A young actress steps into the room holding pages of script in front of her. The room is small and crowded and she has to move carefully to avoid the high definition video camera that is set up on one side of the room. Before she gets into position in front of the camera to read her lines, casting director Mike Seely casually asks, “So you’ve seen the first film right?”
The actress looks up and her eyes widen for a moment. She smiles sheepishly and admits that she’s never seen the first film.
“Aha!” Seely laughs “You just lost the part!”
There is a moment of panic in the girl’s eyes until she realizes that Seely, a veteran stage and screen actor himself, is just teasing her to help her relax. His technique seems to work and the actress readies herself for the audition.
Nearby, hunched over a laptop connected directly to the camera, Anubis Digital founder Mark Poole gives the actress direction on where to stand and has his camera man Josh adjust the shot slightly to frame both the actress and her costar for this scene, actor John Wells.
Once Mark is happy with how the pair looks in the real-time feed display on his laptop he begins. “Alright everyone, quiet on the set…. Shard one, take one, and… action!”
To the casual observer this might look like any other movie audition. However, once you get past the surface appearance, you realize that Anubis Digital Studios is doing something different. Yes they are making movies but at the same time they are trying to change the way people watch them.
Poole takes a moment between auditions to explain why Anubis Digital’s newest project, DEAD MOON RISING 2, is going to be more than just a movie. “We’re doing a lot of things differently with DMR2. For one thing, we’re using two high definition cameras to shoot every scene from different angles. Plus the footage is being loaded in real time to laptops hooked up to each camera. I can see what the cameras are seeing and work with the footage in real time.”
Then there is the Halloween party. Poole is planning the largest zombie party ever for Halloween night. Set to happen in downtown Louisville, Anubis Digital expects to have upwards of 3000 zombies show up for the event. The next day, those same zombie partiers will have the opportunity to appear in what Poole plans to be a world record breaking piece of film history.
“We missed the Guinness Book record for the largest zombie scene in the original DEAD MOON RISING because, although we had around 1200 extras in the scene, only half of them were zombies.” So Poole plans to make sure that there is no doubt that they set the record with their Halloween event. Of course the fact that the participants in zombie hoard will be filmed and appear in DEAD MOON RISING 2 just adds incentive for people to come out.
While the technical innovations and world record zombie gatherings are impressive, this doesn’t seem like anything revolutionary… until Poole starts talking about what they’re filming. “We’re creating an entertainment experience, not just filming a movie. DMR2 is going to be unlike anything else out there in video or film. We released DEAD MOON RISING on DVD and it has been even more successful than we had hoped, but for the sequel we are going along our own path.”
Poole elaborates on the idea that DEAD MOON RISING 2 is an experience not just a film, explaining that it will play out as “minisodes” on their website. Each of these is then fractured into “Shards” of the true event.
“Think of a mirror.” Poole says waving his hand in the air and then making a fist he strikes the center of the imaginary mirror before him. “If you break it, you get shards of glass. Each shard still reflects the image before it, but each one has its own unique angle, so the same image can be seen in many different ways.” He goes on to explain that DMR2 won’t have scenes like a traditional feature. Instead it has shards, and it will be up to the audience to work out for themselves what’s true and what’s not based on the shards they are given.
“Rather than being a passive viewer, our new format encourages interaction and a certain level of personal involvement.” Poole plans to use forums, voting and viewer suggestions to allow the audience to shape the path of the feature. Viewers will be further encouraged to be active participants by receiving points for viewing videos, posting to forums and submitting ideas and suggestions. As the points add up, the viewer’s rank on the site goes up, offering them access to special features and exclusive content.
“Our revenue will come from advertising. Sponsors will have a 15-30 second spot before each episode and, unlike regular television in the age of digital recording, viewers won’t be able to skip through the spot to get to the program.” When asked how they plan to make the project financially viable, Poole goes on to say that in addition to this there will be more traditional banner and link ads on the site, but the main focus will be sponsors for the shards themselves.
Poole is optimistic about the prospects for Anubis Digital. He’s expecting upwards of 1,000,000 hits per month by the end of the year and he’s looking for 5,000,000 per month by the end of 2009.
Even before this casting session, filming had already started on DEAD MOON RISING 2 with both an advanced trailer and one shard “in the can”. Now Poole and his innovative team are working out the last design details for the site and planning to go live with the first videos within weeks.
It is easy to see that Anubis Digital is planning something very special for the viewing public. In fact calling it “special” is an understatement. Unlike the traditional media establishment, Poole’s company plans to give audiences an unprecedented amount of interactivity with what they are watching. Their opinions and ideas will help shape the finished product in real time as the shards are revealed over the course of the next year.
Poole describes Anubis Digital’s mission as being “to delightfully confound viewer expectations” and it is clear that the company is placing its faith in the viewing public’s ability to embrace a new idea for entertainment. It is also clear that if this idea works, Anubis Digital will be at the forefront of the new age of digital entertainment and the media world will be changed forever.