Remember this viral video back in December?
With more than a million hits, Paul DeNigris the creator of “Bohemian Rhapsody: Star Wars Edition” is ready to take the internet by storm again.
DeNigris a Professor of Digital Video at University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Ariz. is an award-winning filmmaker and film-educator. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help create “Zero Complex,” a web-series about cosplayers turned real heroes. Here’s DeNigris’s take on his upcoming project.
Tell me a bit about Zero Complex, how did you get the idea/inspiration to start a web series?
Zero Complex tells the story of a group of college students who go to a private technology-infused university in Tempe, Ariz. – not unlike University of Advancing Technology, where I teach. These students spend their spare time cosplaying, which entails making costumes inspired by their favorite comic book, videogame, or movie characters and going to events like Phoenix Comicon. In our pilot episode, they’ll literally stumble into crime in progress as their leaving one of these comicon type events, and this gives them the idea of becoming “real” superheroes.
I’ve been making films for years, mostly short film, and the idea of doing a webseries was really interesting to me because it provides a much bigger canvas to work on but doesn’t require quite the same level of financial support that say a feature film might. Webseries can be produced relatively inexpensively. Plus with teaching at UAT and attending comicons for the last several years, I’ve spent a lot of time around cosplayers and have come to really respect and admire their commitment. Plus I love superheroes – so all those elements kind of came together to inspire Zero Complex.
How are you integrating Zero Complex with your students at UAT?
Zero Complex is a collaboration between myself and a number of my UAT alumni, so it’s a project that really grew out of UAT and the “geekosystem” we have there. My current students will be able to work as interns during production and postproduction on the series, and will have the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by the alumni working on the show. Plus there is no better way to learn filmmaking than on a real professional set, where everyone is working at the best of their ability.
You are obviously a Sci-Fi fan, but how geeky are you really?
I always tell my students that I “play make believe for a living and read theoretical physics for fun.” And that’s not too far off. Michio Kaku and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are among my favorite writers currently. And if that’s not enough, in my spare time I make props – like a replica of Harrison Ford’s blaster from Blade Runner or a Zat Gun from Stargate SG-1. And speaking of Stargate – the “Earth Point of Origin” symbol is on the back of my car and last year at Phoenix Comicon, I cosplayed Colonel Jack O’Neill. So yeah… kind of a big geek.
How many episodes are you planning to produce?
Season one of Zero Complex will be 8 episodes, 10-15 minutes each. So we’ll have roughly a 90-minute film at the end of it. And then we have two more seasons already planned.
Besides Kick starter how else are you getting funded?
Other than Kickstarter we have been relying on our own money and our own sweat equity to develop the show, write the scripts, create the concept art, and build the first three costumes. We had an executive producer join the team and invest several thousands toward that effort, but to make the full season we need more than that.
Do you plan to engage in the community with this web series, like allowing interested individuals to be a part of Zero Complex?
Recently we’ve been producing short documentary episodes about local cosplayers, and that’s done a lot to engage the community and raise awareness about what we’re doing with the webseries. We’ve also been producing cosplay-themed music videos, like the one we recently did at Amazing Arizona Comic-Con or the “Bohemian Rhapsody: Star Wars Edition” video. All of those efforts have rallied the cosplay community around us and that community will be part of the Zero Complex series in whatever capacity people want to participate – as actors, as crew, or as part of our costuming team.
Characters from Zero Complex were also recently part of a promo video that we did for the City of Tempe and their Geeks’ Night Out event, and Flying Fox himself lead the cosplay parade that night. I expect we’ll do more events like that where we lend our expertise and time to the community and truly make our characters into Arizona’s “homegrown superheroes.”
What are some recommendations you can give to budding multimedia professionals?
Work on your craft and practice, practice, practice – every day. There’s an image that’s been making the rounds on Facebook lately, it’s Batman pointing right at the viewer with the caption “Stop Procrastinating – Work on Your Art.” Words to live by.