In 1882 John H. Stevens, a chemist at the Celluloid Manufacturing Company, discovered that amyl acetate was a suitable solvent for diluting celluloid. This allowed the material to be made into a clear, flexible film, which other researchers such as Henry Reichenbach of the Eastman Company (later Eastman Kodak Company) further processed into film for still photography and later for motion pictures. Despite its flammability and tendency to discolour and crack with age, celluloid was virtually unchallenged as the medium for motion pictures until the 1930s, when it began to be replaced by cellulose-acetate safety film.
(In case you were wondering what the hell celluloid even is.)
Celluloid Lovers is a romance visual novel about the dawn of a new artistic medium. It takes place in a fictional universe similar to, but not exactly like, 1910s and 1920s Earth, in a country resembling America, (mostly) in a city resembling Hollywood. (The protagonist is from a region resembling the American Midwest.)
Why an alternate universe and not the real thing? The real-life Roaring Twenties weren’t as roaring as we sometimes like to think it was. Institutional sexism, racism, and homophobia were rampant. If I were writing a story actually set in early-1900s Hollywood, I would be obligated to address those issues—which conflicts with what I really want to write and what I want to accomplish. That’s not to say that I think those issues aren’t worth discussing, or that romance can’t tackle “tough” topics, but I think there’s also value in stories where they don’t need to be issues at all. Basically, I want the aesthetic and the technology level of the era, but not the baggage that normally comes with it.
The protagonist of Celluloid Lovers, Colette, is a 20-year-old woman who works in her father’s general store. One day, she reads an article in the local newspaper about a new movie theatre opening in a neighboring county—which triggers in her a love of film that eventually leads her to leave her home behind and take her chances at establishing herself in the burgeoning movie industry. The player can choose whether Colette does so on-screen (as an actress) or behind the scenes (as either a writer or a film editor).
Most likely, the choice of career will affect which romantic options Colette can pursue, as she’ll have different opportunities to see and meet people, though none of the love interests will totally disappear in the other routes.
As a bisexual woman, Colette’s love interests include three men and three women. Her bisexuality will be addressed in the text and not just inferred from the fact that her potential suitors are multiple genders. The love interests include actors, actresses, and even studio owners! (Some of them take influences from real-life figures of the 1910s/20s.) I’ll post more about the love interests and some of the other characters in the future. I’ll also post short stories and vignettes set in the Celluloid Lovers universe that won’t appear in the game.
I’m really excited about this project, and I can’t wait to share it with people!