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Digital Demian...

Written by (Editor) on 3rd March 2013

Nowadays if you want a solid 'Payday' you can't clown around... you have to go MultiMedia. Impact talks to Demian Lichtenstein about exploring the new frontiers...

 

As we’ve covered over recent years – and championed as much as possible - the entertainment hub itself is evolving, with games, films, television and the internet existing in the new ‘transmedia’ landscape. Demian Lichtenstein, the director of movies such as 3000 Miles to Graceland (pictured below with star Kevin Costner) is one of the people who is looking at all the possibilities of the entertainment hub - not least with the various incarnations of the PAYDAY projects...

Demian, the PAYDAY premise was a video-game first and a hugely successful one at that, but for those who haven’t played it, give us some background into how things have progressed…

Yeah, PAYDAY: THE HEIST was a video-game first. It was the brainchild of my partners Bo Andersson and Ulf Andersson who set-up an all-independent software company called Overkill. With them as developers and me as a film-maker, we sat down five years ago and realised that the studio system was doing everything it could to keep up us apart. They didn’t want people like us in the same room together… it was a case of divide and conquer so THEY could control the content. We decided that we would create a company together with intellectual properties so that a movie could be made into a video-game or a video-game could be made into a movie.  We could also look at the internet, soundtracks…the word being coined today is ‘transmedia’ – you don’t go to one market-place, you need to go to all market-places.  

The first project we agreed on was the first PAYDAY game, which was then picked up by Sony, but only under license. We retained creative control over our intellectual property. THIS is the future. Normally, people come up with the idea, do the hard work and then a business comes long and takes the idea giving the creator a small fee and maximises the profits for themselves. And that only happens if you’re LUCKY! (laughs).  We said: we’ve been lucky a few times, but now I’d like to participate in the profits of the things I create – we don’t only want to just bake the cake, but eat a piece of it and give a piece to others. PAYDAY was created not only to be a game but a film, a tv-show, a soundtrack, a web-series and more. As a video-game has millions of players already  - it’s ‘the little independent game that could’. It is a first-person shooter so it falls into the genre of being a mature action video-game but some of the most successful projects in entertainment are based around first-person shooter formats. We created a business and partnered with smart people who promoted smart people. That’s the way to do it…

Can you describe the concept…

PAYDAY deals with four characters – a very small series of heists – the concept was essentially ‘robbing banks with your friends’ You play one of the four characters. It was co-opt game where you could play together. You couldn’t go out and win the game on your own – you had to work together. Someone gets hurt in the game and you don’t help them, you can’t win the game. It was designed by gamers who like to play games. It was also unique that it was almost console-level quality but only available for download. It was most successful game of the time for Sony. PAYDAY: GAME TWO is much broader and bigger – it creates a world, a universe… you as a gamer can be your own individual avatar within the gamespace – creating your own character. Now there’ll be millions of characters. There were only a handful in the ‘Heist’, now there will be hundreds in game 2. It’s a massive leap… plus there’s some others thing I can’t say. 

So, a popular computer-game, a sequel set up for later this summer and now you’re in the process of putting together a web-series based on PAYDAY as well. From what you’re saying, that’s a natural evolution of not just THIS concept, but the business landscape in general?

Things are evolving. For example, I can create more production value for less dollars. Today I can do with $5million what, ten years ago, would have cost $10million. I can create an online internet web series – a whole nine episode web series for less money than a network pilot would cost – one that maybe doesn’t even get picked up. I can make all of my episodes, pay my cast and crew and everyone ends up with a small amount of money profit and good press and put that out through the internet to a GLOBAL audience. The PAYDAY web-series will be, by the time it’s done, a nine-part series of three-to-five minutes chapters. It’s a standalone – you wouldn’t even have to know the game exited to enjoy the web-series to enjoy it. 

I mean, listen…the most watched project at the moment is the Netflix series of House of Cards. Netflix came into business by giving you mail-order DVDs better than Blockbuster…and put Blockbuster out of business. Now you have pay-for-view coming along so they change their model again to online because they recognise that audiences crave original scripted material. Deals will be struck with creators like myself and Digger T Mesch and other people… so they are in direct relationships with a film-maker/director. A studio might make a big $100m movie, but in the end, the money is still given to a producer who gives it to a director to go and create a film or show… so no matter what happens at the top, whatever they say the budget is, the system has already taken some money off the top. Money disappears and the director and the creative people are left with much less to ultimately  make the project that excites you like an action movie, makes you cry like a romantic movie, that stimulates you like a skin-flick… the creators have to create the best product possible for the least money possible.

So do you consider the internet to be the new frontier?

It is, it is the new frontier… and I’d include mobile devices in there as well. Almost everyone, at least the people I know, carries some sort of mobile device with them. I watch things on my iPhone all the time. The youngest generation don’t know what a CD is, barely know what a DVD is… most things are downloaded. One of the biggest challenges of our modern times is to be able to articulate to a younger generation that creative people need to make money and pay back their investors… therefore everything that is created cannot be free.  The problem today isn’t outright theft, which people call ‘piracy’, but the distinction of something been open and available to everyone and recognising someone’s worth.  There may be an element of fun into going to a movie-theatre and trying to sneak in without buying a ticket, but the principle is you should pay for the creative experience. As creators and film-makers we have to be able to create an experience - through the medium of phones, the internet or home entertainment systems – that the audience find valuable and they then have a desire to pay for it and therefore create a world where creators have the incentive to create more work. Pretty soon we’re going to be in the position where a million people say that they’d like to see ‘X’ movie from ‘Y’ film-maker… and if they’re willing to put in ten dollars, then you can make a $10m movie! If you work hard and you’re also treating those people as INVESTORS, then if they don’t only get their money’s worth but actually get more money back than they put in… wow.  It’s a whole new world out there powered by synergy. We need to provide more value and the global community needs to contribute something back…

Impact will be covering the development of the PAYDAY web-series later in the year...

Written By

John Mosby

Editor

John Mosby

Born at a early age, creative writing and artwork seemed to be in John’s blood from the start Even before leaving school he was a runner up in the classic Jackanory Writing Competition and began...

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