Yesterday we spoke to jetlagged director Edgar Wright (Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim etc) about his publicly interactive webcomic/animation project and the mystery collaborator who nobody can track down. Note: this contains some spoilers for episode two, so if you’ve not seen any of it yet, spend seven or so minutes here before reading on.
So, this interactive webcomic The Random Adventures Of Brandon Generator – what’s all that then?
The first episode went up in April, and we had thousands of submissions. The idea is that people watch the animation, which is written by me, narrated by Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh, drawn and animated by Tommy Lee Edwards (Turf) with music by David Holmes, and then at the end of the episode you get a chance to contribute, so you can leave voicemails, leave ideas on Brandon’s dictaphone, draw pictures and write prose, and some of them will be integrated into the next episode. The second episode, which went live last week, incorporates 69 submissions from the public that we’ve woven into the piece, including Brandon commenting on what’s been given in. It’s been really fun to write both a story that has autobiographical aspects to it and that the public can influence the outcome of. We’re already working submissions following the second episode into the third one.
You mentioned autobiographical elements there. Brandon does sort of look like you…
Yeah, although I don’t have the glasses anymore. I used to look a bit more like that – I think Tommy based Brandon’s appearance on one of his friends, but it does look a bit like a younger me. Me from the 1990s. Or George Lucas.
The two main themes so far seem to be caffeine addiction and creative frustration. Have you experienced either of them (and/or both)?
Yeah, that’s all happened to me. Last year I tried to write something on my own – I eventually finished, but it was quite a struggle to get there. I used all sorts of procrastination techniques, especially the one of making a coffee as though that was going to solve everything.
Presumably that works like smoking, where it’s as much the getting up and doing it as the taste and impact of the coffee itself?
Well with these modern espresso machines, using the mechanism itself is quite pleasing, and they make all these sounds, and you feel like a little barista at home. You feel like you’re doing something productive by putting the pod in yourself. You can convince yourself that you’re in a factory, pressing this lever 13 times a day to get hot brown liquid out, and that’s your job.
In episode two you see the name of Brandon’s building, Kaldi House. With the amount of coffee in the comic, was it tempting to call it Maxwell House for the sake of a crap gag?
You know what? I suggested that but because it’s a Microsoft project I didn’t think we could put other brand names in. That’s the same reason that, even though his coffee machine is clearly a Nespresso, it’s never mentioned by name.
We saw on your blog that there’s a mysterious, nameless, faceless collaborator in episode two, who you’re trying to find…
Yeah, she still hasn’t come forward. It’s strange – it was the one that sounded particularly realistic. It was longer than it is in the episode – you can still hear it on the website – but this girl rang up as Brandon’s mystery girlfriend, and we all thought it was quite magical so put it into the episode. So basically she left a message with no details, and we want to use her in more episodes, but can’t track her down. We want the character to come back, but we might be forced to use someone else.
How much or little do you know about where it’s all going?
I don’t know anything. Nobody even puts their names on, they just use their Twitter handles. I print out their suggestions, go through them all ticking my favourites with a pen, and then go through them again and try to work them into the episode. The idea is it’s a huge co-operative thing, and everybody’s script. All that stuff he reads out at the beginning of the episode is user-submitted, and a member of the public named the monster in it. Sometimes it’s submitted words, and sometimes it’s ideas – so many people had suggested a coffee monster that I felt it had to go that way. In the third one, in terms of how he’s going to confront the monster, I detected an overall theme through people’s suggestions that has really affected how that’s panned out.
Join in at BrandonGenerator.com and by using the hashtag #brandongenerator. The thing’s been designed to show off how impressive Internet Explorer 7 is, but we looked at it on Firefox and it was all alright, so make of that what you will.