From the moment of the opening credits in the 2002 cult classic “The Gamers”, you can tell that it is something special. We are introduced to our heroes through the stats on their character sheet, a unique take that tells us more than which hero is the mighty warrior or cunning rogue. It tells us that the movie we are about to watch was made by people who love the source material and the unique culture behind gaming as much as we do. It is through this love and understanding of all things geek that Dead Gentlemen Productions (and later, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment) inspired one of the most dedicated fanbases out there, and it is the respect and dedication returned to their fans that has created a unique community behind and beyond their films, comics, and other media.
From DG’s earliest foray into film with the first of the Demon Hunters series (including an upcoming entry, Demon Hunters: Slice of Life), to ZOE’s newest endeavor, Strowlers (a pilot and a pair of short films with international scope that will share a cinematic universe), fan engagement has made it possible for DG and ZOE to deliver truly rare and thoroughly enjoyable entertainment experiences.
ZOE’s business model is unique in that their films are entirely fan-backed. By successfully leveraging Patreon and Kickstarter they have managed to get the needed funding for a wide range of projects, while staying true to their creative vision, and to their fans. In addition to posting regular updates, and actively engaging in discourse with their fanbase on social media, their Kickstarter fundraising efforts offer their own level of fan engagement. Often their backers are offered a chance to hang out onset, contribute directly to the lore, or even make an appearance in their favorite show! Moreover, each of their creative properties is licensed under Creative Commons, encouraging their fans to further enrich their already incredibly diverse universes.
ZOE’s fan engagement doesn’t end with its films. The production company has twice hosted conventions for their fans. During these events, there is a lot of what you would expect from a con: panels featuring Q&A’s with the creative minds and stars behind their many productions, sneak peeks at their upcoming projects, a place set up for a wide array of games, and a vendor area with plenty of great loot to take home (sometimes even props straight from ZOE History). However, where these conventions truly stand out are the opportunities to interact with your favorite stars and with other ZOE buffs. Envision sitting down to breakfast with the stars of JourneyQuest or around a game table with the cast of The Gamers. Imagine bonding with fellow ZOE fans and creating lasting friendships over a mutual love of a rich cinematic universe, or sitting down with the actors and chatting about anything and everything. These things can and have happened at ZOEcon.
There are many positive things that can be said about Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. It’s remarkably fresh approach to filmmaking is a welcome reprieve from a deluge of reboots. Their ability to lampoon genre tropes, while still showing reverence for the source material and maintaining a coherent and engaging plot, stands out in an industry where parody and so-called shock comedy have become interchangeable. But even the most talented bards need an audience who loves hearing their stories as much as they love telling them. While it could be argued much of the entertainment industry has forgotten this relationship, ZOE not only recognizes, but embraces it. Their respect and dedication to their audience has done more than bring forward new worlds, that truly speaks to geeks from all walks of life, they have enabled the growth of a welcoming and open community built on mutual respect and love for those worlds. There are many ways they stand out from the crowd, but the truly remarkable thing about Zombie Orpheus Entertainment is their relationship with their fans.