Writer on Your Show? Show the Writing

Netflix’ great House of Cards has this character named Zoe Barnes who writes for a political news website called “Slugline.”

In the wake of the NSA’s PRISM wiretapping controversy, I went looking for slugline.com. Nothing. What an obvious missed transmedia opportunity!

Yes, some fans are having fun on Twitter but it doesn’t appear directed – yet.

It wouldn’t take much effort to maintain an online presence at Slugline.com. The payoffs could be great fun for the audience. In the show, there are interesting political intrigue bits mentioned in passing about the political context of that world, many of which serve to paint a fuller picture of the characters’ tense lives. Because the writing is so good, many threads are picked up in subsequent episodes, they converge and become plot points. But lots of these political tidbits don’t rise to that level. These could be used as set-ups for online payoffs which are focused via Slugline.com. read more

Appointment TV and Character Blogs

Evan Shapiro of Pivot wrote about the decline of the traditional nationwide scheduled television model, sometimes referred to as Appointment Television; when everyone watched the same revenue-generating commercials at the same time:

“While we will never return to the days when 67 million people watched All In The Family each and every week, I do think we will see a return to live viewing around shows of social significance — especially if we build access points to those shows for the viewers who most want them.” read more

Make This Journalism Adventure Flick?

I’m a fan of newspaper procedurals. There’s something obviously heroic about the search for truth.  I loved the way Lou Grant and The Hour would break a story every episode. I loved how the internal office dynamic was used in The Newsroom and All The President’s Men to add conflict, raise stakes, and build emotional investment. I even loved it in the somewhat maligned season 5 of The Wire where a new part of the scrivener’s drama was existential: the collapse of the industry around them. My friends who work at The Times are amazing human beings. My grandfather who worked at a paper was amazing. So I wonder: read more

Europe’s The Spiral is Great TV 2.0

With American TV borrowing so much from Scandinavia, England, and Israel for our best TV shows, how about we borrow from Europe’s best transmedia television phenomenon: The Spiral.

What a sensational experience.
American TV has a long history of adapting foreign TV shows. From classics like All in the Family, Cheers, The Office, to even American Idol and Survivor. Some of the smartest, most original shows are imports. In Treatment, The Killing, Homeland, Shameless and more. I don’t know if it’s Hollywood risk aversion / underestimation of American audiences, but innovative TV often comes to us from abroad. read more

Syfy’s Defiance and Transmedia TV Gold

My interest in transmedia storytelling exists at the intersection of my obsessions with participatory culture, new media, and entertainment. I believe storytellers can create deeper experiences for their audiences when they unfold a story and its world via multiple venues, and when they invite audiences to participate meaningfully in that world—especially when storytellers strategize the unfolding of the adventure on multiple media from the outset of the project.

High engagement yields high-payoffs. In politics, this would be like when you turn your orgs’ mission statement into a narrative that reads like a DIY movement. The Dean campaign was that kind of thing. Similarly, Sleep No More is my kind of theatre project. And on TV, Syfy‘s Defiance is what I want to see more of. There’s a lot more TV shows with cool transmedia integration every season. And the demand is growing. read more

CBS Interactive: On a Path to Solving the Piracy Problem

A stat from Jeffrey Cole, Director of the Center for the Digital Future, of the Annenberg School furthers one my favorite theories about TV’s evolution. When talking about second screen usage, he notes that: 42% of TV viewers were online at the same time that they watched TV – looking at related content (a still-growing number that tripled in just a few months).

I think it’s obvious that the 42% of TV viewers who go online to see more about the TV content they’re watching do not go online to find and watch the exact same video clips that they’re watching on their TV machines. What are they looking for? And why? read more

Transmedia, TV Time and the Brain

So what the hell is Transmedia? It is not watching a TV show on an iPad. That’s “watching TV.”

It is not telling many stories in the same universe on one TV screen. That’s “franchising,” like the Marvel Universe movies.

Ideally, transmedia is the telling of a story on multiple platforms. By this definition, the earliest example of transmedia storytelling is with the Bible: a book, plays, music, paintings, stained-glass, sculpture, and meetups (designed to trigger every one of our five senses) all helping tell the story. read more

Source Code to Pull a Stargate (Please)?

There’s two paths forward with a TV series based on  Source Code.

Tidy Procedural

One is to do a police procedural where everything that happened to Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) in the movie has no bearing on the show. Simply introduce some nearly dead federal agents who work for Project Source Code who are transported into the bodies of civilians killed in devastating events. The agents do quick police work and stop the perpetrators from committing future atrocities. It’s like Quantum Leap or, more closely, the time-traveling procedural Seven Days – which also saw government operatives traveling back in time to prevent disasters. read more

Preventing Cut and Paste TV

Clay Shirky wrote a great article that contained another example of how we must adapt or die:

Fifteen years ago, a research group called The Fraunhofer Institute announced a new digital format for compressing movie files. This wasn’t a terribly momentous invention, but it did have one interesting side effect: Fraunhofer also had to figure out how to compress the soundtrack. The result was the Motion Picture Experts Group Format 1, Audio Layer III, a format you know and love, though only by its acronym, MP3.
The recording industry concluded this new audio format would be no threat, because quality mattered most. Who would listen to an MP3 when they could buy a better-sounding CD at the record store? Then Napster launched, and quickly became the fastest-growing piece of software in history. The industry sued Napster and won.
If Napster had only been about free access, control of legal distribution of music would then have returned the record labels. That’s not what happened. Instead, Pandora happened. Last.fm happened. Spotify happened. ITunes happened. Amazon began selling songs in the hated MP3 format…
The people in the music industry weren’t stupid, of course. They had access to the same internet the rest of us did. They just couldn’t imagine—and I mean this in the most ordinarily descriptive way possible—could not imagine that the old way of doing things might fail. Yet things did fail, in large part because, after Napster, the industry’s insistence that digital distribution be as expensive and inconvenient as a trip to the record store suddenly struck millions of people as a completely terrible idea. read more

Parks & Rec Transmedia Wins

Parks & Recreation is great. And it’s also doing a lot of transmedia storytelling right.
I watch TV with a device on my lap, and when Amy Poehler’s character ran for City Council, I went looking for her campaign website because that’s literally my background: I used to do transmedia storytelling strategy in politics. I was happy to find that NBC, the production company, and/or the writers had a funny site up and running. Bravo.

The site’s full of great callbacks to jokes from previous episodes. There’s funny writing in character voices. And like any real campaign website, you can sign up for election updates, newsletters, you can take actions for the campaign, you can even buy real merch, and they invite you to follow the characters on social media. The characters have twitter accounts. read more

Product Placement in the Remake of “Crazy People”

I pulled this out of the memory hole:

Free Publicity In ‘Crazy People’ Costs Advertisers Some Pride
April 19, 1990 | By Yardena Arar, Los Angeles Daily News.

The new Paramount comedy, “Crazy People,” starring Dudley Moore as an adman fixated on truth in advertising, is filled with fake ads for real-life goods and services-none of which paid a penny for the exposure.

Of course, the exposure isn’t exactly a real-life advertiser’s dream.

“Would the Hindenburg have paid for placement in the newsreel?” AT&T spokesman Burke Stinson asked rhetorically during a conversation about the AT&T ad in the film. read more

5 Pitfalls of John Cusack’s Rush Project

As in Rush Limbaugh.

Script not done – well see what it’s looks like – could be good hollywoodreporter.com/news/john-cusa…

— John Cusack (@johncusack) November 4, 2012

I can only hope this focus on Private Parts in leaks to press is a head fake designed to keep dittoheads interested. The model of Private Parts is problematic because that was a fully authorized underdog hagiography. And if Rush doesn’t endorse the project (which I doubt he’d do unless he’s EP and/or gets huge gross points) then no dittoheads will pay Cusack to see it. Neither do I see reality-based Americans going to see it unless to gloat in the schadenfreude were it a tragedy, or to boo at his villainy. read more

What’s Outside the Box

Gen Y and the early Millennials are the last group of people who will remember broadcast ubiquity and an advertisers’ ability to rent a captive audience. They’re also the last who remember the internet as a collection of websites. They’re very key to the future budgets of Film and TV because of this history and adaptability.

First, some background: the internet’s most recent evolution was described by Wired Magazine’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson in his provocative article “The web is dead, long live the internet” as the rise of apps, offering smoothed-off portals to the mountains of data out there on the internet. Custom tools, good for no other purpose but as the app intends. read more

What Buzzfeed Has To Teach Television

I’ve been writing a lot about multidimensional (multi-screen) storytelling in film and television. The goal is to use the New Media forces that some perceive as a threat to the industry, and instead, use these things to our advantage.

First, how does one properly use New Media at all? It’s obvious that the internet is more nimble than an older industry like Television or Film. So start by looking at the shifting ways smart websites make money. Can these lessons be applied to television? Yes, some. read more

Film & TV 2.0

Around 2003, after Democrats were walloped in the midterms, and the established liberal advocacy organizations in D.C. proved unable to register any victories against President Bush, the Professional Left was desperate. So desperate that many Dems and lots of orgs actually hired a bunch of bloggers and technology geeks to try something new – anything new. I was one of those strategy kids. I always brought my background in theatre/film to the table, stressing the need for a coherent story with respect to “the battle of narratives” element of politics. However much I stressed story stuff like identify the bad guy, or choose conflict, our essential challenge was to figure out how to use the nascent internet to do good, and do it well, in D.C. read more

Hissy Fits: A List of Things Obama Is

Obama’s first term is nearly over. I’ve been bookmarking certain news as “Obama Derangement Syndrome” for four years. The paranoid delusional psychosis was funny for a while, and then the 2010 midterms happened. That’s when several rodeo clowns got into office and raised an amazing amount of money by peddling garbage. It was much more frightening than I anticipated.

Here’s a small sampling of the unhinged fever dreams of the radicals.

They have said:

Obama is Kenyan
Obama is Marxist
Obama is an enemy of humanity
Obama is Fascist
Obama is an oligarch
Obama is Socialist
Obama wants to kill grandma
Obama wants death panels
Obama wants to build his own liberal army
Obama is like Hitler
Obama is like Stalin
Obama’s mother was a whore
Obama is like Goebbels
Obama is like Mengele
Obama is like Lenin
Obama is entirely dependent on teleprompters
Obama throws like a girl
Obama has no birth certificate
Obama is part of the Black Mafia
Obama is a racist
Obama drinks the wrong beer
Obama will tax your favorite beer
Obama eats arugula and fake food
Obama wants nationalized banks
Obama wants a nationalized auto industry forever
Obama is a Communist
Obama hired Van Jones because Jones is also a Communist
Obama wants to indoctrinate school children into Socialism
Obama is a terrorist because Gaddafi called him his son
Obama is like Kim Jong Il
Obama is brainwashing school children into singing his praises
Obama should be overthrown in a coup
Obama has mean, uncivil allies
Obama wants schools to perform secret abortion field trips
Obama wants to force people to get sex-change operations
Obama wants sex clinics in schools
Obama is weak internationally and can’t drive a hard bargain
Obama is bully internationally who blows the Olympics because he’s not respected
Obama is weak internationally when he shows his hand rather than attack Iran
Obama is like a rapist
Obama supports NAMBLA
Obama is worshipped internationally because “the world” is stupid
Obama won’t bomb the Taliban so he bombs the moon
Obama is dithering about the war in Afghanistan
Obama’s HHS is a pedophile training children to be perverts
Obama needs the GOP’s permission to accept the Nobel Peace Prize
Obama is juvenile for saying FoxNews not a real news network
Obama is daring the terrorists to attack us again
Obama wants the DHS to make Tea Partiers wear torture devices on flights
Obama wants to give the USA back to Native Americans
Obama job numbers are doctored in a plot by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Obama is breaking campaign finance law when it doesn’t accept illegal donations
Obama’s good poll numbers are a conspiracy by everyone
Obama is covering up Benghazi
Obama is an emperor
Obama is acting like a King
Obama is a dictator
Obama is a tyrant
Obama wants Americans to die of Ebola
Obama is an anti-Semite
Obama wants doctors to report your guns
Obama wants to open concentration camps
Obama Concentration Camps will be all run by gay people
Obama wants to invade Texas and impose martial law
Obama wants forcibly depopulate the Earth
Obama wants to convert American woman under Sharia Law
Obama wants gays to rule the world
Obama is covering up the faked moon landings
Obama wants a single North American currency
Obama is lying about how Global warming is a false flag operation by the government
Obama and fluoride is out to control your mind
Obama controls the weather to scare us about Global Warming
Obama wants to to outlaw Christmas cookies and sprinkled doughnuts
Obama murdered Justice Antonin Scalia. read more

Stephen Colbert Wins

He won a Peabody. His winning “Super PAC” segments embody some of my favorite rules – both from writing and improv:
He says his responsibility is to the story.
Whenever possible, discover the story along with the audience.
Find the complications, break through them with logic and humor.
Own the character, even when you wink in an aside.
The truth is funnier than fiction.

If you ask me, the Legal Dept. at Comedy Central deserves this award as much as Colbert and his writers. Greenlighting that bit took guts. read more

What The World Needs Now Is…

More of this, please.

If you don’t know what this Goya riff is working from, behold: the future.

From Eater: The owner of a café in the center of Madrid, Spain has become a hero of sorts and internet phenomenon after standing up to riot police and allowing protestors to seek refuge in his establishment. The incident took place yesterday, when thousands of protestors took to the streets to demonstrate against the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The man, Alberto Casillastells Eco Diario that he saw the whole drama unfold near the Neptune fountain, when police finally charged protestors and people began to flee the scene. “I saw a boy who was being beaten up by the police — he was bleeding — and I went to help him,” said Casillas, who let protestors inside his café. “I then stood in front of the restaurant and didn’t let the riot police in.” He also fed all of the protestors that had flocked to his business.

Thoughts on the Light

At dawn and dusk, L.A. glows. There is this haze that fractures the light, scattering it in such a way that on many days the city almost has no shadows. The daylight is the most broad it can possibly be. Ever since I figured out this reverberant trick of L.A. light, the city has felt peculiar, dreamlike. I wish I was a photographer capable of catching that.

Where I live, in Santa Monica, there are mornings where a low-clinging fog bank cuts the desert light, rounding the corners of everything with a fuzziness. In moments like these, the Santa Monica mountains to the north appear as clear and dark as a church pew. And I know that at the foot of those mountains, in Malibu perhaps, someone is looking down the coast toward where I live, unable to see me, lost in the airlight. read more

What’s New in Hollywood

Rarely is very much new.

Of the 45 films Warner Brothers released in 1940, 15 of them were remakes including Bette Davis’ The Letter and Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk. Remakes, reboots and sequels have always been a big part of what is produced.

Is Hollywood producing more reboots and remakes than before? Possibly, maybe, slightly.
Are large audiences as willing to spend their money on an unknown story? Apparently not.

What might be new are the “properties” that get spun-off into movies now. Battleship, for instance.  Have you heard my pitch for Hungry Hungry Hippos: The 3D Experience? read more