Ex. Neill Blomkamp on the future of Oats Studios & funding a Firebase sequel

Last year, director Neill Blomkamp (DISTRICT 9, ELYSIUM, CHAPPIE) kicked off a strange, cool and exciting new project called Oats Studios, which is essentially a crowd-funded studio that creates a healthy mix of odd and awesome content, from short films to digital shorts and more. The most notable of those projects was Oats: Volume One, which included the shorts films Rakka, Zygote and Firebase (amongst others) that really showed the potential of a fan-funded studio and what could be done with something like that under a kinetic and creative filmmaker like Blomkamp. Now, the director is looking to fund the next venture for Oats Studios and is reaching out to the fans to let them know his plans and how you can get involved to help make the next chapter of Oats. We discuss his desire to change the industry with this venture, while still pursuing Hollywood projects, why Firebase is the Oats project he's most keen on, losing the fire for the Aliens sequel and, finally, how and where you can donate to make it all happen.

What was your biggest takeaway or lessons learned after the first year of Oats Studios?

It's not really so much about lessons learned, because we're still figuring out exactly how to go forward, but I think I know exactly what the goal is now, which is I kind of want to build a film studio that acts a little bit more like a game studio. So, we make content inside of a closed biosphere where we just work away and then we sell it directly to the fans or anybody that's interested in watching it. The same way that a lot of game companies act as the only lighthouse of their particular IP that they make or sell to people, where Hollywood works very differently; It's a totally different setup.

What I want to do is I want to build some kind of relationship with the audience; I want anyone online who likes our stuff to be able to directly fund us to make more stuff. And, I think initially the way to do it is a mixture of our own internal money mixed with supplementing it from fans, which is now what I want to try to do. I want to try and raise as much as I can now from fans so that we can make Firebase. But, I think potentially, going forward, it starts turning into a situation where we just make new episodes of stuff and then we put it up for the lowest amount that we can to attempt to break even until we get the whole system to work and kind of like get the engine running.

Will the DLC stuff continue if fans want it?

Yeah, if audiences want it, y'know? I want to try and give away as much stuff as people are interested in absorbing. So, the answer is yes, but it's a case of just making sure that whoever is getting it finds value in it and they continue to. And this is a weird case, as well, because we have no idea how much we'll raise and because I want to expand or contract the length of the film; y'know determining the length based on how much money we raise. It means that I can't foresee how much through the assets and concept art and stuff we we'll generate. Hopefully, we generate enough cash to make a feature and we actually generate a lot of stuff that ends up in DLC stuff or PDF's or concept art. That's the goal, but it's an interesting challenge to expand or contract the scope of the film that we make based on the dollars that come in.

Are you guys looking to expand with merchandising like t-shirts, figures, statues, etc.?

Yeah, for sure, down the line. I mean, absolutely. I love collectibles, I mean, my whole office is covered in them. I totally want to do that, I just feel like getting the system to work of a weird kind of new 21st century miniature studio that just sells stuff directly to people or attempts to raise money from them or anyone that likes the stuff we're doing, it takes a lot of time and effort to get that thing up on its feet if you can it all. But, if you can then you can begin branching out and looking at all the different things that can make it more interesting or tie it a little bit closer to film fandom or the stuff I love, like collectibles.

What does 2018 look like for Oats outside of Firebase?

Half of me is going down the road of trying to figure out what the best feature film is that I want to do in Hollywood; like the coolest film/experience that I want to make inside of the system. Because I obviously still love traditional films in Hollywood. So, while that's happening I have this extreme goal that has sort of been seeded in my head since 2015, which is to get to work this online studio that has a one-on-one relationship with fans. So, that means that I'm kind of like simultaneously working on potential bigger films and then I'm spending the rest of my time sort of strategizing and thinking about how to get Oats to boot up in a way that would be sustainable long term. So, right now, I'd say 2018 is hopefully going to be making the next piece of Firebase. It all comes down to whether it's episode 2 of Firebase, whether it's episode 2 and 3 of Firebase, whether we have enough money to do an entire feature film of Firebase, y'know, that's really what the question is. So, as many people as possible that liked the first film should try to fund us so we can make something bigger out of the second one and that's really what 2018 would be about.

Is this a story with a definitive ending or something that could be serialized indefinitely?

It's definitely not an end. The whole idea for Firebase is essentially gnosticism. It's a gnostic film with a science-fiction/Vietnam setting that talks about simulation hypothesis and gnosticism and archons and that can go, I think, for quite a lot of time. I think there's a lot to be mined in that. Assuming that we got enough to do an entire feature, there is a feature that is written now that would be the story that I would want to tell at this moment, which is pretty cool.

What was your initial inspiration for Firebase, including the Vietnam setting? Is there a deeper connection to that [war]?

Getting a little bit more into gnosticism, there's this idea that archons are these kind of malevolent...almost like demons that float around humans in four dimensions and you can't really see them. And the feed off negative energy. So, I was thinking that one way to kind of explain that would be that during war time, during atrocities you would find more of them, there'd be a concentration of them and they'd almost be like irking mankind on and kind of tapping them on the soldier and kind of guiding them into worse and worse situations. And, it's kind of the better side of humanity that has to pull you out of those. So, situations like Vietnam would be a good place to talk about archons or gnosticism.

Yeah, I was gonna say, you have plenty of wars to choose from...

Yeah, exactly. That's why when you asked about whether there's other stuff that you could tell, it's like, you can go through any stage in history and find these events that, according to the mythology of this film you would find more and more of these four-dimensional beings.

How did you decide on chasing Firebase as the next Oats project?

Let's assume that there's X number of people online that liked the idea of [Oats] Volume one; so, all of the weird shit, altogether. So, the best outcome from this would be that years down the line you have that number of people funding Oat's ability to make volume two and volume three and volume four and volume five and every time it's something different. That's the best case scenario. That just lets unbridled creativity run rampant. So, that's what I'm actually aiming for. In terms of specific ones, I think Firebase is probably the most esoteric and unique of the three bigger ones, which definitely draws me to it. But, I love Rakka as well. I actually want to shoot, through Oats, I want to do a bigger Rakka piece with Sigourney [Weaver]. Hopefully that can happen at some point when she's done filming on AVATAR. So, that would be very cool.

And, I love Zygote, too. And Zygote, as a concept in totally different settings with the same light-based virus that affects people and starts turning them into creatures. I have some ideas for that, too, that I really like. So, it's sort of a mixture of once the films exist and they're tangible and real it's like, yeah, that's pretty cool, I'd like to make more of that, but it's not losing sight of the goal, which is this weird studio that just constantly puts out things and if audiences like the weird stuff that we continuously put out then they fund it.

Every so often you'll throw up an image on your Instagram from the Aliens sequel that didn't happen. Is that a project that's still dancing around in your head or is it just something you share to display the work you've already put into it?

Yeah, I mean, I wish I could share more, but obviously Fox owns it. It's just an unfortunate thing. I speak to Sigourney about it sometimes. At this point it's kinda like the fire that was burning within me to make that is gone. Stepping outside of even the legal kind of studio-based politics I just feel like its time has come and gone. So, yeah...I think no. And I say that really reluctantly, because I cannot state how much of a fan of Sigourney I am and how much of a fan I am of ALIEN and ALIENS and the idea of doing a sequel to James Cameron's film is amazing on all levels. But, there's a point at which when you're years into it you have to move on. So, I think that has happened to me.


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Blomkamp went on to say that his preference for raising money for Firebase would be to do a feature, but that doing another episode would be just as fitting. "This is essentially an experiment," Blomkamp reiterates. "We have no idea where we stand in terms of where people will actually facilitate more of this or they won't. We don't know." Blomkamp was also clear that this is not like a Kickstarter, where funds would go toward perks. It's all going into the Oats projects. "What I find really kind of bizarre with those setups is how much of the resources you raise from the fans goes back to these perks and pledges and stuff where, before you know it, fifty percent of your budget is gone, because at different tiers you're giving them different things. It makes no sense to me. It's like, if you like the film and you want more of that film or you like Oats and you want more Oats, fund us. Help us get it started. But, it's like, we're not going to give away fifty percent of the budget so you can get a hat or something. It doesn't make sense. The dollars should go directly to the screen." Ultimately, his aim is true and simple for raising funds in this particular venture. "Right now, any funds that we get will definitely be used only for Firebase."

Personally, I love the ambition and variety that something like Oats Studios has to offer. I'm curious to see the response overall to funding future projects. I'd love to have a new Oats Volume every year and maybe a feature to arise out of them (my vote would've been for Firebase as well) every other year. It's a cool model and a creative venture. In a time when folks are constantly up-in-arms about the lack of original ideas, I think Oats has the potential to break new ground. But, it's up to you guys at this juncture. If you're feeling it and you can spare a few bucks to see some more cool shit from Oats, then check the link below. It's surely a better investment than a new Zack Braff movie, right? 

You can contribute to the Firebase sequel crowdfunding right HERE.

Also, you can Catch Blomkamp's Reddit AMA at 9 am PST and his live commentary for his Oats films on Twitch at 11 a.m. PST

Source: JoBlo.com



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