom America has donated. Another example is the increased populations on some islands have created a shortage of naturally occurring fuels from the coconut palms for cooking fires, so islanders need to be more efficient with the available fuels.
Electrical power is essentially non-existent on many islands. The Air Breeze wind generator that was sponsored by e-Marine Systems and Primus Wind Power will provide sources of electricity to help power essentials like communications and water purification. Some medicines must be refrigerated and by having even a small source of power, a small refrigerator with certain medications can become a lifesaving asset in such remote locations, something that most of us take for granted.
Rob: The film team will be up against some of the same real-world problems that the people of Kiribati experience. The people rely on what the islands can provide and shipments of just essentials. What that means for us is that everything we need has to be brought in by plane, then boat. It all must be in sealed containers that protect against the elements. And if a piece of equipment breaks, we need to fix it ourselves—Radio Shack is more than two thousand miles of ocean away. And since the people are without electricity, we must bring gobs of batteries and a solar array for recharging. This being a reality show, however, means that we do get to make that part of the drama, a side story, reminding the viewer of the peril and drama surrounding the film team themselves! They, too, combat these limitations.