We are all aware that our fossil fuels are low, very low. But on a day-to-day basis, we aren’t confronted with this reality on a personal level, so the gravity of the situation is often difficult to grasp. Collapsus is a compelling hybrid film that tells the story of the world’s energy risks and speculates about the consequences.
Dutch broadcaster VPRO was looking for ways to involve a younger audience in documentaries and approached Submarine, a Dutch distribution and production company for transmedia productions. With director Tommy Pallotta on board, producer of animated films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, success was pretty much assured. For both those films Pallotta co-developed a technique that allows artists to rotoscope (draw) over real images, and the same technique gives Collapsus its unique visual aesthetic.
The story of Collapsus is set in the near future and centers around a group of young people affected by an energy conspiracy. You follow the adventures of Vera, Jack, Tony, and Amir through a story where conspiracy, betrayal, and most alarmingly, failing energy supplies, are the order of the day. In the meantime, international powers try to cope with a transition from fossil to alternative fuels, while dealing with political divisions, uprisings, and a population terrified by increasingly frequent blackouts. As a player on the quest to find solutions to the energy crisis, you are required to make decisions that leave a mark on a national and global scale.
Tommy Pallotta brought an annotated approach to the narrative structure of the story. “We crafted a multitasking and multi-linear experience and we blended genres like animation, documentary, fiction, and interactivity all together in one story. This hybrid approach allows us to look at a serious documentary subject, but also to shift from the usual talking head approach to something that better reflects our time.”
This approach makes Collapsus highly interactive, because the narrative invites the audience to interact, make decisions, or choose to learn more by watching videos from experts on the sidebar.
It’s not just merely technique, the narrative and the characters are hugely important, stresses Pallotta. "The scientific perspective about the future of energy is basically horrific, no matter what scenario you look at… The heart of this experience is through the characters, not data. This was very important to us, to tell a story from a human perspective and experience that we can all understand.”
Collapsus has been nominated for an Emmy award for Best Digital Fiction and is one of the finalists at this year’s SXSW Interactive Awards. Another nominee (in the same category) for this prestigious prize is Attraction—the winners will be announced tonight.
Next week the ‘Making of’ Collapsus will be online at SubmarineChannel, and will explain the rotoscopic process, the interactive design, and show an interview with director Tommy Pallotta.