DIY Days New York
March 5, 2011
Notes by Brian Geldin
DIY Days returned to New York where I attended another full day of discussions and workshops at the New School organized by WorkBook Project founder and Do-it-Yourself filmmaker and guru Lance Weiler. Below are my raw notes I typed on my laptop that I hope can be useful to those filmmakers (or gamers or other creatives) interested in expanding their stories beyond the main form of the story itself, whether it be a film, a documentary, a comic book, a video game, and so on. It seems the possibilities are limitless, as was evidenced by the vast array of speakers and how they’ve put transmedia to use for them. Everyone from a journalist who uses data mapping to show the effects of lawn watering to an artist who brings people together all around the world to sketch underground performers. And Ted Hope even made an appearance
10:10am – 5th Floor Wollman Hall
1. Find a narrative - Need characters, a universe, a plot, an audience
2. Find the right media – Ex) Star Wars – all the ancillary materials all had to tell the same story. Immaculate reality.
3. Find the grammar – Every new medium has taken 20-30 years for people to know what to do with them. Film, then TV (ie. I Love Lucy, one of first forms of storytelling native to TV). The Internet mimics all media (interactive & participatory, often game-like)
4. Find the author – Ex) Lost – Almost explained nothing/ambiguous. Illusion of interactivity. Creates an environment/encourages people to come together. The lesson is: tell the story, but leave room for the audience (like Dickens – serial fiction). How do you marry social networking and storytelling?
10:45am – 5th Floor Wollman Hall
Talk: Lance Weiler – “A Storytelling Pandemic”
Pandemic – part of larger project including feature film/scifi (“Hope is Missing” – deals with memory, materialism and objects). Youths realize adults exhibit strange nocturnal behaviors. [Presented at Sundance – story unfolded over 5 days.]
Story Research & Development:
- Design Development
- Integration & Testing
Rules of Engagement:
- 5% Producers (Deep Content)
- 20% Players (Gaming Content)
- 75% Passives (Media)
- Physical Objects (golden objects hidden throughout Park City, bottled water)
- Data Viz
Everything led to a secret show – End of the World with Kid Koala
6 Tips for Building a Storyworld:
- Take time to evaluate the story you want to tell
- As yourself the hard questions – why will anyone care? Is this the best way to tell the story
- Don’t hold tight to your characters. When constructing storyworld the themes that drive the story are often stronger.
- Consider how you can show not tell
- Make it easy for your audience to become collaborators.
- Don’t let the world get in the way of the story
11:15am – 5th Floor Wollman Hall
Talk: Nicholas Diakopoulos – What’s the Story with Data?
Ways you can engage your audience with data (complexities & nuances).
Example – story he wrote for Sacramento Bee about morning lawn watering ban. Found a model for irrigation research. Plugged data into model to predict amount of evaporation would be wasted everyday. Found a mismatch. Makes more sense to ban evening watering. Without data, story wouldn’t have happened. Built visualization of data (lawn watering calculator).
- Collected data (visualized it. An instrument for the story the author wants to tell. Story emerges from the data.)
- Story idea
- Interactive Vis.
- Text story
One end of Spectrum:
- Author directed
- Communicate conclusions
Other end of spectrum:
- User directed
- Explore hypothesis
- Acting out and emoting, ie. Voiceovers. The Economist produces a number of these.
- Process – What came first, the data or the story? Epistemological tensions
- Dominant Framing – Date with stories or stories with data
- Tactics – Data collection, sensemaking, modeling, statistics, perception
11:45am – 5th Floor Wollman Hall
Talk: Molly Crabapple – “DIY Empire: How a little art school took over the world”
(Web: drsketchy.com, mollycrabapple.com)
What’s a real empire?
- Traditional empires – ex) McDonald’s
- DIY Empires – collective of people around the world
Dr. Sketchy’s = cabaret + art school
(went from 5 dive bars to 120 posts throughout the world).
How it was formed:
- Recognized something was wrong. Found nude drawing/modeling objectifying. Fused burlesque scene with visual arts scene.
- Build your first fortress of Awesome.
- Say No to Boxes
- Befoul the Intrawebs woth pretty pictures
- Your customers are co-creators/
- Began to spread
- Make your rules
- Know what’s behind them
- Make it easy for people to rip you off
- DIY empires grow by chain reaction
- Go cross-cultural
- To Hell with credentials
- Use your press
- Feed your community with epic deeds
12:15pm – 5th Floor Wollman Hall
Talk: Brian Newman – Reclaiming DIY
World = Shit Storm
Documentary world is the only place paying attention (ie. Inside Job)
DIY Was…grassroots. Became associated with angry, punk rock, self-distribution, not selling out. Self-funded, political statement. When divorced, divorced from its core being.
DIY and Transmedia
- Reclaim story – not just commerce.
- Actively engaged
Social Issue Docs Success (social issues don’t just have to be docs. Have an impact in different ways. Don’t have to be overt, can be fun.)
- Support structure
- Developed funding mechanism
We need artists, storytellers, other stories.
Get involved with Net Neutrality
(Laure Parsons added idea of Broadband being controlled by a monopoly. Talking about at SXSW.)
Regroup, Fight, Give us a better story
1:30pm – 5th Floor Wollman Hall
(Twitter: @killerfilmsnyc, @tedhope)
What they’re working on now, where industry is now and where it’s going:
Ted: Christine said it’s challenging to do new media contracts with AFTRA. How does she make 70 films in 20 years?
Christine: Mildred Pierce – a lightning rod for many things. Dealt with prejudices for TV (that they could do a miniseries). Same thing happening now with internet.
Ted: An online community is precisely that, an online community. Judged Academy award shorts (made as calling cards), didn’t compare to the Vimeo shorts (the idea of going online).
Ted: How do you go about thinking what the correct platform is to tell the story?
Christine: How does the way we consume media now influence the stories we tell? Organic. For “MP,” Todd Haynes wanted something long-form and women’s story.
Ted: When started, wanted to make stories for underserved audiences was a motivating force for them both. Now we can drill that down so much better.
Christine: Feels cyclical. Filmmakers now have same feeling now that we had 20 years ago…just do it. Killer Films stays alive to be as flexible as possible and branching out to series TV, webisodes, music videos, branded entertainment. Constantly on the look out for these things.
Ted: Continue to work across different platforms. What prevents established people to collaborate with new people?
Christine: Seen fear of change stymie people in career, ie. film to video.
Ted: Constant – Always in an era of change.
Christine: When first started, it was like crowdsourcing without the Internet. Easy to direct to audience, ie. LGBT.
Q: What will it take for mainstream industry to accept pioneering Transmedia?
Ted: To do it first is bragging rights, but won’t necessarily deliver success. Great work done already. Had conversations with major corporate studios about transmedia who understand it, but problem with how company’s structured, the marketing budget is across different platforms.
Q: How Poison got made?
Christine: Had some grants, and different equity structure. Had to shoot on film, so needed to raise more money then, than filmmakers need now.
Q: How to balance budget with stories to tell?
Christine: Dealt with since the beginning. Bottom line: take to market all the time hope to sell for X, but sell for Y. How can we tell it better for less, can we tell it better for less? Listen to marketplace and what the value of your project is.
Ted: Business begins with yes, art begins with no. Our responsibility to lead culture to where it’s got to be.
Q: New film “Super” coming soon.
Ted: Opportunity to work with director and actor who believed in social media engagement. The film industry welcomed Twitter.
Q: Is transmedia marketing?
Christine: To stay successful as a producer is to stay open to and ahead of trends. For many years, were stuck in foreign sales way of filmmaking. Getting harder to make movies that way. Couldn’t make Boys Don’t Cry now.
Ted: How much should an artist engage in marketing and sales? Came from age of punk rock. Interesting to have both sides work. Dichotomy of art & commerce. The nature of investing will change. Responsibility as a producer to have investment pay off, but also that the investment is part of creative collaboration, not just money. Challenge is how to manage that.
2:15pm – Room 404
Talk: Michael Margolis – Telling Your Own Story
Your profile (bio) is the window and invitation into relationship. How you see the world. Help people locate themselves in the story.
We fear 2 extremes:
Obnoxious self-importance & Boring (?)
What are the forces that shaped you?
Your story becomes their story. You no longer need to sell yourself.
What’s the riddle you’re trying to solve? What are you willing to fight for?
How you see yourself = how you see the world…
How to write a bio like a story:
- Natural authority – character/legend
- Gifts/expertise – define your work
- Past experience – give glimpse
- External validators – social proof
- Humanize – share personal stuff
Character trumps credentials
Capture the character of your personality.
Break through stereotypes.
Offering entry points for connection.
Identity is destiny. Are you telling the right story for the future you want to create?
2:40pm – Room 404
Talk: Andrea Phillips – “The Ethics of Transmedia”
Definitions of Transmedia:
- Method for telling a story via multiple communication channels used simultaneously.
Ethics – will it get me sued or arrested?
Condemned by NASA. – Marketing campaign for film 2012. They decided it was too realistic. Full-page coverage in the Telegraph (not what you want). Could have done differently.
TINAG (This is not a game) = pretend it’s real. Sucks.
Separating fantasy from reality. The internet not adapted to sort fiction from reality really well. Ex) Landover Baptist Church (not legit, just parody like The Onion).
Snopes.com – site that filters what’s true and what’s not.
Hoaxes don’t pay – can be argued. Ex) The Blair Witch Project. Lonely Girl. Remix fiction.
Lesson- Don’t reach out to people and pretend you’re the real thing. Make it known that it’s fiction in some sense.
Don’t send anonymous boxes in the mail.
If your transmedia project stars sock puppets or real puppets, probably don’t have an ethical dilemma.
Ex) Zona Incerta in Brazilian ARG.
Ex) Toyota – punking friends
Ex) Dell – Hostage-taking
Ex) missing girl poster
Ex) For Hylie – Girl dying and fundraiser
Make a Wish Foundation has a fraud section
Risk of Harm (What’s the worst that could happen?)
- The Fiction Tag
- Transmedia labeling (might take some of the discovery out of the process.)
- Is it so realistic that people will be fooled?
- What if people only see one piece?
- Potential harm caused?
3:20pm – Room 404
Workshop: Nick Braccia, Aina Abiodun, Caitlin Burns (Transmedia New York Meetup) – Hands On Experience Design
How to do for fun and profit?
- Keep it natural and fun.
- Be organic to the property you’re working with.
- Printed media
- Live experience
- Social media
- Mobile apps
Round 1: The Fiction Round
Mobile app for Cheers.
Round 2: Non-fiction round
Print media and Platypus
Round 3: The Product Round
Live experience for the koosh ball
Q: Managing all the moving parts of a transmedia project (overwhelming)?
- Team: Manager, head writer, etc.
- Document what you’re working on. Be clear what the story is, what’s in story world, what isn’t.
- Try little things step by step and keep focused on core audience.
- Follow the fun, what feels right
- Make cheap mistakes, not expensive ones
4:10pm – Room 404
Zeke’s project: Billboard – 5 phases (want to be seamless):
- Virtual radio station
- Billboard sitting contest – profiles voted on to be in movie
- Shooting the feature
- Release of film (June 2012)
- Fiscal Sponsorship – Fractured Atlas partnered with IndieGoGo
- Brands (needs more time to get involved)
- Private equity
Zeke learned from growing up in an amusement park. Rides with other things around them for profits.
Giving things away for free. Problem putting Zeke’s film on YouTube because of nudity. Put that version on a paid site.
Building networks and relationships with people is key. Barter.
Good Examples of Transmedia for Docs:
For docs, it’s more of an investigative tool than an engagement tool. It’s a call to action.
Born into Brothels – Filmmakers gave camera to kids who sold pictures to pay for school.