At this year’s Peachtree Village International Film Festival (PVIFF), I was afforded the opportunity to meet and talk with Mr. Lonnie Jackson, founder and frontman of Upyri. Upyri is a sci-fi series that blends 3D animation, live action, and 2D illustrations as a means of storytelling. Inspired by the presence and pervasiveness of vampires across cultures, as well as metaphysics, the beginning installments of the Upyri Universe follows the storylines of three characters as they navigate varying paths to redemption.
The title is a play on the Slavic term for vampire, Pyr, a being that transcends our stereotypical understandings of these mythical monsters. “People look at Hollywood vampires, with fangs and stuff, but there are a lot of different types of vampires. There are people that suck your energy. One of the definitions of vampire is ‘one that preys upon another. So you have businesses, companies, individuals, that prey upon other people, that takes life away from you,” Jackson explains. The series goes beyond simply expanding/complicating our notions of vampires, but challenges us to apply this concept to our everyday lives as we seek redemption.
Jackson states that “Redemption is the overall goal in life. The definition [is] to be saved, set apart, whatever you want to be saved from, set apart from…redemption, to me, is being happy and peaceful…to create a balance.” While redemption is necessary the paths are varied. Through the characters of Delilah, Margaret, and Sgt. John Adoyo, we learn that “there are seven lessons, seven pathways people can use to make them a whole or full person – confession, sacrifice, understanding, love, discipline, diligence, and obedience.” Delilah must decide if she is going to let go of her desire for revenge or let it consume her. Margaret is at a crossroads as she confronts the possibility of compromising her ethics and her career in order to learn more about father. Sgt. John Adoyo is confused on his special abilities questioning if he’s a “monster” or “savior.” Upyri is not about just telling exciting stories, but is also invested in inspiring other and providing them with opportunities to exercise discern and continue the journey to their best selves.
Upyri’s innovation lies in its mixed media format, its metaphysical inspired content, and its diverse team. When asked about some of the most rewarding aspects of creating Upyri, without hesitation Jackson quips on the commitment and diversity of the team, which is consisted mostly of women, “the executive producer, writer, editor, all women of color. Very proud of that.” The creation also spans continents with team members in Africa, the US, and Europe. For Jackson, the it was live-giving to see everyone come together, to “build bridges and walk across each other’s networks.” It is all about growth. Even the challenges of creating Upyri worked to strengthen the project. As with any new projects, the lack of resources can be an obstacle. In this case, it turned out to be a happy accident. Originally the series was slated to be fully live action, but due to issues with capital, manpower, and time, the project morphed into a multimedia experience. Working out of necessity creators combined motion comics, 3D animation and live actors that would ultimately set it apart.
Spread across short films, comic books, and immersive experiences, Upyri is a complete world ready for fans to explore. Please visit upyri.tv to learn more and to get started reading the comics. You can also follow Upyri on Instagram @Upyri_llc. If you are in the Atlanta area, check out their partnership with The Escape Room and immerse yourself in the Upyri Universe as you interact with characters in-person and through virtual reality.