Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

THE NEXT DAY Interview Series: Part 1, with Alex Jansen (Producer/Publisher)

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The Next Day Team

Tonight at 7:00, The Next Day graphic novella launches along with a free ongoing exhibition of original artwork and preview of the forthcoming interactive experience at the NFB Mediatheque in Toronto (the free exhibition will be open to public through the entire month). This interview with Producer and Publisher Alex Jansen kicks off a series of four weekly Open Book interviews with the creative team behind the book, including indie-comics pioneer and The Next Day illustrator John Porcellino. Time Magazine has proclaimed that "Porcellino creates some of the most thoughtful, intelligent and beautiful comix in America."

THE NEXT DAY is both a groundbreaking print graphic novella and interactive animated documentary online, each constructed from intimate interviews with survivors of near-fatal suicide attempts. In this poetic and profound philosophical exploration, four seemingly ordinary people each offer haunting personal insight into life, the decision to end it and what comes after...

The graphic novella is produced and published by Pop Sandbox, the award-winning company behind KENK: A Graphic Portrait. It is available in May. The interactive experience is a co-production with the National Film Board of Canada in association with TVO as part of the NFB-TVO Calling Card Program. It will launch online at nfb.ca/thenextday and tvo.org/thenextday nearer early June. For more information visit www.thenextday.ca

Open Book: Toronto:

The Next Day is both a graphic novella and interactive experience. How do these two elements differ — is one an adaptation of the other?

Alex Jansen:

The two projects were developed simultaneously, with both end pieces envisioned from the very start of production. Neither is an adaptation of the other; they're perhaps more like two trees that grew from the same soil. Both are built from the same underlying documentary interviews with the same ultra minimalist visual aesthetic and quiet approach to the material, but the storytelling and presentation is specific to the language of each medium.

While there were specialized production teams for each medium, Jason Gilmore both co-wrote the book and directed the interactive experience, and he ensured they work in tandem — though each piece fully stands alone, each complements and enriches the other.

We were also very fortunate and excited to have John Porcellino on board quite early on, and we developed the project as a whole around his signature style. The graphic novella presents a collection of key moments in each of these people's lives, while the interactive experience allows audiences the opportunity to create their own path through the original audio interviews combined with stunning animations based on John Porcellino’s illustration.

OBT:

At first glance, The Next Day couldn't possibly be more different than your previous release KENK. What defines a Pop Sandbox project?

AJ:

Visually they're certainly quite different, and there's probably more text in one panel of KENK then on an entire page of The Next Day! Whereas KENK was a fairly dense piece of journalism, The Next Day is much more of an emotionally driven landscape (while still entirely non-fiction). Even its structure is fairly experimental and thematic. Someone described their experience to me as more like reading sheet music, and that the four participants stories combined into a fifth narrative that was infused with their own personal experiences.

Both books are rooted in documentary footage, but I think what hopefully defines Pop Sandbox is our multi-disciplinary approach to original storytelling and our interest in experimenting with the comic book medium specifically around style, structure and content. We hope to foster a creative environment around original collaborations between talented people from a variety of backgrounds (often outside the traditional comics arena).

KENK was conceived by a Producer, shot by a filmmaker, written by a journalist and illustrated by a fine artist. In the case of The Next Day, it was co-written by a social worker-turned-playwright, directed by a filmmaker, illustrated by a top cartoonist and developed simultaneously for the web with a technical lead, animator and full programming team.... Next up we're looking at adapting an original Russell Smith short story into a re-imagined photo-novella!

OBT:

Please tell us how The Next Day project came about.

AJ:

Former-social-worker, Paul Peterson, first told me about his idea to develop a documentary around people who had attempted suicide and survived nearly 10 years ago — a subject very close to him. It is an idea that really stuck, and I revisited this as a possible graphic novel and interactive piece shortly after starting Pop Sandbox nearly three years ago. I wasn't personally interested in tackling the subject in a traditional documentary form, and wanted to ensure the project was more a philosophical examination that steered entirely clear of after-school-special territory.

We submitted a successful proposal for the interactive piece to the NFB TVO Calling Card's inaugural digital programming fall 2009, and we began shooting the documentary with Jason Gilmore on board as Director shortly after KENK released last May.




This series of interviews will continue next week with The Next Day's Co-Writer Paul Peterson


Alex Jansen is owner and operator of Pop Sandbox, a multimedia production and publishing company with a central focus on graphic novels and film.

Pop Sandbox' inaugural release was the ground-breaking 300-page journalistic comic book, KENK, which had its highly publicized premiere during Hot Docs and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May 2010. It was the first graphic novel ever excerpted nationally by the Globe & Mail and the first graphic novel to be featured on the cover of Now Magazine, Canada's biggest weekly newspaper. KENK was recently named a Best Book of 2010 by Quill & Quire, Canada's top literary magazine, and was a special presentation at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam. It is currently being developed into a fully animated film.

Prior to launching Pop Sandbox, Jansen spent four years managing home entertainment with Mongrel Media, Canada's premiere independent and foreign film distribution company. In addition to his extensive distribution background, Jansen was Co-Producer of the feature film Walk Backwards, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001. Jansen is also Founder of the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, which he started while a Film student at Queen's University.

For more information about The Next Day please visit the Pop Sandbox website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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