Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2009 by Devindra Hardawar
Guillermo del Toro is a busy man. Not only is he facing what must be insane amounts of pressure to make The Hobbit duo of films live up to Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, he’s also stepping up to adapt Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five, starting a series of vampire novels (The Strain, co-written with author Chuck Hogan), and, oh yes—at some point, he wants to help spearhead the convergence of multiple entertainment mediums into an interactive, hybrid storytelling model.
Wired recently spoke to del Toro, and while he was mum on all things Hobbit-related, the Q&A reveals the mind of a man who seems to thrive on pressure and juggling multiple projects at once—all the while remaining conscious of the fact that the entertainment industry is going to look mighty different in 10 years.
Del Toro reveals that The Strain initially started out as an outline for a Fox TV series, which he later gave up on when the execs asked for something more comedic. He paired with Chuck Hogan because he felt that he didn’t have the necessary skills to write an accurate forensic novel. The series is a modern day vampire tale set in New York, and it seems he’s aiming for it to be somewhat realistic ( of course, this is relative for del Toro).
He didn’t have much to say on Slaughterhouse-Five, but del Toro admitted that Vonnegut’s sense of whimsy attracted him to the project: “He threads the profane and irreverent with the profound and soul-searing.”
Most interesting to me were his thoughts on the future of storytelling:
In the next 10 years, we’re going to see all the forms of entertainment—film, television, video, games, and print—melding into a single-platform “story engine.” The Model T of this new platform is the PS3. The moment you connect creative output with a public story engine, a narrative can continue over a period of months or years. It’s going to rewrite the rules of fiction.
This is the sort of notion that will give the vocal proponents of the “video games can’t be art!” movement debate fuel for some time, because he’s essentially saying that interactivity in storytelling is inevitable. Roger Ebert, who I would consider the most prominent member of this movement, is famous for saying that interactivity is precisely what keeps games out of the realm of art. Ebert writes:
There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.
I’ve ranted against this line of thinking before on the /Filmcast, and I was glad to see that del Toro is similarly open-minded:
[Legendary B-movie producer] Samuel Arkoff once told me there are only 10 great stories. That’s where the engine and promiscuity come in. Hollywood thinks art is like Latin in the Middle Ages—only a few should know it, only a few should speak it. I don’t think so.
While I’m not entirely sure if del Toro’s model for the future of storytelling is the most likely, it’s definitely something worth chewing on. Instead of spending energy trying to ghettoize games as something that can never be art, I think we’re better off seeing what we can learn from games to tell better stories.
Discuss: Will you be reading del Toro’s vampire novels? Do you agree with his model for the future of storytelling? If not, why?