Exclusive Interview: Director Keith Arem Discusses His New Graphic Novel INFEX
A unique new graphic novel titled INFEX is now available for iPad 2 and is scheduled to launch its next phase this month. The graphic novel blends as many storytelling genres as it does creative mediums to tell the story of Evelyn "Ivy" Kendall in a futuristic world.
Dread Central recently sat down with the creator of INFEX, video game director and producer Keith Arem, to discuss his creative new approach to the graphic novel. Read on to learn more!
AMANDA DYAR: INFEX is a unique concept that is hard to categorize solely as a book, movie, or game. Since this piece of interactive media has never really been utilized before, where in the world did you come up with the idea for both the technology and story of INFEX?
KEITH AREM: I’ve always been fascinated about the ability of an organism to change its surroundings from within. Similarly, that was the goal of this property – from the foundation of the story to the way it was presented as a product. INFEX was designed to be a true transmedia experience, allowing the audience to experience the story on a variety of mediums. Brandon Humphreys and I created the original story concept, and our initial effort was going to produce my next Contagion album as a conceptual album with music, dialog, and sound design. That quickly evolved into the development of the INFEX graphic novel and viral/ARG campaign, which suddenly had thousands of people following the story online through hidden websites, Facebook pages, Twitter sites, and convention appearances.
When we finally released the limited edition INFEX graphic novel and Origins comic at Comic-Con in 2009, we were restrained by traditional print publishing and distribution methods. Now, in 2012, we chose to develop the INFEX App exclusively for iPad 2 because it offers the viewer the most engaging experience, and the display and sound quality are superb. Because of my background in games, working with actors, writing music, and conceptualizing scenes, I wanted to bring these elements into the novel, without losing the tactile experience of reading a book. With the iPad’ s technology and features, the result was an immersive approach to make each panel of the graphic novel come to life, with all of these elements combined. I was finally able to incorporate my experience in games, music, animation, and film into one product.
AMANDA: INFEX's storyline revolves around a woman named Evelyn "Ivy" Kendall--a cancer survivor turned mutant thanks to a special cure delivered by her father. What was your thought process when creating the protagonist for your story, what type of person is Ivy, and how does the character evolve over the course of INFEX's phases?
KEITH: Much like the viewer in this book, I wanted Ivy’s experience to be one of discovery as she progresses though the story. Instead of a linear progression of novels (sequels, prequels, etc.), the INFEX world was built using the idea of story “threads” that would intersect at a central point in time. The book instantly opens in the middle of this intersection, throwing the reader into the story without a background or history for the events that lead to this moment.
Ivy’s story is the first “thread” that occurs 15 years after this intersection. Ivy is a strong, sensitive, compassionate person who is trying to complete a legacy left by her father. I wanted Ivy to be an innocent victim of a battle between her father and his rival, and she becomes the key to ending their conflict. Her father, Dr. Leonard Kendall, had created the cure for the world’s diseases but hid the technology inside her to protect it from his company’s sinister intentions. Throughout the book Ivy learns about her father’s tragic struggle and realizes her destiny was part of an elaborate chess game between him and his business partner, Dr. Harlan Griffin. She realizes that she is a pawn in their war, but as she unravels her father’s history, she understands she must evolve to survive and bring an end to the company that murdered him.
AMANDA: In the first phase of INFEX, we find Ivy teaming up with former IngenBio Commander Garret Thorne ironically enough. Can you tell us about Thorne's character and how his relationship with Ivy will be affected over time? Also, who is the primary antagonist in INFEX?
KEITH: At the beginning of the story, Garrett Thorne is a former Gulf War soldier, working as the Head of Security for IngenBio Corporation - the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Thorne befriends Ivy and her father, Dr. Leonard Kendall, but soon also becomes a victim of the chess game between Kendall and Griffin. Harlan Griffin is the President of IngenBio, and he uses Thorne’s relationship to manipulate Kendall. When Thorne is eventually sent in to retrieve Kendall’s technology, he becomes responsible for Kendall’s death and given the responsibility of protecting Ivy from Griffin.
Fifteen years later we discover Thorne has been captured and genetically modified by Griffin. When he discovers Ivy has been captured, he escapes and uses his new abilities to guide Ivy and protect her from Griffin. As his name implies, Thorne is a polar opposite of Ivy, both in his abilities and physical attributes. Their combination of unique abilities and opposing strengths make them a powerful rival to Griffin’s army.
AMANDA: The voice acting in INFEX contains an all-star cast of talented actors including Lance Henriksen (Aliens and Terminator), Michael Wincott (The Crow), William Fichtner (The Dark Knight and Date Night), and even video game veterans such as Will Yun Lee (Sleeping Dogs) and Troy Baker (The Last of Us and Bioshock: Infinite). How did you assemble such an amazing cast for INFEX, and how much has the talent contributed to the success of the project?
KEITH: I have been very fortunate to work with such an amazing group of actors over the past several years. My work in games has fostered amazing relationships with some of the most talented people in the industry, and we love working together. Not only do I have a strong respect for their work and abilities, but I am drawn towards people who love their craft. I love what I do and collaborate best with people who are more excited about a concept and story than just a paycheck. The cast of INFEX has brought the story to life in a way no other book has done before. I wanted the viewer to experience each panel of the graphic novel as if it was a scene from a movie, and their performances deliver this and more. I was extremely impressed with everyone’s contribution, and I can’t wait to do more.
AMANDA: INFEX is definitely an exciting title that we can't wait to complete. What do you hope the lasting impact of INFEX will be on the entertainment industry, when will the remaining phases of the story be released, and will INFEX ever move to another platform or possibly produce a full fledged spin-off video game or other project?
KEITH: We are submitting Phase 2 with Apple this week and hope to release the successive phases each month through October. Our goal is to develop INFEX into a true transmedia franchise and expand the other story threads in a variety of mediums. I plan to develop a series, game franchise, and film around the INFEX universe and utilize a range of new technologies to tell these stories. My hope is that INFEX will create a new breed of entertainment, allowing graphic novelists, actors, game developers, writers, musicians, artists, and creators to play in a new medium of storytelling.
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