An ambitious interactive ebook project with support from Russell Crowe has raised $US35,000 via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, but its creator won’t see a cent of those pledges unless the campaign can more than double that amount within a couple of days.
[Your small or large pledge could ensure this groundbreaking publishing venture gets off the ground: CONTRIBUTE AT KICKSTARTER HERE.]
The Numinous Place is a hybrid film/book, designed to make the most of the possibilities offered by tablet technology, and created by former Sydney television presenter Mark Staufer (he co-presented with Tottie Goldsmith on the mid-1990s Ten series Sex/Life).
The writer says he has drawn his inspiration for the work “from as far back as Paradise Lost and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Eastern works of mysticism, through to Dan Brown and Haruki Murakami and movies like The Matrix and Inception”.
Staufer, who is now LA-based, has had a mixed few weeks. He barely slept for the first two weeks of the crowdfunding campaign, spending hours on end blogging, tweeting, emailing and Facebook posting about his “destiny project”, in between caring for his young children while his jetsetting wife was away on business. The target looked within reach by the halfway mark (helped by a generous pledge from old mate Crowe), but then support levels plateaued.
The campaign finishes at 3am this Friday (August 10), and without a huge onslaught of new backers during that time [hint, hint, readers], all that work will have been for nought, literally. Kickstarter only processes pledged payments once a campaign reaches its target funding amount.
It’s been “a frustrating week” for Los Angeles-based Staufer.
But it’s not all limbo and doom and gloom. Three weeks ago, the news broke that another of Staufer’s projects, a biopic of stand-up comic Bill Hicks, will go into production in May next year – with Crowe as director.
“The film is called “Love Laughter Truth”,” Staufer says. “It’s Russell’s directorial debut so everyone’s very excited. We’re still not sure who’s going to play the part of Hicks, but I think the movie will probably be out late next year. It’s a very special film about a truly inspirational and unique individual.”
Exciting, yes. But not wholly satisfying given that what the New Zealand-born writer would like to be doing between now and then is producing The Numinous Place. It’s a project he says he’s been gestating his whole life, but actually sat down to write three years ago.
The production process would take a few months.
“There are some tricky interactive components with the app, and we’ll be pushing EPUB3 to the outer limits of its technological endurance, but we’ve made a start on the art and design,” Staufer says.
“The team is also seeking a publisher to help with a printed book version that will use matrix coding to access the multimedia elements on the reader’s smartphone. Read and swipe, which will be very cool.”
He thinks a television series and a movie “or four” would also work for The Numinous Place.
It’s an unusual project, perhaps even unique, according to its creator.
“No one is yet attempting something quite on this scale in the world of adult fiction, merging audio, video and first person narrative, and that’s mostly because the technology has only just made it possible,” he says.
So why is Staufer’s book suited to this sort of multimedia treatment?
“The story is told as real,” the creator says. “It’s a supernatural thriller and spiritual quest about a vast conspiracy. The lead character is presenting us with evidence in the form of documents, articles, video and audio. The multimedia elements allow us to create an authentic and believable storyworld.”
He describes it as “a kind of cosmic detective story”.
“It’s complex and realistic, just like real life, and we’ll be setting up communities so readers can compare and discuss evidence as they take the journey. There’s also a strong lucid dreaming component, with instruction weaved into the plot.”
Staufer has been devising clever ways to make the most of tablet and Web 2.0 technology every since he first held an iPad back in 2010.
“I literally saw my book come alive on the screen and began imagining it taking shape. It was one of those eureka moments!”
Whether the crowdfunding campaign is successful or not, one gets the feeling this project will be published eventually.
Staufer is off to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, where he’ll be speaking at StoryDrive, an event which highlights the world’s most ambitious and innovative book projects. He’ll be working the exhibition halls, encouraging publishers to support his dream.
“Publishers do seem slightly tentative about embracing the world of multimedia fiction,” he says. “They’ll come around.”
No doubt they will once they’ve seen at least one interactive work become a huge success, but at the moment most book publishers are wary about the vast budgets such projects demand.
Staufer reckons the initial investment will pay off in his case.
“We’re determined for The Numinous Place to be a blockbuster franchise,” he says. “We have ambitious plans for the quartet of ebook/apps and we believe it’ll be a worldwide phenomenon.”
In the meantime, he will continue to juggle stay-at-home dad duties with his writing and broadcast work.
“My awesome wife [former Sydney television researcher Sarah Backhouse] has her own cleantech video company over here in LA (future360.tv) and we have two American kids (Milo, 6, and Anouk, 21 months),” he says.
While they return to Australia and New Zealand to visit family often, we shouldn’t expect to see Staufer back on our television screens any time soon.
“Jeeze Charlotte, my Sex/Life days are long gone. But keep an eye out for a web series about Dads that I’m doing with Disney and a great comedian friend called Bryan Erwin.”
Just in case you missed it earlier, you can help The Numinous Place become a (virtual) reality by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign here. But be quick, the campaign countdown is on. Keep track of developments by following Staufer on Twitter here or visiting The Numinous Place here.