Phig Billy at Day Two of the Screenwriters’ Festival
The most fascinating session of the day was the panel discussion on Online and Multi-Platform Narratives, featuring Nic Ransome of resuscitated Hammer Films, Neil Mossey (writer on web series KateModern), Linda Paalane (who talked about developing the online content for Spooks), Enrico Tessarin and the very foxy Melanie Martinez (producer and writer respectively on Sofia’s Diary).
They explained how their respective projects have experimented with using new media and mobile technology to enrich story-telling, but more crucially to involve the fans more deeply and even offer them the chance to participate in the narratives as they unfold.
KateModern, for example, situates itself on social networking site Bebo: in addition to the show itself having a blog, each individual character has his/her own blog, and the narrative is driven by these characters posting entries and uploading videos. Furthermore, fans are encouraged to send messages and comments on the characters’ pages, to which the characters will respond, and interact with them as if they were real.
The “show” (for want of a better word) seems to have been really innovative in pursuing crazy ideas to involve the fans as much as possible: live web-chats are staged and at one point a mobile phone number was even given out for one of the characters. “Live events” are staged where the fans are informed via Bebo that the actors will be at a certain place at a certain time. Fans can then turn up at the appropriate location, meet the characters, watch the action being filmed, even film the action themselves on their phones and upload the video later.
Hammer’s Beyond the Rave project also sounded genuinely innovative. Filmed as a movie, but also designed to be split up into much smaller episodes released on Myspace, and pioneering Myspace’s new HD technology. An online computer game (in fact an ARG – Alternate Reality Game) was constructed to accompany the film, wherein the necessary clues for the games completion were hidden in the episodes. The idea was to create a story which exists and works on different levels: the film makes sense on its own but if fans want to take it deeper then they can.
But in a world of almost limitless potential, multi-platform storytelling has its fair share of problems. In terms of using the social networking sites as a platform for these stories, the demographic seems largely restricted to teenagers, but the main problem comes when monetising the material. Especially when all the footage is available online, DVD sales suffer… And maintaining all these dialogues with fans takes up a lot of time and energy, and there isn’t a large amount of money available for funding independent web-based projects. As a possible source of funding, The Sofia’s Diary team talked about product placement, both in the video and the blog entries.
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