In March of 2010, the Dutch broadcasting company VPRO released the documentary Energy Risk as part of its Future Affairs programming. The Dutch-language documentary explored the impending transition from fossil fuel to alternative energy sources. Recognizing that the average documentary viewer is over the age of 55, the network approached SubmarineChannel to create a more engaging experience that would appeal to younger audiences. Tommy Pallotta was brought on board to direct the experience, and the Collapsus experience was born.
Staying true to the project’s documentary roots, Collapsus presents a global narrative that plays out in the near-future. Told through the eyes of activist vlogger Vera and a cast of supporting characters, Collapsus depicts a complex world of profiteering, geo-political maneuvering, and conspiracy centering around dwindling oil reserves. Stylistically, the experience combines live action film with rotoscoped scenes that should be familiar to viewers of Pallotta’s previous projects, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Pallotta notes that “we settled on a hybrid of live action and animation as an aesthetic choice, but also one made for time and budget. The story takes place all over the world so we had to find a way to tell a global story that didn’t show the limitations we had.” This core narrative, combining live action and animation, forms the root of the Collapsus experience. And while this passive experience can provide a complete narrative arc, the story is peppered with a host of opportunities to take a more active role in the story.