In the sci-fi world of “Dust,” Trackers once kept the balance between humans and nature. They watched for shifts in the environment and as the world changed, helped humans move with it. But something happened: humans changed. As technology became more advanced, they slowly moved away from the natural world, and began viewing nature as something to control and conquer. They locked themselves in cities behind high walls and many abandoned the harsh countryside.

Trackers became fewer and fewer, and those who remain are seen as outcasts. According to the film’s Kickstarter page, “City-dwellers have come to view them as a necessary evil.” But when a plague, somehow related to a strange dust, begins decimating the countryside around the world’s oldest city, it locks its gates and a Tracker named Irezúmi sets out on a quest to find the source of the dust.

Sounds cool, right? “Dust” is being filmed in Japan by an independent film studio, Ember Lab, and we had the pleasure of speaking with Ember Lab COO Josh Grier about the upcoming film.

Well, just for starters, “Dust” has some really unique concepts behind it—from the setting to the plot—I’m curious what the inspiration was?

The oldest city in dustThere were several things that influenced and inspired the world of “Dust.” The amazing beauty of the Japanese landscape was certainly a major factor. My love of games and fantasy also influenced the world and the images that I chose to represent it. But, I think the most important influence was the striking contrast between the traditional Japanese way of life and the large urban areas like Osaka and Tokyo. The traditions of Japan are very close to nature. As in many ancient cultures there is a reverence, a spiritual respect for the land. Urban areas have a very different kind of human energy and mindset. This phenomenon is happening all over the world as cultures are industrialized and I wanted to capture that.

More specifically on the storyline, the idea of a world where culture has nearly died out and Trackers still carry what’s left of it. This leaves room for some pretty deep themes. What kind of story do you hope to create with “Dust?”

Firefly jars in dustAt its core “Dust” is about co-existence; there are conflicts between people and their environment, but there are also conflicts between the culture of people who live in the countryside and those who live in the city.

“Dust” is a short film structured as a small piece of a much larger world. The larger world we created depicts a universal struggle: the loss of a traditional way of life as people migrate to cities in search of modern comforts and livelihood.

Japanese countryside in DustThe story’s central character, Irezúmi is a Tracker (traditional naturalist) living in the abandoned outskirts of Kabe, a large industrialized city. Irezúmi’s past haunts him. He has abandoned his old life in the countryside to forget a personal tragedy he feels responsible for. It is very unusual to find Trackers, especially one of Irezúmi’s skill, living in the city.

A traditional Japanese home in DustA stranger, one of the city’s Medicine Merchants, hires Irezúmi to search for source of a dust, seemingly the cause of a mysterious plague. Irezúmi’s quest ultimately forces him to revisit the past he is so desperately trying to forget. Medicine Merchants are interesting characters. Unlike Trackers, they come from the city and do not have strong ties to tradition. But, they trade in traditional herbs and cures for profit. These merchants straddle the two worlds embracing the medicinal value of traditional rural life while living and working exclusively in the city. The Merchant in “Dust” has never been outside the city walls.

In “Dust,” we focus on Irezúmi’s journey to find the source of the plague. In this short piece we hope to both establish the history our main character and reveal the larger themes in the world.

In terms of artistic style, the series has an air that seems like a blend of post-apocalyptic, ethic, and futuristic themes. What kind of atmosphere are you hoping to create with this?

ruins in DustOne theme that we have not talked about much is the importance of maintaining balance in a world that is rapidly changing. Our main character, Irezúmi, embodies this theme. Another is the significance of embracing natural, organic change instead of trying to control or stifle it. The creatures and characters developed by Eoin, our Art Director, embody these themes. They represent the beauty of natural evolution and development. Even the dangerous creatures in the world of “Dust” have an element that reflects the natural balance of the environment.

Dust character sketch of merchantAlthough we have never really placed the world of “Dust” in the past or the future, I think the lessons of a world struggling through conflicts that arise from rapid change can apply to the present in a symbolic sort of way. Many of the answers lie in a better understanding of who we are and how we relate to the world around us. The journey of our two main characters is one that fosters self-awareness and understanding.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

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About The Author

Joshua Philipp is the founder and editor of He's also an award-winning journalist at Epoch Times.

One Response

  1. Matthew Gardiner

    This looks really awesome.

    Kickstarter is once again showing us how the fans can decide what’s to come, rather than people who do “focus groups” for 5 minutes, and call it a day.


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