There is an empty lot in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Madison Avenue, located at 41.410806° North, 75.654259° West. Despite its wholly unremarkable appearance, the site may be ground zero for a pandemic that will consume the planet. To find out the truth, exercise this opportunity to make the trek to Park City, Utah, where Lance Weiler’s short film Pandemic 41.410806, -75.654259 will grace the silver screen for the first time on January 24th at the Sundance Film Festival. However, keep in mind that the nine-minute short film is only a small part of Pandemic 1.0, a “storyworld experience” playing out at the film festival from January 20th to 30th. Sundance has already released the Pandemic 41.410806, -75.654259 short film in its entirety online, which serves as an extended teaser trailer for the full fright-filled experience. After watching the video embedded below, read on to learn more about the context for this universe that is equal parts compelling and terrifying.
Finished watching the video? Good. Now, for a little context. Three years ago, journalism major Hope Wilcott went missing and her boyfriend Richard Chambers turned to the internet to help find her. Prior to her disappearance, Hope was investigating her mother’s mysterious illness. It started out rather innocuously, with Hope’s mother placing calls at 3:07 a.m. every morning that she couldn’t remember making the next day. Hope’s mother’s nocturnal behavior quickly took a violent and familiar turn for the worse, and began spreading to others. Hope, it seems, was a carrier for a malicious virus transmitted by soundwaves, and she was taken away to remove the threat of infection and begin the search for a cure. Though she is still missing, her virus has returned in full force.
The previous narrative played out in the original Hope is Missing game, which took place during the summer of 2007 as a narrative extension and promotion for Weiler’s film Head Trauma. Weiler appears to be returning to that universe with Pandemic 1.0, as story elements like HopeisMissing.com and the HopeisMissing twitter accounts have been repurposed to drive to Pandemic 1.0 content. He has assembled an impressive team of collaborators for the project, drawing upon contacts from open collaboration network The Workbook Project and his transmedia company Seize the Media.
I envy those who get to interact with the Pandemic 1.0 alternate reality game live at Sundance, but as the experience’s name suggests, I suspect there will be more to come.