Interview: Marc Adler (About Delgo)
Adler is the "Sublime Patron of Dreams for Fathom Studios,
which is a unique way of calling him a "company executive,
producer, and visionary."
Adler is also
chairman and founder of Macquarium Intelligent Communications,
a leading interactive strategy and development firm serving primarily
Fortune 1000 companies. He founded Macquarium in 1991 and is responsible
for determining the overall direction of the enterprise.
been profiled in The Industry Standard as a top Internet leader.
He has been named among the top ten high-tech gurus by Business
to Business magazine, called one of the "Top 40 Under 40"
by Georgia Trend, and Digital South says he is the guy to call
when you want to get things done.
on Adler for an interview with Digital Media FX and he was more
than happy to oblige.
dFX: What exactly is Fathom Studios, how was it started and
why was it started?
Fathom was originally an outgrowth of the interactive agency,
Macquarium, designed to service clients who required creative
solutions for broadcast and film. Today, Macquarium focuses on
business solutions for Internet, CD-ROM/DVD and wireless applications.
By separating Fathom from Macquarium, we were able to better define
our brands for each market segment while continuing to leverage
the resources of both groups. Ultimately, the two companies work
together where Macquarium creates pixels for the computer screen
and Fathom creates pixels for the silver screen and the television
of the studio came from my goal and Jason's
dream to tell an action-packed story through computer
animation. Fathom continues to offer creative services for corporate
clients, but in recent years has concentrated on product development
for a number of initiatives, including our feature film, Delgo.
Studios seems to be somewhat unique in some of its philosophies.
For example, each member has a unique title. Your PR person is
Lady of Noble Influence and Narrative Persuasion and you are Sublime
Patron of Dreams. What is the purpose of this uniqueness and how
did it come about?
Our culture is fun (with artists, it couldn't be otherwise) and
our organizational structure is extremely team-oriented. Every
person in the company wears several hats and contributes to our
projects in many diverse ways, so it doesn't make sense to attribute
titles that encompass only part of what they do. The natural extension
of this philosophy was to create titles that encapsulate most
of what each person does. In doing this, we felt the titles should
be amusing and somewhat irreverent to reflect the personality
of our company. It is the responsibility of each employee to conceive
their own title based on certain criteria, and that it must be
in Victorian parlance - just to make it challenging.
dFX: What specific projects are Fathom Studios currently working
We have benefited from a nearly a decade of creating broadcast
spots, industrial video and consumer products and while Fathom
perpetually has a number of irons in the fire, we are currently
dedicating a considerable amount of internal and external resources
to create the first independently produced feature film, Delgo:
A Hero's Journey. It's a fantasy epic adventure of a world's
struggle for unity. This project has been in development since
What is your daily involvement with Fathom Studios and what has
been your biggest challenge been in helping to launch such a massive
project (Delgo: A Hero's Journey)?
As the Sublime Patron of Dreams, I am chiefly responsible for
guiding the overall direction of the company. For the Delgo
project in particular, I work with Jason to ensure the film remains
consistent with our vision. I also provide oversight with regard
to casting, finances, merchandising concepts, distribution, marketing,
etc. It's a lot of work, but I'm confident it will yield rewards
in the future.
a high-tech background, the greatest challenge I've faced thus
far has been learning the differences between the business of
filmmaking and the business of technology and how to best apply
my knowledge to suit our needs. Along the way, I have been fortunate
to benefit from the counsel and encouragement of industry insiders.
You said, "Coming from a high-tech background, the greatest
challenge I've faced thus far has been learning the differences
between the business of filmmaking and the business of technology".
What are some of those differences?
When thinking of the differences between the business of technology
and the business of film what immediately comes to mind are the
contractual legalities and SAG mandates. Certainly these details
required a good deal of education on my part. And, of course,
in some ways the two industries are similar.
in technology we endeavor to solve problems and fulfill a need.
With filmmaking, we create a problem on the screen or in the script
and then resolve it. However, there are as many differences as
there are similarities. In the business of technology, the product
is more important than the people attached to it, whereas in the
film industry, star power is key. The theory is that while a good
movie does better than a bad movie, a good movie with a big star
will do best. I could go on and on with parallels and distinctions
between the businesses of technology and filmmaking, but I think
that above all else it boils down to the core of each industry.
companies exist in a liberated climate with no fears and no rules.
The only reason we learn the rules is to know how to break them
- to go against the grain and alter tradition in search of new
pastures. Technologists are, and will always be, pioneers learning
from the past to help us create our future. Conversely, the business
of filmmaking exists in a universe of formulas and risk-averse,
proven methods. This is the reason behind remakes and sequels.
If there is a well-worn path, it will be followed until there
is a new one. While filmmakers themselves share that pioneering
spirit, very few studios chose to create their own path and follow
it with conviction. It is our hope that Delgo and projects
like it spark an independent flame in filmmakers around the globe
that will burn so brightly that studios will no longer seek to
extinguish it, but rather feed it.
talk about Delgo for a minute. How do you plan on getting
this movie from script to screen when several other companies
(i.e. Foundation Imaging with Vortex and Rainbow Studios
with Blue Planet) are hitting brick walls in their quests?
Our project is fully-financed and has the benefit of a veteran
animation team and highly acclaimed marquee actors as voice talent.
However, I sincerely believe that it's not the production value
that drives the project but rather the story. We have spent years
refining the script to capture what we believe is the essence
of an inspiring myth with global appeal.
we've developed a strong following via our Web site, Delgo.com,
and the Digital Dailies enable our fans to follow the making of
Delgo as it happens. With the benefit of a solid story, original
imagery, talented actors and animators and support from an ever-growing
audience through the Internet and other channels, we hope to achieve
all of our goals for the Delgo project.
is the general synopsis for Delgo: A Hero's Journey?
The war-torn land of Imhoff is divided by hatred and fear. Two
races live, segregated, in an uneasy peace until the defiant Princess
Zandra forms an illegal friendship with Delgo, a reckless youth
who dreams of adventure and excitement. However, as their friendship
begins to grow, danger looms near. Zandra's vengeful and exiled
sister, Surrella, kidnaps the princess in an attempt to ignite
a war between the races, using their hatred for each other to
help her claim the throne and rule over Imhoff. Framed for the
kidnapping, it is up to Delgo and some uinlikely friends to escape
a Nohri prison, rescue the princess, reveal a traitor, prevent
a war and unite the people of the land.
in your opinion, sets Delgo apart from other animated movies?
There are several attributes that set Delgo apart from
other CGI films, most notable of these is the visual style created
to compliment the epic story. Delgo is not a comedy like
most CG faetures we've seen to-date. We aim to have a compelling,
socially responsible, yet entertaining story with universal themes
that impart moral virtues in a way that touch audiences both young
and old. In addition, the fantasy-art look of the film also lends
itself to something unlike anything audiences have seen before;
a very human story told in a non-human world. Thus far, every
CG feature film has been set on Earth. Our story is set in an
original world and therefore we have immense freedom in taking
our audience to the depths of imagination.
How long has Delgo been in production and how many people
are working on it? Also, when is the estimated release date?
Delgo was conceived in 1996 and initiated pre-production
in 1998. We expect to complete production by the end of 2002.
The release date is contingent upon the distributor, but I would
expect to see it in theatres sometime in 2003. There are currently
under 50 full-time employees dedicated to Delgo: A Hero's Journey
as well as a plethora of outside contractors and consultants.
Fathom Studios has some unique marketing methods for Delgo
like the release of Digital Dailies online for people to view.
How exactly do the Digital Dailies work within your production
and why did you decide to make such important internal information
available to the public in near real time?
I have always been an advocate for education and for creating
a sense of community among creative professionals. By granting
public access to our film as a work-in-process we are helping
to educate students, burgeoning animators, and film enthusiasts
about the procedures involved in the making of a computer animated
movie. By "opening up the candy store" we are, in our
own way, assisting other filmmakers whose goals may be similar
to ours. Education is paramount to unlocking one's creative potential.
I know that I would have loved to have had someone else show me
the challenges along the way before I'd faced them. It would have
made my life easier. I know that the next guy will benefit from
intent of the Digital Dailies on Delgo.com was for the production
team, who work within a flex-hours system, to be able to offer
commentary to other staff members who do not work the same hours.
Our system takes advantage of technology to easily and effectively
collaborate between our animation teams and strengthen our work.
All employees who opt to participate in the public Digital Dailies
use their titles as pseudonyms to obscure their names. Many site
visitors have developed favorite artists and animators, but they
will not know the animators' true identities until their names
are revealed in the credits of the final film.
Looking beyond Delgo, what else does Fathom Studios have
I don't want to give away our long-term plans for Fathom, but
we hope to build a franchise around the Delgo concept and
engage with a major studio to produce a slate of other feature
many Digital Media FX readers are already well planted in the
animation and FX industry, many others are still aspiring animators
and artists. What specific tips or advice do you have for them
on breaking into the industry?
Making an animated film is simply about learning the art of patience
The most important
advice I could offer is that story is king. Develop your story
as fully as you can, then be open-minded to editors' and readers'
feedback. If your story doesn't appeal to your audience, doesn't
fully engage them, you will be lost. Be prepared to go through
many, many drafts. Remember, the closer you are to a project,
the harder it can be to see its flaws. Seek advice from industry
readers and writers as much as you can.
that, simply go for it!
Interview (c)copyright 2001 Joe Tracy / Digital Media FX.
All Delgo: A Hero's Journey movie images (c) Fathom Studios.
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