Digital Media FX interviews Marc Adler from Fathom Studios (Delgo: A Hero's Journey).
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dFX Interview: Marc Adler (About Delgo)
Marc AdlerMarc Adler is the "Sublime Patron of Dreams for Fathom Studios, which is a unique way of calling him a "company executive, producer, and visionary."

Adler is also chairman and founder of Macquarium Intelligent Communications, a leading interactive strategy and development firm serving primarily Fortune 1000 companies. He founded Macquarium in 1991 and is responsible for determining the overall direction of the enterprise.

Adler has been profiled in The Industry Standard as a top Internet leader. He has been named among the top ten high-tech gurus by Business to Business magazine, called one of the "Top 40 Under 40" by Georgia Trend, and Digital South says he is the guy to call when you want to get things done.

We called on Adler for an interview with Digital Media FX and he was more than happy to oblige.

dFX: What exactly is Fathom Studios, how was it started and why was it started?

Marc Adler: Fathom was originally an outgrowth of the interactive agency, Macquarium, designed to service clients who required creative solutions for broadcast and film. Today, Macquarium focuses on business solutions for Internet, CD-ROM/DVD and wireless applications. By separating Fathom from Macquarium, we were able to better define our brands for each market segment while continuing to leverage the resources of both groups. Ultimately, the two companies work together where Macquarium creates pixels for the computer screen and Fathom creates pixels for the silver screen and the television screen.

The evolution of the studio came from my goal and Jason's dream to tell an action-packed story through computer animation. Fathom continues to offer creative services for corporate clients, but in recent years has concentrated on product development for a number of initiatives, including our feature film, Delgo.

dFX: Fathom Studios seems to be somewhat unique in some of its philosophies. For example, each member has a unique title. Your PR person is Lady of Noble Influence and Narrative Persuasion and you are Sublime Patron of Dreams. What is the purpose of this uniqueness and how did it come about?

Marc Adler: Our culture is fun (with artists, it couldn't be otherwise) and our organizational structure is extremely team-oriented. Every person in the company wears several hats and contributes to our projects in many diverse ways, so it doesn't make sense to attribute titles that encompass only part of what they do. The natural extension of this philosophy was to create titles that encapsulate most of what each person does. In doing this, we felt the titles should be amusing and somewhat irreverent to reflect the personality of our company. It is the responsibility of each employee to conceive their own title based on certain criteria, and that it must be in Victorian parlance - just to make it challenging.

Music Room from Delgo: A Hero's Journey

What specific projects are Fathom Studios currently working on?

Marc Adler: We have benefited from a nearly a decade of creating broadcast spots, industrial video and consumer products and while Fathom perpetually has a number of irons in the fire, we are currently dedicating a considerable amount of internal and external resources to create the first independently produced feature film, Delgo: A Hero's Journey. It's a fantasy epic adventure of a world's struggle for unity. This project has been in development since 1998.

dFX: What is your daily involvement with Fathom Studios and what has been your biggest challenge been in helping to launch such a massive project (Delgo: A Hero's Journey)?

Marc Adler: As the Sublime Patron of Dreams, I am chiefly responsible for guiding the overall direction of the company. For the Delgo project in particular, I work with Jason to ensure the film remains consistent with our vision. I also provide oversight with regard to casting, finances, merchandising concepts, distribution, marketing, etc. It's a lot of work, but I'm confident it will yield rewards in the future.

Coming from a high-tech background, the greatest challenge I've faced thus far has been learning the differences between the business of filmmaking and the business of technology and how to best apply my knowledge to suit our needs. Along the way, I have been fortunate to benefit from the counsel and encouragement of industry insiders.

dFX: You said, "Coming from a high-tech background, the greatest challenge I've faced thus far has been learning the differences between the business of filmmaking and the business of technology". What are some of those differences?

Marc Adler: When thinking of the differences between the business of technology and the business of film what immediately comes to mind are the contractual legalities and SAG mandates. Certainly these details required a good deal of education on my part. And, of course, in some ways the two industries are similar.

For instance, in technology we endeavor to solve problems and fulfill a need. With filmmaking, we create a problem on the screen or in the script and then resolve it. However, there are as many differences as there are similarities. In the business of technology, the product is more important than the people attached to it, whereas in the film industry, star power is key. The theory is that while a good movie does better than a bad movie, a good movie with a big star will do best. I could go on and on with parallels and distinctions between the businesses of technology and filmmaking, but I think that above all else it boils down to the core of each industry.

In technology, companies exist in a liberated climate with no fears and no rules. The only reason we learn the rules is to know how to break them - to go against the grain and alter tradition in search of new pastures. Technologists are, and will always be, pioneers learning from the past to help us create our future. Conversely, the business of filmmaking exists in a universe of formulas and risk-averse, proven methods. This is the reason behind remakes and sequels. If there is a well-worn path, it will be followed until there is a new one. While filmmakers themselves share that pioneering spirit, very few studios chose to create their own path and follow it with conviction. It is our hope that Delgo and projects like it spark an independent flame in filmmakers around the globe that will burn so brightly that studios will no longer seek to extinguish it, but rather feed it.

dFX: Let's talk about Delgo for a minute. How do you plan on getting this movie from script to screen when several other companies (i.e. Foundation Imaging with Vortex and Rainbow Studios with Blue Planet) are hitting brick walls in their quests?

Marc Adler: Our project is fully-financed and has the benefit of a veteran animation team and highly acclaimed marquee actors as voice talent. However, I sincerely believe that it's not the production value that drives the project but rather the story. We have spent years refining the script to capture what we believe is the essence of an inspiring myth with global appeal.

In addition, we've developed a strong following via our Web site,, and the Digital Dailies enable our fans to follow the making of Delgo as it happens. With the benefit of a solid story, original imagery, talented actors and animators and support from an ever-growing audience through the Internet and other channels, we hope to achieve all of our goals for the Delgo project.

Palace Hallway from Delgo: A Hero's Journey

dFX: What is the general synopsis for Delgo: A Hero's Journey?

Marc Adler: The war-torn land of Imhoff is divided by hatred and fear. Two races live, segregated, in an uneasy peace until the defiant Princess Zandra forms an illegal friendship with Delgo, a reckless youth who dreams of adventure and excitement. However, as their friendship begins to grow, danger looms near. Zandra's vengeful and exiled sister, Surrella, kidnaps the princess in an attempt to ignite a war between the races, using their hatred for each other to help her claim the throne and rule over Imhoff. Framed for the kidnapping, it is up to Delgo and some uinlikely friends to escape a Nohri prison, rescue the princess, reveal a traitor, prevent a war and unite the people of the land.

dFX: What, in your opinion, sets Delgo apart from other animated movies?

Marc Adler: There are several attributes that set Delgo apart from other CGI films, most notable of these is the visual style created to compliment the epic story. Delgo is not a comedy like most CG faetures we've seen to-date. We aim to have a compelling, socially responsible, yet entertaining story with universal themes that impart moral virtues in a way that touch audiences both young and old. In addition, the fantasy-art look of the film also lends itself to something unlike anything audiences have seen before; a very human story told in a non-human world. Thus far, every CG feature film has been set on Earth. Our story is set in an original world and therefore we have immense freedom in taking our audience to the depths of imagination.

Spig and Spog

dFX: How long has Delgo been in production and how many people are working on it? Also, when is the estimated release date?

Marc Adler: Delgo was conceived in 1996 and initiated pre-production in 1998. We expect to complete production by the end of 2002. The release date is contingent upon the distributor, but I would expect to see it in theatres sometime in 2003. There are currently under 50 full-time employees dedicated to Delgo: A Hero's Journey as well as a plethora of outside contractors and consultants.

dFX: Fathom Studios has some unique marketing methods for Delgo like the release of Digital Dailies online for people to view. How exactly do the Digital Dailies work within your production and why did you decide to make such important internal information available to the public in near real time?

Marc Adler: I have always been an advocate for education and for creating a sense of community among creative professionals. By granting public access to our film as a work-in-process we are helping to educate students, burgeoning animators, and film enthusiasts about the procedures involved in the making of a computer animated movie. By "opening up the candy store" we are, in our own way, assisting other filmmakers whose goals may be similar to ours. Education is paramount to unlocking one's creative potential. I know that I would have loved to have had someone else show me the challenges along the way before I'd faced them. It would have made my life easier. I know that the next guy will benefit from Fathom's experience.

The original intent of the Digital Dailies on was for the production team, who work within a flex-hours system, to be able to offer commentary to other staff members who do not work the same hours. Our system takes advantage of technology to easily and effectively collaborate between our animation teams and strengthen our work. All employees who opt to participate in the public Digital Dailies use their titles as pseudonyms to obscure their names. Many site visitors have developed favorite artists and animators, but they will not know the animators' true identities until their names are revealed in the credits of the final film.


dFX: Looking beyond Delgo, what else does Fathom Studios have planned?

Marc Adler: I don't want to give away our long-term plans for Fathom, but we hope to build a franchise around the Delgo concept and engage with a major studio to produce a slate of other feature films.

dFX: While many Digital Media FX readers are already well planted in the animation and FX industry, many others are still aspiring animators and artists. What specific tips or advice do you have for them on breaking into the industry?

Marc Adler: Making an animated film is simply about learning the art of patience and persistence.

The most important advice I could offer is that story is king. Develop your story as fully as you can, then be open-minded to editors' and readers' feedback. If your story doesn't appeal to your audience, doesn't fully engage them, you will be lost. Be prepared to go through many, many drafts. Remember, the closer you are to a project, the harder it can be to see its flaws. Seek advice from industry readers and writers as much as you can.

Apart from that, simply go for it!

Surrella's Castle

Interview (c)copyright 2001 Joe Tracy / Digital Media FX.
All Delgo: A Hero's Journey movie images (c) Fathom Studios.

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