.

From film based work to interactive Graphic Novels through to experimental iPad Apps, Submarine Channel have an incredible diversity of output.

Lawrence Weber
- on behalf of FWA- caught up with Remco Vlaanderen to find out more about their work and what makes them tick.


FWA:
For those FWA visitors that don’t know can you tell us about Submarine Channel and how it began?

Remco:

Sure, and I'll try to be brief. Submarine Channel is  basically an online channel that produces projects that use new technologies to tell stories in visually exciting ways. Our projects include motion comics, interactive web animation series, web documentaries, and games. But we also produce editorial content. “Profiles,” for exampe, is an ongoing series of video portraits about pioneering creatives from all over the world. We also hav e a DVD label and we've done two books, GeekChic and The Graphic Universe of Han Hoogerbrugge.

Submarine Channel is based in Amsterdam and was founded by Bruno Felix and Femke Wolting in 2000. They were both working for a Dutch broadcaster – Wolting as a director, while Felix headed the media research lab. Starting Submarine Channel was the best way to explore, what we like to call, “the future of storytelling.” Submarine Channel is a cultural foundation, and it is part of the production company Submarine.

FWA:
Why do you call yourself a channel rather than a production company?

Remco:
I'd say we are both. As a producer of original digital content it's a great advantage to have our own distribution platform. Submarine Channel is the home of all our projects,and more!

What sets us apart from most production companies out there is that Submarine works with a dedicated small team of editors, myself included, who work both on projects,as well as on editorial content for the channel. The site features a microblog, we're very active on Twitter and Facebook. Our editorial projects include an ongoing series of video portraits of creators that we like, the popular title design showcase watchthetitles.com and 2Pause.com - a curated music video website.

FWA:
What funding models do your projects work on?

Remco:

It really varies, depending on the project.

Our web thriller Collapsus - Energy Risk Conspiracy (also an FWA winner) was a collaboration with Dutch public broadcaster VPRO. At least four other funds, both private and governmental, supported the project.

The Art of Pho was completely financed by Submarine Channel through the annual cultural funding that we luckily receive. But for most project we have to find partners and allocate external funding.

FWA:
The diversity of the work you put out is pretty incredible. Is that a deliberate strategy or is it driven by the briefs you get?

Remco:
We like diversity and we love to explore uncharted territories. As a public online channel, our core mission is to explore the evolution of storytelling in film, animation and games. The traditional boundaries between these domains are dissolving fast because of new technologies that have changed the way that people use media. So we need to create new stories and new visual languages for these hybrid media and these new platforms. In other words, crossmedia and transmedia are not just buzzwords, they are terms that embody this very diversity.

The kind of projects that we do would not be possible in a commercial setting, because there are no business models yet for the kind of transmedia projects that we do. But the market looks at us to see what we do, and they see that there's an audience out there for the kind of innovative projects that we do. And this is exactly what we want. For the same reason, we collaborate with TV broadcasters and publishers so they can see the potential of digital media.

FWA:
We interviewed Lao Doc from NFB about their work. His view on Transmedia, is that it is about building on a common core and developing platform specific content where needed. What does Transmedia mean to you?

Remco:
I agree with Lao. Transmedia still sounds very abstract to most people. Just ask a random person in the street if they know what transmedia is. But it's already all around us. Transmedia, in our view, is about creating a story worlds whose storylines branch out on different platforms. Take The Tulse Luper Suitcases project by film director Peter Greenaway for example. The project consists of movies, an opera, and a book. We worked with Greenaway on a mystery game The Tulse Luper Journey in 2005 and we produced the installation. It's all part of the story world of Tulse Luper, but each platform tells a different part of the story.

FWA:
How are you structured as company? Do you have an in house team of developers, designers and producers

Remco:
Yes we do. Submarine Channel has two editors, two producers, and a pr. But we're connected to the company Submarine, which means that we can use their people for our projects. But we also work with freelancers and external talent, such as directors and designers.

FWA:
Your latest piece- The Art of Pho- has got comic fans- including me- talking. How did you get involved in that project and what was your approach to it? What was the reason behind doing it?

Remco:

I'm a big fan of graphic novels myself, so it's been a great project for me. Submarine Channel made The Killer in 2001, which was a very early example of a successful web adaptation of an existing graphic novel. (Years before I came on board by the way). Some big comic publishers are now turning their old titles into motion comics which they sell as smart phone apps. This is a very interesting development. But from a creative perspective, these products often disappoint. Some publishers seem to be driven by making a few quick bucks with old IP. There are exceptions, of course. But what we wanted to is to explore the creative  potential of this strange hybrid that is the motion comic. With the Art of Pho, we found a story engages the viewer on an emotional level.

FWA:
How did you find it working with an existing, linear creative property- The Art of Pho- and bringing to life as an interactive piece? How did you work with Julian Hanshaw

Remco:
I searched for almost a year to find an original graphic novel that we all liked and that was available. When we started the project, we all agreed that we wanted to keep the specific qualities that define comics, such as text balloons and the use of frames, and build on that. It's not a one-on-one translation of Julian Hanshaw's graphic novel. We completely re-created the story for the web, using a mix of animation techniques, as opposed to just scanning the artwork, cutting out the characters, and animating in After Effects. Animation director Lois van Baarle did an amazing job on this project, and so did Pastelle, who did the sound design and music. Julian by the way was great to work with.

FWA:
What other project are you most proud of?

Remco:
I really like working on Forget the Film, Watch the Titles – an editorial project about title design. We started out with a website, but the project has evolved to include spin off such as a DVD, screening programs, and mini documentaries about title designers. I'm also proud of Collapsus, even though I was not personally involved in it. It won FWA site of the day, and got nominated for an Emmy for Best Digital Fiction, which is just woow!

FWA:
How do you approach defining success metrics for the type of work you do? How do clients ask you to justify the time you need to spend on your work?

Remco:

For us, which is probably different then for most companies, success is not defined by how much money we make on a project. Since most of our projects are experimental by nature, we have to look at what we learned from a project in terms of distribution, technology, or artistically. Did we find out something new in the process that we can use for upcoming project? Visitor numbers are important too, because they say something about whether audiences understand and appreciate what we are trying to do. And whether we were able to reach them in the first place. Since we often collaborate with partners or funding bodies on projects, we have to work with set budgets, meaning that we can't just spend forever on our projects. Our deadlines are just as tough!

FWA:
What piece of work do you wish you had made?

Remco:
There is so much interesting stuff going on now. But I really love those recent crowdsourcing projects like Star Wars Uncut or The Johnny Cash project. Both projects allow users to collaborate and recreate a movie or a Johnny Cash song that is such a big part of global popular culture and through these projects you can make it your own.

FWA:
What other creative company do you most admire?

Remco:
There are several companies that are doing really interesting stuff now that work in the same field as we do. French company Upian for example, who made the web documentaries Prison Valley and Gaza/Sderot. Both very accomplished and immersive web documentaries that really redefined what a web doc could be.

FWA: Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Remco

About the Author:
Lawrence Weber- is Head of Digital Production at The Brooklyn Brothers London



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The Art of Pho trailer

Remco
Remco

Making Of The Art of Pho

Art of Pho Creator Julian Hanshaw visits the Submarine Channel office on his birthday, and cuts a special Little Blue cake that one of the crew baked for him. In the background Submarine Channel co-founder Bruno Felix.
Art of Pho Creator Julian Hanshaw visits the Submarine Channel office on his birthday, and cuts a special Little Blue cake that one of the crew baked for him. In the background Submarine Channel co-founder Bruno Felix.

Art of Pho Animators
Art of Pho Animators

Lois Van Baarle @ Submarine Studio
Lois Van Baarle @ Submarine Studio







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