Feel free to contribute

My name is Michael Beets and I have been invited to submit a proposal for the Sundance New Frontier Story Lab (it is invite only, and not open for submissions).

I am a theatre and film director who for the last year has been experimenting with the idea of a theatre production with transmedia qualities. The deadline is June 3, 2013. Below I will be tracking my progress, as a way to document the process

Click here for the updated project 

Feel free to comment on any impressions, ideas, or even criticisms you might have. 

Location: Farms (outskirts of Shanghai)

We have found our location! We will be shooting on the outskirts of Shanghai where industry has almost but not completely taken over the landscapes.

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I am sure in a couple of years all of this will be gone, making way for more some sort of factory or highway. Just down the road from this is a massive coca cola plant, and a coal fuled electricity

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Its amazing how a location can inspire ideas and jumpstart the storyworld. I could really picture our main character walking along the railway tracks, or eat dinner in his kitchen. There is something very raw about this place. It feels completely organic.

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For hudreds of years these farms were owned by Shanghainese but now they are mostly rented out to migrant workers who are either working on the farms or in the factories nearby.

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We are aiming to film samples for our pitch next week. Which is extremely exciting.

Chicken or Egg? – Writing a Transmedia project

I am a terrible writer. Every year I say ‘This year I am going to write something complete, I am going to finish a script’. Yeh, I never do. I’m always trying to convince myself that I can write. I‘ve listen to podcasts, I’ve read books, I’ve sacrificed a mantis (ancient Egyptian ritual). I suck at dialog…my characters are bumbing idiots, repeating themselves at every turn.

Man #1: I’m quitting.

Man #2: You’re quitting?

Man #1: I’m quitting.

and so on… (crap!, even that dialog was rubbish)

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Its actually refreshing to just say ‘screw it’. Since then I have brought on a writer, and what a relief it is to think about the story from a whole new perspective. I’ve passed on all the information I could about the story world, and I am super excited to see her perspective. I told her about how we plan on using a transmedia approach; how all these different forms are going to tell one story; and that every media is as important as the theatre show. She loves the idea, she’s on board,we’re moving forward, but how do we write this thing?  How do we write for all these formats and platforms? We sat staring at each other, searching for answers.

One question she kept asking me was How long do you imagine the project to be?

This is a difficult question to answer. Usually there are some kinds of guidelines or set formats that one can follow. Feature films, novels, even webisodes have certain time structures or page counts that stories can adhere to and which audiences are used to. A writer can base their project around a model, whereas transmedia type projects don’t really seem to have any model to consider or fall back on (Which is pretty awesome actually).  If  we are using different types of media in each episode than how long should we keep them?  Should we write specifically for each medium? The obvious answer to me would be- Make it however long it takes, to say what is important to the story… but it seems a bit more complex than that. Should I firstly create the story in a more traditional three act structure, and then adapt the content to what I believe would be the most effective medium for that part of the story. Or should I settle on my medium and then write based around that.

OH THE CONFUSION!

For now, we are going to concentrate on the story first, create the story in a more traditional sense and then once we have our turning points, our messages, our ending, and whatever else feels impossible to leave out- then we will think about the ways in which we can express them to our audience.

Once that is done, then we will think about the interactivity… but I have an interactive designer to help me with that… Thank God.

Man #1: Perhaps this isn’t the best way to approach a transmedia project

Man #2: This isn’t the best way to approach a transmedia project?

Man #1: Uh yes, Oh I don’t know. At least we have something we can fall back on – the story.

Go dialog!

Some links about writing for transmedia

http://silverstringmedia.com/2011/10/10/transmedia-writing-is-more-than-writing/

http://digitalbookworld.com/2010/transmedia-gatekeeping-the-story-not-the-page/

 

Engaging a theatre audience with an App?

During the last couple of days of my Chinese May holidays I’ve completely revised my project based on the questions I raised from the post ‘Is this just a trick?”.

@MikeVogel in a comment said it perfectly “I tend to enjoy sitting back in a theater and experiencing the story without interaction” – and he is perfectly right, so do I.  

With that in mind, how do I make the use of an app within a theatre show seamless and without distraction.

OK, this is what I came up with.

Why not make the application the heart or common thread of the story that ties everything together. Treat the theatre show as simply the last chapter in a series of chapters that are all expressed through the application.  So that by the time the theatre show comes around, using the app would feel familiar and integral to the performance and the project as a whole.

The below cheesy flowchart  are just samples of what could be used in the app.

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Check out the ‘Project as it is’ for an update on a more detailed description of how the app will be integrated.

Is this just a trick? Questioning my Transmedia Pitch

Yesterday I sat down for a brainstorming session with an interactive designer who is partnering with me on this project. I explained the current brief, showed him some of the inspirations I found online, and justified my reasoning. (see current brief here) He looked at me cautiously and asked a question that I think will stick with me throughout the next month of pitch development.

He asked me “You have to ask yourself, is this a trick? I mean sure this looks cool, but does it have any emotion, does it move you?”– I looked at my brief and replied “Yes most of this is just a trick”.

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At the heart of everything is the story, and I am very aware of the importance of this, and I’m always thinking of the story. However,  I feel like I’m bogged down by all the possibilities – The possibilities of technology- the possibility of reaching a global audience- the possibility of allowing an audience to interact.  The list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong all of this is freaking cool, but I suppose what I’m saying is: I ‘ve been asking myself the wrong questions! You’d think I would of asked the right questions with all the research I have done with storyforward/storylab podcasts, Andrea Phillips book, and the many sites that are discussing these ideas. I suppose there is something in discovering it through development and practise.

For now on in, everything I do, the following questions will be asked:

1) Will this move an audience? 

2) Do all these different parts feel like part of the whole? Is it seamless? 

3) What technology will portray what I am trying to say at this moment in the most impactful way?

With that said, I’ve got to do some work. I need to rethink this idea.

One thing I am going to consider in detail is this idea of global vs local. 

Why am I trying to please a worldwide audience? Make it work locally first.

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Feel free to comment. 

How much interaction?

How much interaction do I give the audience of both the online story and theatre show?

Current Interaction Idea: 

1. The online film is interactive in that it requires scrolling/swiping and clicking. The audience will also be given choices that the character will need to make.

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Inspirations: Clerkenwall Close  and Chris Milks ‘Rome’

2. At a certain point in the online story, the audience will reach a specific location where they can’t continue the story. This location will be an exact representation of what the set of the live theatre show looks like. To continue the story, the audience will be able to return at a specific time and watch a streaming live theatre performance. Once the theatre show is complete they will be able to continue the online world and finish the story.

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*Inspiration for the set of the theatre show*

3. Theatre goers 

Participants will also be able to attend the theatre show and watch it live. Of course, this has geographic constraints but those able to attend will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of a theatre performance. After the theatre show, they could then log into the app/website and begin or continue the online story.

Interaction Possibilities. 

1. The choices made previously in the application or website could inform the choices made by the actor on stage during the live theatre show.

2. When an audience member logs in online, there could be some sort of mapping device or visual representation of them in the theatre.  This could be a nice way of connecting the audiences together.

3. The online audience members could determine the path of the theatre show through various choices they are given online.

Check out the ‘Project as it is’ for an updated brief.

‘How much interaction should go into a game’ – interesting read.

http://indiegames.com/2012/10/ask_indiegames_can_too_much_in.html

Feel free to comment…

Will theatre audiences enjoy a ‘second screen’ experience?

This is a big question that I would like to put out there- the project kind of depends on the idea 😉

In my previous theatre show I added a projector to the back wall of the set. The videos projected were scenes that occured within the story world and made sense to the original content.

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For ex. Pierre excuses himself to go to the toilet. The audience sees him exit stage and then walk into the bathroom (video) as he contemplates his ‘next move’. Katya lies on the couch waiting for him.

Everybody in the audience really enjoyed this part of the show, and it was integrated in a way that it made sense to the story.

With that in mind, why not allow our audience to have a device with them that pushes the story along, or sends them content that adds to the storyline.

Should theatre stay true to its form or will audiences get into a ‘second screen’ experience?

Check out the ‘Project as it is’ to get an understanding of how it might work.