About this project
STROWLERS PRELUDES: Two new short films from Zombie Orpheus, filmed in Ireland and Mongolia and set in an all-new shared cinematic universe where YOUR stories can become part of the official canon.
Be the first to enter the alternate reality of the Strowlers™, where magic is real, but if you have it you must either register or resist. A worldwide collaborative storytelling project, we’re offering core fans and supporters the chance to be the first to discover the secrets of the three factions who fight for control of magic beneath the surface of our mundane daily lives: the Arcanologists, the [spoilers!], and the Strowlers.
STROWLERS: PRELUDES takes place in Ireland and Mongolia. We shot the Ireland short last summer and now we’re sending Samara, Dave, and Ben to Mongolia this March, where the shamans of Ulaanbaatar fell in love with the world of the Strowlers and have invited us out to create a short film with them.
STROWLERS: IRELAND is set in 1953 and tells the story of a mysterious woman who travels to Ireland to stop a magical invasion. Starring Lisa Coronado (Z-Nation) and Samara Lerman (The Gamers: Hands of Fate).
For STROWLERS: MONGOLIA we will arrive in March to write and shoot a story from their perspective, starring a local cast. Producer, translators, and crew are standing by for us to join them!
In addition to these two shorts, we’ll also give everyone who pledges $25 or more an exclusive streaming preview of the STROWLERS pilot episode: our 45-minute introduction to the Seattle STROWLERS story starring Tanesha Ross (Hair) and Trin Miller (Captain Fantastic).
$50 and higher backers will also receive a PDF of the STROWLERS WORLD BIBLE, which is full of all the secrets and information you need to get a head start on your own Strowlers stories, art, music, and collaborations.
How will your stories change the world?
Now that we've achieved our initial goal, it's time to upgrade the world bible and make a few more key hires in Mongolia. Backers at $50 and higher will receive any stretch goal pages with their PDF, while backers at $100 and higher will receive any stretch goal upgrades to their print editions of the World Bible.
Learn more about the stretch goals at this link: Update 3.
We are Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, the company behind JourneyQuest, The Gamers, and Dark Dungeons. We are experienced filmmakers and seven-time Kickstarter creators with a track record of success. Our Strowlers story team has been working for three years to bring this world to life for you.
- Ben Dobyns (CEO, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment) – Creator
- Samara Lerman (JourneyQuest, The Gamers) – Creative Producer
- Satryos Phil Brucato (Deliria, Mage) – Lead World Design
- Gabriel Gonda (Dark Dungeons, The Gamers) – Supervising Director
- Ibba Armancas (Strowlers Pilot) – Writer
- Elizabeth Heffron (Strowlers Pilot, Mitzi's Abortion) – Writer
- Lindy Boustedt (Brides to Be) – Producer
- Amanda Quinn (Strowers Pilot) – Production Designer
- Abie Eke (Strowlers Pilot) – Story Team
- Lisa Coronado (Z-Nation, Attacking the Darkness) – Story Team
- Heather Conti (Strowlers Pilot) – Story Team
- Amalia Rubin – Producer, Mongolia
- Tsengel Davaasambuu – Line Producer, Mongolia
- SJ Tucker – Songwriter
- Dave Richards – Field Audio Specialist
Strowlers™ is a shared cinematic universe from Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. Set in the modern day, it tells the story of the dreamers, outcasts, artists, and activists who exist on the magical fringes of society. To be released under a flexible license—which will allow any creator to make and distribute their own works based in the Strowlerverse—we are currently producing the first round of short films and episodes from around the world that will introduce the fantastic, magical, and unexpected reality of the Strowlers.
The Strowlers shared cinematic universe is not our universe: it is one in which the fundamental laws of physics allow magic to exist. It is a warped mirror history that mostly parallels our world’s evolution and historical progression, where the same events happened, but from different causes. Historical events, myths, and legends from our world can and often do inspire Strowlerverse stories.
While 'magic' is defined by most governments as arcanology—a predictable and inflexible branch of the sciences—Strowlers know that true magic is wilder, less predictable, and sometimes even has a mind of its own.
Three films set in the world of the Strowlers and a bonus documentary.
IRELAND (22 minutes): Frankie (Samara Lerman) grew up hearing stories from her Irish grandmother about the Fair Folk, the people under the Hill. Now, she must travel the foothills of West Cork to gather the magical elements to perform one last spell, but a persistent American (Lisa Coronado) appears determined to stop her.
MONGOLIA (~22 minutes): We will work with the shamanic community of Ulaanbaator when we arrive in March to develop and shoot their story. We plan to incorporate smoke and mirrors into the theme, as mirrors are not only a crucial part of Strowlers symbology, but are central to shaman regalia. Ulaanbaator is extremely polluted (we have to wear face masks while outdoors), which makes smoke an ever-present part of the visual landscape.
PILOT (44 minutes): Whit (Tanesha Ross) and Amanda (Trin Miller) find their relationship stretched to the breaking point when a young girl who is manifesting magic for the first time goes on the run from the authorities. Meanwhile, the Arcanologists prepare a larger crack down on unlicensed magic users.
DOCUMENTARY (~30 minutes): With three weeks scheduled in Mongolia, we also plan to shoot a short documentary about the life of the city shamans. They have offered us unprecedented access to their lives, stories, and rituals. With the help of a local producer and real-time translator, we will step back and listen to them tell their story, in their words. The documentary is NOT currently a reward for this campaign, as we will have to raise more money to cover its high post-production costs and it will likely not be complete until 2018, but if we are able to raise the funds for those expenses we'll be thrilled to add the digital download to the $25 and higher reward levels.
Böö Mörgöl or "Mongolian Shamanism" is the indigenous religion of Mongolia. Practiced by Chingis Khaan and his ancestors, Böö Mörgöl is undergoing a surprising revival in Mongolia. However, while more and more young people become shamans, many people remain afraid of shamanism or view it as degraded and criminal, forcing shamans to hide their identities from the public, coworkers, and sometimes even their families. The universe of Strowlers, in many ways, is a mirror of the true experiences of young shamans in Ulaanbaatar, and the shamans who have heard of the Strowlers project feels that it resonates with them. They want these stories told because it's not just a good story, it's their story.
Our primary collaborator, Manlai (pictured above) is a shaman who works in local government, plays basketball on the weekends, and does throat singing with Khukh Tenger.
While in Mongolia, we will also be working with Khukh Tenger to record a unique album for our Kickstarter backers.
Khukh Tenger, (Blue Sky) is an ensemble of musicians, vocalists and throat singers. The group performs a combination of traditional and modern pieces on traditional instruments, adding their own unique flair, incorporating Morin Huur (Horse head fiddle), flute, zither, jaw harp, and several styles of khoomei (throat singing). Khukh Tenger, and its members have performed across Mongolia and in several countries including China and Thailand. The members of Khukh Tenger, have agreed to make a custom album for STROWLERS and our documentary.
The Strowlerverse features a deck of cards, called a Bíspell deck, that is almost as ubiquitous as a standard deck of playing cards. A wide range of games are possible with the deck, from simple children’s games that resemble Go Fish to complex trick-taking games along the lines of Bridge. A modern deck holds four numbered suits plus a trump suit. There are rumors of a fifth numbered suit—a mystical one—that has been lost, suppressed, or both.
In addition to the regular cards in the standard Bíspell deck (called the dæl), many players collect Rún cards. These are non-suited character and archetype cards and hundreds of them exist. No two decks will be the same, depending on which cards a player has collected.
These extended decks are used to play “Walk the Labyrinth”, a storytelling game. Each player constructs a narrative using the cards they are dealt. Players may choose to work together to tell cooperative tales or compete to help or hinder the heroes of the shared story. Beneath the obvious “imaginary play” element, this game features hidden levels of magical teaching and political intrigue. Many Strowlers identify with certain Rún cards in the deck, and may construct their own identities and personal narratives around their interpretation of that card and its journey through the labyrinth.
Pledges of $50 and higher will receive an etched metal Rún card that is unique to this campaign, featuring the labyrinth on the back and a unique archetype character from the Mongolia story on the front.
We're designing a limited-edition world bible for our $100 and higher backers. Conceptualized as a premium art book, it will include everything you need to know about the world of the Strowlers, with gorgeous full-page art and photographs from Seattle, Ireland, and Mongolia.
The book begins as a deluxe softcover, printed on 80# silk text coated paper, but stretch goals could transform it all the way into a leather-bound hardcover with foil-embossed dust jacket, additional pages, and more.
$1 – Tip Jar
$12 – Early streaming access to PRELUDES: MONGOLIA & IRELAND
$25 – Digital downloads of PRELUDES: MONGOLIA & IRELAND, early Streaming Access to the Pilot, Digital Download of the Album
$50 – Signed DVD of PRELUDES: MONGOLIA & IRELAND, Digital Download of the World Bible PDF, Limited Edition Metal "Rún" Labyrinth Card
$100 – World Bible collector's edition art book, featuring full color photos from Ireland, Mongolia, and Seattle (eligible for stretch goals)
$250 – 30 minute consult with a member of the Strowlers Story Team to help develop your own canon piece of the story.
$500 – 60 minute consult with a member of the Strowlers Story Team to help develop your own canon piece of the story.
$1000 – Associate Producer Credit on STROWLERS: PRELUDES
$5000 – Executive Producer Credit on STROWLERS: PRELUDES
This is really important, so read carefully:
We will charge for all shipping after the campaign in BackerKit. In order for your rewards to ship, you will need to pay shipping fees at that time. Do NOT add shipping fees to your pledge now.
The Short Version—
International Backers: expect to pay less than $9.00 in BackerKit for base shipping on the $50 reward.
Domestic Backers: expect to pay less than $5.00 in BackerKit for base shipping on the $50 reward.
The Long Version, for people who like details—
International Backers: we are working with a third-party agency to fulfill your orders from warehouses in Europe, Canada, and Australia. This should help cut your typical U.S. shipping costs by a huge margin. Please be aware that you may still be responsible for import duties. We must comply with international law and can not mark your reward as a gift or as a zero value item. Duties will not be included in your shipping charge, with one exception...
EU Backers: We will include VAT for EU members when we charge for shipping in BackerKit. That way your package should arrive with much less hassle and holdup. And a bit faster as well.
Domestic Backers: we want to get the best-possible shipping and handling rate for you. Rather than over-estimating expenses now, we will charge actual rates when we are ready to ship.
All Backers: by handling shipping this way, we reduce unknown costs now, which means we know exactly how much we can put into the production budget, and then we can use economy of scale to make specific shipping orders with exact details. What will shipping cost, you ask?
ESTIMATING SHIPPING COSTS
International orders will average $.99 handling per item, plus local shipping costs. This should still be much less than you have paid in the past. (For example, in 2013 our cost to ship a DVD internationally began at $8.59 and went up from there as the weight increased.) Unfortunately, we cannot calculate this more precisely until we know our volume and can negotiate for the best rate possible. Domestic orders will start at the current Media Mail rate for a five ounce parcel, plus a minimum of $.25 handling per item. You can estimate that shipping will begin around $3.99, plus more for larger or heavier packages that include more than a DVD. Again, we'll use our volume to negotiate for the best-possible quote.
Strowlers is a shared cinematic universe. We want you to tell stories of the fantastic that are set where you live: whether fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or beyond, the possibilities are limitless. This section is for everyone who has questions about how to become an active storyteller within the Strowlerverse.
As we are "soft launching" Strowlers with this Kickstarter, with a focus on core ZOE fans and passionate storytellers, certain elements of the plan for the public release are still in flux. The following represents a summary of current progress. We welcome your input and suggestions.
LICENSING AND RIGHTS (BETA VERSION)
Strowlers™ is an open world that everybody is invited to play in. Released under a license similar to Creative Commons, the heart of Strowlers is an open wiki containing a brief history of the world, the rules for how the world works, and a style guide. Fans and professionals alike are invited to create and distribute short films, novels, plays, and art set in the world.
While anybody may sell their Strowlers creations, only the Strowlers Executive Story Team can label a work as "Canon". Canon works—pieces that fit into the official Strowlers story—must be approved in advance by the Strowlers Executive Story Team. While for-profit Strowlers creations and derivatives are asked to voluntarily contribute a percentage of their profits, canon-labeled works are asked to share at least 10% of their net. This helps us to support ongoing project management, for example offsetting costs for story support and project infrastructure.
GUIDELINES FOR INDEPENDENT PRODUCERS
Producing stories in the Strowlerverse requires an understanding of several key mandates, all of which are designed to help keep a focus on character-driven stories of the fantastic that can be produced using existing resources.
- use existing locations
- not require massive construction or manufacturing
- feature a small cast
- limit special effects - one fantastic practical effect is better than 20 mediocre CGI ones
- focus on stories that are personal and character-driven
Stories not intended to be produced for the screen, of course, can use larger special effects.
While anybody is invited to tell a Stowlers story, in order for it to be declared Canon—an official part of the story universe—the story must complete the following steps:
- pitch your concept to the executive story team for notes and approval
- if approved, the story editors will help integrate larger story and plot threads to build connections between scripts that can lead to a cohesive world
- if you plan to sell your work, the executive line producer will need to greenlight the project and budget and negotiate a fair profit-sharing agreement with you
*And tell the story in your own language!
Risks and challenges
We have successfully funded seven Kickstarter campaigns and are now experienced in delivery and fulfillment, with thousands of happy backers.
This campaign does not have the best timing, as we are still completing reward fulfillment for JourneyQuest 3 and are in post-production for The Gamers: The Shadow Menace. (We just finished domestic fulfillment for Attacking the Darkness. Int'l rewards for that campaign are shipping on the pallet to the UK with JQ3 rewards.) While we would prefer to wait to run this until those fulfillments are complete, March is literally the last time that we could shoot the Mongolia project.
The Mongolia portion of the project is the biggest risk. We'll be in a country where we don't speak the language. We are mitigating these risks in the following ways:
1) Working with Amalia Rubin, a long-time ZOE fan and Mongolian scholar, who we trust to manage the local logistics.
2) Bringing Samara Lerman as a producer. She has also acted in numerous ZOE films and can fill in as an actor if we run into problems.
3) We spent seven days in Ireland testing this production process. With over three weeks in Mongolia, we know we have the skill set and process to get the footage we need, even if the current plan changes dramatically when we land.
4) The shamans with whom we are working already succeeded in shooting a Strowlers trailer, which shows immense dedication to and excitement about this project.
5) Dave Richards, our third attendee on the trip, is an accomplished sound recordist and mixer with years of field experience in challenging working conditions.
6) While Mongolian winters are extremely cold and the city air is quite polluted, we're traveling during a period when temperatures historically improve. But we hear that Mongolian boots, hats, and coats are affordable and excellent quality, should we need to bundle up. And we're bringing pro-quality air filters for outdoor travel and shooting.
Essentially, we've planned carefully, we've tested the process, and we're prepared to improvise. Flights and lodging are already arranged.
Besides the Mongolian element, this is not a risky campaign. The other rewards have already been shot and are currently in post-production. We know how to handle reward fulfillment efficiently. And we've successfully recovered from setbacks on past campaigns and managed to fulfill our responsibilities to our backers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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