Exclusive: Neal Edelstein Discusses Haunting Melissa, Hooked Digital Media and the Future of Entertainment

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Exclusive: Neal Edelstein Discusses Haunting Melissa, Hooked Digital Media and the Future of EntertainmentHooked Digital Media is set to release their first project Haunting Melissa on their new platform. We recently chatted with founder Neal Edelstein (The Ring, The Ring Two and Mulholland Drive) about the company’s current projects and what lies ahead.

AMANDA DYAR: Tell us why you started Hooked Digital Media and how you became involved with Kevin Washington and Myspace co-founder Aber Whitcomb on the project?

NEAL EDELSTEIN: Hooked Digital Media was started to tell filmed stories in a different way and disrupt traditional film and television distribution by sending filmed content direct to mobile and tablet devices. When I first turned on an iPad, I knew that storytelling would never be the same. These powerful devices and software gave me a closed network, from storefront to direct distribution to my audience. I wanted to tell a ghost story and wanted to push it to my audience in an unpredictable way; you never know what comes next and the length of that story piece. For instance, Friday at 9 pm could be 20 minutes, then Monday at 3 pm could be 3 minutes – unpredictable and surprising. Haunting Melissa is not a movie inside an app. The story and structure we conceived from inception leverages iOS technology and iOS devices. I wanted to reconceive how stories are told.

Kevin Washington is a friend who is always looking for unique opportunities and the concept behind Hooked and Haunting Melissa sparked his interest and involvement. Aber Whitcomb is also a friend, and acts as an advisor. He’s got incredible technology experience.

AMANDA: How is Hooked Digital Media different than anything else out there right now?

NEAL: Hooked Digital Media is different because it marries Hollywood film- making expertise with new technology to create stories that reinvent delivery and structure. We’re able to deliver stories and change structure in ways that have never been done. We will continue to stay on the edge of technology and work with some of the best creatives in Hollywood from story to delivery. Haunting Melissa is the first app of its kind.

AMANDA: What can you tell us about the ghost story Haunting Melissa and how is it going to reinvent horror on mobile and tablet devices?

NEAL: “Something really creepy is happening in this house.”

No one knows why Melissa vanished. She warned her friends that some ghostly presence had awakened in the isolated farmhouse where she lived… something that whispered to her from the locked room where her mother went mad and died. Now she’s gone… and no one knows what unearthly horror had risen from the past and was… Haunting Melissa.

Little by little, all will be revealed.

You’ve never seen anything like this, because there’s never been a haunting quite like this. The first-of-its-kind Haunting Melissa is a terrifying tale with twists and frights that you won’t soon forget. Delivered piece by piece when you least expect it — and want it most — Haunting Melissa will scare you into discovering the truth.

The personal journey of Melissa and her haunting is delivered to personal devices. Ghost stories have to work first and foremost as dramas, and being able to tell this intimate story directly to devices enhances the experience. I also have the ability to control when you get content. The story was created with devices in mind, sound, picture all tailored to be enhanced for mobile and tablet. In post-production, we created the first LUT for iPad and iPhone screens. We have story elements that change upon second viewing called Dynamic Storytelling Elements; if you go back and watch again things might not be the same. I don’t want to give away too much away, but there’s more to explore then meets the eye on first viewing. I also think it’s important to remember that the theatre of the mind is as powerful as the consumption of content, and our unique delivery and schedule will leave viewers anticipating what comes next.

AMANDA: You are an independent filmmaker and producer of The Ring, The Ring Two and Mulholland Drive. What challenges did you face with bringing these filmed stories (such as Haunting Melissa) to mobile and tablet devices and how does it differ from film work you have done in the past?

NEAL: I encountered massive challenges as is the case with any low budget production. But even more so because of the new distribution and creative ideas that have never been done. The biggest challenge is always finding a great story. After that, it was technical challenges of film post-production being married with iOS development. Endless testing of sound, encodes and devices. I was faced with the reality of download speeds and server configuration to deliver media. File size vs. picture quality, a never ending battle to find that perfect balance. I was at the mercy of a range of delivery pipes from high speed Internet to cellular networks. My team was able to maximize delivery and not sacrifice picture, and much of this goes to the power and beauty of the Apple devices. Think about finishing a feature. You have to monitor quality control of a “print” but you know the image is getting on the screen. Likewise delivering an app takes extreme QC diligence; that’s why we chose progressive downloading so viewers can begin watching Haunting Melissa upon download. But once you are untethered from a connection and the content is fully downloaded you can view the story.

AMANDA: Do you see mobile and tablet devices replacing theater entertainment and/or DVD purchases in the future since it offers fans the convenience to instantly stream films on their mobile devices from anywhere?

NEAL: I hope not, going to the movies and sitting in a dark room is a shared experience that is unique and inspiring. However, original content direct to an audience is a new form that is here to stay and has unique advantages over other mediums. Haunting Melissa is the first of its kind, it uses traditional tools and techniques but marries them with cutting-edge technology to change story structure and delivery. There is no doubt this medium is here to stay and it’s a beautiful thing. Creative people can now deliver direct to their audience unencumbered.

Does anyone buy DVD’s anymore? Ha, ha, I did recently having purchased like my 30th copy of le samourai cause I keep giving mine away.

AMANDA: What other projects are in the works for Hooked Digital Media and do you have anything else that you would like to mention?

NEAL: Hooked Digital Media is working with other writers and directors to begin to roll out a series of projects. We’ll continue to make great storytelling our priority and always be implementing cutting-edge technology to bring stories direct to connect audiences. We’ll also be introducing the Hooked Digital Media app later this year which will function in a variety of capacities as more of our projects are introduced.

AMANDA: Is there anything else you would like to mention?

NEAL: Haunting Melissa is a free app with the first chapter available immediately after downloading. After you watch chapter 1, you can share to Facebook and chapter 2 is then free when it’s available. From there you can purchase a season pass at a discounted rate. You’ll get more content than a feature film at a lower price than a movie ticket. I strongly advise to always wear headphones, crank the volume up to high and make sure you turn on push notifications as prompted or in your iOS settings.

To learn more, visit the official Hooked Digital Media website.

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