Prepper television shows are becoming increasingly popular on cable television. Two new preparedness shows are currently in the works. The Inquisitr recently sat down with award-winning producer Rob Underhill and Doomsday Preppers star and author William Simpson (Captain Bill) to discuss their new projects. Underhill and Simpson are currently collaborating on two projects, The Bunker Diaries, a prepper fiction series, and Missionary Wars, a docudrama TV series.
IQ: You two connected not long after you were both interviewed by The Inquisitr about you individual preparedness, writing, or producing 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, and 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, but 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.
IQ: What will make Missionary Wars stand out from the host of other reality shows which now flood the television screen?
Bill: Even though Missionary Wars can be considered reality TV, it will not be staged; in many senses, the cameras will be like the fly on the wall. In fact, Rob and I have discussed the extensive use Go-Pro cameras on the project to augment HD video camera footage. The cameras will allow audiences to join the missionaries as they face their daily challenges and struggles, as well as experiencing their interactions with these wonderful people, and observing the people as they live in their daily lives. If we go back far enough into our own timelines [1,000 years?] we might find many similarities with how these people are living and surviving today; in a way, it’s like looking back into the past.
Rob: I love the prospect of witnessing and sharing the individual stories of the islanders and their rich history and cultural practices. Few places in the world you can observe a people with entirely unique ways of experiencing loss and joy. Just imagine meeting an islander with a skull tucked under their arm, and soon after learning who this member of their family is.
IQ: 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, in-fight, and fires go unchecked, civil services have ceased to function just days into the crisis, 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 simple things go wrong in this tiny space 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 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.
IQ: 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 way that allows audience members to truly understand the issues, and 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; 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 worlds. These people have mastered their domain, in the same ways North American Indians had 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, and are skilled craftsmen when it comes to using other materials from 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; where the islanders have fallen prey to modern vices – high-carb packaged foods, sugar, alcohol, etc. – and illnesses that are brought into the islands.
IQ: What type of logistical filming obstacles will you encounter on the remote island?
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 ensuing the film team themselves! They too combat these limitations.
On some of the lesser populated outer islands, there is still some resemblance of a balance with nature, and of the old customs and traditions are still in place and villages are still headed-up by a ‘head-man’, or a family, who oversees their respective island’s society.
The islanders in Kiribati have an amazing and rich culture that can be traced back for more than a thousand years and contains a wealth of information. It’s interesting to note that for a time the author Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Kiribati on Abemama island, formerly known as Simpson Island, which is intended to be one of the filming locations for Missionary Wars.
Rob: Something else we’ll capture upon first arriving, something I’m very much looking forward to, is a huge party thrown by the natives. They do this as part of a cultural tradition to welcome visitors, and it is spectacular, as our Missionary Wars viewers will see.
IQ: 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 matter of a few feet down into the decomposed coral-rock and sandy topsoil and forms 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 ‘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, and 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 sea-water contamination, also known as ‘salinization’ is also affecting vegetation, and in some areas traditional crops of taro, coconut palms and other plants are dying-off.
Adding to the problems is that some islanders traditionally used the mangroves and the beaches as toilets, however, given the greatly increased populations combined with a lack of sanitation infrastructure, these numerous sources of sewage tend to contaminate the shallow ground water 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 results 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 being 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, and 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 eliminate any options for communications for medical services or water purification systems of any significance.
IQ: How do you think filming Missionary Wars will help the people of Kiribati?
Bill: 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; as in the case of Hardened Power System’s solar chargeable ReVolt battery pack to power cameras and crew communications. 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; 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, and the donation of the highly efficient bio-mass stoves by SilverFire will be a blessing. 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 and the solar-generator sponsored by SurvivalBased.com will provide two 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.
IQ: Do missionaries still play a vital role on the island?
Bill: Absolutely! In any given year, medical missionary teams will provide hundreds of hours of health education, and perform thousands of medical and dental procedures to the people without any cost. Volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses and support teams will spend weeks traveling to and from the remote outer islands providing basic medical and dental procedures, in most cases, to people who have never seen a doctor or dentist in their entire life. I have been told that sometimes as many as 20 or more islanders will wait in-line for hours to have dental work done while sitting in a folding lawn chair under a palm tree. Cosmetic dental work and fillings cannot be provided do to a lack of infrastructure, so tooth extractions due to abscess or extensive decay account for most dental work.
Rob: This certainly is one part of the real life drama that occurs with the people that we want to bring to light in Missionary Wars. Seeing 20 or more people waiting in line for treatment; a picture is worth a thousand words.
IQ: What are the routine struggles missionaries face when attempting to aid the island community?
Bill: The challenge begins with just traveling to these islands, which are arguably some of the most remote islands in the world. There is a small airport where jets can land on Tarawa atoll [capital of Kiribati] from where missionaries will travel via small boats and occasionally by small airplanes to the outer atolls. A few atolls do have small un-paved runways, which are suitable for only light aircraft. And once you get there, providing services in a location that is totally off the grid is very difficult, to say the least. There are none of conveniences we take for granted here in the US and elsewhere … no running water, no electricity, no fuel, and little or no modern equipment, other than which is brought to the islands by missionaries or fishermen. Some missionaries do succumb to the same water-borne diseases and infections that plague the islanders.
Rob: This is a big source of the true-drama we’ll capture in Missionary Wars as we toggle between different missionary groups, multiple story-lines will be playing out. If a motor breaks down, we’ll bring the viewer aboard for the repair or in extreme cases rescue. Meanwhile, report will come in that an islander is experiencing a life-threatening illness and needs medical attention, so another team will load up with the missionaries on a sailboat and make the voyage. A major delay means life or death, so they can’t wait for rough waters to abate. And when they do get there, we will witness how they cope with a medical procedure with no anesthesia available.
Bill: I am currently providing consulting services at no-charge to ‘Search For One’ missions out of Moses Lake, Washington. In the mid-90s I worked for two years with a medical missionary group out of California who served the Marshall Islands. In the course of my duties back then, I spent most of my time as the captain of their ship on the West Coast of the US and around Hawaii, sailing about 18,000 sea-miles, training crew and fundraising from 1995 to 1997. During that time I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with several of the doctors and dentists who had served on location at the islands. The common theme in those conversations was, ‘If we could only introduce these wonderful and interesting people and their amazing islands to the world, we might be able to attract more support for them.’
History has dealt these islanders a series of tragic events; and these very unique people and their culture have endured many serious hardships, ranging from; the introduction of deadly diseases from European sailors in the 17th and 18th centuries; to the invasion of their islands by the Japanese in WWII; to the subsequent brutal warfare that scarred their islands and killed a significant percentage of the indigenous population [all of whom were non-combatants] and bearing the brunt of above-ground nuclear testing that was conducted by Great Britain and the United States.
IQ: Have off grid and preparedness manufacturers signed on as production partners for Missionary War and Bunker Diaries?
Bill: A few media sources at times have labeled preppers as being self-absorbed and selfish, but I am experiencing quite the opposite: So far, we have received several generous sponsorships of equipment for the Missionary Wars project from several manufacturers and sole proprietorships who serve the disaster preparedness and off grid markets: Icom America has donated shortwave radio gear, SilverFire has donated bio-mass rocket stoves, Hardened Power Systems donated a Re-Volt power pack for the film crew, e-Marine Systems and Primus Wind Power have co-sponsored an Air-Breeze 12-volt wind-generator, and SurvivalBased.com is donating a Solar-Generator unit. Additionally, Gary Morgan, the Executive Director for ‘Search For One’ missions has agreed to provide logistics support for the film crew and the Missionary Wars project while on location in Kiribati, which certainly serves as their blessing for the project. Rob and I are both grateful for the help that is being provided for this project. However, we are still in need of some financial support for actual hard-costs related to production, and we would welcome any such inquiries.
Bill: The islanders living on the 33 coral islands [atolls] that make up the ocean nation of Kiribati have faced many extreme hardships over their history. One of their islands, Banaba, has been devastated by the egregious phosphate mining concessions and operations on that once pristine Island. The ravaging of the islands by warfare during WWII is still evident. Even today, unexploded ordinance from WWII presents an ever-present danger on the islands and in the lagoons. Australia has stepped-up and implemented a program to remove and/or disarm some of the un-exploded bombs and shells, however given the widespread distribution of hundreds of such bombs and artillery shells, this is a daunting task at best.
Few people today realize that some of these islanders are still paying the price for some of the military and industrial technologies that we enjoy today in America and elsewhere. During 1950s and in the 1960s the United Kingdom and the United States conducted nuclear testing and research around Kiritimati Island – Christmas Island – an Island in the Republic of Kiribati, which accounts for 70 percent of the total land area of the nation of Kiribati.
During these tests, islanders were not evacuated and many islanders have reported suffering from radiation from that nuclear testing.
IQ: Is the show purely for entertainment purposes or will viewers gain enhanced insight and be educated while watching the episodes?
Rob: The viewer will be treated to many story threads that unfold simultaneously every episode. And all the while they will be educated. Entertainment is the catalyst for learning. And at the same time the islanders and missionaries alike will become a part of our viewer’s family. We will experience with them the hardships, joy, family stories, and daily dramas of fishing, deep sea diving, child birth, using what limited resources they have, all the while having the friendliest and most wildly addictive attitudes one could imagine, especially under the stresses they experience.
IQ: What network will likely be the home for the two new prepper television shows?
Bill: At this point in the two projects given our limited resources and time, Rob and I have been focused on project development tasks, such as aligning the two shows with sponsors who can offer products and services that are relevant to the show’s potential audiences, while also adding value to the projects. In the case of Missionary Wars, once Rob Underhill and his team have complied enough footage on location, Rob’s team will produce and score a promo-reel as well as a one-hour pilot TV episode that we can circulate to potential network partners, such as: National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Turner Network Television, The Learning Channel, Animal Planet, A&E, and others. With regard to Bunker Diaries, some of the same networks are having great success with the doomsday end-of-world genre, so once we have competed filming a mini-episode of Bunker Diaries, we will be visiting with many of the same networks. I am hoping to also have the manuscript for Bunker Diaries completed soon, so that I can align it with a suitable publishing house resulting in the release of the book Bunker Diaries prior to the screening of its pilot episode.
[Images Via: Captain Bill Simpson and Rob Underhill]
[Featured Image Via: Shutterstock.com]