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Collapsus – Interactive video on the post-peak oil reality

Michael Andersen, ARGNet
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.

… Reflecting this fragmented view of storytelling, viewers can slide their mouse to the right at any point in the video to view faux-news reports from Citizenergy, along with English-language clips from the Energy Risk documentary that relate directly to events in the story. Sliding the mouse to the left brings up a map that leads to an interactive infographic granting the player absolute control over energy allocation and research budgets for the UK and Bulgaria. Pallotta explains that the game “allows you to look at energy in a way that really shows a cause and effect of consumption and production. In this sense we can talk about what is going on in a fictional and geo-political way, but the game actually places you in a simulation that makes the problems more tangible and guides you to think of solutions.”

… Collapsus treats the subject of alternative energy with care, and provides no easy answers. Although the narrative presents space-based solar power as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, the flaws of the system are laid out in stark relief, leaving the audience open to explore alternatives. Pallotta notes that the project was designed for the connected generation, and has been well-received with younger audiences
(25 October 2010)

Collapsus Introduction

Tommy Pallotta (director), Submarine Channel via Vimeo

Collapsus Introduction from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo.

Introduction by director Tommy Pallotta.

Collapsus is a brand-new transmedia project from SubmarineChannel that combines interactivity, animation, fiction, and documentary. Collapsus looks into the near future and shows you how the imminent energy crisis affects a group of ten young people, who appear to be caught up in an energy conspiracy. Collapsus is the transmedia project associated with the documentary, Energy Risk.

Collapsus is directed by Tommy Pallotta, producer of Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, and director of American Prince.
(October 2010)

What is ?

Collapsus site, Submarine Channel
Collapsus signals a new experience in transmedia storytelling that combines interactivity, animation, fiction, and documentary. This pioneering approach blends real documentary footage with mini-games and movie fragments, inviting you to choose your own perspective as the story unfolds. Interact and make decisions to avoid further blackouts; get a broader perspective by listening to the experts; or observe the consequences for everyday people through the fictional story.

Collapsus looks into the near future and shows you how the imminent energy transition affects a group of ten young people, who appear to be caught up in an energy conspiracy. What will their world look like after the turbulent transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources?

Following the adventures of Vera, Jack, Tony and Amir, you are lead into a world of conspiracy, treason and, most alarmingly, failing energy supplies. In this story, set in the near future, the international powers try to cope with a transition from fossil to alternative fuels, while dealing with political dissension, uprisings and a population terrified by increasingly frequent black-outs. As a player, you are required to make decisions that
leave their mark

You will be placed in crucial moments in time, and be taken to a series of locations such as London, the Ukraine,
Teheran and Colorado. Live action footage combined with animation will help you understand the current political
situation – as well the characters’ course of destiny. In your journey you’ll be accompanied and guided by the vlog posts of Vera and her friends as they attempt to figure out not only their personal problems, but also what is happening in their collapsing world – and what they can do to create a livable future world.

Collapsus aims to provide you with a deeper insight into the complex issues surrounding global energy politics. You are able to explore these issues by viewing the story, accessing additional information, and making difficult choices that influence the world’s energy production. With this immersive approach, uses internet capabilities to draw astonishing international contrasts and connections, between disparate countries and organizations, around the central theme of energy politics. Behind every energy related article you might read in the paper lies a compelling, globally-relevant story. Collapsus tells this story.

Production notes

The audience for documentary is dying. The average age of a television documentary viewer is 55 and up. Dutch broadcaster VPRO came to Submarine with the concept of making a simulation game in which the player experiences the impending world’s energy problems. The goal was to attract a different audience than traditional documentary

What emerged from this experiment is the transmedia experience, Collapsus. SubmarineChannel, the producers of Collapsus, has over a decade of experience with documentary storytelling and with making games and animations, but their real passion lies in creating a cross-over between these genres. Collapsus combines the three elements in a
unitary interface, telling this rather complex story in a contemporary manner. Producer Bruno Felix says, “We always try to approach complex issues in appealing and engaging ways. It was very interesting to produce a transmedia project because it is an emerging genre that is still in development and experimentation is still possible”.
(October 2010)
Excerpt from a press release in the form of a dramatic, multi-colored PDF.

At the moment you can enter the interactive video by going to

Slickly produced with lot of good information. In English. -BA

How to Boil a Frog DVD now available for pre-order

Jon Cooksey, HTBAF newsletter
… People out there are anxious, busy, broke and don’t want to hear any more bad news, so talking to them about the issue(s) that your Facebook group/NGO/terrorist organization is trying to spread the word about is very tough.

We here at How to Boil a Frog Industries Ltd. Inc. PLC SKG LLP think we may have a way to help with that: you slip people a copy of the movie on DVD and say “Hey, I saw this, and it’s funny – let’s get together and talk about it after you watch it.” Then you get back together (thus forming community!) and talk about a movie, which, let’s face it, is way easier than getting together to talk about deforestation, economic collapse, or colonoscopies.

OK, HTBAF doesn’t actually tackle colonoscopies (we had to save something for the sequel). But it covers a lot of other pretty grim stuff in a funny way, and offers a set of solutions that actual real people can incorporate into their lives without moving to a cave. And we need to start spreading the news about a new way of living fast, because all that stuff in the first paragraph is just the tip of the melting iceberg. So if you want to help make the Big Shift happen, good news: “How to Boil a Frog” is now AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER ON DVD. (If you have a website, please embed the link!) [LINK: ]

If you haven’t seen the movie yourself, of course, now’s your chance. But if you do buy it to watch it, loan it out after. As a Friend o’ the Frog, you are an ambassador of fun and meaning and community. Loan it to that annoying neighbor – you never know when you might need help defending your 50 pound sacks of rice from the Marauding Hordes. Use it to extend your circle of friends and conversation. It could be the best piece of non-recyclable plastic you buy today!

In other Frog news, the movie will start airing in Eastern Canada on The Movie Network at the beginning of November – thanks to TMN and Movie Central for being our earliest supporters! And we’ve been accepted to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January 2010, so if you’re near Nevada City, CA, come say hi!

(24 October 2010)
My favorite of Jon’s bits is his explanation of peak oilK Many of Jon’s interviews with peak oil and climate figures are available on YouTube. -BA