I have been referencing this app game in so many of my previous blogs, that I’m thrilled to announce its officially launched on the App Store and I can finally share the journey with you. Similar to my blog on how we made “Home Sweet Home.” I’m excited to give a realistic account of the time, effort and money it took to complete this unique live action game.
Our team, which consisted of four filmmakers and one programmer, spent two years completing this project. It has been a labor of love from day one. A couple of years ago some of my fellow teammates and myself drove from Los Angeles to New Mexico where we were shooting our feature film “Home Sweet Home”. I recommend road trips because I find the best idea’s come out on the drive. As we were driving through the desert late at night the conversation turned to our love for “choose your own adventure” books from our childhood. We thought how exciting it would be to create something similar for a new generation: a movie where the audience could choose and change the course of the story. Everything from a horror movie-which weapon does the victim pick up to defend themselves, or a romantic story-what does the girl say on her date and how would that affect what happens next. But we struggled with what kind of platform could host an interactive movie. We initially thought maybe we could turn it into a web series, but realized there was no way to monetize it. So we put the idea on the back burner and finished filming our movie.
There was a cold snap in New Mexico while we were shooting our film and we had to put the cast and crew up at a neighbor’s house because there was no running water on the property where we were shooting. It turned out that the son of the woman’s house we were staying at was an app programmer. After we finished the film he contacted my husband John and I about shooting an app idea he had wanted to make. That idea never came to fruition, but put a light bulb on in our brains that maybe we could turn our movie-game idea into an app. We called the programmer and he said it was completely possible to make a live action app game. Many things we think are curses, such as losing running water, can become a blessing.
The four of us – John Graham, Raquel Cantu, Andrew Maiorano and myself – gathered together in our living room and started out on an insane, mind-boggling, journey to figure out how to make our idea a reality. We began with poster boards; creating spider webs of where the story split off into different directions. It was a huge challenge to convert these story maps into script form but we invented a numbering system and jumped into shooting on the streets around our houses. After giving the script to our friend Jason Dibler to play the zombie, he called us immediately loving the idea: “I’ve always wanted to tell the character in a movie to go out the front door not up the stairs, and now the audience can.”
The four of us pitched in money to buy costumes, food, props and any other odds and ends we might need along the way. We alternated from holding the camera and boom, to keeping track of the decision points and soon began pulling our hair out trying to figure out how to shoot this beast. With complete satisfaction and exhaustion four months later we finished filming every pathway. It was like shooting three feature films at the same time.
The challenges were far from over. Next we moved into the editing room. Because it was a non-linear story line we used the numbering system to track where each video went depending on what the audience chose at that moment. John and I turned our apartment into an office space, where our team would meet everyday in the beginning to write and then edit once we entered into post-production
Throughout this process people told us that what we were doing was impossible. That technology wasn’t ready. The amount of videos would crash the phones or take too long to load. Since no one had seen this done before it must, therefore, be impossible to do. The naysayers gave us courage actually. We kept saying we’ll prove them wrong and to our satisfaction we did.
I was recently talking to a friend and asked him what he thought the next big thing in entertainment was. He paused and said: “ I don’t know. I think people make what the next big thing is.” I beamed at his response; it reminded me of what I had been working on for two years. We didn’t wait for someone to give us permission to create something outside the box, or wait till it was a big hit, we gave ourselves permission to make up our own rules.
Once all the videos had been edited it was time for the programmer to build the game. It was his job to take the finished videos – each of which was like a little short film that had been edited, sound designed and color corrected – and bundle them together into a playable app.
Just when we were ready to pass the videos to our programmer he, for personal reasons, had to pull out of the project. We were devastated by this turn of events. After the four of us had put our lives on hold and spent a year writing, shooting and editing, it felt like all hope was lost. With no money to pay for a programmer and so many people already telling us we were wasting our time, our spirits were crushed.
Luckily we didn’t give up and kept trucking forward contacting everyone we knew. By the grace of God we were introduced to an incredible programmer, Noah Karrer, who believed in the project and came on board as our partner. A friend of mine from New Mexico referred us to this man. One never knows how the choices we make or the people we encounter will play a life saving role in our lives. That’s why I always say be kind; it’s a small town, be open to all opportunities.
Noah came to our house for a meeting and we handed him a bunch of papers with numbers strung together, of a hundred and fifty different decision points and a hard drive with 300 videos all labeled with our crazy numbering system. This talented man took all this and turned it into an interactive game.
Two weeks ago Apple approved our game and it runs smoothly and is available to the whole world. This proves that nothing is impossible. The key is to not give up, keep pushing through the roadblocks. We never know how the outcome will look. Just when I think something is set in stone it turns into clay and transforms.
I hope this story inspires other entrepreneurs to never give up on their dreams. It might feel impossible in the moment, but if the project is worth it and it’s important to you, you will do it. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you LOVE LOVE LOVE the project your investing your time, money, and heart into. Nothing happens overnight.
I was recently asked to speak at a High school about making our app game. One of the questions proposed to me was: “What genre movie do you recommend I make.” My response was: “whatever genre you love, because if you love what you are making, chances are the audience will love it to.” If you love it, then you wont give up when the going gets rough. We love horror movies, so we made a horror movie. We love silly goofy funny outrageous comedy so we made that kind of movie app game. You must adore your own work first because you could go around a room full of people and ask them what is “good” and you will get a different answer from each one of them, so do what is good for you.
I am a huge fan of Seth Godin’s blog. On his website it says “GO-Make something happen.” I am proud of my friends and teammates who MADE something happen. In the face of adversity we didn’t give up, we persevered, shocking even ourselves with our bravery.
Is there something you would love to Make Happen?
DO IT- Go Forth and live the life you always wanted! And in the meantime please play my game.