Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wirewax and Interactive Docs

This week I have contributed a guest post to the In Media Res blog about transmedia and documentary filmmaking. You can read my entire blog post over there, but I wanted to expand a bit about one item on my blog, as I was limited to under 400 words for the In Media Res post. This meant I couldn’t speak much about the technology on display - WireWax.

I wrote about the film Awra Amba: Virtual Village by director Paulina Tervo and how she is using a new technology, called WireWax as one aspect of her transmedia campaign. As I said in that post:

“The website will feature short documentaries expanding the story by focusing on other aspects of the community, chosen by the villagers themselves. By using WireWax technology, these videos will be made interactive for online audiences. In the example shown, the user can click on character’s faces for more background media, or perhaps click on a person weaving and be linked to purchase that person’s fabrics. This last act being not just a consumer purchase, but also an action that can help make the village’s production sustainable.”

You can watch the video and play around with clicking on characters, on items in the frame, etc. The site is currently in Beta, but I think you can get a good sense of what the technology allows. Paulina discovered the technology at the Power to the Pixel Cross-Media Lab, which I attended. During the week, she and her partner in the lab put together the short mock-up you see on the blog. What’s amazing is that when they premiered the clip to the group at the end of the week, we all learned that WireWax had been created by the camera crew who had been filming the panels all week. Amazingly small world! Turns out that in addition to filming panels, Dan and Steve had created WireWax. It’s a great tool to add interactivity to your video. You can try it out for free at their website, and they have a premium model for more extended use. While I’ve seen a few similar projects from other tech companies, this one seems to work great and they have some cool new features launching soon. They’ll be adding things like email integration, live discussion, Facebook integration (where you could see the Facebook profile for any face in a video, great for weddings and maybe for fiction eventually(?)) and more.

Check them out on their website and let me know what you think here or at In Media Res.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Transmedia Discussions

I just finished off a week of guest posts on the ArtsJournal blog, speaking about arts and culture policy concerns, and now I'm joining a group of writers for a week on the In Media Res blog to discuss transmedia. Boy, I'm bouncing from one exciting topic to another! Well, actually, I think both of these topics are important to filmmakers and all artists, even though they are both a bit academic. But, perhaps this week won't be too serious minded - In Media Res is a scholarly online publication, but this week's writers aren't just an academic bunch. Ok, Christy Dena was one, but she's left that world behind to launch new genius endeavors. Her post kicks off the week, and it's a great look back at Stan Vanderbeek speaking from the dusty old days of 1972 (I was a whopping one year old) about how artists can use the computer to create new types of art. Next up is Marc Ruppel (Ok, he's an academic too), then Robert Pratten, myself and Ted Hope closes out the week. While I'm sure the posts will all be interesting, they'll be much more so if you contribute to the conversation by adding comments - it does take a log-in, but it's pretty painless.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Pixel Market and Arte Pixel Prize

A post for and from my friends at Power to the Pixel:

Power to the Pixel is delighted to announce its groundbreaking Pixel Market which will take place on 13 and 14 October 2010 in London.
Applications are now open to find 20 of the world’s best cross-media projects.

Each project will be based on stories that can span any combination of film, TV, online, mobile, interactive, publishing, live events and gaming.

On 13 October up to 10 of the teams will compete for the £6,000 ARTE PIXEL PITCH PRIZE at Power to the Pixel’s public event, The Pixel Pitch at BFI Southbank. 
Producers will present their cross-media project to a handpicked roundtable of international judges made up of decision-makers, commissioning executives and financiers working in film, broadcast, publishing, online, advertising, gaming, the arts and interactive media.

On 14 October The Pixel Meetings will allow all 20 project teams to take part in one-to-one business meetings with potential investors and partners from across the tech, online, interactive, film, broadcast, arts, publishing and gaming industries. 
Entries are invited from producer-led teams with projects at an advanced stage of development. Producers should have a strong track record in film, broadcast, interactive media or other relevant creative industries. Projects must include the use of new tools, platforms, services and devices, and can span any combination of film, TV, online, mobile, interactive, publishing, live events and gaming.

The Pixel Market is part of Power to the Pixel’s Cross-Media Forum, which this year will be held 12 - 15 October 2010 in association with The BFI London Film Festival. The annual event has helped develop an agenda for digital change for creatives and businesses, gathering together some of the smartest and most pioneering media professionals and digital experts in the world.

Deadline for applications is 6 August.
Further information can be found at Power to the Pixel’s website.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Creative Rights & Artists

I'm spending this week over at the ArtsJournal Blog Network, taking part in a conversation with 20 other bloggers on artists, culture and policy.  The idea is for us to discuss the following topic for an entire week:

"Arts and culture are a cornerstone of American society. But arts and culture workers are often left out of important policy conversations concerning technology and creative rights even though the outcomes will have a profound impact on our world. Is it benign neglect? Or did we miss an essential call to action and engagement? With a new administration moving full speed ahead on technology and copyright issues, do artists even know what the priorities are? Can they recognize opportunities to make a case for what their work needs to thrive, and how it impacts society? Join us as we examine what exactly does it take to bring arts and culture to the table, and how our field can become more proactive to carve out a more powerful place for the arts in 21st century America"

There's already a fair amount of conversation on today, day one of the topic. I've posted my first thoughts here, and I hope you can join us on the blog and contribute your thoughts. Too lazy to link over? My basic argument, thus far, is that we're not interesting artists in the policy debate because it isn't positioned artfully. Perhaps if we gave artists the tools to create (and some dough), they might create a more powerful message about the importance of arts to policy and vice versa.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, now move so I can see this film!

I'm pissed. Not in the British way... but angry, because I keep missing some great events at Rooftop Films this Summer, and this Thursday I am missing their 3-Way B-Day party with IndieWire and Snag Films. I'll be down in Philadelphia (ok, I love Philly, so that part makes me happy) for a consulting gig (one I hope to be able to speak about positively in the future), so I'll miss this great event. They'll be showing the film Aardvark by Kitao Sakurai.

The film's description from the website:

AARDVARK (Kitao Sakurai | New York, NY | 90 min.)
AARDVARK is perhaps the first narrative film to star a man blind since birth. In a role inspired by his own life, Larry Lewis plays a solitary man recovering from alcoholism and working towards stability. When he joins a Jiu Jitsu academy he finds a close friend in his young hard-partying instructor, Darren. But, as disturbing aspects of Darren's life are revealed Larry soon finds himself alone and faced with the consequences of a horrific act of violence.

Sounds great, but ahem, 3 amigos, I had to scroll through all your boilerplate descriptions to find this....

Ok, enough critique - here's three great companies helping indie filmmakers, and what a great idea - as Dan Nuxoll of Rooftop put it to me in an email, it's not just a birthday party, but a great way to sneak preview a film for the industry:

"since (we'll) be getting together a group of great industry people together for the celebration, it will also be a great opportunity to highlight a new film and give it a chance to break through to our audience and also to some of the important distributors, press and other industry. The idea was that, with all of us pushing the screening and getting behind a new film that we believed in, a quality film that might possibly get overlooked (elsewhere) could get an evening to itself and get in front of a big and influential audience." (my edits)

I think this is a great way to celebrate indie films. I'm completely behind new models for building buzz, and I am sooo supportive of anything Rooftop does - can someone give them a grant to expand across the whole darn country, already?

Check out the info here, buy tickets and tweet about it all night long so I really feel rotten for missing another great event.

Oh...did I mention there's an after-party with free beer?! (Thus my angst)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thoughts on the Power to the Pixel Lab

I’ve just returned from the very first Pixel Lab, held in Cardiff, Wales for a full week. What an experience it was! I wish an organization in the U.S. was doing this as well, and more were doing it globally, as the information was timely, in-depth and very needed by the field. For seven days, 17 producers with projects in development, and another 17 without current projects, met with leading experts in the field, learned from one another and generally transformed their projects in the realms of story-telling, audience engagement, technology and business models. At the end of the week, the producers with projects pitched their now refined ideas, and we were all impressed. Each of them will stay in touch, receive some further expert mentoring and meet up again at the Pixel Pitch and Market in October at the London Film Festival. I am scheduled to attend and can’t wait.

It’s nearly impossible to summate all the things I/we learned. I think the biggest lesson was that collaboration remains key. Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner kicked us off on this note in his opening keynote - stating that we’re all in this together and can help one another realize their projects - even pledging to give help to each producer as they needed it. But the real sense of collaboration could be seen in the way each group helped one another work through the challenges and opportunities for their projects. We were divided into four groups, and I led one, with Michel Reilhac of Arte France leading another, Ben Grass of Pure Grass Films another and Ian Ginn of Hubbub Films taking the fourth group. Each of us spoke daily with the organizers, the fab Liz Rosenthal and Tishna Molla, and we collectively watched each project go through a transformative process - some more dramatically changing their projects than others, but all improving mightily.

Not everyone wants to add an ARG or a video-game platform to their project, but everyone learned something about new models. We also learned practical advice on the current state of co-productions (once again becoming important to film productions as they find different partners more or less willing to fund transmedia components); methods to best implement story worlds; new fundraising and business models; a keen look at how brands are utilizing transmedia; how the gaming industry is responding; the reaction (or not) of public funding sectors and broadcasters in Europe; implementation strategies; and a hefty dose of thinking about story (for those of you skeptical of all this business talk). For me, while theorizing about changes in story-telling are most interesting, the best speeches were on the new business model aspects, especially regarding brands. There’s a healthy argument to be had about consumerism and the move towards branding in the indie and art-house world. That’s for another post, but it is very clear that in today’s tough financial climate many artists are having to embrace such models. Doing so isn’t easy - in fact, for many indies this will remain impossible, but if you want to incorporate these strategies you can do a lot worse than learning from excellent thinkers in this space like Ben Grass of Pure Grass Films, Mel Exon of BBH Labs and Nuno Bernardo of BeActive. Each of them had very practical examples, strategies for maintaining artistic control and even lessons learned from failures (so rare to see honestly presented on stage).

Many of my take-aways will inform my writing here over the next few months. Videos and presentations of many of the talks should be online soon - although some sections will be cut as the presenters were nice enough to share things with the group that they are barred by contracts from sharing publicly (I’m sure that knowledge will slowly filter out soon as well). For now, let me just end by saying that anyone - filmmaker or industry - thinking about the future of the art should be paying attention to Power to the Pixel. Don’t dismiss transmedia (you can call if cross-platform, etc, but the term as poor as it is, has become the accepted nomenclature). Good old films on the screen with no transmedia will continue to exist, but as an artist the possibilities for new ways to tell stories are amazing; the chance to better engage with your audience should be inspiring (as opposed to scary); and this is not just a fad. Michel Reilhac of Arte France spoke eloquently, as always, about how he and his organization are facing transmedia. In short, they are not just embracing it, but they are changing entire business models internally, in reaction -in healthy, meaningful ways. You could tell that he is allowing himself to just let the changes wash through him - to accept that change is happening and be open to what comes next. This spirit imbued the entire event, and I hope many more embrace it in their own practice soon.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New business models for film & transmedia

I'm here at the Power to the Pixel - Pixel Transmedia Lab in Cardiff, Wales. Thank goodness, because it's only 70 degrees here and NYC is apparently in a heat wave. I'm also sitting on a hotel balcony looking over a beautiful bay (of which I would provide a photo if I only had a camera (!!!) on my Blackberry). I've been learning a lot from the excellent experts they've assembled, as well as from the project participants and other attendees. I'll post more on that soon, but for now, here's the slides I'll be presenting tomorrow at my speech on developing new business and financial models for transmedia production. While this group is made up of largely transmedia producers, many are starting with a relatively traditional film, and I think the slides are relevant to anyone thinking about new business models for the production of any media. As with most of my talks, there's not a ton of detail in the slides - most of it is what I say, so I hope to have video to post or link to soon. I think these are easy enough to understand, however, and you can always contact me directly (in comments here or on Facebook) if you have questions. I should be clear  - I'm not presenting anything here as clear, hard facts - the business models are being invented (here at the Lab, for one), but these are some thoughts and observations:

Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Pixel Transmedia Lab

I'm off to Cardiff, Wales to join many good friends and even more new people (to me) at the Power to the Pixel Transmedia Lab. There's a great group of "group leaders" and tutors, which you can see here, and here's the participants. To my knowledge, this is the first lab of it's type - essentially a Sundance Lab (warning, that links to the worst website ever made) but for transmedia projects. Here's a description of what's going on from the website:
"Topics of learning will include:
  • How to develop stories and create a story universe across multiple platforms
  • New marketing & distribution models: an exploration of a variety of new platforms, revenue models and direct-to-consumer models
  • Audience building and engagement using social media tools
  • Online tools and services
  • Project case studies by leading international filmmakers / practitioners
  • Legal and digital rights issues across development, production and financing
  • The new skills needed for producers and other media professionals in a multi-platform world
  • Project packaging, planning and presentation"
I am speaking there about new business and finance models for cross-media/transmedia production. Or rather, I'm speaking about what I hope to see as new models and what is currently going on in the space. While this particular lab is closed to new participants, the organizers have announced a new Pixel Market, with pitching sessions, education and a cash prize. That looks pretty cool, so check it out.