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Bryan Singer discusses his new webseries, H+, and the danger of technology

Hollywood producer and director Bryan Singer is the man behind some very big Hollywood movies, including the X-Men franchise, Superman Returns, as well as the upcoming Jack the Giant Killer and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The man behind the indie favorite The Usual Suspects is exploring the online world for the first time with the Warner Premiere original series, H+, which debuted yesterday, August 8 on YouTube.

H+ promises to send viewers on a journey into an apocalyptic future where technology has begun to spiral out of control and one-third of the world has traded in smartphones and laptops for H+ Nano Teoranta, which directly connects the human mind to the Internet. Check out the trailer at the bottom, or just head over to the official page to watch Episode 1.

Singer, who also serves as the producer of the Fox hit TV series, House, talks about the transmedia potential for H+ and discusses why the Internet might be a better avenue for Hollywood video game adaptations in this exclusive interview.

Within the last year or so, Warner Premier has released a Mortal Kombat short series that did so well that they now are doing a big budget movie based off of that. When it comes to H+, do you see opportunities outside of the Internet for this to live on?

I hope so. That was part of the reason I was very keen on the quality being as high as it is, the production value, the epic nature of the story, and the quality of the cast. We really want it to be top-notch so that if it lived on, and was ultimately down the road distributed in different mediums, and lived on [as] a series or inspired other things, it would start from a place of high cinematic quality.

This series focuses a lot on the future, can you talk about a favorite gadget or piece of technology that you can’t live without?

I can’t live without a car. That would be the piece of technology I can’t live without. Probably I’d need a phone; I think everyone needs a phone. If I lived in a kibbutz somewhere or was a migrant worker maybe I could stand to not have one, but in this day and age, everybody’s incredibly connected. I think people need it for practical reasons, but also crave it for social reasons. Once the television was broadcast all over the world, it opened up the world to local people. Now local people want to connect with and reach out to that world, which is an amazing thing about technology. People are no longer really alone in who they are or what they are in life. With the Internet they can reach out and find out that they’re not that alone, that there are people like them, people they can talk to who enjoy the same things, and enjoy the same conversations. It’s really extraordinary.

What are the dangers with technology?

The danger is when people become techno-narcissistic and basically sit around a table and don’t talk to each other or connect with each other physically, and just sit on their cell phones typing. You have to imagine the H+ version of that where they’re just sitting and staring into space. It would be a very quiet, weird, society. I see people just walking around living that.

How far from reality do you see the implants in H+?

Five years ago, I never thought that I’d be a texter. I never thought that I’d have a Facebook. Who knows that things like this, these implants, when this kind of technology becomes real and everybody starts doing it, even a terrified, logical person like myself may say, “Everyone else has got one. I don’t want to be left out.”

Google is working on the personal HUDs in those glasses.

Giving that information in your face, there’s something exciting about that. I think the big inspiration for me was the Douglas Trumbull movie, Brainstorm, where you would record your thoughts onto a tape, and then someone else could play those thoughts, feelings, and sensations that you’ve had. Imagine a time when someone records an experience that isn’t just audio or visual, but it’s sensory, like riding in a rollercoaster, or a particular act of sex, or jumping out of airplane. Imagine being able to give that experience mentally, physically, and experientially to a person in a wheelchair, how incredible that would be, but also how dangerously addictive that could be.

Speaking of technology and addiction, you can’t have a conversation without at least mentioning video games. Have you kept up on what’s going on in the interactive space at all?

I’m not a super gamer, so I’m probably a little behind on what the latest and greatest is.

Did you play games at all growing up?

I’m older, so I played different games than they play today. I played arcade games and I played the games at home on the old Intellivision and Atari 2600 systems. Today I play apps on my computer and my iPhone. I play games like Angry Birds and Amazing Breaker. But I’m different with my games. When I play games I don’t want to think. I like playing simple games where you knock the football into the hole or shoot the zombies. I think so much in my job creatively — working out very complicated scripts on movies and TV shows when we’re doing projects as a company. When I play a game, I want to check out and just blow things up.

Do you think about games from the perspective of when you’re creating or working on franchises, like in H+ where you explore the potential of the universe as a video game?

I always think about that to some degree, or an app, or a way for interactivity. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to try to implement it, but I do think, “How would the piece of art or entertainment that I’m creating translate to a game.” But I’m not a heavy player, so it’s hard for me to know what the playability of that game would be. I think about it, it’s just not always at the forefront of my mind.

Your director of H+ actually just also directed the new Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn online series, which obviously is based on one of the biggest video game franchises of all time.

He’s incredibly talented. I’m sure he’ll do an amazing job on it. Perhaps that’s a better format for that. It’s challenging, turning games into movies, because movies are so different. A game is all about playing, and a movie is all about being played. One has to find the essence of the game and the essence of the character in the game, and then create a journey and a story that caters to a movie and a controlled, defined experience. He’s a very talented filmmaker, so he’ll probably do a good job with that.

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