Interactive Animation Redefined- Interview with Michael Ramey and Katie Stippec Creators Behind ‘Ghosts of Ruin’

Ghosts of Ruin Interview

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‘Ghosts of Ruin’ isn’t just a series; it’s a revolution in storytelling. Imagine a world where the boundaries between audience and creator blur, where viewers become co-pilots in the creative process. This is the vision that Michael Ramey and Katie Stippec had when they came up with the premise of the series.

Michael Ramey and Katie Stippec, both avid gamers and content creators, came up with a pretty cool idea. They wanted to see what would happen if they threw the world’s top content creators into a “Neural Reality” battle royale tournament. Imagine everything turning into a wild nightmare while the whole world watches – that’s the essence of ‘Ghosts of Ruin.’ We got the opportunity to discuss the project with them, the inspiration behind it, and what we can expect.

Fiction Horizon: What inspired you to create an interactive animated series like ‘Ghosts of Ruin’? Some series, both live-action and animated, pride themselves on their interactive elements, but ‘Ghosts of Ruin’ take this to another level.

Katie: We just thought to ourselves, “What would WE want?” Throughout the course of our careers, we were sponges for information on all things entertainment industry related. Anything we could get our hands on – articles, YouTube videos, social media accounts, podcasts, etc. But most of those things didn’t even come into existence until five years ago or so. Things like MasterClass are a great example, but even at that, it’s still people talking AT you. We wanted to provide viewers with unprecedented access to us, to our amazingly talented team, and to the world that we are building together.

Ramey: Rock n’ Roll. Everything is one way then, rock n’ roll enters the chat. That’s when things change. Personally, I’ve always felt that way about Web3 – the entire landscape is built on its interactive-ability. So, if we’re gonna go there, we better go there hard!! Nothing safe. Nothing that was seen before. Nothing normal. There are no rules, so let’s get loud, break things, and see where we end up on the other side. The trick is trusting our own passion. If we don’t believe in it or if we wouldn’t want it (whatever “it” is), then we ain’t doin’ it. We have to take advantage of this space. We have to make a new rock n’ roll.

How does the interactive aspect of the series work, and how will viewers be able to influence the production?

Katie: There are several ways that we’re pushing the boundaries of interactivity. First: we’re all active on Discord, communicating directly with our community throughout the entire process.

Second: we provide our community with voting options – cast lines, character designs, and more – every single Wednesday so they have an actual SAY in the show. We thought it would be cool to involve early fans in as many aspects as possible so that when they watch the show, they can say – “hey! I voted for that!” Third: We provide production updates every Friday, where we put out videos for our community outlining where we are in the process, showing early concept art and, more recently, animatics.

We interview artists from the animation studio, composers, casting directors, publicists, and even our cast for candid conversations about the contributions that each person brings to the table during the development and creation of our
series.

Fourth: and probably my personal favorite, we presented early fans with the opportunity to be IN the show, in a way. They submit graffiti for our wall that will appear in the show, headshots for what we’re calling “death drops” – where we animate their face onto a character that dies in the show.

Even with everything that we’re doing, we have so many ideas of MORE things we want to do, and a lot of that is possible because of our partner, Gala Film, who is so supportive and excitingly experimental. It’s really been a joy to have the opportunity to be as crazy as we want, and we want to bring the audience along for the ride every step of the way!

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Can you provide more detail regarding world-building? The main description of the series reads that it is set in a ” gritty, dystopic world” with neural networks mixed in. Is there some specific work of art that inspired it, or is it just your run-of-the-mill dystopian hellscape type of inspiration?

Katie: There are a few different factors at play, so let me break it down. This whole vision started with PJ Accetturo and Ryan Ramsey, our co-creators. From their brainchild, and because they are collaborative humans, the vision was handed over to Michael and myself, who passed it to our incredible team – big shout out to our showrunner, Michael Ryan, and our insanely amazing director Thierry Marchand.

There are two worlds at play here, with one of the worlds having two distinct sectors. In World 1A, we have the “cubes,” which is what low-income housing has become. It’s dark and dreary, the environment has been destroyed, and everyone is looking for an escape. Corporate greed has taken its toll, entering World 1B – a sterile,
steel, skyscraper land high above the cubes where the corporate overlords look down on their conquests.

Ghosts of ruin

Then you have World 2 – which is in-game. The in-game world is bright and colorful, and happy. It’s what earth USED to be, so everyone wants to escape into it. Working with the studio to establish these distinct looks has been an important part of our journey and one that will carry us through the show’s life.

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What challenges did you face in developing the concept for ‘Ghosts of Ruin,’?
Considering its unique interactive nature & what things (if any) would you have done differently?

Katie: Originally, Ghosts of Ruin was a live-action feature film, so I’d say that the first
challenge was reformatting it into an animated series! That said, once we started rethinking it, it made total sense. Since what we’re doing is so unique, I think an initial challenge was finding people who were crazy enough to work with us.

It’s, of course, an additional lift for everyone involved – the animation studio, the composers, the casting director, and us as producers. Traditional Hollywood was built to keep people out – no more of that. There’s room for everyone, and we have no problem paving that road regarding things we would have done differently – no.

Everything we’ve done, we’ve at least learned something from, and so far, we’ve benefited from several small miracles so, knock on wood, we’re really happy with where we are.

Ramey: No losses, only lessons. Challenges are what we do for a living. That’s literally the job. So instead of looking at it like a “challenge,” it’s more looking at it like “oh… so… that’s a thing that’s happening now? Interesting…” and figure it out. Piggybacking on Katie yet again; surrounding yourself with people who are both smarter and crazier than yourself so far seems to be the right move.

How do you plan to balance viewer input with maintaining a cohesive narrative in the series?

Katie: For these initial episodes, we’re testing things out. What works, what doesn’t work, what could we do better? As we continue to grow and build, we plan to have even more ways that viewers can interact – two of which are earlier and more often. We sort of think of it as you would if you were to build a house – you know you need walls, you know you need bedrooms and bathrooms and floors and roofs and all of that. But what if we put in a ping pong room?

What if we made the roof blue? What if we lined the floors with shag carpet and put a hot tub in the bathroom? Michael Ryan has been brilliant with laying the groundwork and structuring the story, and that has been instrumental in allowing us to explore ways that we can play with the characters, the set pieces, and the world they exist in.

Ramey: It’s also that thing where you have to listen to your audience. It’s fun to hear their ideas. We set the parameters up front, and all we have to do is stick to them. We want to play with them, and we need to for this experiment to really work.

In what ways will the viewers’ influence extend beyond the look, sound, and feel of the show? Will they have a say in the storyline or character development?

Katie: That’s the goal! We knew we wanted to start by laying some groundwork, building the foundation, if you will. We wanted viewers to get a feel for the characters and for the world before we went ALL IN on making changes. But for us, the sky’s the limit on what we can do.

We can’t wait to find new ways to involve our fans and give them a continued sense of involvement in the series and the project.

Ramey: Here’s something I’ll say here – to A) show you how we roll, and B) to start some shit! This hasn’t been said anywhere before, and it’s the only hint I’ll give. There are things hidden in the first four episodes, easter eggs if you will, which can take viewers on a bit of a side quest. You’re gonna wanna win.

Are there any specific tools or platforms you will be using to facilitate viewer
participation and feedback?

Katie: We’re throwing a few things around for future episodes, but right now, we’re
running on Discord, social media, a wing, and a prayer! Gala Film has been the most supportive partner in this way – by providing us with their platform and helping us
cultivate a die-hard community and fan base.

Can you share with us some examples in which the viewer input has already influenced the development of the series?

Katie: So many ways! It’s been really fun to hear real-time feedback when we share new art, for sure. Our community has been voting for close to 10 weeks on the variety of things we’re throwing at them. In the next month, we should be able to share some early sneak peeks of ways they’re being animated into the show, whether that’s death drops, on wanted posters, or via their graffiti art.

Honestly, most days, just having the amazing support of our community
keeps us going and makes us WANT to be better because they deserve it.

Ramey: Aesthetically, quite a bit, actually.

Ghosts of Ruin poster

How will you measure the success of the interactive elements in the series? Are there any specific metrics or feedback mechanisms in place?

Katie: We are making good use of google drive, that’s for sure. We’re working on additional feedback elements, but right now, it feels kind of cool NOT having strict systems in place. It feels underground, approachable, and warm. For us, success isn’t metrics; it’s people. And as long as our people are happy, we’ll have succeeded.

Ramey: Success for me is measured in the rock n’ roll of it all. Growing a community of people who love this ride and are as crazy as we are is a success to me.

You can check out more about ‘Ghosts of Ruin’ on the official site. The series premiers sometime in September with ‘Ahsoka’ star Rosario Dawson ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’s’ Tony Revolori, and K-Pop star AleXa joining the stellar cast of voice actors.

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