Exclusive: Lost Zombies: An Experiment in Community Filmmaking
A zombie pandemic has broken out. There is widespread chaos all over the world. As one of the survivors, you want to communicate with others out there, but you aren’t sure where to turn to get your message out. What you need to do is get yourself over to LostZombies.com and tell your story.
You may be wondering what exactly is going on since there really hasn’t been an actual zombie outbreak. All of this is part of the world dreamed up by Skot Leach and Rob Oshima, the two visionaries who devised a place where people could come together in a community of collaborative storytellers.
Lost Zombies wants you to check reality at the door and play along with the zombie-filled landscape they’ve created alongside the 8,000 users on the site. When all is said and done, the minds behind the site will be crafting submissions into a feature-length film.
Leach said, “We’ve gotten over 14 hours of raw footage and 5,000 photos submitted as well as a ton of written stuff from our members. We’re still learning how to work out everything though, especially with the amount of content we have now.”
“We want to use some of the written submissions in the film itself, being read in a documentary style, and then are hoping to use the rest to compile a book because I think both ways are compelling avenues for telling a story,” Leach added. “We want the book to be an extension of our storyline because the format we’ve created allows for so many different voices to be heard.”
As a long-time horror fan, Leach recognized the potential of having a community-driven zombie project. Using zombies as a plot device worked in terms of having a story subject that was flexible and engaging enough to get submissions based off of.
“We talked about a bunch of different scenarios,” said Leach. “We estimated submissions wouldn't be much longer then a couple of minutes, so we felt we needed a theme that could allow for significant drama, suspense, and action in that time frame.”
Leach added, “Additionally the theme had to be epic in scope, it had to be something that could be happening all over the globe. Zombies felt like the perfect fit. Add to that that I have a bit of a zombie obsession.”
Of course, when dealing with the topic of zombies, the never-ending debate of slow versus fast zombies is bound to be a topic of discussion. For Leach the solution was simple: Use both.
“We decided that the film needed both fast and slow zombies, and because it’s really the members’ film, we let them each decide which type they want to use in their content,” explained Leach. “Honestly, fast zombies end up allowing for more scares, but we definitely still love the slow zombies for what they are too.”
“What’s funny is that obviously horror fans either go one way or the other on the topic, and the site has hosted some very heated debates on the topic. It’s great to see how passionate everyone is though, no matter what side of the debate they end up on,” Leach added.
When it first started out, Lost Zombies had an initial storyline and timeline in place. Leach soon realized that creating those restrictions really hindered the very creative process he was trying to cultivate in other storytellers.
“The only thing we’ve really put into place now is just a basic storyline,” explained Leach. “We only ask our members to keep our timeline in mind when making anything just so that we can craft a cohesive story out of user’s submissions. It was important to us that we didn’t explore how the zombie outbreak started so we’ve only set up the 'when' factor to the story.”
Leach added, “I think you can lose some focus if you try to figure out why it all happened and that can slow down the storytelling process.”
What makes Lost Zombies so user-friendly is the fact that the site isn’t set up so that only experienced filmmakers can take part. Pretty much anyone who has a creative streak and a story to tell can be a part of it.
Leach said, “Some people have talent, but they just don’t know where to start. With Lost Zombies, it exists in a way that allows members with lots of different skill sets to get involved.”
The community of members is at the forefront of Leach’s focus with Lost Zombies. He realizes that ultimately it’s their voices and visions that matter most and is keeping all that in mind as they start to put together the film.
“The worst thing you can do is not listen to the community,” said Leach. “Every one of our members is excited for this project and to see the finished product, especially since it really belongs to all of them. We keep that in mind with every decision we are making.”
Since Lost Zombies is one of the few collaborative storytelling efforts on the Internet and one of the only places where a group of 8,000 people are coming together to make a movie, Leach has come to realize that this creative movement could end up being a game-changer in terms of making films in the industry.
Leach said, “I truly believe that our platform is an epic idea that should scare conventional Hollywood. We like to pretend along with the members that we’re overthrowing the movie-making industry.”
Leach is currently working on putting together the contributed materials into the final movie, and according to him, they are hoping to get the film moving along the festival circuit once it is finished.
“Whatever happens, in terms of the movie finding a distributor or anything that involves money, we will find a way to profit-share with our members. We just aren’t sure yet how that is going to all work out. Obviously, it will be very complicated,” said Leach.
As for the future plans for Leach and for Lost Zombies, he said, “What we’d like to do after Lost Zombies is use what we’ve done here and build a platform prototype so that the idea of collaborative storytelling can live on in other forms. If our members want us to keep Lost Zombies going beyond the movie and the projects, we’re definitely open to doing that. After all, if we didn’t have our members, we wouldn’t have a story."
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