Monday, November 1, 2010

Is this a movie? Or a transmedia project?

Ah, blog. It's been too long since we last talked.  It's been a mental couple of weeks, but I've survived work/play/house upheaval and now it's back to writing....

I did catch some of this year's Darklight festival. Including the launch party, featuring a band with a lead singer wearing supertight jeggings he was way too old to wear (and playing electro music he was taking far too seriously. Kraftwerk you ain't). 

Much better was the Lance Weiler workshop yesterday morning at Filmbase. Weiler's a very interesting guy, as well as looking super young. He made a little movie called The Last Broadcast back in the Nineties for 900 dollars that went on to gross 5 million dollars and was the first digital cinema release. The movie also at very least inspired The Blair Witch Project (by the sounds of things, it was completely ripped off by the Witch heads). 

Weiler retained the rights to The Last Broadcast despite studio overtures, and later produced the movie Head Trauma. He's currently working on a Lord of the Flies-type movie called Hope is Missing, which is being supported by a variety of other media (iPhone apps where viewers can interact with the world of the film, web films where fans can find clues relating to the movie etc etc). He's a big advocate of transmedia and is always aiming to increase audience participation in his work. 

Here's a quick rundown of his advice:

When writing a script, ask yourself - 
1. What is the story about?
2. What does the story mean to you/
3. Why does the story need to be told?
4. Where is the best place to tell the story (film? webisode? TV? An app?)

To go deeper - 
What is the story I want to tell?
How will I deliver the story?
What kind of audience participation do I need?
How will audience participation affect the story over time?

Weiler's a big fan of story bibles, like the ones used in films like Lord of the Rings, with images, flow documents, character bibles (in other words, all the stuff that doesn't make it into the film but informs it).  

He also mentioned stuff like serialised content, which can be on a separate timeline to the rest of the film or TV show, with different characters. Shows like Heroes and Harper's Island used these techniques in recent years, with supporting webisodes and comic books, but studios are still figuring out how to use the different kinds of media.

He estimates that 75% of viewers are currently passive, while 5% are heavily into audience participation - but reckons that this is due to change. Audiences are going to want more supporting content and more control over what they see in the future (we can see this already in fan fiction, fan sites and even in things like Sky Player). 

The big question, of course, is whether all the social media and other supporting applications will affect the finished film/TV show or enhance it? Weiler thinks it's all about creating more of a back story or extra plot than changing the direction of the main event.

TV shows have always had spin-offs. But now the spin-off might be into a different media type. 

Anyway, here are his six tips for creating a movie world:
1. Take the time to evaluate the story you want to tell.
2. Ask yourself the hard questions: why will anyone care? And is this the best way to tell the story? (should it be a web series rather than a movie?)
3. Let go of a single POV. 
4. Consider how you can show and not tell.
5. Make it easy for your audience to become collaborators.
6. Don't let the world get in the way of your story - it must serve the story!

You can see more of Lance and his work at

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