World of Depleted Explored, Interview with Jeremy Hanke
Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Jeremy Hanke, the editor of MicroFilmmaker Magazine. I was excited to discover that Jeremy has embarked on a new project, one of dark, epic proportions. This new project is something that I thought would be of interest to our digital art community. So, I had to explore further, to get you all the latest info on the World of Depleted!
With the success of MicroFilmmaker Magazine why did you decide to branch out?
We're passionate about helping low-budget filmmakers, which is why we've run MFM since 2005. However, most of the people who help run the magazine are also filmmakers themselves, so we really liked the idea of a project that we could help spearhead that really put our creative juices to work and got us out of the “ivory tower,” if you will. However, we also wanted it to be a way for creatives of all types to get involved. By pooling our creative resources into a collaborative franchise surrounding a specific work, everyone can get a lot more coverage for their work than they would separately (as fans of the franchise have a singular destination where they can find new content on a regular basis) , to get the opportunity to have their work featured in other work and films, and to have the ability to fairly get payment for their work.
Will you continue with the MicroFilmmaker?
Yes, indeed. Although my own role will be more restrained to my work as editor-in-chief rather than doing as much additional writing as I did in the past. (Of course, we will have a number of articles that I will pen about the creation process of Day 419, one of the first films in the franchise, and, when we shoot it, the Depleted feature.) We very much see the Depleted franchise as an outcropping of MicroFilmmaker's goals of making high quality tools available to everyone and allowing their creativity to take flight. In this venture, we're just making a sandbox that won't just appeal to filmmakers, but to creatives of all types! In addition to filmmakers, 3D designers, graphic artists, novelists, photographers, storywriters, and game designers will find plenty of ways to get involved and help sculpt this world.
Were you nervous about tackling a post-apocalyptic world, considering how many post-apocalyptic films and TV shows have explored this recently?
Actually, no. While it didn't drive the creation process, I see the prevalence of these apocalyptic concepts, which arise from so many different groups and eras, as proof that this is a mystery that is common to all mankind.
There's no question that various forms of apocalyptic literature are becoming more and more prevalent of late. (Although, people would be greatly mistaken to believe that this is a new development. Mary Shelley's “The Last Man” was a post-apocalyptic tale written in the 19th century about the 22nd century!) I think that this continues to draw people because it is an enigma that people want to unravel—something that compels them. Whether it's to try to prevent it from occurring or just so that people can accept their eventual destruction, it is necessary for them to explore these things. As such, for a world that would encourage a lot participation, I didn't want to try to re-invent the wheel, rather I wanted to look at a different element of what could lead up to that—man's individual culpability.
Okay, so how did the “individual culpability” concept inspire the World of Depleted?
Well, I'd seen so many concepts about apocalypses that let man off the hook. In some way, all apocalypses up until now have had some sort of “bad” people or “bad” event that led to the destruction. (We can list 'em off without even having to think hard: nuclear war, natural catastrophe, meteor strike, global warming, plague, and zombification!) The problem with a “bad” event or a “bad” group of people is that it leaves everybody else “innocent.” The notion of us being innocent in the face of our own demise always seemed ludicrous to me. As such, I wanted to look at a world in which a few bad things happened, but it was man's unique tendency to over-react, to give in to fear and selfishness that led to his destruction. I really wanted to explore the dark comment side of mankind in his destruction. But also do it in a way that was interesting, entertaining, and compelling.
As such, we wanted to give a logical catalyst for this event, but which showcases man's over-reaction. In our situation, we envisioned a scenario in which a series of simultaneous terrorist attacks lead to a shuffling of world leaders. In the United States, a man who is unprepared for leadership takes control. This is the sort of bureaucrat that is most comfortably left to his own devices without being in the public eye. When he now is forced to take leadership, besieged with public outcry, and sees that the citizenship is growing even more panicky through constant communication on the internet, cell phones, Twitter, and the like, he decides to temporarily shut down the private communication grid and internet in order to restore order. When riots erupt, as Americans are shut off from their communication “rights”, marshal law is installed. From there things continue to escalate out of control. While there are plenty of secrets about who was behind the attacks, what clandestine groups help push certain riots, and what the end game will be, the main component in all of this is that much of the destruction was caused by common people, like you and me, behaving like monsters. (I think that the LA Riots and Hurricane Katrina show how quickly mankind will return to its most base tendencies. In my opinion, the only reason these sorts of things didn't happen with the 9/11 attacks was because it was essentially a singular group of attacks and nothing hampered the major sources of news and communication in the after math of the attacks.)These themes are playing out now in real life as WikiLeaks and events in Egypt and Iran show public reaction to governmental communication interference.
Of course, to tell our readers about this, we needed people who's own brokenness pulled them outside of the chaos and let them begin to see what was coming. Of these, the prophetic Gavin Hesterdale and his journal helps clue a lot of our audience into the mysteries and mythology surrounding Depleted.
Yeah, I was immediately drawn into Gavin Hesterdale's Journal. I was honestly freaked out by the Internet Illuminati, the Keepers of the Keys. So much so in fact that I researched this and found it to be based on truth. What other true facts have you woven into your story line?
While the Internet Illuminati and a few other elements were real events that impacted our stories, the spookiest thing is not what we took from “real” events, but what “real” events have started to occur which recreate exactly pre-existing elements from the mythology of Depleted. For example, one of the “preposterous” story plots in Depleted is the notion that a new president would shut down the internet in a situation where multiple terrorist attacks on U.S. soil occurs in an effort to stem panic. (Many people told us this was idiotic.) Then we start hearing news of the Internet Kill Bill. The proposed legislation would allow the U.S. President to completely shut down the internet (at least as much as the US oversees, which is such a larger percentage that it would effectively cripple the entire web) in the event of either a cyber attack or multiple terrorist attacks occurring on US soil. So now, they're setting up the very foundations of some of the points this world is based on. Further, they're setting up a situation which could easily require the assembly of the Internet Illuminati to reboot the system!
Despite this, we still had detractors state that no world leader would ever do this to their own people. If they did shut off the internet, they certainly wouldn't go so far to blind their citizens as to shut off cellular and private communications, which is another facet in the Depleted mythology. Then, what happens, but the real world provides a proof of concept! Egypt (one of the US allies) has a revolution and the ruling factions retaliate by shutting down the internet, cell phones, and private communications. Now, I don't mean to be an alarmist or anything, but in literary terms, we call a small reflection of a larger future event foreshadowing.
Are you a Dark Dreamer yourself? Are you still looking for other Dark Dreamers?
Am I a Dark Dreamer? An excellent question! While Gavin would say that these are people who have realistic visions of the future, I would see this concept a bit broader. I would see true Dark Dreamers as anyone who feels compelled to contribute to a Black Sandbox like Depleted, because they see or suspect something dangerous is coming. Each Dreamer has only some of the clues, which they must tell others about. The World of Depleted provides a universe where they can assemble and share their clues, information, and secrets in the form of stories, films, photos, music, and artwork.
In that sense, then, yes, I would say I definitely am a Dark Dreamer. And, like Gavin, I am looking for others. We are not alone.
When will your film be completed? Are you still shooting? Where did the filming take place? Are there any clips or sneak peaks?
Excellent question. The first film I've written and directed is Depleted: Day 419 and it's slated for a Spring release this year. While we may do a couple of final pickup shots, this film is essentially locked and proceeding through final sound and score as we speak at Oakwood Sound Design, the audio post facility we use.
The film was shot entirely in Kentucky, which is where it's set. It takes place in the future town of Maysbridge, KY which is a post-Fall combination of Wilmore and Highbridge, KY after a moonshiner takes the towns over. The lead protagonist is a broken journalist with a shattered past named Jenna Whitmore, portrayed by the ultra talented Kat Carney, a rising young actress from central Kentucky.
We also have a feature that continues the saga of Jenna Whitmore, exploring her mysterious past, bringing her closer to finding her enigmatic mentor, and propelling her into darker mysteries than even she could imagine. We have that slated for shooting primarily in May 2012. (Although, for our Mayan conspiracy friends, I doubt we'll be able to release it by December 25!)
We currently have the teaser for Day 419 at our YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/worldofdepleted
You allow others to use your characters and to tie into your story line in their films and art work. Are there other associated films due for release?
There are indeed. We are in the process of opening the doors for creators everywhere, but just received our first film from one of the filmmakers from our beta development program! This film, Forsaken, is directed by Ben Nash and James de Hanika and looks at the UK nearly a year after the Fall.
Currently, we have eight other filmmakers who are in talks or in preproduction on other films in the series. Additionally, a number of artists and photographers are looking at coming on board to contribute, as are writers and musicians.
Who's directly helping you bring this project out to the creative community?
Well, while we've had a ton of amazing people help us with the creation of these works and this world, the ones who are directly helping us connect it with the people who are most interested in this sort of world is our amazing marketing team. Sheri Candler (of Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity) is the leader of our marketing group and she has an amazing head on her shoulders for seeing trends in marketing and publicity. Through her, I've learned so many new things about publicizing films and use of social networks that I never knew!
Next in the group is Scott Walker (Brain Candy LLC) whose experience with scalable creator worlds and Creative Commons has been invaluable. His experience with Runes of Gallidon, a fantasy story and art centered world he helms that encourages artisans to get involved in creating new portions of the world, was instrumental in helping us make proactive decisions. Ross Pruden is a brilliant analyst who is also a screenwriter and looks at the correlation between piracy as an actually legitimate form of publicity that encourages fans to get immersed in new content and proactively financially support it. He's been instrumental in helping us think through different outside the box ways of encouraging fans to participate, including ARG (Alternate Reality Gaming) mysteries that they can help Gavin solve. (In truth, the secret symbol from Gavin's most crucial vision will be solved through some of our fans who've been interacting with a series of secret investigations on behalf of Gavin!)
Of course, in addition to our straight marketing team, our lawyer, Paul Battista (of Mindfusion Law), has helped us hammer out all the legal details so that we've created the fairest possible breakdown for creatives. Without his tireless work, we wouldn't have been able to do this. Finally the amazing photography of Nathan Eckelbarger, ever-present graphic design of Craig McDaniel, and web design know-how of Joel Robertson have given us the different pieces necessary to make this all appealing to our fans!
You mentioned Creative Commons and ARG. What changes have you seen in the world of distribution and marketing that make this sort of radical departure from the typical Hollywood norm viable?
Because we’ve run MFM for so many years, we’ve been able to be on the cusp of seeing the new changes that are coming to film and media—changes that Hollywood has not been able to harness because it’s too sluggish to do so. (Many of the changes I'm going to mention were first brought to my attention by Sheri Candler, Ross Pruden, and Scott Walker of my marketing team, for whom I am very grateful.)
Copyright & Creative Commons:
The changes in the concept of copyright that Trent Reznor and NIN brought to the national audience when they left their label and chose to start releasing albums under Creative Commons were a real wakeup call, because in that bold move Trent showed that piracy isn’t what kills music labels--it’s the fact that labels aren’t helping bands personally connect with fans, rather they’re aggressively trying to sue fans if they publicize artists’ work through file sharing! When Reznor embraced the Creative Commons world, which permits users to share music and remix it legally, he discovered that fans were even more willing to purchase high priced collector’s editions and buy pricey tickets to concerts, because they felt more connected to their idols.
Jon Reiss’ provocative book, Think Outside the Box Office, introduced people to the notion that hybrid distribution (sectioning off and selling rights individually instead of artists selling all rights to one entity) was the wave of the future for filmmakers who thought things out far enough in advance and were willing to see them through. The rampant growth in social networking in marketing low-budget films and in audience building through things like crowdfunding created an audience that was primed to not just view movies and media, but to be an active participant in making it.
Create-on-Demand and Sell As Needed Services:
Of course, the incredibly powerful increases in print and burn on demand services, like those provided by CreateSpace and Zazzle, have opened up entirely new ways of creating branded memorabilia, soundtracks, and collector’s sets. All of these are immensely desirably to fans who want to showcase their devotion and get cool secret information for their participation!
Interactive Video Game Communities:
Finally, we were even directly impacted by video game communities, most notably those for Bethesda’s video games like Morrowind, Oblivion, and Fallout 3. Unlike most video game companies that kept their coding engine under lock and key, afraid people would steal their secrets, Bethesda opened the doors on the official creation kits for anyone who bought a copy of their video games. Now fans had the same tools that the original game creators had and they were permitted to expand the game in any way they chose (so long as they didn’t sell these expansions for direct profit). Here was proof that franchises could be made radically stronger if you empower and actively encourage your fans to get involved!
Of course, we wanted to combine all these things, but diverge in two major ways that had not been seriously extended in any film-originated franchise I’m aware of: the capacity to have your content declared official and the capacity to be involved in profit sharing. Could you imagine someone creating a Star Wars fan film, George Lucas watching it and approving it, and then the new film gets officially released by LucasArts with the creator getting a straight split of the profits? Of course not. However, with Depleted, that is how it can work.
Alright. If that's your goal, why don't you explain the general contributor process for our readers that can allow them to become official.
Absolutely. We've essentially broken it down into seven steps, although the seventh is actually an added bonus that the contributor doesn't have to worry about.
Step 1: Decide on something you'd like to contribute (story, film, music, artwork, 3D model, etc.)
Step 2: Submit the signed contributor agreement and your new content
Step 3: We at Viking Productions review your content for eligibility. (Essentially, to be eligible, it's got to be interesting and it can't be porn.)
Step 4:If Viking approves your new contribution, it becomes either Canon or Apocrypha and gives you an official badge to utilize combined with your special certification number.
Step 5: Canonized content changes the World of Depleted officially, while Apocrypha does not and serves the place of Fan Fiction. However, unlike Fan Fiction, certified Apocrypha can still engage in revenue sharing. (For the specifics of how payments are made, the Contributor Contract spells that out.)
Step 6:Viking will help sell Canonized content (and selected Apocrypha) and promote it, thus allowing you to gain far more fans than you would alone, as well as sharing profits of this sale with you. You can also sell your content on your website, with only a small royalty due Viking Productions.
Step 7: Your new content can be utilized by other contributors in their certified work, with you receiving recognition and revenue share from them.
For a visual representation of this workflow, look at the following flowchart:
How can digital artists get involved?
Digital art can be a major way to build this world, since it can be used in promotional materials and as backgrounds and effects in numerous films. Additionally, it can simply stand on its own, designed to be showcased in wall hangings and on merchandise. We are actively interested in artists submitting their work for:
-Special FX sequences
-3D Models of buildings, weapons, and ammunition
–Damage-based assets, layers, and brushes
-Photos of broken down and war torn buildings and backdrops
To get all the information, go to our new Contributors section at: http://worldofdepleted.com/contributor/contributors
Are there any upcoming events or changes that our readers should be aware of?
Well, we are currently talking with a number of our software supporters about providing prizes for the best graphic arts and 3D entries of 2011 to the World of Depleted. Currently, Maxon is on board with copies of Cinema 4D r12, and a number of other companies are discussing this with us. Additionally, the team here at YURDigital is kindly providing T-shirts and credit vouchers for merchandise here as additional prizes. For more information, we'll be doing an official announcement here for your readers later this year!
Thanks for coming, Jeremy! I'm glad that we can help with such an ambitious undertaking!
Thanks so much for having me here, Lillian! We at World of Depleted appreciate your help at YURDigital, as well as the participation of any of your readers who choose to get involved!
For more information visit the official World of Depleted website.
To read the plain English version of the Contributor guidelines, please visit:
World of Depleted Contributor FAQ