So… the novella is finished! (fanfare please). I had three draft copies printed using QOOP to check the look and feel and to have something physical to give away to potential partners.
The writer, Simon Wood, is now finishing up the webisode scripts and then I’ll go out to shoot them during August.
The webisodes will all be voiced by an actor playing the role of private detective Lauren Ortega (30s, American woman of Mexican parents). Any actor interested in auditioning for the role – which is voice-over only at this time – should be resident in the San Francisco Bay Area and should upload an audition piece to the LowLifes Facebook page. It’ll be a non-union paid gig and probably 1 to 2 days work at a mutually convenient time during late August-September.
The big step forward for the project is that we’re now working in partnership with the charity Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco (www.cohsf.org). As part of the collaboration there will now be a formal transmedia activism component added to the core three-platform entertainment.
For an excellent primer and “how to” on transmedia activism, please visit this site. What I’m presenting here is not quite as it’s prescribed by the site’s authors (Lina Srivastava and Vicki Callahan) but I have borrowed a good deal of inspiration from them.
The project now looks like this:
I’ll also be advising CoHSF on a much needed social media and website make-over to better capture support and donations.
There has been some talk of an ARG but it depends if my Transmedia Storyteller platform is up and running in time because without it there’ll be too much work for the resources we have.
Bridging Fiction and Fact
A fictional website will be created for a story character called Joseph “Holy Joe” Rawlings who pays homeless people to report to him UFO sightings. Working with non-actors who have been helped by CoHSF, we shall create several fake “promotional videos” and video testimonies for the Holy Joe site. The people in the videos will improvise their experiences of working for Holy Joe around a loose story outline and combine it with their real-world experiences of fighting homelessness. Links on the site will ask viewers to find out more about the people in the videos. This will take them to a special landing page at the CoHSF site where the same non-actors will explain what’s going on and why your money is needed for the charity.
We have some quite detailed ideas for what will be in these videos on both sites but I’m being a little vague at this time until we get a little further into the project ;)
And in summary…
Here’s the presentation I gave to the charity explaining Lowlifes and how transmedia activism can work for them. I’m totally indebted to the kindness and foresight of the charity directors for allowing us this chance to work together and fight homelessness in San Francisco.
If there are other homeless charities in the USA or indeed around the world feel free to get in touch with me because I have several ideas for how we might roll out the concept to help others beyond SF.
I managed to catch a glimpse of Mongoliad in operation last night at Dorkbot in SF.
I have to say it was more impressive than I'd hoped and I think it's going to be very big. Not only the storyworld but also the publishing platform that underlies it (which goes by the name PULP).
Rather than me waffle on, check out this presentation from the evening and then head over to Facebook group :)
PART 2 of 2
The first part of this article is at Culture Hacker - it's here.
How do I motivate audiences to cross platforms?
Having decided your objectives, how do you motivate audiences to jump platform?
Digital content can have a nice layout and a URL to prompt action but what about a live street theatre performance – how do you get audiences to cross platform from the street to, say, go online? Possible solutions with this example might be:
· flyers with your URL on it (potentially lacks social/real time web)
· flyers with QR code and Twitter #tag
· merch/pins (badges)/bookmarks and other give-away with QR code or #tag
· performers wearing a t-shirt with a QR code or #tag
· the performers verbally encourage the audience to go online (e.g. shout at them!)
These suggestions answer the mechanics of “how” and assumes that the live audience has mobile phones (so make sure the online landing page is small-screen friendly). But they don’t address “why?”
Motivating the online involvement in this example ought to stress the urgency or immediacy of the situation – don’t let the crowd disperse and hope they’ll connect later: integrate the online component into the performance. Now you’re incentivizing cross-platform activity with the promise of online participation in the live show.
If this isn’t possible or appropriate, you need to consider other incentives ranging from blatant bribery with gifts or prizes to simply the promise of satisfying the audience’s curiosity about what happens next or explaining what on earth the performance is all about.
Figure 3 illustrates a way to think about what you might need to do to motivate audiences to cross or combine platforms. The diagram shows the audience being acted on by two opposing forces: the incentive to migrate (positive force) and the disincentive to migrate represented by “friction” (negative force). By friction I mean anything that makes crossing platforms a pain: increased cost, additional keystrokes, diverted attention, low bandwidth and so on.
Figure 4 and Figure 5 illustrate the consequences when the opposing forces are of different magnitudes.
Figure 3 Incentive Vs Friction: Motivating the Audience to Cross Platforms
Figure 4 When Incentive > Friction Audience Crosses Platform
Figure 5 When Incentive < Friction Audience Doesn't Cross Platform
Unless you have unlimited resources it’s likely you’ll have to prioritize how platforms are released and to do that it will be helpful to define your objectives. Set your objectives with reference to your business model and resources.
Table 5 and Table 6 provide examples of roll-out strategies dependent on different business models. Note that the steps can and may need to be combined or they may overlap. There’s no hard and fast rule – the purpose of the approach is get you thinking logically and covering the bases.
Table 5 Example Platform Release Strategy 1
Table 6 Example Platform Release Strategy 2
Until now very little has been said about the story. It hasn’t been ignored – it’s been there as a touchstone throughout these five stages – but now is time to see what we might need to do given our platform preferences.
Think of the story has having two components:
· “the story” - the whole world that’s created with all the characters stretching out in chronological order
· “the experience” – how the storyworld is revealed to the audience (timing and platforms).
Note that the story might be much larger than the project you’re working on now.
Our objective throughout this process is to have the story and the experience of the story integrated with the business model. Although you started with the story in mind, platform selection has rightly focused on the experience. Now is the time to sanity check the experience and see if there’s any missing story, story that now needs adapting or story + experience that can be improved.
For example, now you have a roll-out strategy for your platforms (the experience), iterate back through the story and looking for these types of opportunities (in no particular order and please add more of your own):
· Cliff hangers
· Inciting incidents
I've just posted a 5-stage development process for transmedia projects over at Culture Hacker.
This will be part of the presentation I hope to be giving this weekend at the Sacramento Film Festival.
A volcanic ash cloud has kept me prisoner in the UK for the past 2 weeks when I'd only popped home for a stag weekend!
Undeterred, if all goes well I should be making my presentation remotely on the Spoilrr Ustream channel... which I've embedded below :) If you click the widget you should be able to chat live and follow on Twitter.Online video chat by Ustream
This post is about the transmedia project LowLifes I'm developing with Simon Wood.
Where we are now is we have 5 chapters written for the novella and an outline of 5 videos. That means we’re less than 20% through but progress should gather pace now and hopefully complete the first draft in the next two weeks.
In part 1 I revealed the business model and the following “design constraints”:
Some transmedia stories might place each media at a particular time in the story’s history – for example, the comic book tells the prequel, the movie presents today’s events and the toys tell the future story (what happened after the movie ended). This seems to be the most typical approach.
We’ve chosen not to do this. All the perspectives are told concurrently across the same time period. Each media starts the story on the same day #1 and ends on the same day #x.
Each perspective (and hence media) has its own protagonist: detective Larry Hayes is the hero of the novella but he’s a supporting character in the web series. It’s Lauren Ortega who’s the protagonist in the web series. This is important if each media is to be self-supporting and have its own arc without relying on the other media.
So far, although the characters share the same world (the location, other characters) they don’t actually share the same moment in time and place. What I mean by this is, if Hayes is at the crime scene then Ortega isn’t. She may talk to a SOCO (scene of crime officer) at a later time but she doesn’t witness Hayes at the crime scene. To do this would create repetition and in a 1 to 3 minute video episode it’s something I’ve been keen to avoid.
Another consideration we hope to complete successfully is that the story time in the novella chapters doesn’t directly match the web series. Hence there isn’t a one-to-one relationship between media and there’s no concept of a “story bridge” as there is in Level 26 where the reader has to watch video clips before reading the next chapter.
I mentioned in Part 1 that we hoped not to have explicit calls-to-action from one media to another and we’re trying to get the plot to do that work. That is, the whole project is presented to readers/views as a three-media experience so the savvy reader will think that if an event begs a question, chances are that the answer lies in another media. It seems like it could work.
In one scene Hayes visits his drug dealer and we discover that an unnamed woman has already paid the dealer a visit and killed his dog. I wonder who the woman might be? Could it be Ortega or the ex-wife? The answer lies in the other media. It sounds a little prosaic here on the blog but when the event occurs in the novella it’s one of those OMG! moments that make you want to read on… or in this case switch media.
The community site for LowLifes is now up and running and there’s a sample opening chapter should you care to read it. Please feel free to sign-up and ask questions or add comments. I don’t expect the site to get much traction yet while we have very little content but I felt it was important to provide a home for the readership as early as possible.
I’ve actually copied a similar structure to the one I developed for an adventure game I’m doing the transmedia for – you can check that out too to compare, if you fancy. The transmedia is still in development and the game site is quite new but we have several hundred Kickstarter patrons to migrate over soon so hopefully that’ll gain momentum much more quickly!
I've just finished reading Michael Connelly's novel The Poet. It was recommended to me by a friend - I hadn't read any of Connelly's work before - and I really liked it.
I bought The Poet on my Kindle and half read it and half listened to it using the text-to-speech function. At the end of the day when my eyes are tired the text-to-speech is a nice compromise. It's not perfect but it's good enough when I'm into a book and I don't want to put down!
I liked The Poet so much that I thought I was sure to end up reading all of Connelly's books. I browsed his bibliography and bought another... only to discover after the book had downloaded that the text-to-speech function has been denied by the publisher! What? I've bought the book - I paid for it - why can't I let the Kindle read it to me?
I'm just so very angry about this. Why am I being prevented from enjoying Connelly's work the way I want to enjoy it? The only possible reason I can think of is that the publisher thinks text-to-speech cannibalizes revenue from audio books.
But does it really? They're not actually delivering the same value are they? I buy a lot of audio books and a lot of regular books but most are on my Kindle and since I've had the Kindle I've been buying more of both. [side note: In fact I've listened to audio books and then bought the printed version as gifts or bought the digital text version as a reference source (easier than searching through the spoken word).]
If the publisher thinks there's cannibalization, could it be the ludicrously expensive pricing on audio books? $26 is a typical price and that's outrageous compared to, say, the pricing of DVDs. Is the publisher trying to tell me that it has a higher cost on audio book production than a feature film?
No, it's value-based pricing. But come on, audio books are priced at around 3-4 times the paperback. I think that's blatant fleecing the customer. It's an arrogant disregard for readers/listeners to be honest.
For the purpose of this post I checked the torrents. Sure enough, 20 Michael Connelly novels available in one handy download - for free.
So here I am, willing to pay for content but being treated with disrespect, contempt and mistrust.
Well I like text-to-speech because it suits my lifestyle and I'm not buying any more from Connelly until this permission is enabled. Publisher, you're a shortsighted dinosaur and I look forward to reading more from authors who want a direct, respectful relationship with their audience.
There seems to have been a lot of Twitter and email activity recently about how to actually go about developing a transmedia project so I thought I’d share my approach to a project I’m producing right now.
This is a work in progress so this is only part 1!
Background & Objectives
I have a suspicion that many readers and viewers – I’ll collectively call them the audience – aren’t as demanding... or as knowledgeable... or as willing... to consume stories as much as the technology will allow. Hence, with so many platforms and so many things that can be done I wanted to scale everything back to do something very simple.
I want to reach as wide an audience as possible.
Step 1 - Keep it Simple.
I started with a high concept: One story, three perspectives – each point of view told across a different media. That’s hopefully easy to understand, right? Hmm.. time will tell :)
Step 2 – What’s the Business Model?
I wanted to employ the CwF+RtB model so that I could give away all the digital content for free but still get paid.
I'm also assuming the audience is fickle. Make it easy for them to consume and buy with minimal effort in a way that they decide. When I have their fleeting attention, maximize the benefit to both of us.
Step 3 – Story Synopsis
A decorated San Francisco homicide detective, Larry Hayes, wakes up in a gutter in the Tenderloin after coming round from a drug-induced coma. His radio beeps – there’s been a murder two blocks away. How long has he been out? Could he have done it?
His story is told in text in a novella.
Hayes’ wife is fighting for custody of their 12 year old daughter and has hired a private detective to dig the dirty on Hayes to use against him in court.
The wife’s story is told on her blog.
The private detective’s story is told across a series of videos (webisodes).
At this point lots of ideas start jumping off – a MySpace page for the daughter, webcam clips for the wife’s blog, a web page for the private detective, a Google map with murder victims on it etc. BUT I want to keep it simple and cheap. Each media adds another layer of time and energy. I can always come back and develop these later or – better still – they’re sandpits for the audience to play in.
Step 4a - Mesh the Story with the Business Model
To meet my requirement that the audience be able to consume the story as easy and as convenient as possible, I wanted each media to be stand alone without requiring the audience to jump from media to media. I wanted someone to be able to buy the book to read on a journey and not worry that they didn’t have an Internet connection to watch the videos, for example.
It’s not a requirement for the audience to consume all media – only that they enjoy whichever one they have right now. Now, given all the attention we’re giving to the fact that there are three media and that they represent three perspectives on the same story, if someone enjoys the novella I think it’s likely they’ll watch the webisodes and vice verse.
So, there are no particular calls-to-action within each media except the plot points and the twists and turns of a great story which I think will motivate people to get a different perspective on events – who’s telling the truth?
The story is being written by the award-winning crime thriller writer Simon Wood and I’ve left him alone now to continue writing while I’ve turned my attention to the money.
Step 4b - Getting Paid
All the media will be free to read and watch online. It will be released episodically – possibly two episodes a week (Tues and Thurs) maybe weekly... But from the first episode we’ll be selling the whole story so you don’t have to wait.
I believe that reading a book (or Kindle) or watching a DVD on the TV is still very popular and often more convenient than doing the same online. I’m hoping that audiences are going to pay for that.
The picture above shows the “media browser” I’ve developed to make it easy to consume the
media, easy to connect with us the creators and for the audience to connect
with each other.
It should also work well with the iPad ;)
The default configuration is for the shop to be displayed in the right panel. The shop has a range of purchase options from $5 to $50,000 – each intended to pique the interest of different members of our audience. If you check the video I explain more.
pretty much where we are right now. We have our own financing to deliver the
project but I’ve started to reach out (although very early days) to anyone that
might be interested in sponsoring the project . I know the subject matter isn’t very family
orientated but it’ll be no worse than CSI or The Wire. To that end, I created a
very short video to help pitch to possible sponsors. If you’re reading this and
you’re interested in sponsoring, please get in touch ;) – DM me on Twitter.
With all the fuss about the iPad I thought I'd look up the electronic document format it's supporting. Looks like the iPad supports the ePub format.
I found this presentation on SlideShare that explains the format but if you're in a hurry, go straight to these downloads :)
Aspose.Words is a plugging for Microsoft Word to allow save to ePub format
Calibre is a ePub converter/reader but only takes input from .txt files.