Seance

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SeanceWhat would you say if I told you that I lived through a real-life paranormal horror movie, and that you could too? Some of you may scoff and steer clear of it, but those of you who have an eye for the darker side of life may have your interest piqued. On a warm July evening in Black Creek Pioneer Village, Jaymes White ran a séance and scared the hell out of everyone in the building, and I was lucky – or unlucky – enough to be a part of it.

Séances are a form of spirit communication that have been around at the very least since the spiritualism boom in the 1800s. The Fox sistersFoxSisters, Margaret and Kate, are credited with being a large part of getting spiritualism off the ground, though they were later discredited by their own statements about the séances they ran being staged. Conjure an image in your mind of a séance; presumably you’re imagining a circle of folks all clasping hands around a table with candle and maybe a Ouija board in the middle. The medium leading the séance is likely asking a series of questions with confidence and gusto. “Is anyone there?” “Are you in pain?” “Do you know that you’re dead?” among others. Perhaps the candle flickers in response, or maybe the medium acts as a conduit slurring responses in a voice not their own, but most likely, you’re hearing a series of knocks in response to the medium’s questions. “Knock once for yes, twice for no.” If any of this is what you’re imagining, you’ve got a fairly accurate idea of what a traditional séance looks like. According to the Fox sisters, however, those knocks so prevalent in their séances were merely the sisters cracking their bones in a way they had oft practiced. Their frequent conferences with a spirit called “Mr. Splitfoot” were a fabrication.Victorian-English-seance-007

Despite the fact that some of the very mothers of spiritualism were denouncing the practices as lies and delusions, the movement continued and even gained momentum. Perhaps it was a morbid curiosity, or a fear of what comes next, but a section of humanity disregarded the confessions and kept with their search for answers. We’ve even had commercialized spirit communication in our homes since the 1890s, when the Ouija board was invented. English_ouija_boardSince then, a number of horror stories in the form of truth, legend, mythology, folk tales, and film, have spread about spirit contact. We’ve all heard of the Bloody Mary legend where you speak her name thrice in front of a mirror and she is summoned to exact her revenge. Maybe you’ve heard of the lesser known “Three Kings” ritual, or the Charlie Charlie Pencil game that went around the internet in mid-2015. These kinds of things are all good fun when you’re a skeptic with a somewhat open mind, but for a true believer in the power in the unknown, the ease of access that comes along with these types of things being in vogue can be very concerning. You never know what you’ll bring through, and the layman likely won’t be using the proper protective procedures.

This is where Jaymes White and the Haunted Walks come in. 

Jaymes White

If there is anyone you’d trust to take you through a séance, it would be Jaymes. He is a well-known mentalist and his background in hypnotism and suggestion makes him a believer with a skeptic’s edge. He knows human psychology extremely well, and he is the first to suggest ways in which one’s head may have tricked them into believing that something explainable was actually paranormal. Despite his grounded and realist nature, he still revels in the mystical and leads the participants in the séance through an evening of surprise, terror, and absolute amazement.

When you first arrive at Black Creek Pioneer Village, you are greeted by the cloaked03f9bb7f28843cb248e8928c7dcd412721eec8598c635d275a79c327443c167f-250 hosts of Haunted Walk. To give you an idea of what awaits you, every participant is asked to sign a waiver releasing The Haunted Walk and Jaymes White of any liability for the usual injuries and death, but with an addendum that you will not come after them if something paranormal follows you home. Once everyone has arrived, a guide gives the group a tour of the village and a macabre history lesson. You hear about the spiritualism movement and the collection of buildings on the property, including the stories of the folks who once inhabited the notoriously haunted end destination where the séance is set to take place. There is something about hearing ghost stories by lantern-light in the dead of the night that really sets the mood for the experience you’re about to have. Needless to say, by the time you enter the séance, you’re already at least a little bit on edge.

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Once you’re in the building, you finally get to meet the person who will be guiding you through your paranormal expedition. Jaymes White enters the room bearing a wooden box, and after a short discussion has a volunteer open the box and hand the crystals inside to all participants. They are to be your protection for the evening; as long as you hold them, you should be safe. The small group goes on to take a small tour of the dwelling, eventually landing in the front room where a circle of wooden chairs is arranged around a small table. There are discussions of your past paranormal experiences and your level of skepticism, and a promise is made to disclose to the group anything that happens throughout the evening. With that, the séance begins. Now, I won’t give any spoilers here, because you should really take part in the experience yourself, but let me tell you it was one of the most terrifying evenings I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. cbdfd9d19bdf8f953980f89e7c7f2e6a8f0e01b66bda6e5723ce37da53e8ecbfJaymes makes use of bells, Ouija boards, and many other more traditional tools to help any spirits come through – and it worked. One of the things that was most compelling about this experience was that Jaymes allowed you to walk fairly freely about the building, so if you heard something in another location, you were encouraged to go investigate. There were a series of occurrences that seemed unexplainable – despite Jaymes’ attempts to explain them away with psychology – and the evening was so intense that when it came to its conclusion, every member of the group fled as quickly as they could. With Jaymes’ protective presence, we all made it out alive and without any demonic attachments (that we know of), but I definitely slept with the light on and the crystal handy that night.

Haunted-Walk-Ghost-LogoThe Séance at Black Creek has added additional dates, and is now running virtually every weekend from now until November 10th. If you have a penchant for the paranormal, are in the Toronto area, and want to take part in a Victorian-style séance, this is your chance; Tickets are available at https://hauntedwalk.com/the-seance/ but are selling out fast. It’s absolutely worth the price of admission to have an experience unlike anything else out there.

 

Bringing the Filmmaking experience to Games

spanishAssassins-Creed-Origins (1)As video games are becoming more and more visually sophisticated, the cross-pollination between the film industry and the game industry is growing. It’s easy to see this happening with technology and storytelling techniques. When you look at the artists that work in both industries, it’s not hard to imagine the crossover of CGI artists, as they work with computers and the same tools. However, it’s more curious when it happens with those that have worked on set. A relatively unknown role is that of the Camera Specialist in video games. We talked about this with Carlos Hidalgo, the Camera Specialist in one of the most important game studios in the world: Ubisoft. He has worked on games such as: Rainbow Six, Watch Dogs 1 & 2, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, and the recently released Assassin’s Creed: Origins. He has worked in several movies as Director of Photography as well.

The Fiction Anthology (TFA): How did you start working in the video game industry?Carlos Hidalgo

Carlos Hidalgo: Well, I was a director of photography, and I was approached by a producer to shoot real people to be composited in a 3D environment (we talked around 1999).  At that time, we had many problems matching the actual camera lenses with (the 3D software) Softimage lenses. After showing them my knowledge of cinema and the possibility of creating more realistic cinematics, I was offered the position of Director of Virtual Photography. At that time that position did not exist. That was one of the reasons why I moved away from cinema and became more involved with video games. Back then, we could not make realistic lighting that worked with moving cameras. So I implemented the use of three-point lighting, unknown to the animators at that time. Of course, we had to adapt it because any light that was directed towards the (CGI) camera was not counted by the renderer, so we had to use a 45 degree technique to simulate a backlight.

TFA: Has your work changed since then?

AssassinsCreed_Origins-Camera copyCarlos Hidalgo: The challenge was getting bigger with the invention of motion capture, which facilitated and created a more realistic animation of people. I began to work and develop systems that allowed the transfer of the motion capture to other softwares, like Kaydara, that allowed us the transfer between Mocap (Motion Capture) cameras and (the software) Softimage.

TFA: Were you a gamer before you got into the field?

watch_dogs_game-HDCarlos Hidalgo: Really, I almost never played. Because of my profession, my interestswere more dedicated to film and trying to go further, as I was a cinephile at that time. But at the same time, I can not deny that I was playing two or three games on a Genesis console that I had bought for one of my children.

TFA: And after?

Carlos Hidalgo: I think it is necessary to be a gamer to work in the video game industry because it is very important to be aware of what happens in other parts of the industry, and of course, to always try to go further in what is being achieved.

TFA: As a Camera Specialist, what is your job exactly?

Carlos Hidalgo: A camera specialist to video games is what a director of photography is to cinema. The camera specialist is someone who works very closely with the director of cinematics and writers. While the creative work of the director gives us the intention of the scene he wants to shoot, we give him our point of view regarding our narrative experience with cameras and lights. In itself, it is an exchange of creativity where everyone has expertise.

AssassinsCreed_Origins-Camera2We film the scenes in the motion capture studio.  We meet with the director and the editor, and we see if the edited scene works. Then we take the edit and adjust the cameras in the 3D software. We see how it works with textures and lighting, and once approved, we simply do a polish.

TFA: Are you responsible for the cameras in cinematics and in gameplay as well?

Carlos Hidalgo: Normally, we had two kinds of camera specialists, one in gameplay and one in cinematics. But sometimes, I had to work with script cameras (gameplay) to coordinate the transition between cinematics and gameplay.

TFA: During video games, the gamer can choose the camera angle, so how do you create camera work to improve the gaming experience?AssassinsCreed_Rogue

Carlos Hidalgo: We always try to improve the gamer experience. You will see in Assassins: Origins how we try to give more camera options to the player.

TFA: Are you present in the MOCAP process, too?  

Carlos Hidalgo: Yes, like a director of photography, I work close with the director, actors and soundman to find the best way to shoot, exactly like a movie shoot.

TFA: How does your experience with movies affect your work in video games?

Carlos Hidalgo2Carlos Hidalgo: Well, my experience in movies helps me to be efficient in game production; it helps me to know how to deal with huge teams, and it is so fun to be creative without all the constraints of making a movie. From the beginning, in gaming, I saw how more and more the game studios were bringing people from movies to change the vision and production of making a game. All the knowledge we had from shooting a movie (visual language, camera, lenses, etc.), it applies directly to cinematics.

TFA: And how does your video game experience affect your work in movies?

Carlos Hidalgo: Being in a game studio helps me realize that using the technology we use in gaming could make the way we shoot movies easier.

TFA: Do you see the future of movies becoming closer to video games? Or do you think that they’ll continue to live as two separate arts?

24271541_10159831015010422_580834638_oCarlos Hidalgo: I think, inevitably, cinema adapts to new technology and all the new creative possibilities. Of course, these possibilities create films that are a little plastic and lifeless, but it is the filmmakers who keep a certain visual reality. Many movies are not credible because of the poor use of technology; I think the only culprit for this is the director and his insatiable desire to use CG. Something that the film industry observes is how video games have many more followers, and the film industry wants to bring them to the cinema as versions of the larger video games. But since they will never be interactive, their films have not yet succeeded.

Muchas Gracias, Carlos. We can’t wait to enjoy your latest work in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

 

From Visual Effects Artist to Director: Sorice

spanishsorice-poster-dateWhat do the movies The Hobbit, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Pacific Rim, The Jungle Book have in common? Well, they are all heavy in Visual Effects. Though theres been a new appreciation for practical effects, we have to agree that none of those movies could have been made a few decades ago, when CGI barely existed outside of 8 bits video games and fancy music videos.

angelo-white-imdbThose movies also have something else in common: behind the scenes, they all count on the hard work of lots of talented visual effects workers. Among them is Angelo White, who has just finished, Sorice, a short concept film that has caught the attention of Hollywood.

The Fiction Anthology (TFA): When did you start working in the movie business?

Angelo White: I started working in the business in 2012. My first feature was Dredd and Snow White and the Huntsman.

TFA: VFX workers are like an invisible force behind the biggest Hollywood blockbusters.  Do you think that Hollywood should do a better job recognizing the contribution from VFX artist as an important part of the crew?

Angelo White: Even though we follow the vision of VFX supervisors/directors, we still give everything to make the images look awesome. Blockbusters nowadays are mostly heavily VFX driven, so it rests on artists like us to make them work. Sometimes it does feel like they dont appreciate what we do, like putting us at the end of the credits or not even including our names. But things are changing. You’re starting to see movies with a long list of credits for VFX artists.

TFA: Do you consider yourself more of a director or a VFX artist?

angelo-white-vfxAngelo White: This is a tough question. I always dreamed of being a director. My first step was working for the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, but when I was a VFX artist for those movies, I always thought, man, what if the shot was like this, what if the story was told in another way? I wanted to create my own vision and share that with the world. Im a director whos trained in VFX / world building. To direct the films I wanted to make, I had to learn how to create those worlds first. I am now ready for the next step, to start directing VFX heavy features.

TFA: There has been recent trend with VFX artist becoming directors, like Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) or Wes Ball (Maze Runner). Why do you think this is happening?angelo-white-vfx-2

Angelo White: VFX artist know what is visually possible, they know how the process works. They dont just create stories—they create worlds.  Coming from a VFX background, it’s their natural habitat to create stories from out of this world.

TFA: What do you think is the most important artistic skill that a VFX artist brings to directing? And in terms of production?

poster3Angelo White: I think it’s great to be a director with VFX experience. You can save money by making the right decisions, and realize that sometimes not everything has to be VFX. Sometimes we need old school practical effects. If you know the process of VFX as a director, you know what to keep in mind while shooting and you can work more efficiently.

If theres one thing that speaks loudly in this industry, it’s money. While you wont learn everything there is to know about the filmmaking process in VFX, youll learn a great deal about how shots are organized.

TFA: Where did the concept for your short film, Sorice, come from?

Angelo White: First it was just a simple idea. I gained so much experience in the VFX industry and I wanted to add that to a vision that I had, about a girl with a dark mysterious past. I developed the story more and it became a something unique along the way. With help of my producer H1, it all came together in this piece.

TFA: What was the biggest challenge in the shooting process? And in postproduction?

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Angelo White: Saving up money to finance my own shorts was difficult: what do we shoot and what do we sacrifice due to budget?  I wanted to create so much but had to limit the film to what I can afford. My main goal was to make it look like it had high production value.

I created the short on a Macbook Pro, on 3K resolution. Imagine rendering 3D footage on 3K resolution on a Macbook Pro! That didnt work, so I saved money by using an online Renderfarm, which was really a risk because you didnt know if there were errors until you received the final render.

TFA: How did Hollywood contact you after the short?

Angelo White: I dropped a teaser after 3 months of shooting, and was contacted by a Motion Picture Scout from CAA (Creative Artists Agency). He asked me to send him the short when it was finished. When I sent him the movie, he was so blown away that he asked me to come to LA. He set me up with producers from Original Film (Fast and Furious, Passengers),  the manager of Cloverfield, and the production company of Watchmen and Hellboy. The producer on my short, H1, who is also one of the creators of True Skin, (a short who got a series deal with Amazon) also helped me with contacts in Hollywood.

TFA: What are the next steps for you?

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Angelo White: I am wrapping up the Sorice script with a talented writer, Jason Erickson, and started developing the script for another horror short, Mother of Children. I will release this a week after Sorice. I have also planned to do another Scifi short this summer.

TFA: As a filmmaker, what are your influences?

Angelo White: Directors like Denis Villeneuve, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese really inspired me to become a director. The way they use camera movements to tell a story and build tension really amaze me. Art, in general, inspires me, and there is a story behind every piece of art.

TFA: Any words for your fellow indie filmmakers?sorice-frameAngelo White: Tell your story and dont sit on your ideas. Go out and start filming. Create what you have in mind and share it with the world!

TFA: What about for fans of the genre?

Angelo White: My genre isnt just sci-fi. My genre is the worlds in my mind. I plan on creating these worlds and have fun doing so. I hope fans enjoy the films that come out of my imagination.

Sorice will be available to watch in The Fiction Anthology really soon. Stay tune!!

 

Helping Horror Creators: Kelly Hughes

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Kelly Hughes is a living legend of 90s underground grunge horror. It wasn’t easy to be an independent genre filmmaker at that time, but Kelly managed to make a TV series all on his own. Heart Attack Theatre, with over 30 half-hour-long episodes of no-budget horror stories, aired on TV (this was long before Youtube) at a rate of one episode per week. The description of his schedule during this time is insane:

HAT“(…) the schedule I used for the first season. I would write the script on my lunch hour on Friday (I worked full-time at another job while I did this.) Shoot the scenes over the weekend. Edit Sunday night, and Monday and Tuesday when I got home from work. Turn it into the studio Wednesday. And then they would air it that Friday night. And I would already be starting the whole process all over again”

(for the whole interview about his past check: http://www.searchmytrash.com/cgi-bin/articlecreditsb.pl?kellyhughes(2-15)

After surviving this experience, Kelly created several underground features, including the world’s first zombie drag queen movie (featuring Russ Meyer “supervixen” Kitten Natividad).

As a person who always embraces the spirit of innovation, Kelly never misses the opportunity to take advantage of the new methods and ideas that technology offers us. You’ll be able to find his new supernatural series, The Mephisto Box, on Amazon Prime this fall. And he’s just about to release a new website to help the community of independent horror filmmakers to promote their works.

The Fiction Anthology (TFA): How did you manage to survive as an independent horror filmmaker since the 90s?

Kelly Hughes: I kept working! My series aired on public access TV which was non-commercial. But when I started releasing videos on VHS in the late ‘90s, I started to earn a little bit of a profit. At least enough to break even from the expense of video duplication. Not to mention all those glossy video sleeves. I had to order a minimum of 2,500 sleeves at a time. And I didn’t sell anywhere near 2,500 copies of those early videos. But I wanted the boxes to look professional. So I shelled out the bucks.

TFA: What are the main lessons about filmmaking that you learned in that less technologically advanced decade? Do you think having had that experience gives you an advantage as a filmmaker today?

poster from facebook lo-rezKelly Hughes: The main lesson is that you need a script. You can’t expect your actors to ad-lib your script for you. And you need to work with dependable people. They need to show up. On time. Focused on your project.

Also, back in the analogue age, it was very time consuming going through video footage. Rewinding and fast forwarding through actual videotape. So you wanted to get coverage. But you didn’t want to do a million takes of something because then it was a nightmare sorting through it all later. So back in the day, I usually did only one or two takes for each shot. Maybe three if we had a technical difficulty.

The advantage it gives me is the confidence to know I can make it through any setback. For example, with my latest project, the night before our first day of shooting, I got an email from one of my lead actresses saying she was dropping out because her fiancé didn’t want her kissing another a guy. And in the script, the kiss was a pretty innocent kiss on the forehead. Not a make out scene. So my first thought was: “You’re telling me this the night before we shoot? Through an email?” My second thought was: “You waited this long to read the script!” I allowed myself a few minutes to freak out. Then I told myself the freak out was over. And that I had to come up with a solution. And not burden the rest of the cast with this. So I contacted an actress who was playing a smaller role. And asked her if she wanted to take over one of the lead roles. And she said yes. And in the long run it was great because she was a much better actress than the original one. So the lesson is: Don’t get stuck on a setback. Solve the problem and move on.

TFA: You were interviewed with other indie and underground horror directors in the documentary Blood on the Reel. What do you think you all have in common? How much contact do you have with each other?


blood-on-the-reel-poster-art-webKelly Hughes:
I think we all have an independent spirit. And a twisted sense of humor. We’re not afraid to do whatever it takes to get our projects completed.I have the most contact with them through Facebook. And I enjoy seeing what they post there. And to see which directors have new projects in the works. I’ve had the most contact with Johnny Daggers, the creator of Blood on the Reel. He’s very creative and fun to talk to. And I even interviewed him for an article (which I have to transcribe and finish one of these days.)

TFA: When did you decide to make a web series and why? What are your thoughts about this new medium?

Poster The Mephisto BoxKelly Hughes: I really enjoyed doing my TV series back in the ‘90s. And always wanted to go back to a regular format like that. Except my old show Heart Attack Theatre was a horror anthology with a totally new story and characters each week. And my new project, The Mephisto Box, is a serial with recurring characters and an advancing storyline. A soap opera with both psychological suspense and traditional slasher movie elements. Like a Lifetime Original movie, but sleazier and bloodier.

There’s an explosion of TV shows out there right now. It seems to be the most popular and creative medium. Especially for horror with all the shows like American Horror Story, Scream, Slasher, and Stranger Things. And watching them in a streaming format on Netflix or Amazon really blurs the line between web series and traditional TV. So it’s virtually one and the same now.

But back when I did my show for public access TV, it was a big deal to see my work being aired to the public (even if it was just local cable TV.) I never could have imagined all the outlets we have today. So I don’t take it for granted. And I remind myself that the future is here. And that I need to take advantage of it. I need to jump back in and create the crazy TV show I always dreamed of.

TFA: How do you work the promotion of the web series?

Kelly Hughes: Promotion is on-going. It happens before, during, and after production. You send out press releases. You post updates on Facebook. You go to conventions and meet people face-to-face. I think we’re all pretty visual, so I use a lot of photos to promote my work. I should probably use Instagram more. But it’s easy to spread yourself thin by using every form of social media. So I concentrate on Facebook.

My favorite form of promotion, though, is interviews. And not just me talking about my workAllison. But me interviewing my cast members. And also writing articles about the filmmaking process. This year I became a contributor/guest blogger for The Huffington Post. And that’s been a great outlet for my articles. My most recent post there is an interview with Alison Arngrim. She stars in The Mephisto Box as Leeza, a satanic high priestess who is trying to escape the trauma of her childhood. Quite a departure from Nellie Oleson, the role she played on the TV classic Little House on the Prairie. So I would say that’s another promotional tool: hire an iconic TV star! You can read the interview here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/alison-arngrim-saves-hollywood-part-1_us_578a67a4e4b0cbf01e9fe0c0

One other thing about promotion…it’s good to be persistent. But don’t make every situation about you and your work. Take time to learn about other people’s work too. And help support other people’s projects. Donate to a friend’s IndieGoGo campaign. Go to a colleague’s film screening. Let them have the spotlight every once and awhile. You’ll get your turn when your project is polished and released.

TFA: Tell us a little bit about your new website. What motivated you to create it?

HorrorHackKelly Hughes: It’s called HorrorHack.com. It was inspired by my quest to find bloggers to review my work. It was a rewarding, but time-consuming process. I discovered most of the bloggers through links on other bloggers’ pages. So I leap-frogged from blog to blog discovering all these great pages. And learned whether or not they wrote reviews, and whether they accepted outside submissions.

So recently I thought, why not put together a directory where horror filmmakers could find all these sites in one place? It could save them an enormous amount of time. And turn them on to new sources. Besides bloggers, it will also list websites, vlogs, magazines, and film fests—all with a horror theme. You could probably find most of this stuff on your own with a Google search. I just wanted to put it all in one place so filmmakers could find the information efficiently.

TFA: How are you planning on helping other indie horror creators?

Kelly Hughes: Horror Hack will also feature interviews and articles on how to promote your indie horror projects. So I’d like to create a platform for indie horror creators to share their success stories and tips with other filmmakers. We’re not a movie review site. There’s lots of good reviewers out there already. I’m creating something that will help horror filmmakers with PR and marketing. And to help lead them to sources who will be receptive to their work.
Because the bigger issue we face is spending all this time (and resources) on a project, and then no one sees it. With all these outlets you’d think we’d all have a bigger audience. But there’s a glut of product out there: movies, TV shows, shorts, web series. We have to work harder than ever to get noticed.

TFA: How can other independent horror filmmakers contact you?

Kelly Hughes: Through email: mail@kellywaynehughes.com. But don’t ask me to read or produce your script. I’ve got more than enough of my own scripts to last a lifetime. ☺ Right now I’m especially interested in people who would like to contribute to Horror Hack. Not to promote their own films, but with articles or advice on Horror PR. Or if you have a horror review blog or website you’d like us to list.

TFA: Beyond the pleasure that can come from being scared, why do you think the world needs Horror?

Leeza crop 1

Kelly Hughes: Horror is like fairy tales. Cautionary stories to teach children to be aware of the dangers in the world. People shouldn’t be totally paranoid. But a little fear can be a healthy thing.

There are some pretty whacked out people out there. You meet someone on an online dating site and they turn out to be a stalker. You help someone on the side of the ride with a flat tire, and they push you into their van, and you end up in a box under someone’s bed. You hire a plumber on Craigslist and he turns out to be a psycho who ties you to a chair, robs you, videotapes you, and posts it on YouTube. The stuff that happens in real life is often more disturbing than horror movies. So horror movies remind us to be careful out there. And help us relieve the pressures of modern life in a safe and fun way. Horror movies are fun.

TFA: Do you have any messages to horror fans?

Kelly Hughes: Don’t multi-task while watching horror. If you’re at home watching horror on TV, sit down and give it your full attention. No distractions. No checking your phone. Preferably at night with the lights out.

And don’t start writing your review on IMDb before it’s even over. Go in with an open mind. You might discover some gems if you immerse yourself in the experience. Even crappy horror movies can have sublime moments.

TFA: Any messages to independent genre creators working today?

Kelly Hughes:

  1. AllisonSkullWrite stories with action. Beware of scenes with two people sitting on a couch explaining the back story for fifteen minutes.
  2. Don’t shoot in your apartment living room with bare white walls. Find an interesting location (even if it means crashing a hotel lobby, or sneaking into a power plant.)
  3. Give your audience the genre elements they expect. That’s why they choose a genre film and not a straight-forward drama. If you’ve set them up to expect a slasher film, then go for a bloody body count. If you’re doing a hi-tech sci-fi film, throw in some bells and whistles: robots, bionic eyes, funky laboratories with green lights…whatever fits your story. But don’t forget to give your audience the fun genre elements they expect.
  4. Work with dependable and agreeable people. Keep the drama on-screen, not on-set. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel desperate. Especially if your actors and crew are working for a deferred payment. But don’t just work with anyone because they are available. If they are consistently late or flaky, let them go. And don’t work with people who look down on your genre. I love working with experienced, trained actors. But if they think horror is silly or beneath them, I don’t want them bringing that condescension to the set. They must embrace horror. (And you must write them a good role.)
  5. Create your own niche. You have to stand out from the glut of video out there. So why not create your own mini-brand? So that when people see you have a new project coming out, they will already know it will have elements they like. Don’t think of this as limiting yourself. Think of it as a way of developing faithful fans. You could do worse than being pegged as that “Neo-Slasher” director. Or the guy that does those “weird shapeshifter” movies. Or the gal that makes “urban witch mysteries.” Sure, you can always branch out later. But it’ll be easier to branch out if you make a name for yourself first. Think of your favorite writers and directors and what you expect from them. Then apply that to yourself and your career.

TFA: Thank you Kelly to share your experience with us

Video games in a Dystopian Future: VIRTUAL

spanishVIRTUALOne of the first short films that we shared with you in The Anthology was The Pixel Theory: Pandora’s Box. We were surprised by the visual quality of this low-budget production—and in Spain, when you say “low-budget,” it really means “ultra-low-budget.” More importantly, we were surprised by the narrative: a genuine dystopian Sci-Fi story about something that could becomeDaniel Torrado03 a real problem in the non-so-distant future. You can watch it here.

For all these reasons, we couldn’t wait to talk with the director of Pandora’s Box, Daniel H. Torrado, about his next movie, Virtual: a big brother of the short. The team behind Virtual has just released a Kickstarter campaign to make the production possible.

The Fiction Anthology (TFA): You directed your first short film in 2005. That’s over 10 years of experience in creating fiction cinematically. When did you first realize that this was your passion?

Caja de Pandora - Behind Scenes03Daniel H. Torrado: The audiovisual is something that has attracted me since childhood. I think it all started when my parents bought a Handycam camera that they didn’t allow me to touch. I was very intrigued by that forbidden object full of buttons.Later, I started making short stop motion movies with plasticine, recording silly stories with friends. When I was in high school, I enrolled in film workshops and courses. Later, I attended a training program for the unemployed that taught me to use the ENG camera, editing programs, and so on. In 2005, I dove into my first film, very amateurishly, with a borrowed Canon XL1 camera, 100 euros raised at parties, and the help of many friends. Despite the low budget, the film was screened in several cinemas and universities, and it was issued in Telek. Since then, I have spent ten years working on all kinds of audiovisual projects.  I have continued to educate myself in directing, camera, lighting, postproduction, etc.

TFA: You mention your passion for science fiction and video games. Did both passions start at same time?

Daniel H. Torrado: I think so. When I was a child, movies as Willow and Star Wars accompanied my family at every Christmas. Alien and Terminator 2 made deep impressions on me. I also spent lot of time in arcades. I was really hooked on the game Metal Slug. When I wasn’t playing it, I was watching other people play. I got so good that I could finish the game on a single coin. Pure pleasure. I remember the atmosphere of those arcades: the teenagers, the little punks of the neighbourhood… that feeling is something I want to capture in a film.  

TFA: You have worked for a long time in camera crews and as a director of photography. How do you think that experience affects your work as a director? As a writer?

Caja de Pandora - Behind ScenesDaniel H. Torrado: Usually, when I write, I do it with total freedom, visualizing the scenes in my mind regardless of the technical constraints. It’s when I do the planning and the shooting  that I think about the technical issues. Cinema is the largest collective art, so I think that a director should have technical knowledge and know how every department works. The director has to learn to control and anticipate potential problems. A single failure in the art department, in photography or sound and all the fantasy we try to create fades out.

TFA: You’ve been a director of photography and a camera operator in many of your projects as director. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a “jack of all trades” during filming?

Caja de Pandora - Behind Scenes04Daniel H. Torrado: Generally the “jack of all trades” is more an necessity, due to the lack of resources, than a real choice. In Cinema, many arts and techniques converge, and you can’t be an expert in all of them. I like to have people specialized in their fields when possible. The good thing about working alone is that, you can move more quickly. If there are fewer factors in the equation, there is less risk for failure. But working alone is also very exhausting and requires a lot time and effort for getting good results. Personally, I prefer to work as part of a team.

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TFA: The Science Fiction usually requires visual sophistication, something not very compatible with a low budget. What are your secrets for making low-budget science fiction films :)?

Daniel H. Torrado: It’s not a secret that we are living in the digital revolution. Today, you can do wonders with a midrange computer if you have the right skills. In the past, a bad story could compensated with a good dose of Visual Effects. But nowadays, the story is more important than all the spectacle that adorns it.

Daniel Torrado-ProyectosTFA: What is “The Pixel Theory”?

Daniel H. Torrado: Pixel Theory began as a movie in chapters, made with the participation of several directors. After it was done, we decided to take the chapter Pandora’s Box from the final film and distribute it as a promotional short of the project.

TFA: How did you come up with the idea for Pandora’s box? What were your narrative and aesthetic influences?

Daniel H. Torrado: The idea came to me while I was playing Counter Strike, a well known online shooter game. My main cinematic influences were 1984 and The Matrix.

You can find more information about Daniel’s next project, the feature film Virtual, in the video from the Kickstarter campaign.


TFA: Pandora’s Box stands out visually not only in the “virtual world” scenes, but in the “real world” ones too. Those scenes are stylized and dirty at the same time. Will there be a similar visual contrast between the real and virtual worlds in your next film, Virtual?VirtualWorld Vs RealWorldDaniel H. Torrado: Of course. The contrast between a fantastical “unreal world” and a rusty reality is very important for the story. It’s part of the critique in the film: as everything rots around us, we escape into digital worlds that don’t actually exist.

TFA: When did you have the idea for Virtual?

Daniel H. Torrado: Virtual arose naturally from Pixel Theory. After seeing Pandora’s Box, many people asked me about a longer version of the film.All those questions pushed me to write the feature.

Virtual - Concept01TFA: The concepts in Virtual are very ambitious, and the visuals look very nice. What will be the biggest challenges of producing it?

Daniel H. Torrado: As with any project, the ultimate challenge is funding. We have the technical team that participated in Pixel Theory, along with the support of production companies and rental houses. But there’s always the need for an investment to cover expenses such as food, gasoline, locations, social security, etc.

VIRTUAL360TFA: You mentioned complementary VR360 experience and e-books in the Kickstarter Virtual-Ebookcampaign. Will they be a complement of the original story or parallel stories?
Daniel H. Torrado: 
The 360 VR experiences will be parallel stories with other characters in the same universe. They complement the main story to give it more depth. But the e-book is a literary adaptation of the script, so even people who aren’t familiar with the universe can follow the story.

TFA: What do you think Science Fiction brings to our world?

Daniel H. Torrado: On one hand, it brings fantasy. It brings us the dream of creating new worlds. On the other hand, Sci-Fi warns us about problems that we can encounter in the future, if we aren’t careful in the present. In Virtual, we experience amazing worlds of fantasy. At the same time, I try to represent the world we can find ourselves in if we don’t take precautions: a rotten reality dominated by elites, where the people live badly, escaping from their problems through virtual reality.

Virtual - Concept04TFA: Any messages for fans of Science Fiction?

Daniel H. Torrado: Don’t stop dreaming. Also, we need your support for making the first major Spanish Science Fiction film possible. There are great Spanish Science Fiction films, like Open your eyes (the Spanish movie remaked by Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky) and Acción Mutante, but none them addresses genre so directly.

 TFA: Any messages for fellow independent creators of genre fiction?

Daniel H. Torrado: Don’t miss the years that you could spend waiting for someone to finance your big project.

Thank you Daniel for your time.

Let’s do that movie possible: Kickstarter

Mission: Save the Classics

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As big fans of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales, we couldn’t resist trying the iPoe app when we discovered it in the iClassics series. Poe’s works don’t need any extra features  to be awesome, but they become a completely new experience with animated illustrations, suggestive music, interactivity and a terrible fright at the end. After using iPoe, we couldn’t wait to read the second anthology, iPoe-2, and then iLovecraft, and then… well, let’s allow the creators of the iClassics apps to tell us their own story:

The Fiction Anthology (TFA): How did Play Attitude start?

David: Play Attitude originated from the need we had, as a creative agency, to work on more personal projects. A creative agency works for other brands and companies and, sometimes, ideas are somewhat limited by the customer. The book The Forgotten Colors was the kick off to a new path, as the editorial that ended up creating Play Attitude and all the books that came after.

TFA: The interactive ebook format is relatively new (practically born with the iPad) At what point did you decide that this was the format you wanted to use?

CorazonDelatorNaiara: What we do is very different from an ebook. We go far beyond what a digital book can offer. At iClassics, we add moving illustrations, music, sound effects, typography, and more,  making reading an interactive experience that immerse you in every tale.

In 2012, we discovered interactive books for the iPad. although we loved the idea,  we thought that they didn’t fully exploit the potential offered by these devices. There were some animated elements, but they didn’t contribute much to the stories. So we decided to experiment, ourselves, with Edgar Allan Poe’s tales. David G. Forés (illustrator & co-founder of iClassics) is a big fan of Literature and especially this author. Besides, Poe’s most famous works are short stories, rather than lengthy novels, which made a perfect testbed. We ended up with the iPoe Collection, which had great results and a successful reception. This experience gave us wings to continue with new stories and authors.

TFA: Is that how iClassics started?

David: Great reception followed the first two volumes of the iPoe Collection, which led us to start really believing in the project. We looked for private funding and eventually got the capital for iClassics. We gathered an excellent team and got to work. Right now, we need another push to publicize the project, expand the genres and authors we work with, add translations and, most importantly, expand to Android and Kindle platforms. We are running a Kickstarter campaign until July 6 for the resources to consolidate our upcoming projectshttps://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidgfores/iclassics-reimagining-poe-wilde-lovecraft-and-more/

TFA: Did you have experience with interactive stories before iClassics, or was it more a matter of experimenting and “playing”?
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David: Because of the novelty of this medium, it was a matter of experiment and play. The experience we tried to create with iClassics is influenced by film and animation. Unlike those formats, the pace of the narrative is controlled by the reader. In a film, rhythm is determined by the director. We had to do many tests so that animations, sound effects, and the soundtrack matched the reader’s pace of reading and interactions.

TFA: Which author was the biggest challenge to illustrate? Which one was the closest to your aesthetic, and which one made you feel the proudest?


Naiara:
The iClassics are not illustrated by a single person. The Black Cat SketchesWe select one illustrator or another based on what the author and the aesthetic of the story asks for. So far we collaborate with David G. Forés (iPoe & iLovecraft) and César Samaniego (iDickens & iWilde) Recently, we hired two new illustrators, Jordi Solano and Aitor Prieto.They are already working on new titles. Each iClassics is conceived as a unique and exclusive piece, so it is not possible to compare them. The entire project iClassics excites and motivates us. Reinventing classical literature in this beautiful way is what really make us proud.

TFA: We are looking forward reading the last iWilde, because we don’t know too many of his fantastic stories beyond Dorian Grey. How do you decide which stories to adapt?

David: Choosing the stories that we will produce is a rather complicated decision. We choose those that are better known, that are also able to provide us with the most material for interaction, illustrations, and effects. For example, one of the first stories we adapted was The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe. When the sound of the beating heart that haunts the protagonist is played throughout the entire story, the reading experience takes on a new dimension. In the case of iWilde, we selected three stories: The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant and The Nightingale and the Rose. Besides being wonderful, they allowed us to diverge from the  dark and gothic atmosphere of our previous projects.

TFA: Who will be the next iClassics author and why

Naiara: iDoyle is the next iClassics to launch in mid June. It makes us really happy, because Sherlock Holmes is one of the most requested titles from our fans. We are sure that you will love it.iDoyle_screenshot_ipad03

About future iClassics, other pending  authors are Jack London, at the centennial anniversary of his death, and Washington Irvin, with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow—perfect for Halloween! And of course, there are many stories of Lovecraft and Poe we want to continue doing.

They just launched a Kickstarter  campaign so that we can help them adapt more authors in more languages and platforms, and to make them available in schools.

If you want to participate you just have to click here.

TFA: Why did you decide to do the crowdfunding campaign?

Naiara: Because crowdfunding is a wonderful way to build community around your project. And not only that: you received a lot of feedback from fans about the product, and this allows you to improve it with their help.

TFA: What painters and designers do you admire? Who are your inspirations?

TellTaleHeartDavid: Phew! Trick question… the list is endless. We are great admirers of nineteenth century painters, such as Alphonse Mucha or Ramón Casas. We also get inspiration from contemporary illustrators like Frank Frazetta and Norman Rockwell. Of course, we also draw from excellent young illustrators like Abigail Larson and Miki Montlló, who we are honored to collaborate with in the illustrated book that you could find as a reward in our Kickstarter campaign.

TFA: What literary or cinematic works in horror and fantasy inspire you?

David: My main source of inspiration is comics. In the iClassics office, we have shelves full of comics. There are 1970s magazines  from the American publisher Warren (Creepy, Vampirella, Eerie), which adapted horror stories by Poe, Lovecraft, etc, into comics. Cinema is another infinite source of inspiration for many of the devices we use. Some of our favourite directors are Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, and J.A. Bayona.

TFA: Have you gotten nightmares after spending so much time in the insane universes of writers like Poe or Lovecraft?

ValdemarSofía: Except for David, who has always been passionate about horror, the rest of the team has acquired a kind of immunity to the genre of the macabre. We even renamed the creatures of the stories and made jokes about them. For example, in the office, we have 5 or 6 different ways to pronounce Cthulhu‘s name, each one more difficult and farfetched. However, if we are honest, once we enjoyed these works as they should be (with the lights off and headphones on), almost everybody let out a cry.

TFA: Are you proud of scare us at the end of each story?

David: If it’s an horror story, of course. That means we’ve done our job well and we got you immersed in the story.Nothing makes us happier than to read your comments Screenshot_iPoe
about how terrifying the experience has been.Screnshoot_iWilde
Anyway, we would like to assure the people who are afraid of horror stories that we have iClassics productions that are not within the horror genre, such as iWilde or iDoyle. So fear is no longer an excuse for not experiencing an iClassics

TFA: The interaction and animation in your e-books are becoming more elaborate. Are you becoming more comfortable with this kind of illustration? Do you plan to create complete animations, such as animated shorts, any time soon?

Screenshot_lovecraftDavid: All that is thanks to our programming team and R & D work. We are restless and curious, always looking to find new ways to improve the experience.  We learn more with each new iClassics , so the results become more and more elaborate and spectacular.
In terms of short films or animation, it is something that we are not thinking about right now because of the team structure. We have neither the means nor the tools to produce animated short films, but we are not ruling anything out. If a producer is interested in creating something with us, he just has to contact us.

TFA: It’s easy to see that, besides being gifted illustrators, your team also has a talent for narrative and storytelling. Will there be original stories by you?

Naiara: So far, we are very focused on the classic books.Apps
We believe it is important for these works to endure over time, and iClassics is a good way to make this happen. Literature today owes to all those authors who were ahead of their time and inspired later generations. Beside, we’ve already experimented with original stories in The Forgotten Colors and in Inspiration Dormant, with Carmesina as the main character. We loved the experience, so we would love to go back to that someday.

TFA: Any message for fans of the iClassics?

KeepCalmSofía: We  launched a Kickstarter campaign on May 24th and we need it to be disseminated as widely as possible. Help us get classical literature everywhere! And, of course, a huge Thank You to all the fans. Without your support, iClassics would not have been possible. All the work we do pays off the moment that one of you sent us a message to let us know how much you like what we do.

 

TFA: And for creators around the globe?

David: Believe in what you do and never give up. Sometimes life takes you from one place to another on an indirect path. We ourselves have been a creative agency, a publisher, and, finally, creators of experiences. Everything comes if you really believe in yourself.

 

Thank you to David, Naiara and Sofía for this interview and for creating these awesome Apps.

If you want to be part of them now you can in Kickstarter.  The rewards are great and you can help to bring the iClassics to the new generations.

#SaveTheClassics and Click in the image:

Poe IWantYou

If you have any question you can contact them: hello@iclassicscollection.com

Or through the social networks:

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Curated Facebook pages: Poe Collection | Lovecraft Collection

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The Hollywood Fairy Tale: R’ha

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R'ha Poster 2“I got up at seven in the morning (…)  I found a message from Scott Glassgold telling me (…) he wanted to help me turn R‘ha into a movie, with a hollywood studio presumably. Yeah. “

That’s how Kaleb Lechowski, author of the short film R’ha describe the beginning of his Hollywood Fairy Tale. The dream of any independent film creator: you publish your master piece on the internet for free, it’ becomes a big success and Hollywood is knocking to your door.

“I went to Hollywood for two weeks pitching my story ideas to executives, producers and agents. I met people from all the big studios.”

But as usually fairy tales tell you, magic comes with a price, and sometimes it’s difficult to swim with big fishes when you’re the smallest one. Everything is slower and less straightforward than what you expected.

The Fiction Anthology (TFA): Tell us a little bit about your history before R’ha.

Kaleb Lechowski: Together with my brother and a friend I started working on a computer game, when I was thirteen or fourteen. It was the first contact with any 3D application. Our game engine was very limited and the scale of our concept was way too much to handle by ourselves, so we cancelled the project and I turned to Blender instead. I could look back at eight years of on and off experience of working autonomously in Blender before I even got to the university where I created R’ha as my very first 3D animated short film.

TFA: How long did it take to finish the short film and how many people was involved?

Kaleb: I worked on it for seven months, including a R'ha Environmentbreak to marry my wife and even go on our honeymoon afterwards. I was the only one working on the animation but David Masterson provided his wonderful voice work and Hartmut Zeller gave it its amazing sound.

TFA: You had meetings with the biggest studios in Hollywood (Paramount, Fox, Warner Bros.) How does it work? I guess somebody arrange the meeting for you, am I correct?

Kaleb: They call my manager, he figures the best time, maybe arranges some smaller meetings first so I get used to pitching the story, and then you drive their to just talk with the people. Sometimes on a sofa, sometimes at a large conference table. It was always very friendly and they were excited to speak to me, I felt.

TFA: Did you arrive to LA with your pitch well prepared? Were you nervous?

Kaleb: Not as nervous as I would have thought. Scott Glassgold, my manager prepared me well and his business partner asked me a ton of tough questions during our preparation, so I would know how to respond if the producers would ask the same.

TFA: Rumours say that Hollywood studios are rule by business/marketing experts rather than film/art expert. Did you get that feeling? How difficult was for you to make them to understand your ideas?

Kaleb: I didn’t get that feeling. They understood my ideas very well.

TFA: Would you change anything after that intensive learning experience?

Kaleb: Rather than follow anybody’s plans I would have just kept creating more short films.

TFA: For how long did you develop R’ha for them?

Kaleb: For three years straight.

TFA: Was all the development you make for them unpaid? Did you have to keep a daytime job?

R'ha Concept Art 1Kaleb: I was never paid and tried to take on some freelance jobs on the side, but most of them
were underpaid. The general notion was that the film would be funded very soon, but it never happened.

TFA: You mention on the Kickstarter video that they make you to deviate a lot from the original idea, but sometimes in the creation process, deviations, as restrictions, inspire your imagination. Are you going to keep any emerged element from that deviation? 

Kaleb: I have never developed the movie in a direction I didn’t like and I still think it’s a bad idea to have humans in the film just to get a chance to have a known actor’s face in it.

TFA: So you met JJ Abrams and Ridley Scott? Let me ask this another way: 

So YOU MEET JJ Abrams AND Ridley Scott?!?!

Rha_Kickstarter

Kaleb: No. I was at Bad Robot and Scottfree (Scottfree twice even) but I haven’t spoken to the two. I’ve been told though that J.J. himself saw my movie and brought it up, saying I should be invited. He himself was occupied with the post production of Star Trek I believe.

Kaleb has just started a new Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign so now the fans could have the opportunity of finance themselves the genuine second part of R’ha short film. Or, if we all donate enough money, a superb and full Feature Film

TFA: After all these adventures, is R’ha – The Movie developed and ready to be financed?

Kaleb: A movie is a living thing and always changing. When is it ever ready?

TFA: I hope this time it’s not going to be a “one-man band” anymore, is it?

Kaleb: I sure hope so, too. Currently the campaign trends towards barely reaching the 40k R'ha Concept Art 2minimum. If that’s the case it will in fact be a “one-man-band” again, more or less. There’s of course always going to be great people that will try and help me out either way, as they simply believe in the project. David Masterson, the voice actor for example and Sam Redfern, my guy for the music.

TFA: Anything else you would like to share with the fans of R’ha?

Kaleb: We only need another 400 supporters to reach our minimum goal. Millions have seen the movie, so if all the fans out there could help get the word out that R’ha is on Kickstarter, I would be eternally grateful!

TFA: And with your fellows Genre-Film creators?

Kaleb: I hope I will achieve something for all of us, so we can create unique and innovative projects.

Thank you Kaleb to share your experience with the community.  The best of luck in Kickstarter because we WANT to see the continuation of R’ha and its movie.

To know make it possible:  Kickstarter

To watch the original Short Film:  https://thefictionanthology.com/portfolio/rha/

Favourite Genre (or Sub-Genre)

The Human Bat v Robot MonsterWhich ones are your favourite Genres (or Sub-Genres)?

Cuales son tus Géneros (o Subgéneros) Favoritos?

Assassin’s Creed The Complete Visual History

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We went to an event for the release of the book Assassin’s Creed® The Complete Visual History at the Indigo bookstore in Montreal. We’re big fans of the Art in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and the event was  an awesome introduction to what’s inside the book. Assassin Book - 1 of 7

Raphaël Lacoste (Franchise Art Director on Assassin’s Creed) spoke about the origins of the first Assassin’s Creed game. He was one of the artists responsible for designing a “new kind of hero”. Assassin’s Creed was heir to the acrobatic and exotic Prince of Persia, but with a crucial difference: “We were going to a more realistic direction,” says Raphaël. The video game was set against the backdrop of  actual history, with some small liberties taken in the areas that were not well documented. Because of this, the video game franchise can grow in a natural and organic way.

You can find some of the Raphaël’s amazing art (which I’ve had as wallpapers for years) here.

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Anouk Bachman, Publishing Content Manager, spoke about the expansion of Assassin’s Creed beyond video games.

Since the beginning, novels, comics, and a web series (Assassin’s Creed Lineage), satiated fans’ hunger  to learn more about different assassins through the History.

Anouk joked about being “kind of the Cerberus of the franchise”, having to constantly ensure the coherence of this growing universe.  Anouk arrived at the book release from the set of the bigbudget Assassin’s Creed – The Movie, starring Michael Fassbender. She couldn’t tell us anything about the movie, because I guess then she would’ve had to kill all of us.

You can find an interesting interview about the book and Anouk’s role in the saga here.

The book is highly recommended for fans of the video game or those are just fans of its visual quality, like me. You can find a teaser online, but the previews are nothing compared to having those amazing pieces of art printed inside a beautiful book. I was lucky having mine signed by creators of the book.

FullSizeRender   Assassin Book - 7 of 7

Longitude Punk’d

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rmg_punkd_1_large_web_awWhat a better place to hold an SteamPunk exhibition than the Royal Observatory of Greenwich, in London?

SteamPunk - 2 of 14Since 1884, Greenwich has been home to the Greenwich Meridian, point zero in longitude and standard of time.

The Royal Observatory usually showcases actual technologies and scientific artifacts from the Victorian Era, the historic period where most SteamPunk stories take place.

But for a few months, the museum is displaying fantastical technologies that never existed in real life… although they do look gorgeous!