The following is a large section of an interview between journalist Jonathan Kleppinger (of the regional magazine, the Jessamine Journal) and myself about the Depleted Franchise and, most recently, the Depleted: Day 419 prologue. At the end of the interview, I included some interesting facts about the feature and the Depleted: Day 419 prologue.
Q: How would you describe a worldwide independent film franchise? (if I understand, the “franchise” is the world you’ve created that other filmmakers can use as a basis for other films in the world; is this correct?)
A: Technically, a franchise is a connected world in which more than one story is told. In the past, in regards to filmmaking, this has been appropriated by Hollywood, who could afford to make multiple films in a world, due to their pocketbooks and marketing machine. (Examples of such franchises include Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, and Back to the Future. ) However, a franchise can be created if you can simply create a world that other creators find appealing and get them to contribute to it.
Indie filmmakers have a strong tendency to make films that question and explore popular culture; because they are outside of the Hollywood system, they have more freedom to push boundaries and explore concepts that mainstream filmmakers can’t or won’t.
The world of Depleted is not Amero-centric, so it’s extremely attractive to filmmakers from all over the world.n Because MFM has readers all over the world, we’ve been able to connect with filmmakers who are interested in contributing to the Depleted franchise, including ones in Ireland, Australia, and Israel. These filmmakers will be bringing their own unique perspectives to the project.
Q: Where did the idea for Depleted come from?
A: Movies have shown apocalyptic destruction brought on by nuclear war, disease, natural disasters, aliens, computers, and zombies, but no film has shown mankind directly destroying itself through panic and chaos.I’ve never seen a film based on an apocalyptic future that really looks at man’s own inhumanity as a reason for our fall. I wanted to look at a dystopian future which examined man as a creature that is given to fear, despair, and destruction.
As such, the catalyst for Depleted is a series of small attacks that ignites an overreaction from governments, which in turn kicks off a massive counter-reaction from the population. The resulting civil unrest is unprecedented, and it shatters supply lines, which ushers in famine and opens the gates to widespread plague and disease. This is a world that strips man of his comfort and humanism and forces him to choose sides. Men given toward evil will choose to fully indulge this side of themselves, while those who’ve chosen a path of good will have to fight tooth and nail to stay on this path.
Despite all the dark elements of this film, we know it also has to be something that folks could watch and get into. It was important to us to have a film that incorporates its philosophy seamlessly with the action to make it a really good story. It has a very visceral action pulse to it and is targeted at fans of action films and science fiction. If you can’t identify and entertain your audience, then you’ve failed as a filmmaker and have, essentially, created a film that’s just for your own amusement.
Q: You’ve created a world and are letting others take it and add to it. In giving some creative control to other filmmakers, do you worry your creation could become something you didn’t envision?
A: That’s an excellent question. Fortunately, we have had a lot of assistance in figuring these concepts out from the beginning. Scott Walker of Brain Candy, one of the members of our U.S. marketing team, is the creator of Runes of Gallidon, a fantasy world designed for writers, artists, and enthusiasts. As such, he’s put in a lot of the legwork in the years before this, figuring out what works and what doesn’t in these sorts of collaborative worlds. (These are often referred to as “sandbox worlds”, because everyone is encouraged to come in and play.) Additionally famous artists like Nine Inch Nails are experimenting with some of these same concepts as they make raw audio tracks and even video tracks available for their fans to edit and remix. Both of these examples use the type of copyright modification called “Creative Commons,” which allows folks to use original content from other people legally, but makes profiting difficult or impossible. (Brain Candy has a special agreement that allows collaborators to profit from their creations, whereas NIN owns anything you create with no profit sharing.)
Because we wanted a system that wasn’t as restrictive as Creative Commons, we’ve retained entertainment lawyer Paul Battista of MindFusion Law in Los Angeles. He’s helping us create a structure for the World of Depleted where filmmakers can profit from films that are deemed to be “Canon,” whereas non-canonical films (or “Apocrypha”) are still hosted on the World of Depleted website, but no profits are generated and they are not recognized as having any impact on the official Depleted world. As such, this encourages filmmakers to create stories set in the backdrop of Depleted, so that they can receive official Canon status, share in the marketing we’re doing for both the core Depleted films and the Depleted tales in the World of Depleted, and receive profits when their films are purchased in special DVD collections or via download-to-own.
Q: How much control do other filmmakers have who have signed on to contribute?
A: If their film is recognized as “Canon,” then their storyline will be officially part of this world. As such, characters (and actors) they’ve introduced could show up in other films, or in stories, or artwork. One of the cool ways in which this occurred recently involved the recent prologue film, Depleted: Day 419. In it, there’s a character named James Rockland (played by David Haney), who does not continue into the feature film next year. Due to Mr. Haney’s compelling embodiment of the character, the script supervisor (and story contributor) Chris Tanchyk decided that he wanted to write an additional story about Rockland’s earlier life. Further, he’s thinking about writing a script and shooting a short about the Rockland character. Actor David Haney said he’d be very willing to reprise his role in this future short. This ability of one character to impact other official tales inside the Depleted world is part of what I think filmmakers and fans are going to be drawn to as the world grows.
Q: If the Depleted franchise becomes very popular, where should people expect to see it? On the Web? In a theater? On TV? In other words, do you see the franchise reaching any mediums other than where most independent films would be seen?
A: When I first started as a filmmaker, I had the sole dream of creating a film that would be picked up for a big profit by Hollywood and distributed theatrically. However, the environment has changed so much that I have no interest in selling this series to Hollywood, as they would immediately shut down the collaborative participation that makes this film series so unique.
As such, when these films become available, people will be able to see the short films via the World of Depleted website, where all the official shorts will be shown; in addition, they’ll be able to buy DVDs, Blu-Ray’s, and download-to-own options. With the release of the feature, we’re considering a few different options. We have a series of specialized DVD and Blu-Ray versions, packed with extra features, remixes of the films, and even alternate soundtracks, already in planning. However, we’re seriously considering a specialized webcast version of episodes of the film, where people can tune in to watch the film piece by piece, with each episode having a cast and crew discussion about some of the ways in which the shoot was complex or challenging. This would potentially let people check out part or all of the film before buying it, and provide extra information for folks who purchased the DVD set at the beginning.
To give viewers even more things to watch and check out, we’re seriously looking at the possibility of making many of our video, music, and effects assets available for our fans, so they can create new mixes of the films and features. The ones that are most effective will be remastered for quality and the creators will get a percentage of the profits.
Interesting Facts About the Creation of Depleted:
- Aaron Little of Performance Edge trained our entire cast on firearms for the film. Aaron is a professional firearms trainer that’s best known for being the lead firearms’ trainer on the Academy Award winning film, The Hurt Locker.
- 90% of the firearms used in the original films are actually high quality Airsoft guns rather than real weapons. Due to the quality of the guns, they’re indiscernible from real firearms and they’re far cheaper to operate than blank-firing guns, allowing us to create authentic gun battles on a low budget.
- Because of the blade smiths in our production team, we will actually have authentic, official knives and tomahawks from the Depleted films that fans will be able to purchase. (Additional mementos will include engraved replicas of the lighter Jenna Whitmore carries throughout the film and engraved shell casings from the weapons used in the film.)
- We currently have award winning filmmakers from the U.S., UK, Australia, and Israel slated to make films in our initial salvo of Depleted short films.
- While the first group of filmmakers have been hand-selected to add their voices to the Depleted world, the ability for any to participate is slated to go live in Q4 2010.
- The initial feature film is slated to be entirely crowdfunded. This means folks get to help us make the film with donations before we shoot. Those who donate benefit by getting special collector’s editions, unique memorabilia, and books that will otherwise be unavailable when the film is released.