As a self-professed “comic book person” and “genre head”, Ryan Griffen is blown away to have the voice of Batman – Kevin Conroy – attached for his upcoming project, Lustration VR.
Commissioned by Facebook Reality Lab’s Media Studios for Oculus TV, the 4×6 minute animated virtual series created by Griffen will take audiences to ‘The Between’, a world after death.
Based on the writer-director’s graphic novel series of the same name, it centres on Bardolph (Conroy) and Gallus, two protectors of the afterlife, upholding good against evil by removing those who do not belong.
However, when they miss removing someone, they begin to uncover the truth about The Between; that it is run like an elite country club, with the powers-that-be picking and choosing who gets eternal happiness and who doesn’t.
Each episode is told from a different character’s perspective and has the potential to be experienced from different vantage points.
The cast will be a mix of both established and emerging talent from across the US and Australia. Proud Wongatha/Yamatji, Noongar/Gtija woman Shakira Clanton (Eden, Preppers), who is Etowah Cherokee, Blackfoot and African-American on her father’s side, is attached to play a character named Alirea.
Writing with Griffen is Nayuka Gorrie, with Taryne Laffar and Carolina Sorensen producing.
It is the first project to go into production for Nathan Anderson’s latest venture, New Canvas, and he executive produces with Wolfgang Bylsma, and Griffen. A prototype of the project was released late last year, which excited Facebook to its potential.
“We got some great feedback from this prototype, and it is a tremendous credit to the team to be in production for our first series already,” Anderson says.
The series will be created in the VR painting and animation app, Quill, with artists Zoe Roellin and Lea Peirano.
Griffen, the creator of ABC’s Cleverman, is drawn to virtual reality given it is such a new medium, and one that lends itself to world-building – suited to a high-concept project like this, with many hyperreal elements.
It’s medium where the rules are still being created in terms of both storytelling and the technical – where the camera should be placed, how it should move – with Griffen harkening it to the French New Wave.
“What we’re trying to achieve with with Lustration is something that’s a blending of animation, TV and theatre all into one. You can only really do that with VR. You have the ability to allow the audience to almost become the editor of the story; of how they consume it.
“It’s like having the ability to be on the stage during a theatre production. When you’re in our story world, you get to stand directly next to the characters as they’re having their conversations. You get to explore this world and not just follow the story.”
Griffen suggested Conroy to the team, thinking it was a long shot he would get involved. Batman was ‘his show’ he would watch growing up after school with his next door neighbour, and he has also passed down a love of Batman to his son.
“I just threw it out there, to see what would happen. When I got the email back saying ‘He’s interested’, I was blown away.“
As a First Nations creative, one of the most exciting elements of Lustration for Griffen is the ability to bring diverse characters together.
“What excites me about the concept is having the ability to put Aboriginal characters up against people, characters from New York; having their worlds combined and feel like they’re one in the same story world.“
Lustration will be published as a comic series by Gestalt Comics later this year, and Griffen is also developing it into a TV series.
“We’ve got the pilot written and we’ve been taking that around to the market,” he says. “The industry is leaning towards previous IP. Having a comic book, and now the VR experience, and getting some strong cast around that that story, it helps build the IP into a stronger platform, because is it is a high-end concept.”
Elsewhere, Griffen is writing on a TV series for the BBC that is yet to be announced.
Screen Australia has provided principal production funding for Lustration VR, with other backers including Screenwest and Lotterywest, and Screen NSW.
The full series is slated for release globally in 2022 for free on Oculus TV, available on Oculus Quest 2 headsets.