Denver Jackson is a very talented filmmaker whom I’ve had the pleasure of following ever since I first met him at Camosun College. Back then, he was part of a team of media artists of whom I interviewed (for Nexus Newspaper) and recognised would go far after graduating. Two of them would become frequent collaborators now that this individual is making films! The world of Esluna is no doubt influenced by other works (all the deets can be found on the Kickstarter page), and The Worlds Divide is ready to distinguish it from others!
And its ready to make its world debut at Spark Animation Festival and Conference in Vancouver, BC (Runs Nov 9 to 12th, playing Sat 6:15pm). At the time of writing, they’re hard at work putting in the final touches at Skywalker Sound, and he’s taken the time to answer some questions for those wondering about how he got to finally telling the story he first wanted since coming up with this world–sort of like how George Lucas got his start and telling that “Episode One.” And I’m sure Jackson can tell his version much, much better.
Humour aside, to interview him once again is always a pleasure, and fans can get an idea in how to prepare for part three of his saga. But first, an introduction for newcomers:
Denver Jackson: I’m a filmmaker that started out making films when I was 14, and slowly transitioned to working in VFX, then finally animation. I’ve always had an interest in the latter since I started as a visual storyteller, but it wasn’t until 10 years ago that I finally tried making a short film, Cloudrise, which is what I named my production company after.
When did the world of Esluna first spring to mind? That is, were there short stories or other projects which helped you fashion this realm?
Esluna: The Worlds Divide was actually the original idea I had. But when I received my first grant from Storyhive to make it, there was a requirement that it could not be over an hour long. So to trim the 120-page script down to 60 pages, I just did not feel confident that this was the best approach to go. So instead, I figured I’d tell a spin-off story that took place 50 to 60 years earlier.
The web series, Esluna: The First Monolith, was all hand drawn and took about 8 months of production including writing. I was burnt out to the point where I felt, after completing the production, that I would never go back to animation again. But an opportunity came with Telefilm, Talent to Watch funds, and I was back at it less than a year later, this time, telling a full feature length action adventure (Esluna: The Crown of Babylon) while continuing with the same characters I had established in the web series.
This time, I ended up bringing on some assistance with 3d modelling ( Scott Ormsby) and a Technical Director (Caleb Hystad). Having gone through the process once, I knew my strengths and weaknesses and with the assistance of Caleb; we figured out a technique that would build on my strengths and remove most of my weaknesses. This included 3d modelling, as I have so little experience. But if it wasn’t for the web series and first feature, this film would not be possible.
Was The First Monolith more like testing the waters on what you liked to put into creating this realm, or did you know where you wanted to go with world building back when you first started?
Because I already had the story for The Worlds Divide, there were elements I had to avoid spoiling for this main story, but really, everything else was free reign. Monolith definitely helped establish and flush out the world of Esluna.
By the second project, Crown of Babylon, did you have more of a solid foundation regarding what this world is about?
Yes, absolutely. Once the world was established back on Monolith, the story came naturally for Babylon. There were ideas established which I wanted to see more of, which lead to a totally different film tonally but still set within the same world. It was a lot of fun.
Alternatively, where does the series bible exist? Is it all in your head or written, resembling something like Henry Jones Sr.’s journal? (From Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)?
Haha, no. The series bible I guess would be in my head but really, what has been already established is where the world is at. I focus on characters first, then build the world around those characters.
When it comes to your latest, The Worlds Divide, is prior knowledge required? And why turn to crowdfunding to literally kickstart it into production? Was there ever a fear that there isn’t enough interest?
Not at all. The stories I like to ingest are ones that don’t need me to know more than what they’re telling me. And I make every project in that way. You can watch any of these stories in any order you want. But since the Worlds DIvide was the original story I had, I’d suggest watching this one first.
Were there any hurdles during production?
There are constant hurdles during production. It’s part of the fun. Problem-solving is the nature of any film project, and you enjoy that process while making a film. Wounds may still be fresh for any reflective thoughts on hurdles, as I am still working on the film.
Now that you’re on the last few days to get it all mixed, what’s the feeling you have as the world premiere nears?
Because I’m still at it, I’m not currently thinking of the premiere. I’m focused on completing the film. But mixing a film is the fun part, so I’m more excited about that process than anything else right now.
And for those people lucky to have seen it all but need a quick primer, what would you say is essential to remember that may or may not unite all the works you’ve done together?
Nothing essential. Like I said, no knowledge of the films are required. But there are Easter eggs everywhere that if you’ve seen all three stories, you’ll be able to catch little things here and there.
After the world premiere at Spark Film Festival, where can interested parties go in order to find out where Worlds Divide will screen next?
We will start looking at our festival run for next year, so the best way to keep updated on where and when the film will play is really to follow our social media accounts. I’m djaxx or cloudriseltd over on Twitter and Denver.jackson or cloudrisepictures over on Instagram.
The Worlds Divide Teaser Trailer
Official story synopsis:
Natomi (Breanna Pearl) is living a fearful life in a post-apocalyptic world consumed by war, when her father, Terric (Phillip Sacramento), transports her to a magical world called Esluna. There, Natomi encounters the queen, Idena (Chelsea Krause), who fears Natomi will take her place as ruler. Guided by her childhood companion, a stuffed bear named Miito (Max Lindsey) and a mysterious old warrior, Bataar (Andrew Lander), Natomi must face Idena and find the god of this world, her father.