A. J. Black
DISCLAIMER: Mr. Black is not responsible for what he says or does. Ever.
Anthony John Black, known as 'Tony', (born 9th June 1982, Birmingham, West Midlands) is a virtual series writer and producer, along with being one of the leading administrators of popular virtual series community MZP (Monster Zero Productions). Despite writing since a very young age, Tony became aware of the VS world after discovering the Internet in 2005 and has since produced a wealth of scripts and developed various projects across numerous genres.
Tony is the creator and showrunner of the virtual series The DSR and Schism, plus executive producer of Lee Chrimes' Somewhere InBetween, not to mention a producer on James Jordan's upcoming Abyss. Since 2005, he's helped produce numerous shows including Cult Hero, Night Stalker and Millennium VS5, which he also co-developed, as well as TrekOnline series Star Trek: Beyond What's Left Behind - the show that first introduced him to writing online fiction.
The Backstory (1982-2005)
Rip-Off Merchant From Birth
Growing up, Tony always had an interest in storytelling based on a love of television and movies. Inspired first by Star Trek, he began penning serials and even novellas in his early teens before graduating away from prose and further into screenwriting in his late-teens, increasingly inspired by his all-time favourite series The X-Files, with which he was rightly obsessed. Tony began writing (and primarily outlining) multiple seasons of shows desperately derivative of his TV crushes, such as The Special Branch, essentially a British X-Files featuring a pair of Scotland Yard detectives investigating the paranormal - a show which thankfully all the notes on are lost.
Despite enjoying the process of writing, learning by endlessly developing his own material and watching others do so, Tony understandably sought an outlet for these ideas - a place to share them. It didn't happen for many years and progressing into his early 20's, he adapted his favourite video game series, Monkey Island, into a trilogy of scripts (now sadly also lost) as well as developing another derivative series called Reflex, a spy show about a secret university division of espionage agents very much inspired by Alias, his second-favourite show of all time. It was around 2005, on having regular Internet access, that he found that desired outlet...
Luddite, No More
...no, not MZP, but Writer.net - a forum where would-be Goldman's could upload their scripts. Reflex unfortunately garnered next to no feedback as Tony quickly realised the board was 90% geared towards prose, of which he had no interest in. He resumed his search for that special place, soon finding an advertisement by one Jeremy Burnham on Trek.com for writers to help develop a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine continuation. Now, given that was his fifth-favourite show of all time, Tony applied and soon found himself on staff and joining Nov.net - a board of offbeat chatter, RPG's and indeed online Trek fiction (which eventually became TrekOnline).
His first real experience of being part of a VS community, Tony during 2005 wrote numerous scripts for Star Trek: Beyond What's Left Behind before moving up to help Burnham develop the show, finally assuming complete showrunner control over it's direction. This was his first showrunning experience and while not a massive success, it paved the way for in August 2005 finding that special place he'd been looking for arguably since he first began using a computer to fire up his imagination...
The Numbers Are BAD!!
...no, not a mysterious Island wandering the planet like a lost dog, but the aforementioned MZP, which he instantly found was exactly the place he'd been looking for. Granted, only a year after it's foundation it was heavily-centered on the so-called Jossverse product of online continuations for a number of series by Joss Whedon - shows Tony has never really gotten into - it was still a writing community of friendly, talented people, who also sought to develop original concepts. He fitted in perfectly.
Tony became a community member, got to know certain faces, before delivering his first pitch in the October called Lives, a misjudged dervative attempt to re-create his third-favourite all-time show Lost with a post-apocalyptic tint. It received support but never went further than a pilot outline, primarily because another idea was gnawing it's way into Tony's brain and wouldn't stop, an idea that turned into the most significant writing project to date he ever undertook...
The Black Hole (2005-2007)
The Life and Death of Jeremy Burnham (not really)
...yes, The DSR - a virtual spin-off from his current TV crush Alias that ticked all the boxes of shows, movies and influences Tony held dear to his heart, the story of a secret government department investigating the paranormal and one troubled criminal's connection to it, for which Tony knew the scope was huge. Pitched with a pilot in the November of 2005, by March of 2006 it had premiered and, thankfully, became an instant MZP hit, heavily thanks in part to the many AIM brainstorming sessions undertaken between he and fellow VS alumni Brian. J. Lamkin - who's influence arguably helped mould the show into the success it ultimately became.
However, this wasn't Tony's only fingered pie - he was making his MZP debut in the February of that year for a start by penning two consecutive episodes of Lee Chrimes' Somewhere InBetween - still to this day one of his most enjoyable writing experiences. He returned to write two third and two fourth season episodes of the show.
Plus, he was still involved with Star Trek: Beyond What's Left Behind, which unfortunately began to suffer The DSR getting his primary focus. Tony drifted closer to MZP and further away from Nov.net, before during 2006 he took the DS9-continuation to his new home and brought Burnham with him - both of which were short-lived. MZP had few to no Star Trek fans and Burnham himself soon sailed to pastures new, leaving Tony to cancel the series and renew his focus onto The DSR... though there was one other project on the bubble that remained current...
My Gift, My Curse
During the Summer of 2005, Tony had begun a marathon rewatch of his fourth-favourite TV series of all-time, Millennium, before discovering it's superb VS4 project hosted by Brian Dixon of The Fourth Horsemen website. Produced in 1999, it was a pioneer of virtual series and still of remarkable quality. Tony instantly saw the value of continuing the story of Frank Black and via the Millennium fansite TIWWA (This Is Who We Are], he advertised for co-writers to help develop a 'VS5' of the show, setting up a development board offsite.
Here, he first met one James Jordan - a huge Millennium and The X-Files fan who Tony instantly shared a rapport with in terms of influences and ideas. Jordan soon came on board as a co-developer of the project and with Tony wrote a pilot 'The Begotten'... at which point Tony found MZP and the above happened, diluting his focus from Millennium VS5 forcing the project to soon begin to flounder. He made a choice of what to develop... and chose The DSR. It seemed the VS5 project was doomed to fail.
Tony nonetheless pressed on, growing within MZP during 2006 to swiftly become a senior staff member off the back of The DSR becoming a success. He developed a strong working relationship with JT Vaughn in particular, leading them to develop a later-aborted Alternate Lost S3 which they both remained proud of. Primarily, however, Tony was already thinking about his biggest endeavour in the VS world to date...
The Virtual Community (2007-2008)
(not) Declaring War on The Chrimes
In the April of 2006, Tony had first contacted numerous MZP writers he felt closest to suggesting the possibility of branching the VS world out by creating a 'sister-site' of MZP - a place where more online fiction could be propagated. Tony liked the idea of running his own network, perhaps inspiring new writers like MZP honcho Lee. A. Chrimes had done from 2004 onwards, seeing more projects make the light of day. Those he approached loved the idea too and soon that new network was born.
BVC (Blackster Virtual Community) was designed to be a darker antithesis of MZP, in line with Tony's enjoyment of much less lighter fare than that network was want to produce. After months of hard work alongside BVC chiefs JT Vaughn, Michael Jay and Paul Robinson, not to mention many others, the network finally launched on New Year's Day 2007 with the release of 007: Silverknight, billed as the last, lost Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie. The reception was great. The dream was alive...
The Difficult Second Season
...however, Tony soon realised it wasn't all swings, roundabouts and women with large mammaries. A real-life job kept him offline significantly during early 2007 as BVC launched and while two shows primarily, Desperate Screenwriters and Millennium VS5 - revived thanks to dogged determination by James Jordan - went on to complete successful seasons, many other intended projects faltered. This included two of Tony's own intended projects - Stand Up, a semi-autobiographical 'dramedy' about a stand-up comedian (which didn't last beyond a pilot); and Avenging Angels, an action-comedy revolving around a band of crime-fighters in the sleepy English countryside.
Tony wasn't prepared for the demands of running a network, plus coupled with a sore lack of knowledge regarding the workings of websites and Web technology, it was an increasing recipe for disaster. Once the inaugural BVC season finished in June 2007, pretty much everything ground to a halt. An attempt to revive interest by adopting smaller network Sayber Space Productions into BVC was short-lived and Tony felt his enthusiasm for his own network increasingly waning, relying on his chiefs to pick up far too much slack...
...at which point, realising the network was dying a death, Tony made one last-ditch effort to save it by adopting it into the MZP family as a sub-network on the show's board and website. BVC shows would release material under the MZP banner, turning it from a network more into a production house. Again, worked well in theory, less in execution and Tony's enthusiasm was all but gone. 2008 was upon him, The DSR was gearing up to a third season plus a spin-off from it was in the offing.
Under understandable pressure from the associated BVC chiefs, several of whom left in advance, Tony officially shut down BVC during early 2008 - all it's shows becoming archived on MZP, bar Desperate Screenwriters. It was a sad moment for Tony but in hindsight a good move - he realising that while keen to showrun and write, being responsible for an entire network was above and beyond his ability.
The End of an Era (2008-2009)
Spinning Off a Spin Off
In many ways, Tony scaled back after this - focused primarily on The DSR while also, during 2008, working to launch Schism - a spin-off from the Alias spin-off regarding an order of religious vampires, the first idea since 2005 he had a burning desire to do. Pitched and piloted, Schism launched in August 2008 to mixed reviews, which lasted across it's run. It remains something Tony is jointly proud of and not in equal measure.
The second season was originally planned for Summer 2009 but Tony soon lost in the impetus to do the original 11-episode plan. Inspired by the idea (not the content) of Torchwood's truncated third season, he decided to turn Schism S2 into a mini-series event. Schism: Black Dragon ran over a five-day period in the last week of September 2009 and while generally better received than the first season, it still garnered mixed reviews and Tony still feels as a series the idea is yet to reach it's true potential.
This wasn't the only spin-off off from Alias to engage Tony's attention in 2009, of course. Walker was about to set foot in the world...
Brave New Worlds
...with Adam Scott's aforementioned series making it's debut in September of that year, with Tony an Executive Producer, writing three well-received episodes of it's opening year. The partnership and friendship that fostered between Adam and Tony since 2007 reached a pinnacle in 2009 as they finally launched Walker, over two years in the making, not to mention further collaborating on Schism and indeed The DSR.
The end of 2009 saw the true end of an era for Tony as he completed work on fifth and final season of The DSR, after finishing an airing the fourth in the first part of the same year. It's epic finale went out over Christmas and New Year, signalling the end of Tony's major MZP project since 2005 and something of a creative crossroads moving into the next decade.
The year also saw him dabble and eject other concepts. He wrote a well received pilot, Star Trek: Premonition, over Easter but decided to abort work on Virtual Reality, after a highly successful pilot written in 2007. He contributed an episode to James Jordan's critically acclaimed Abyss in the Autumn of that year after in 2008 writing his one and only contribution to the Second Season of Night Stalker.
Tony. B. DeMille
One area during 2008 and primarily 2009 that Tony focused on was the development of MZP's movie and mini-series section, allowing him to attain a producer credit on numerous major projects - such as Chris Haigh's Mission Impossible IV and Good, Adam Scott's Sherlock Holmes (and sequel, The Scandal in Bohemia), plus his critically acclaimed mini-series Dominion.
He finally ventured himself into movie waters with 2009's long gestated first MZP James Bond movie, The Edge of Life - while going into the next decade he is overseeing production on a wave of other projects including Adam's Scott's newest mini The Heretic, Pete. D. Gaskell's Neighbourhood Watch and Tyler Moody's Aquaman.
The Shape of Things to Come (2010-onwards)
The next decade will see Tony continue his duties as a New Power Generation admin of MZP while in 2010 finally concluding Schism with a final, 11-part third season as well as contributing three scripts to the second season of Walker over the Summer, not to mention penning two episodes of the upcoming Fifth and final Season of Somewhere InBetween when it finally launches.
He also has plans for more movie projects, including the second MZP Bond movie The Devil in the Detail plus an adaptation of Mark Gatiss' The Vesuvius Club. He also hopes to expand the universe of The DSR with numerous ancillary projects he intends to announce in the coming year.
Time will tell if these plans come to fruition...
- "The DSR" (68 episodes; 2006-present)
- 1x01 "Welcome to the Black Hole"
- 1x02 "Adjustments and Maneuvers"
- 1x03 "Demons"
- 1x04 "ESP_ionage"
- 1x05 "The Ultra Directive"
- 1x08 "Spartans" (with Brian. L. Lamkin)
- 1x10 "Mage"
- 1x12 "Lead"
- 1x13 "Gold"
- 1x14 "All About a Girl pt 1" (with Brian. L. Lamkin & JT Vaughn)
- 1x15 "All About a Girl pt 2" (with JT Vaughn)
- 1x17 "Siblings"
- 1x19 "Inside"
- 1x20 "The Blood"
- 1x21 "Revitalization"
- 1x22 "Emissary"
- 2x01 "Transference"
- 2x02 "Alive"
- 2x03 "Saviour"
- 2x05 "Skulls"
- 2x11 "Extreme Measures"
- 2x13 "The Changing Face of Evil" (with Adam Scott)
- 2x14 "Recompense"
- 2x15 "Man Down"
- 2x16 "The Sentinels"
- 2x17 "The Scheme"
- 2x20 "At Rest" (with Adam Scott)
- 2x21 "In Motion"
- 2x22 "Reckoning"
- Christmas Special 2007 "Tales from the Black Hole" (with Chris Haigh & Adam Scott)
- 3x01 "The Phoenix"
- 3x05 "The Sleeper" (with Adam Scott)
- 3x08 "Schism"
- 3x10 "Walkabout"
- 3x11 "Junk" (with Adam Scott)
- 3x12 "Face of the Enemy"
- 3x13 "Elle"
- 3x18 "The Mentor"
- 3x19 "Lock"
- 3x20 "Key"
- 3x22 "Sanctum pt 1"
- 3x23 "Sanctum pt 2"
- 4x01 "The Family Man"
- 4x02 "Divergence"
- 4x03 "Pulse"
- 4x09 "Dhampir"
- 4x10 "The Woman in the Window"
- 4x13 "Sins of the Mother" (with Adam Scott)
- 4x14 "Black Chapter" (with Adam Scott)
- 4x16 "The Cradle Rocked"
- 4x18 "The Fallen One"
- 4x19 "Cascade pt 1"
- 4x20 "Cascade pt 2"
- 5x01 "Thule"
- 5x02 "The Axis"
- 5x04 "See"
- 5x07 "Aeon"
- 5x08 "Playing God"
- 5x09 "Night of the Dead" (with JT Vaughn & Adam Scott)
- 5x10 "The Quest"
- 5x11 "Society"
- 5x14 "The Life and Death of Jennifer Nichols"
- 5x16 "Looking Glass"
- 5x17 "To Have or Have Not" (with Chris Haigh & Adam Scott)
- 5x18 "The Final Time pt 1"
- 5x19 "The Final Time pt 2"
- 5x20 "The Final Time pt 3"
- "Schism" (9 episodes; 2008-present)
- "Almost Twenty Years"
- 1x01 "Succession"
- 1x02 "Man of God"
- 1x08 "The Eye of Tempus"
- 1x09 "All Our Yesterdays" (with Adam Scott)
- 1x10 "The Die Is Cast pt 1"
- 1x11 "The Bringer of Hope pt 2"
- 2x01 "The Chalice"
- 2x05 "The Dragon King"
- "Somewhere InBetween" (7 episodes; 2006-present)
- 2x19 "Test"
- 2x20 "Sing For Me"
- 3x02 "We All Bleed Red"
- 3x11 "Rejection"
- 3x19 "Name of the Game" (with Lee A. Chrimes)
- 4x10 "Here Lies the Champion"
- 4x16 "She's Electric"
- "Star Trek: Beyond What's Left Behind" (7 episodes; 2005-2007)
- 1x01/02 "New Horizons"
- 1x06 "The Separatist"
- 1x07 "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
- 1x10 "Thicker Than Latinum"
- 1x11 "Native"
- 1x12 "Crewman James" (uncredited)
- "Millennium VS5" (5 episodes: 2007)
- "Walker" (3 episodes; 2009)
- 1x06 "John Henry Boone"
- 1x07 "Trial By Fire"
- 1x11 "Kennedy's People"
- "Night Stalker" (1 episode; 2008)
- 2x07 "Shadowman"
- "Abyss" (1 episode; 2009)
- 1x04 "War Wounds"
- 007: SilverKnight (2007)
- 007: The Edge of Life (2009)
- The DSR (creator, showrunner - 2006-2009)
- Schism (creator, showrunner - 2008-present)
- Millennium VS5 (co-developer, executive producer - 2005-2007)
- Star Trek: Beyond What's Left Behind (writer, showrunner - 2005-2007)
- Somewhere InBetween (writer, executive producer - 2006-present)
- Walker (writer, executive producer - 2009-present)
- Night Stalker (writer, producer - 2008)
- Abyss (writer, producer - 2009)
- Dominion (producer - 2008)
- The Heretic (producer - 2010)
- The Girl in Question (producer - 2008)
- Sherlock Holmes (producer - 2008)
- Mission Impossible IV (producer - 2008)
- Batman III (producer - 2009)
- Good (producer - 2009)
- Sherlock Holmes and the Scandal in Bohemia (producer - 2009)
- Neighbourhood Watch (producer - 2010)
- Wonder Woman (producer - 2010)
- Aquaman (producer - 2010)
- Black has met in real-life five MZP writers - Lee A. Chrimes; Matthew John Latham, Waylon Wyche, Adam Scott and Daniel Loach. It's a current record in terms of face to face meetings on the board.
- Black, when creating his Alternate Lost S3 with JT Vaughn, performed the voice of Dr. Marvin Candle for an Orientation movie created using software from The Movies PC Game.
- Black and Adam Scott have produced six audio podcasts for The DSR, Schism and Walker since 2007.
- Black was recently asked to name The DSR episode he's written he most loved. His answer was 'Inside'.
Monster Zero Productions - virtual series discussion and production board