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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Saturday
Jun222013

TVOT

 

 I'm now on stage three times in two days at next week's TV of Tomorrow Show

Tuesday

"Watch What Happens Live" and the Next Generation of Embassy Row
Join Michael Davies, President of prominent production company, Embassy Row, and Deirdre Connolly, Executive Producer/Showrunner of Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live," as they answer any and all questions about the only live, late-night interactive talk show on television. Additionally, Davies will talk about the future of Embassy Row, including upcoming projects, the importance of the second screen, and how ad integrations are the key to keeping audiences tuned-in and engaged. The session will be moderated by Nick DeMartino, Principal, Nick DeMartino Consulting. 

Wednesday

Accelerating the TV of Tomorrow

Business accelerators are offering start-ups a new way of refining their business and gaining access to networks of investors, customers and collaborators. The breakout success of broad-based technology accelerators, YCombinator and TechStars, has inspired scores of variations on their inspired model of a bootcamp that provides mentorship, learning, building, pitching and launching. Now, a new crop of accelerators is focusing on developing technologies and services for television and other areas of the media business.

This session--hosted by industry consultant, Nick DeMartino, who in his previous role as SVP of Media and Technology at the American Film Institute and founder of the AFI Digital Content Lab, himself played a significant role in accelerating and incubating today's burgeoning advanced-TV industry--will feature a roster of panelists who are working to transform television and other entertainment media with their own spin on the accelerator methodology. Panelists include:
Business accelerators are offering start-ups a new way of refining their business and gaining access to networks of investors, customers and collaborators. The breakout success of broad-based technology accelerators, YCombinator and TechStars, has inspired scores of variations on their inspired model of a bootcamp that provides mentorship, learning, building, pitching and launching. Now, a new crop of accelerators is focusing on developing technologies and services for television and other areas of the media business.
This session--hosted by industry consultant, Nick DeMartino, who in his previous role as SVP of Media and Technology at the American Film Institute and founder of the AFI Digital Content Lab, himself played a significant role in accelerating and incubating today's burgeoning advanced-TV industry--will feature a roster of panelists who are working to transform television and other entertainment media with their own spin on the accelerator methodology. Panelists include:

  • David Austin, Senior Director of Emerging Technology, Media Camp, Turner
  • Nick DeMartino, Principal, Nick DeMartino Consulting (Moderator)
  • Mike LaSalle, Partner, Shamrock Capital Advisors
  • Jigar Mehta, Director of Operations, Matter
  • Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer, Canadian Film Centre 

Storyworlds and the Reinvention of Programming, Advertising and Audiences 

This session--sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Interactive Media Peer Group--will bring together companies that offer platforms and services for developing and monetizing transmedia/multiplatform interactive storytelling experiences, in order to explore how the "storyworlds" they make possible will impact our conception of television programming--as well as television's advertising/monetization strategies--going forward. Topics to be addressed include: 1) The implications of the transformation of the audience from mere viewers to, as it were, "citizens" of a storyworld, for whom a program is not something that is viewed on a screen within a half-hour or hour-long timeslot, but something that is immersive and available around the clock. 2) The extent to which new, interactive storytelling platforms and services promise to increase engagement by actually allowing the audience to become co-creators of the programming experience--how do programming creators remain in control while ceding ground to the creativity of their audience? 3) The implications of the fact that storyworlds are not confined to the TV in the living room--how will mobile technologies and services such as geolocation and location-based social networks allow transmedia programming to extend beyond the home (and perhaps even beyond the screen) into the real world? 4) The ways in which marketing and advertising will have to adapt to take into account a new type of audience that is not only immersed in a storyworld but, in some cases, is helping create that storyworld, and that has that storyworld potentially available to them around the clock and everywhere they go. Panelists include:

  • Nick DeMartino, Senior Advisor, Theatrics
  • Robert Pratten, CEO, Transmedia Storyteller/Conducttr
  • Thomas Rigler, Executive Producer, "City Walk" (KCET/LinkTV)
  • John P. Roberts, SVP of Digital Media and Commercial Affairs, Endemol USA
  • Craig Singer, CEO, Hopskoch
  • Lori Schwartz, Governor, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Interactive Media Peer Group/Principal, Tech Cat, World of Schwartz

 

Wednesday
Jun052013

June 2013 Conference Talks

June is a busy month for conferences and events. Here are a few sessions I’ll be involved with. Let me know if you’ll be attending and we’ll say hi.

National Association of Latino Independent Producers - June 7-9 at Universal Sheraton Hotel, Universal City CA

WHATEVER IT TAKES: DIY TECHNOLOGY AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF CONTENT CREATION (9am Saturday June 8) In the analog world, it was difficult, expensive and time consuming to make a film. In the DIY digital world, technology and ingenuity are driving tectonic shifts in content creation. From hacking a DSLR camera to coding a new app, the customization and democratization of the filmmaking process helps to cultivate new and fresh voices and empowers storytelling. The savvy, tech-driven and ingenious producer will soon dominate the multiplatform media frontier. This session will cover how the accessibility and customization of filmmaking tools and resources can enable smart content creators to future-proof their craft, save money and make compelling media.

  • Ben DeJesus, NGL Media;
  • Edwin Pagan, LatinHorror.com;
  • Nick DeMartino, Theatrics.com;
  • Ryan Koo, NoFilmSchool.com;
  • Monika Navarro, Monika Navarro Productions;
  • Gustavo Stebner, StebnerShow.com
  • Moderator: Ben Lopez, Viento Fuego Productions

Banff World Media Festival - June 9-13, Banff, Alberta, Canada

I will be attending as Senior Advisor to the Canadian Film Centre’s IdeaBoost accelerator, part of the team helping the six companies involved with the program access the expertise attending Banff.

TV of Tomorrow Show, June 25-26 in San Francisco. 

ACCELERATING STARTUPS IN THE MEDIA BUSINESS - Business accelerators are offering startups a new way of refining their business and gaining access to networks of investors, customers and collaborators. The breakout success of broad-based technology accelerators YCombinator and TechStars have inspired scores of variations on their inspired model of a bootcamp that provides mentorship, learning, building, pitching and launching. A new crop of accelerators focus on technology in service to the media business. Find out how a roster of visionaries are working to change the world of media & technology with their own spin on the accelerator methodology.

  • Ana Serrano, founder, ideaBOOST, Toronto  
  • David Austin, founder, Turner/Warner Media Camp
  • Jigar Metha, Matter Ventures
  • Mike La Salle, partner at Shamrock Capital Advisors
  • Corey Ford, founder, Matter Ventures
  • Nick DeMartino, moderator

PLATFORMS AND SERVICES FOR TRANSMEDIA EXPERIENCES - The panel explores how the transmedia ecosystem will impact our conception of television programming and advertising/monetization going forward. Issues we expect to be addressed include: 1) The implications of the transformation of the audience from mere viewers to, as it were, citizens of a storyworld, for whom a program is not something that is viewed on a screen within a half-hour or hour-long timeslot, but something that is immersive and available around the clock. 2) The extent to which new storytelling platforms and services promise to increase engagement by actually allowing the audience to become co-creators of the programming experience--how do programming creators remain in control while ceding ground to the creativity of their audience? 3) The implications of the fact that these new story worlds are no longer confined to the TV in the living room--how will mobile technologies and services such as geolocation and location-based social networks allow transmedia programming to extend beyond the home--and perhaps even beyond the screen--into the real world? 4) The ways in which marketing and advertising will have to adapt to take into account a new type of audience that is not only immersed in a storyworld but, in some cases, is helping create that storyworld, and that has that storyworld potentially available to them around the clock and everywhere they go.

  • Nick DeMartino, Senior Advisor, Theatrics
  • Jeff Gomez, President and CEO, Starlight Runner
  • Robert Pratten, CEO, Transmedia Storyteller (Conducttr)
  • John P. Roberts, SVP of Digital Media and Commercial Affairs, Endemol USA
  • Craig Singer, CEO, Hopskoch
  • Lori Schwartz, Managing Partner, StoryTech (moderator)
Wednesday
Jun052013

The Fanthropology of Theatrics

The session was called "Unlock the Power of Fans" at Transmedia Los Angeles’ monthly meetup earlier this week, but I’ll remember it as the Fanthropology of Theatrics, because I learned so much about the way audiences are using the new collaborative storytelling platform that I was there to represent.

 

I kicked off the discussion with a presentation, embedded here, about how theatrics works, and was then followed by Jay Bushman, co-executive producer of ‘Welcome to Sanditon,’ the sequel to the phenomenally successful web series ‘Lizzie Bennet’s Diaries,’ a modern updating of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice. ‘Sanditon’ used Theatrics to invite fans to create their own characters who could engage with the story over a 14-week run.

The third panelist was Kris Longfield who describes herself as a “fanthropologist.” Such a perfect conflation of terminology! You instantly know what she does: she studies the behavior of online fan communities.

My client Theatrics has built a remarkable platform, but like any software tool, it’s only as good as those who use it – like world-class interactive visionaries Jay Bushman and Margaret Dunlap from Pemberley Digital (the fake company in their stories, which is now the real production company behind these great Austen transmutations.)

Jay reported than more than 200 videos from 130 “characters” inside the Sanditon story world were created in the first week, from which he built a very engaging compilation episode.

 

With more than 400 videos created by fans, Jay will edit another, and that practice will continue over the run of the series.

Sanditon has managed to keep about healthy slide of the Lizzie Bennet audience, but not all of them are pleased at the team’s introduction of the interactive aspects of the story, as the comments on the non-Theatrics companion sites indicate:

I don't mean this rudely, but: Is there actually a point to this? Like, is there actually a *story* in this story? Or just random user interactive things like this? :-/

And in this corner:

I'll give all you Sanditon plot haters a clue......Your Welcome. Heh, heh. Seriously this_ series is what you MAKE IT. After all we are all just a PART IN THE PLOT. Do you get it yet? Good luck. ;>

Bushman surmises that lots of fans --  notwithstanding their age (young) and their relationship to digital tools (extensive) still want a linear narrative. It’s the 90-10 rule, said Longfield, e.g., only 10% of the audience in most fan communities actually contribute. The rest lurk, read, observe, consume.

She also noted that fan communities thrive within and against the aura of a “canon” – the official version of the story, its settings, characters and rules. Huge commercial properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Harry Potter have immense fandoms, sometimes embraced, sometimes opposed by the commercial interests behind the canon. She noted that it may be harder for original properties to generate fan engagement communities in the same way as existing properties.

The Pemberley projects attract a fanbase that is overwhelmingly female and young. Bushman noted that most of the videos uploaded by young women included some form of apology – for their performance, for the quality, for their video skills. Male uploaders did not apologize. Clearly the social context for young women has an impact on how they interact in these kinds of fan communities.

Bushman opened the door to a fascinating ethical and legal issue for the show creator whose work invites user content with the disclosure of a particularly delicate incident that in which a young woman shared – in character – something highly personal that other fans did not like. Does the show runner or other fans have a responsibility to help? To police errant behavior?    

From the audience came one decisive question: “Just who are these people?” – meaning, is there a profile for the type of audience member who migrates into the world of co-creation that tools like Theatrics enables? Her research suggests, she said, some usual suspects like students who have time on their hands, bored housewives, and, counter-intuitively, a lot of lawyers. Tell that to Shakespeare!

 

Saturday
May252013

Mystery and Emotion: "The Cosmonaut" hits the big screen

“The Cosmonaut,” directed by Nicolas Alcala and produced by Carola Rodriguez and Bruno Teixidor, all part of Spain’s Riot Cinema Collective, had long since become a legend, at least in transmedia circles, well before its checkerboard theatrical release in venues around the world this week.

The project, which began as a short film in 2008, exemplefies many of the innovations in our digitally powered and audience-centric media world, including ongoing crowd-funding, online webisodes, consumer-edited mashups, on-demand theatrical distribution, hackathons, simultaneous day-and-date release, and probably a lot of other stuff I have missed in reviewing this creative and business brief you can download from Riot’s main website. (And of course, all of the characters have Twitter accounts. Let's not get into continuity issues right now.)

If there’s no in-person screening, not to worry – you can watch it for free online starting May 19th. The website is also where you can join the “K-program” for a onetime fee of 5€ that gives you 32 webisodes, a mockumentary, behind-the-scenes videos, a newsletter, a book, and 56 “Eastern eggs” (Lost, perhaps, in translation?) This stuff is intended, as one of the webisode links says, to “fill the empty spaces left out of the film.” Some clips are also available on the site for free.

None of this I really knew when the lights dimmed in the theatre and I entered the world of the story. “The Cosmonaut" focuses upon two young men who join the Soviet Union’s space training program in 1967. While preparing for missions in the heated space race with the United States, Stas and Andrei both fall for a fetching female technician named Yulia. Andrei gets promoted to the mission team and sends Stas to the moon – maybe so he can win Yulia, maybe for some other mysterious reason.

Stas, Yulia & Andrei The film is jammed with loose threads and snippets of mystery: Did Stas make it to the moon? Did he come back? Was there a disaster on Earth? The film is steeped in evocative nostalgia and melancholic yearning as it makes its way through a jagged, non-linear telling of a series of events, both personal and world-historical.  I particularly liked the set-up scene in which an Italian space enthusiast tells of his discovery of a “lost” manned space mission that the Soviets never publicly admitted had happened. 

Stylistically, many of the scenes felt like Terence Malick, offering a kind of diaphanous, non-linear sensuality and very tactile verisimilitude. These guys put all of their crowd-sourced bucks on the screen (except for a few unfortunate space-modeling sequences that looked more like Jules Verne than George Lucas). The pacing and subject matter recalls Kubrick's "2001."The filmmakers list such iconic filmmakers as Andrei Tarkovsky and Robert Bresson, among others. 

That would be a bit of a stretch, as is the film itself, which runs about 80 minutes (not counting a truly interminable credit roll that features all 8000 funders, I kid you not). This would have been a dynamite short film, had the filmmakers had the discipline to delete a lot of the repetitive sentimentalized shots of the three lovers wandering through lakeside grasses and other outtakes of Summer’s Eve commercials.

Subscribers get more stuffNonetheless, this film comes closer than most ‘transmedia projects’ at arousing genuine emotion. While I didn’t believe for a minute that this attractive threesome with tut-tut British accents were in fact Soviet space monkeys, I did want to know what happened, I wanted to know more about them, the story, and their world. Beyond this intentionally opaque film, I’ll be able to explore some of those questions, not only in the various webisodes, but other forms included different edited versions from the filmmakers themselves, and new versions of the film that the Riot Collective will enable fans to create themselves by releasing assets for all to use under Creative Commons license.  

The film also reflects something of a Cold War nostalgia wave, as well as a renewal of interest in space as a subject in movies and elsewhere in the culture. To wit: Check out the forthcoming Alfonso Cuoron feature "Gravity"; or this clip from 2011's Another Earth in which Britt Marling's character tells a Cosmonaut story; or the recently concluded period spy drama The Americans; or even this engaging video cover of Bowie's 'Space Oddity' by Astronaut Chris Hadfield shot in the International Space Station. (Plus Star Trek, and much more. We love our space operas, it seems).

I’ve often said, I’m waiting for transmedia to make me cry – my way of saying, I want the story and the characters to move into my heart. “The Cosmonaut” in its linear form came close. Let’s see if the other story elements push me over the edge. 

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Thursday
May162013

Jane Austen, Edtech, and the Promise of ‘Theatrics’

The School Library Journal published Part 2 of an interview with me today in conjunction with the launch this week of "Welcome to Sanditon" on my client Theatrics.com's collaborative storytelling platform. Here is the text. 

MAY 16, 2013 BY 

Following is a continuation of my talk with Nick DeMartino, Head of Business Development for Theatrics.com. This week’s first episode bow of Welcome to Sanditon, based on the unfinished novel by Jane Austen and featuring a robust fan participation platform provided byTheatrics, prompted our chat–which soon turned to school-based applications of the technology.

What’s a specific curricular example of what could be done with Theatrics…?

A literature teacher could assign a team to create a transmedia adaptation of a story–like theLizzie Bennet team did–and involve the entire class, grade, or even across distances with other students using Theatrics’ cloud-based platform. The “Calls to Action” and the responses from the participants can vary wildly–why not assign alternative endings? What would happen if Tom Robinson had been acquitted in To Kill a Mockingbird? How would Holden Caulfield have changed if he moved to a new school in Ohio instead of New York City? You get the idea.

Teachers in other subject areas can use the platform to create innovative learning experiences as well by developing their own assignments using documentary-style video production as well as fictional characters, which opens up subjects as varied as history and social studies, health education, ethnic studies–even math and science. 

screenshot sanditon Jane Austen, Edtech, and the Promise of TheatricsTo play devil’s advocate for a moment, should librarians and teachers be cautious in terms of their expectations for student engagement? That is, if they look to the success of Theatrics in relation to Sanditon, should they bear in mind that the audience that’s creating new characters and videos are alreadyfans of the central text? In contrast, in a class of secondary students I doubt that most of them would self-identify as “fans” of the literary text being used or the historical event being covered…

Yes, setting learning goals and outcomes is essential–it’s what great educators do that enables them to assess student achievement–and this is why Theatrics is eager to partner with innovators who know how to transform a toolset into a learning platform.

The meta-outcome of this kind of constructivist learning is that students learn how to learn. If they are charged with creating a character that responds to events in a story, and then to produce a video in which the story is advanced… well, there’s a lot of learning in that experience, not to mention the interaction it may trigger with the story creators and the other participants. This becomes less about producing “great” videos, and more about empowering kids to grasp the dynamics of storytelling.

Today’s kids are digital natives who take for granted the opportunity to engage with and contribute to the content they love online, whether that is expressed simply via social networks, or more elaborately as content creators on sites like YouTube, Tumblr, video games, even Second Life. Educators are recognizing that there is real learning that occurs through these mediated social interactions and narrative interventions, and are finding creative ways to make sure that learning of this sort does not stop at the schoolhouse door.

And yet many students will be familiar with Jane Austen and comparable canon authors only because of schools…

A narrative experience like LBD is compelling in part because of the great bones of Austen’s story and characters, for sure. But equally compelling is the story form, the opportunity for consumers to engage deeply with those characters, who literally can walk off the page and into the fans’ daily lives through social media and video.

So I think the driver for many kids will be the chance to participate and engage inside a storyworld. They get to be more than just fans, they get to be co-creators. And that act of engagement can be transformational, and certainly educational. Also, it may true that by some measures the quality of most student work will not compare favorably to professional content, though I’ve seen many exceptions. Talent is talent.

 

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