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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

2020 A.D. - the first commercial Moviestorm movie on DVD

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Aliens with guns… lots of guns…

Doomed to a colorless existence in a faraway galaxy, in 2020 mankind will stage a war for freedom in this Science Fiction B-movie adventure.  When fourteen year-old Opheila Knightflower is kidnapped by aliens, the Kimerians, she is taken to a distant galaxy, bound for the planet Starliss, where male humans are kept as slave laborers and human women are used for breeding.  Soon Opheila is rescued by alien hunter Jai and his rebellion who wants to free the humans from the Kimerians and return to Earth. Will Opheila join the rebels in their fight against inhumanity? Or will she find her way back home to see her family again?

2020 A.D., at 74 minutes long, isn’t the first feature-length movie made with Moviestorm. It is, however, the first commercial Moviestorm movie that we know of, and it’s available on DVD from Amazon and elsewhere, for around $13.00. This is a huge breakthrough for Moviestorm. Very few machinima films have been sold this way before, largely due to copyright issues. The only others we’ve been able to track down are Peter Rasmussen’s Killer Robot and Stolen Life, and a few highly successful Web series, such as Red vs Blue, have had DVD releases. Strange Company’s Bloodspell was slated for DVD release in 2009, but that fell foul of licensing issues with Electronic Arts.

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The creator of 2020 A.D. is Erica Hughes, from Wisconsin. In her mid-30s, she’s already self-published in a number of media. She’s got several books to her name including the romance, Infatuation, and also writes articles for screenwritersdaily.com on how to produce and pitch animated movies. “I enjoy working on different things, from painting to writing and even singing,” she says. “Film and movies seems like a natural progression for me. Not in front of a camera, but making things that other people can enjoy.”

Erica isn’t a newcomer to the movie world. She used to work at Sony as a Coordinator, and part of the support team for Vegas, their editing software, and their audio suites, Acid and SoundForge. She then worked with a producer, Kennedy Safo, editing and writing screenplays, and editing his feature-length movie. In January 2009, a friend told her about Moviestorm, and she wondered whether it would be useful.

“I fell in love with the software,” she says. “I really liked the look of the puppets. The characters in Moviestorm look like real people, depending on how you angle them. And it was very easy to learn. From the first moment I used the program, I knew I wanted to do a feature length movie. I knew I wanted to make a commercial product from the beginning. I wanted to do something new. I really don’t hear a lot about DVD movies using this type of animation. I promised everyone who participated that I would do a DVD and they could use it as an acting credit if they got involved.”

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Apart from the voices, 2020 A.D. is a solo production, which took Erica about a year of her spare time under the banner of Moon Empress Productions.  “I played with Moviestorm for a while, to see what would work. They released new packs regularly, which made it easier to do even more,” she grins. “I didn’t even think science fiction at first, until I saw the sci-fi pack. I was like a kid in a candy store! I made the first short clip at the end of June. I got actors involved in the first week of July. Casting was the hardest part. My actors were people I already knew - writers mostly. I put an ad out for a test project, and did a sample. Everyone was happy to contribute. I would have a much better movie if I had been able to cast more actors. Surprisingly, though that was the only limitation.”

(Note: you can see some of Erica’s early test clips on her Moviestorm site.)

One of the things Erica commented on is the differences between working on a Moviestorm movie and working on a real life movie shoot.  “Moviestorm gives you a huge amount of flexibility, that’s what I like about it. I could shoot, edit as I went, and then go back for retakes. It’s funny - the scenes I started with ended up in the middle of the movie.  You can see the progression of skill - at least, I can!”

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Her next project is equally ambitious: she’s planning an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which will also be released as a DVD. “I haven’t decided whether to do it in modern costume or period dress. I would really like to do a period piece if possible. Casting will be more difficult. I’m looking for an English cast. Finding guys won’t be a problem, but I’m hoping I can get more actresses involved.”

But that’s nowhere near the limit of Erica’s ambitions. ” I am also working on a book trailer for my next book, using Moviestorm. I’m also planning a vook. That’s a video + ebook. Basically, when you reach certain scenes in the book, it will play a video of that scene. Moviestorm would also help writers pitch movies, because it can help them create storyboards. I have so many ideas - Moviestorm is very useful in that regard!”

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We’re hoping that this is the first of many commercial movies made with Moviestorm. What Erica Hughes has done isn’t just another home movie. She’s proved that with passion and dedication, and just a little help from your friends, you can make the movies you believe in, and there’s no reason why every one of us can’t sell movies right alongside every other indie film-maker. 

For the next few weeks, you can watch the whole of 2020 A.D. online. After that, only the trailers will be available.

 

(13) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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