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April 26 2012

14:00

'Carnivàle' Creator Bypasses Hollywood, Launches Transmedia Story 'Haunted'

Discovered on the Internet and known as a storyteller with a unique vision, writer and producer Daniel Knauf, best known as the creator of "Carnivàle" on HBO, has ditched Hollywood and struck out on his own to mine the field of transmedia.

With a beta project made public called "Haunted," Knauf's new company, BXX, is jumping feet first into the transmedia world.

Difficult to separate the plot from the technology, "Haunted" is best described as a fictional story that follows paranormal investigators working inside an abandoned house tormented by supernatural events. The storytelling format features multimedia elements such as research documentation and investigators' blogs. Shot with multiple cameras, the project's navigational timeline allows viewers to manipulate how they view the story.

The transmedia world is a popular one, with Sundance Institute announcing this past fall six transmedia projects accepted into its first-ever New Frontier Lab, with an impressive list of Hollywood heavyweights as advisers. In an article on Mashable, Lisa Hsia, executive vice president of Bravo Digital Media, defined transmedia storytelling as telling a story that extends across multiple media platforms. (For television, it goes beyond the on-air show.)

I spoke with Knauf to find out why "inventing a new narrative" is so important to him, what potential he sees in transmedia storytelling, and to ask him, "Why the rebel stance?" The following is an edited transcript of that discussion.

Bxx: "Haunted" Promo No. 1 from Daniel Knauf on Vimeo.

Q&A

Tell me about BXX (pronounced BOX) and what drew you to create the transmedia project "Haunted" for the Internet?

Daniel Knauf: Black BXX LLC is the name of our company, but we're going by BXX now. I wanted to see if I could make a nonlinear drama work. I came up with BXX Mars about five years ago, and I did the normal thing and talked to the money people. Everyone said, "This is interesting. Can we make a TV show out of it?" It's the first place they go.

The traditional entertainment industry is not known for their humility. They tend to think they are the end all. You don't take a TV show and put it on Hulu and call it Internet content. No, it's not. It's a TV show you're watching on your computer. Hulu's not really Internet, Funny or Die is not really Internet; those are just TV being watched on a different screen. For me, I wanted to invent a narrative that there was absolutely no way you could have done it if the Internet wasn't invented. That was the goal I set myself.

In the end, I just got tired of trying to convince them this lives and breathes on the Internet. I got tired of explaining finance models to them and I thought, let's just do an inexpensive version of this and show them. I had sold "Carnivàle" off the Internet. I've always been into the Internet, and it stuck in my craw that the Internet wasn't treated as the medium it could be.

But obviously money comes into play; what are the plans to monetize BXX?

Knauf: I've given up on Hollywood. They are too frightened. I've gone so far off the reservation. All I want to do is set up shop here in Nashville and build a studio and start making these things. If I had to monetize this right now, I would use surveys. I think they are the least intrusive. I don't think I need people to watch ads every 30 seconds. I hate roll-ins, banners and pop-ups. I'd like to give people the option to subscribe and watch without surveys for a reasonable price. Choice is best.

But let's be realistic, in order to make these things, they cost money. I'm a huge believer in capitalism, and we'll look for people to invest in this. Money follows the eyeballs. I tried a Kickstarter for this, and I didn't meet my goal. But when I told people they would get their money back, I got $14,000 sent to my PayPal account from total strangers in $5 and $10 amounts. They just wanted to see this thing and loved "Carnivàle" and what I do. The money will come.

Audience-building must be key to a project like this that's outside of the Hollywood system and without its production and marketing budgets.

Knauf: I've built a relationship with my audience. It used to be complex for the audience and artists to connect, but that chasm doesn't exist anymore. We have no PR. We've really only promoted through social networks. We had about 3,100 people sign up for early access, and we've had about 8,000 unique visitors. Not bad for no advertising or PR. Only 22 people put their hands on this thing. We are all artists or craftsmen. Even our CFO was pulling cable. I was driving the RV. We didn't build sets. We shot on location. We used high-end security cameras and made certain compromises and bootstrapped it ourselves.

The actors ended up doing such an amazing job, that what was supposed to be a beta, not for the public, we decided to release to the public. We did the pre-launch because we thought it would be pretty buggy and wanted to get feedback before it went public, and two weeks later we went live. Anyone can access anything free. They do have to register if they want to unlock documents; this is so next time you log in, you aren't locked out of documents you've already opened up.

Thumbnail image for Documentation Haunted.jpg

About 30 percent of people who visit spend more than a half hour, and about 12 percent spend more than an hour. I created this to engage people, so we are really happy. Strangely, the U.S.A. is the No. 1 place for hits, but Norway is second. My wife says it is because it's where 'Big Brother' was invented.

Speaking of 'Big Brother,' there is a voyeuristic aspect of "Haunted." It reminds me of certain forms of reality TV mixed with paranormal activity. I think the use of the security cameras amplified that feeling. Can you talk about that?

Knauf: There is a voyeurism quality. Even a good movie feels voyeuristic or (like) a stage drama. What's interesting is, with this shooting schedule, you're not just watching actors acting. You're watching actors living. There was no off-stage. We had cameras in the bathroom. When we said 'action,' we didn't say 'cut' for 32 hours. There is a certain level of reality that occurs in that situation. We directed in shifts, and there is still some footage I haven't seen.

My partner, at about 26 hours, said, 'You gotta come in and watch these people.' I would say they were experiencing some kind of incipient post-traumatic stress syndrome. They were zombie-fied and behaving oddly. The location was like a spook house with sound effects and things falling and crashing. There isn't a big difference between being an actor pretending to be attacked by a haunted house and being a person being attacked by a haunted house. It was a traumatic event for them, and I ended up cutting about eight hours off the shoot.

Dan and cast.jpg

What about the tech part, the security camera vibe and ability to track the characters' movements throughout rooms? How does this factor in, and where do you see this going?

Knauf: I'm used to copywriting everything, but now I get patents and I feel like Thomas Edison. It's really cool, like I'm an inventor or mad scientist. The hardest thing when we are explaining 'Haunted' is the easiest thing when you get on and play with it. People ask, 'How do I watch this? What if I make a mistake?' It doesn't matter. You can't do it wrong. I tell people just watch it, and you'll see how natural it is. Nothing is more artificial than a three-act structure. They don't exist in nature. What you find when you play with 'Haunted' is you are accessing it like you do your memories. Memories don't work in a linear fashion. Memories work like we work on the Internet -- something reminds us of something, that keys something, that then links to something else.

It was designed to have multiple cameras and views open. The first thing that came up was people wanted to sync them all up. I hadn't thought about that, and we did our best to make that happen. Of course with the Internet, maintaining sync is hard unless you have a really big pipe. I would like to make it work better on tablets. We have 90 percent function. We can't get the time slider to work on touchscreen HTML 5 yet, but we are working on it.

What I really want to do is make it so people can download these videos and cut their own movies and have a film festival. We haven't licked that end of the coding yet, but definitely for the next one.

Is there a specific 'event' I can send readers to find to get a taste of 'Haunted'?

Knauf: Saturday, Hour 5, Segment 6, Camera 1 is a good time for people to check out to see a character reacting strongly to something she is watching on camera, then they can go find which camera she is watching. Our audience has blown my mind. We have a lot of multimedia research stuff, articles and such, and they knew to go to the logs and find out when all the weird s--- happens. It didn't even occur to me they could do that. People are so smart at figuring out all the 'wow' moments.

Screenshot Haunted Seg 5.jpg

That's clever of the audience -- a true use of a multimedia project. With this under your belt, are you ready to tackle BXX Mars? What genres of storytelling do you see as lending themselves to this format besides supernatural or horror?

Knauf: BXX Mars is the next one we're doing. It's about a group of astronauts facing being marooned. They have a short launch window they have to make or be stuck on Mars. BXX Mars will be 72 hours. I'd love to do BXX Niagara about a honeymoon hotel. A family reunion would work, too -- any story that Robert Altman would have done. This whole thing is character-driven. We could follow people in a shelter in a hurricane like Katrina or track a firefighter on 9/11 -- or BXX Whitechapel and set up the East End of London and have the actors living that role for a 12-hour period.

How do you decide the length of time to cover?

Knauf: The length of the event isn't as important as how we are covering it. One isn't directing in a traditional sense -- more like cuing events to poke the actors with a stick. It's a marathon for an actor. I'm not willing to hurt people to deliver entertainment. The next one, the actors will really have time to train, especially when we aren't on location but on sets. You could technically call a cut or shoot an insert, but the problem is it feels totally false. There is a level of reality in these performances that exist only in this format. Even voices change in tone depending on whether one is tired or scared. It is impossible to duplicate.

There is a strength in the performance from the actors being in character for so long. The actors had to change how they act. I had to change how I write. Everything changed. It turned out to be a surprising way to tell a story. They wake up in character and cook a corn dog in character. It leads to some real moments. We connect with the quiet moments. That's where drama lives. This format really delivers that.

MS: So is this goodbye to Hollywood?

Knauf: What has really burned me out on Hollywood is since I did 'Carnivàle,' I have a stack about 11 feet tall of material, and maybe 18 inches of it has landed on eyeballs. I didn't get into the business to write for half a dozen studios executives. I've been paid well for the 11 feet, but that's not why I do this. I do this because I am paying forward for every writer that inspired me. If my stuff isn't landing on eyeballs, then I've failed at that. In Hollywood, they are always teetering on the brink of saying no for 1,000 reasons. With BXX, I can create huge amounts of content for peanuts in Hollywood terms. I can create 1,500 hours of content for under a million dollars. This is potentially very profitable, and I can take those profits and do standard productions as well.

BXX Mars will create 1,600 hours of footage. I could easily cut a mini-series out of that for TV. What's cool is once everything is set up, I can bring in an American cast and then bring in a Chinese cast and do it all over again. It is so cross-platform. Everything follows the Internet because the Internet embraces every medium.

And everything you do is yours as opposed to working within the Hollywood system and selling rights. Is that a motivating factor?

Knauf: My big bugaboo with Hollywood is copyright. If you open a Stephen King book, it is copyright Stephen King. If you watch 'Carnivàle,' it is copyright HBO. The only reason for that is they are pigs. There's only five or six of them, and they know they have to stick together. It's like a cartel and so against antitrust laws. I want to create a studio where if someone wants to make something at my studio, they get to retain their copyright. It will never be 'copyright BXX.' That's my pipe dream. We would be what Random House is to Stephen King -- we would publish that person's work. Why would I pirate someone's intellectual property just because I'm the one with the money? It's disgusting the way Hollywood treats artists. Everyone's convinced we are always on the bubble of being fired at all times. The town runs on flop sweat. 'Everybody will never work again.'...There is so much fabulous material that didn't move forward because of Hollywood timidness.

People ask why there isn't anything good on TV. I'm coming from the inside, and I'm telling you that not only do they think the audience is an idiot, to the point where they think you can't feed yourself, but they loathe you, too. They hate the audience because they can't figure out why they watch what they watch. I've read somewhere that the odds of a show succeeding is about the same as they were in the '60s. Things fail now because they are exactly like 10 other things on TV.

I think we are going to have another renaissance. My showrunner friends listen to me being a mad prophet, and they are amazed: 'You do whatever you want to do? No one tells you what you have to do!?' I think when people realize the gates are open and no one will shoot them when they step out, things are going to change.

Mad Scientist Daniel Knauf.jpg

Technology is definitely pushing storytelling to new limits. As writer and blogger Chuck Wendig wrote on transmedia, 'It makes me feel like I'm from the future. In the end, though, whether you call it transmedia or cross-media or new media or hybridized-story-pollination (HSP), it's still just storytelling. Though it's storytelling in a bigger, sometimes weirder, way.'

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called "Truth in Documentary Filmmaking" and is currently producing the documentary, "The Art of Memories."

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March 28 2012

14:00

'Reckless Adrian Grenier': Will Personal Apps be Key to Celebrity Branding?

March marked the launch of "Reckless Adrian Grenier," an app built for the iPad, iPhone and iPod and created by Mobovivo for its namesake, actor and filmmaker Adrian Grenier.

AdrianGrenierMediaSummit_courtesyphoto.jpg

Some of you are moaning, "why does he need an app?" but others of you are perhaps "Entourage" fans, and an opportunity to get reacquainted with Grenier, who played Vincent Chase, is an exciting prospect.

That latter group is just the one that app developers are looking to as they launch a new kind of application -- the personal brand app.

Trevor Doerksen, founder and CEO of Mobovivo, said he's pretty confident that this new kind of personality app "is the right next step for a film and television celebrity." 

It's clear as more and more celebrities flock to the app model, it will become harder to stand out from the crowd. Developers and creators of apps will have to push themselves to pinpoint what is unique about their celebrity, sports star, comedian, politician, etc., in order to translate "personalities" into "brands" and then into digital interactive experiences in fresh ways.

For Doerksen, that means getting beyond just "chat" as engagement:

"Adrian is an indie filmmaker, and as a former filmmaker myself, I recognized what he was trying to do to engage audiences and tell more stories. Twitter has already created a good app for celebrities to chat with fans, but we need to go deeper than chat. Don't get me wrong, the human desire for communication is fundamental and chat features prominently in our platform. However, we all seem to need to satisfy a fundamental sense of curiosity and play as well."

Grenier and Doerksen gave a special keynote address to close Digital Hollywood's Media Summit earlier this month in New York, and I had an opportunity to chat with both of them about the "whys" and 'hows" of planning "Reckless Adrian Grenier."

controlling your own brand

RecklessAGscreengrab.jpg

There is an endgame to the personal app for celebrities. It offers a chance for them to control their own destiny in a way rarely seen with the Hollywood PR machine. With a movie star's box-office draw becoming about as predictable as blindly tossing chewed gum at a wall and hoping it sticks, building an audience base with a personal app is the equivalent of a politician getting out there to shake hands and hold babies to build his constituency -- the good old-fashioned grassroots way, albeit with digital handshaking and autograph signing.

Today social media and second screen experiences focus on making celebrities more accessible to their fan base. Grenier is already active on Twitter, with almost 227,000 followers, and Facebook with almost 114,00 fans, but by creating a personal app, he's not just further brand building "Adrian Grenier" -- he's also cross-branding with Reckless Productions, his production company. He's bringing the HBO Entourage audience into his antonymous world. Despite Grenier's personal fame, Reckless Productions, best known so far for "Teenage Paparazzo," fits into most indie film models. Indie film companies need funding, and investors like metrics and analytics. A dedicated and active audience of "Reckless Adrian Grenier" users can be directly marketed to with push notifications and other directives, a comfort to today's film investors with marketing budgets ballooning out of control.

(The "Reckless Adrian Grenier" app is free to download, but there are charges for certain features and items for purchase. Currently, all proceeds will go to the SHFT, an eco-conscious multimedia platform co-founded by Grenier. Focused on design, SHFT won the Best Green Website at the Webby Awards last year.)

q&a

AdrianGrenierTrevor Doerksen_courtesy.jpg

MediaShift: What made you decide to create an app?

Adrian Grenier: I'm a modern guy and just like anyone else I'm looking to explore the possibilities of storytelling and connecting with my audience independently, not always having to rely on the bigger production companies and distributors to control everything I do. It is a real blessing in this day and age to have that opportunity and to be on the cutting edge of technology; we are explorers in a lot of ways. I've had several app ideas over the years and not all of them this good. This is the one that really made sense and ultimately Mobovivo was able to create it.

When did you first realize the value of connecting with your fans as an artist?

Grenier: I always realized the value, but maybe I was a little lazy at first because it is a lot of work, at least to make that engagement authentic and real and true. I don't have a company doing my social media for me. It's all genuine.

How does the Reckless app assist you in making a unique and genuine connection with your fans?

Grenier: If you use a website, you always end up having to go to another program to connect. If you want to reach out to your fans, you have to send them an email or create a video and send it to them, and maybe they will comment, but that's on YouTube. This is a really direct connection; this is the bridge directly from me and Reckless to people who want that content. And it's beyond that -- it's leveraging casual encounters that I have with people every day and allowing them to become a very personal interaction. For example, I'm on tour with my film "Teenage Paparazzo." It's an educational tour, and we are going to colleges around the country. Every time I want to share something with them, I have to say, "Send me an email, sign up or whatever," but in this case, they can download the app and boom, we're already off to the races. In 2.0, (he laughs) I'm already excited for 2.0 ...

Trevor Doerksen interrupts: The Apple Store hasn't even released 1.0 yet.

Grenier: We have big ambitions and big ideas, and that's what I'm really excited about. This is really just the first breath.

Your existing fans will be interested in the app, but how do you anticipate the Reckless app will create or build a new fan base?

Grenier: The medium and the format are really just the tool. It is about the personal voice of the artist that makes it unique. Twitter is only 140 characters, but it is the unique voice of the individual that allows people to differentiate themselves. I can see the Reckless app being more than just a platform for me. I can see other people using it to connect with their audience, their fans and their friends. I don't know how much we need to reinvent our wheel; we need to spread it and share it.

How is this "sharing" done on a technical level?

Doerksen: I think how you do this is you get the market. That is what is wonderful from a technology point of view -- that there are so many things given to us today, from cloud computing to Apple SDK to the App Store to these new devices. (He holds up an iPhone.) This is a neat canvas to take advantage of. One of the things that will be an input to what we do next will be what we hear from what we do first. So I think getting the market is key to finding out what people like and what they would like to see in the future. That is going to happen with an app more than perhaps with another platform -- it's what's in your pocket.

We have a brand like "Reckless," a user experience where it is in your pocket, under your arm, on your desktop. To find a bookmark, you don't have to go searching; it is a click away. That engagement as we move forward is going to happen on television, maybe even on toasters. For now, we are excited to get feedback on 1.0.

I only saw the trailer for "Teenage Paparazzo" on the iPad version of the app. What other video content will be available for users?

Grenier: We have a lot of video content coming, but we feel like it's best to get out into the water and get our feet wet instead of waiting. It reminds me of surfing. I'm not a surfer, but I've been a couple times. You put the surfboard on the sand, and you practice jumping up. That's easy; anyone can do that. But you put it in the ocean and the waves are coming, and it's a whole other ball game. We wanted to get out there and get our sea legs.

Doerksen: You're like I am on these things, as are a lot of other people. It's an app put out by a film production company and people will ask, "Where's the film?" That's coming, too. Engaging content and entertainment is coming and, of course, more social.

How often can users expect new content to be added?

Grenier: Definitely every time we do an event at a school we will update the snapshots of the students. We have a ton of content -- especially with short form, the turnaround is much quicker. We are always creating short videos.

I see that as the most fascinating part of an app. It's almost a living, breathing entity. It isn't a film, which is finite. It grows and changes. How did you know the app was ready for release?

Grenier: That is something Trevor has been shepherding me through because I am a perfectionist but he's like, "Just relax." There's a learning process in release as well, in letting go.

Doerksen: One of the nice things is not just being about content, which is kinda a broadcast medium. We had to make it engaging. That's what we talk about constantly. If we had 85 films to put in the app -- what would the app be about? You'd be watching 85 films eventually? We've created a true fan engagement set of tools; that part is exciting -- and marrying the viewing experience to that, whether it's in front of the television as a second screen model or in a theater or with Adrian at the airport. Now that I have the app, I see the Twitter scroll and I know where you are all the time. (He points to Grenier.)

******

It will be interesting in the coming months and years to see how app creators push personal apps to new frontiers, finding out what celebrities, not only from the entertainment industry, but sports and beyond, can do with the new tools to harness and connect with their audiences. Let the branding race begin.

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called "Truth in Documentary Filmmaking" and is currently producing the documentary, "The Art of Memories."

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January 09 2012

15:20

6 Filmmakers Talk About Documentary Films in the Digital Age

Lower costs in pro-consumer digital equipment, the crowdfunding phenomenon, and new online and mobile distribution models have opened the door the past few years to many first-time documentary filmmakers in the United States. Independent filmmaking is on the rise, and with that, a trend for more personalized storytelling.

Many of today's documentary filmmakers are making bold, stylistic choices more often associated with narrative storytelling than documentary filmmaking and finding savvy, new ways to engage audiences. By pushing the boundaries of what is considered traditional documentary filmmaking, they are stepping up to compete for the eyes of a generation raised on the often outrageous, unfiltered and unedited user-generated videos that can be found on YouTube and the conflict-driven, scripted reality TV that fills networks.

I wanted to get a pulse on these current and emerging trends from those working in the industry as gatekeepers, curators and trend spotters and find out what influence online distribution, crowdfunding, and lowered equipment costs have had on U.S. documentary filmmakers. Here's what they had to say:

Eddie Schmidt

Eddie Schmidt, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, is president of the board of the International Documentary Association. Dedicated to the non-fiction filmmaking community, IDA also provides educational programs to the next generation of documentary filmmakers starting as early as high school age.

Schmidt: A lot of U.S. filmmakers are taking on international topics, and I think this is in contrast to the overall myopia and narcissism of American culture, which tends to take very little substantive interest in anything outside of itself. So documentary filmmakers are motivated to fill these gaps in our understanding, thankfully. This is the new journalism.

Filmmakers in general are flexing their creative muscles to explore the limitless possibilities for telling nonfiction stories on the screen. We're just beginning to understand and recognize the art and craft of documentaries, rather than just their nobility, goodwill, or sociopolitical eye-opening, so I think films are going to get better and more innovative.

I think U.S. documentary filmmakers benefit from the more regular employment of reality television, because its directors of photography, editors, and post people all bounce between the two and bring what they learn in reality to the wider canvas of documentaries (producers and directors too, although their schedules allow for less bleed-through). There's an energy present in a lot of U.S. documentaries that comes from these frequent workouts. If you have to strive to tell stories quickly and smartly in a demanding medium, frequently, you can't help but bring those problem-solving tools and ingenuity to the feature table.

Online distribution has leveled the playing field in terms of delivery systems. These days, no one can tell you your film isn't getting picked up and have that be the end of it. The battle now is for attention and eyeballs. Today, even funding channels have had a boost; 10 years ago, it would have been unthinkable to ask audiences to finance your film over the Internet, but now it's a totally viable way of getting $50,000-$100,000 towards your budget, maybe more.

Lois Vossen

Lois Vossen.jpg

Lois Vossen is the producer and founder of the Emmy award-winning series "Independent Lens" and vice president of ITVS, an organization that funds, presents and promotes documentaries on public television and cable as well as innovative media projects on the web. Previously, she was the associate managing director of the Sundance Institute.

Vossen: We've seen an increase in the number of U.S. filmmakers who want to make films about other countries, perhaps because we have so many independent filmmakers in the U.S. compared to many other countries and there's a lot of duplication of topics here (for example, 25 films on immigration on the U.S. Mexico border vs. one or two films on immigration in Turkey). That said, it is also exciting when U.S. filmmakers do focus on their local communities and find great, new ways to tell stories like Steve James did in Chicago where he lives with "The Interrupters," or Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady did with "DETROPIA," about Heidi's hometown.

"Independent Lens" has the youngest demographic of any prime-time PBS series and the most robust social media campaigns on PBS. We know that 70 percent of our viewers turn on their television specifically to watch "Independent Lens." They also then migrate to other PBS series at a higher rate than most other PBS series, so we're kind of a gateway drug to PBS. Documentaries certainly entertain, but they're about engaging in real life, not turning away from it. I think audiences see the obvious difference between reality television, which is scripted and actually not "real," and documentaries about real people. Reality television is escape television, and it is designed as entertainment for people who watch it.

I do think filmmakers are beginning to imagine new ways of telling stories across multiple platforms including online, through games, etc., and so transmedia and more immersive formats will continue to pull documentaries in new directions. Much more relevant to independent filmmakers is the question of how viewing habits have changed and what audiences will "sit through" in terms of television running times. I ask filmmakers how many 90-minute social issue documentaries did they watch on television last week, and maybe we need to consider making multiple versions of some films: a festival version, theatrical version and television version. We still want a great story, well-told, and some of us will sit in a movie theater to watch that, and more of us will sit in our living room or with our laptops to watch it, but the way we watch is definitely changing.

Jason Spingarn-Koff

Jason Spingarn-Koff recently became The New York Times' first-ever video journalist in Opinion, launching Op-Docs, a forum for short, opinionated documentaries produced on a variety of subjects, from current affairs to historical subjects. Jason himself is a filmmaker and journalist whose work has appeared on PBS, the BBC, MSNBC, Time and Wired.

Spingarn-Koff: I do think there is a growing interest in shorts online. When I say online, I'm also thinking about mobile. What I find really exciting with the New York Times videos is we put them out on every device imaginable. You can watch an HD video on the iPad so that now, even though the Times is not a TV broadcaster, we can ultimately deliver content to a lot of people at the same quality as TV broadcasters and now be in the same playing field.

There's a very big world out there to cover, and TV broadcasters are often months behind. When you start comparing online versus television broadcast, broadcasters usually have a very long horizon where they might be programming in the fall what's going to come out in the spring. We can put things up within a matter of hours, and it's exciting to be able to engage with issues as they happen. I think feature documentary filmmakers are excited about this format. They may have to spend years on a subject, and now they can spend a few weeks or maybe even days and reach a wide audience and find satisfaction around that.

I think the challenge and the opportunity is to marry creative storytelling with timelessness and find different ways to engage with the issues that are on people's minds. We have an editorial focus that is encouraging creative approaches, creative perspectives and unique voices, and some strong opinions about what is going on in the world. Not everything has to have an overt opinion -- some are much more subtle or artistic. We allow people to speak very freely, the same as they would in print. I'm actually commissioning pieces and receiving submissions from the public the same as we do in print. I'm encouraging filmmakers to think of a way to do an Op-Doc to help build engagement and awareness around the issue for them, but to me, the most important thing is that the Op-Doc stands on its own.



New York Times Op-Docs


Sky Sitney

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Sky Sitney is the festival director for Silverdocs, a film festival and conference created by AFI and the Discovery Channel that focuses on documentaries. Previously to joining Silverdocs, Sky was a programmer at several prestigious film festivals and worked in the industry.

Sitney: In documentary, filmmakers are giving themselves a lot more creative leeway when it comes to articulating reality, and I think a lot more documentary filmmakers see themselves as interpreters, creative interpreters of reality rather than strict observers. I think more and more filmmakers are acknowledging that every representation of reality inherently has a kind of bias, and rather than try and present the work as pure reality as it was in its early days, filmmakers are more comfortable taking creative license.

Sometimes we see this in very extreme ways. In the last couple of years, we've included a number of animations. For example, "Waltz with Bashir" would have been unheard of in the '60s or '70s. We are also seeing an interesting resurgence in re-enactment. About 10 years ago, re-enactment was considered a dirty word in documentary, and now there are very creative ways filmmakers are working with re-enactment. Overall, I think there is just a lot more flexibility and creativity to the aesthetics.

Every year, we can be certain there are going to be many films on the environment, many films on the economy, various health issues -- year in year out we will see these kind of things coming out and then surges based on big news events. Now I'm seeing a lot of comprehensive films on Haiti, the BP oil spill; we are just beginning to see some early work on Egypt.

What I'm seeing from running a U.S. film festival is a lot more American filmmakers telling stories that are specific to the U.S. but also globally. It's much less common to see an international filmmaker dealing with American stories. On the one hand, all the big U.S. events are covered ad nauseam, but a lot of filmmakers in the U.S. are invested in personal storytelling, using the camera to investigate some kind of familiar history or personal quest. The camera becomes a tool to make that journey. A film that comes to mind is "Family Affair" by Chico Colvard. He was the one brother of three sisters who were all sexually molested by their father. He was teaching law and turned to the camera to penetrate that story, and in some ways, as a safety mechanism to confront his sisters in a way that didn't feel comfortable in the privacy of a living room. I'm not sure that is specific to the U.S., but I see it a lot, for the camera to become a psychological tool.

At Silverdocs, we try and find balance, not just on topics and themes, but also who is behind the camera, and I have to tell you, it's really depressing. The minority is represented significantly on film, the subjects are diverse, but who's behind the camera is still very, very white. We have a long way to go on that. There are a lot of great entities out there trying to change that, but it isn't even close to where it ought to be. It's not as bad looking directly across gender lines, but across color lines it is very bad.



"Family Affair," an independent feature-length documentary film written and produced by Chico David Colvard


Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a former CBS executive, book author and frequent speaker at leading media industry events including Real Screen, Silverdocs, Sheffield Doc/Fest, HotDocs, and other international film festivals and conferences. His e-newsletter DocumentaryTelevision provides current information about deals and trends in the industry, and he is an authority on the factual sector including reality TV and docu-series.

Hamilton: Single and multi-episode documentaries as well as strands based on commissions of similarly themed docs are on the decline. The news for documentarians has not been good; decreased viewing overall because the number of documentary slots has fallen off. Sundance Channel dropped its documentary strand. OWN is struggling. Nature programming has been hit hard because the Nat Geo Channel has shifted to character-driven series and Discovery and Animal Planet have moved away from wildlife.

In the U.S., the tide continues to flow in the direction of character driven series -- big, larger-than-life characters that fill any room they walk into. In a mature, competitive environment of hundreds of channels, these characters stand out, and the series are repeatable, meaning that the channels' promotional and marketing efforts to launch them can pay off over multiple episode seasons.

Reality TV at its best is an extension of the observational documentary genre, and it draws from the best of that genre like the U.K. hit series "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding"; at its worst, it is a casting-based enterprise that shares little with the documentary tradition. It is a good thing that reality is on the rise, versus drama and other categories, because it creates the possibility of a future return to unscripted documentaries on television.

Scott Macaulay

Scott Macaulay is the editor in chief for Filmmaker Magazine. The magazine's "25 New Faces in Independent Film" is a prestigious and much-anticipated list that provides great insight into current trends in filmmaking as well as a look at the industry's next generation of talented and award-winning narrative and documentary filmmakers. Scott is also the owner of Forensic Films and an independent film producer of award-winning films.

Macaulay: I'm seeing a number of trends with younger, up-and-coming filmmakers. One is filmmakers pursuing hybrid strategies, in which documentaries are inflected with elements more commonly found in fiction films. Alma Har'el's documentary, "Bombay Beach," is a great example. She visited the town of Bombay Beach, got to know its residents, and then, while documenting their day-to-day lives, worked with them to create dance and fantasy sequences that attest to these subjects' own imaginative, creative lives.



Bombay Beach trailer


As for personal storytelling, I think this is on an increase as well, and it's aided by the increasing amount of source material produced by subjects and their families. What once might have been a few rolls of Super 8 shot over years is now a family archive of hundreds of hours of footage. Filmmakers interested in exploring personal stories are finding they have a lot more to work with.

Another trend is one of self-sufficiency -- filmmakers embarking on, and sometimes finishing projects, entirely on their own. Alison Klayman, whose "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" is premiering at Sundance this year, started shooting her film in China and let it evolve organically into a feature documentary that was able to attract supporters. The Sparrow Songs team of Alex Jablonski and Michael Totten made a fantastic series of web docs simply by committing their time and resources to a once-a-month schedule. Completing a documentary feature can take years, whereas some stories need to be told immediately. You're seeing great short docs being made now about Occupy Wall Street, for example, and they're able to insert themselves instantly into the political dialogue. Kirby Ferguson has been making a fantastic series of web videos, "Everything Is a Remix," addressing copyright, remix culture, and the current political debate about the SOPA and PIPA legislation, and he's sharing those not only on his own site but also on the websites of groups supporting the same political goals.



Everything is a Remix, Part 1


Transmedia documentary projects, like David Dufresne and Philippe Brault's "Prison Valley" and Danfung Dennis' "Condition One," are pointing to new modes of interaction for viewers. As we've seen from the work of Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Films, there are now financing and distribution outlets composed of the audiences themselves, people who are as invested in the subjects as the filmmakers are. Crowd-sourced funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are well-suited to documentaries because they can engage non-filmmaking audiences drawn by the subjects of the films.

Truth is in the eye of the beholder

Today's documentary filmmakers, exhibiting a strong postmodernist self-awareness of the blurred and murky lines crisscrossing vérité and agenda filmmaking, are more inclined to believe that, like beauty, truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Yet it is the search for "truth," the intriguing, mysterious and often-elusive truth that hides between words and behind actions, that drives documentary filmmakers to persevere in an industry hard hit in today's economy.

Amanda Lin Costa is a writer and producer in the film and television industry. She writes a series called "Truth in Documentary Filmmaking" and is currently producing the documentary, "The Art of Memories."

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This piece was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, here on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.

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June 15 2011

18:15

4 Filmmakers Use Social Media to Crowdsource Their Stories

The second line of filmmaker Tim Burton's new short story is this:

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It is, of course, a tweet -- and one that encapsulates a new participatory era where contributions and voices from the public are reflected in all forms of art and storytelling, film included.

One of the early adopters of emerging media was filmmaker Kevin Smith, who now has a thriving personal media empire via a popular podcast (SModcast), nearly 2 million Twitter followers and even his own iPhone app. While Smith is a standout in digital engagement, he isn't the only one experimenting with today's digital connectors: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These four prominent directors have embraced new media tools and social networks to connect and co-create with audiences, and their projects are capturing a new kind of imagination.

1. Tim Burton

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Last year, director Tim Burton embarked on his own big storytelling adventure on Twitter around a character named "Stainboy," as the "Tim Burton" exhibit opened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox. Called #BurtonStory and integrating a sequential storytelling technique called Cadavre Exquis or "Exquisite Corpse" (Burton's 2005 film "Corpse Bride" was nominated for an Oscar), users submitted tweets and the best one each day was added to the story. From the 88,967 tweets submitted, 87 were selected from 2,141 users.

This open, participatory approach to storytelling gave people access to perhaps a new iconic Burton character -- from the mass-marketed "Batman" to the mass-created "Stainboy." The "Tim Burton" exhibit is currently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through Halloween.

2. Ron Howard

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind," 2002) partnered with Canon on Project Imagin8ion, "the first user-generated photo contest in history to inspire a Hollywood short film." Shutterbugs are encouraged to submit their photos for a chance to be one of eight grand prize winners (prizes include camera equipment, a trip to the film's premiere and a meeting with Ron Howard).

Photos will be judged on how imaginative and inspiring they are in eight categories: Setting, Time, Character, Mood, Relationship, Goal, Obstacle and Unknown. The deadline has already passed for submitting photos, but you can still vote online for your favorite images among the finalists. Here's a video explaining the contest:

3. Ridley Scott

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As previously discussed, Ridley Scott (director of "Gladiator" and "Blade Runner") produced a crowdsourced YouTube project titled "Life in a Day" -- a documentary that "tells the story of a single day on Earth" on July 24, 2010.

The film, directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald ("One Day in September," Best Documentary in 2000), strives to be the largest user-generated feature film ever created. The ambitious film project received more than 80,000 video submissions. National Geographic will release the movie in theaters on July 24, the one-year anniversary of "the day." And if the movie fails to entertain or attract audiences, we only have ourselves to blame (especially those who submitted videos or curated them).

4. Judd Apatow

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Twitter has become an immediate, collaborative tool for many filmmakers on and off the set. To help write jokes for his speech at the Producers Guild Awards, Judd Apatow hit up his community of followers. Apatow ("Bridesmaids," 2011, "Knocked Up," 2007) included this joke from @omitofo: "Inception is really about Hollywood. Everyone's constantly trying to ruin your dreams so they can make a buck." Follow Apatow on Twitter (@JuddApatow) and tell him a joke. If you're lucky, he may just use your creation to amuse and entertain others.

Whether we collectively tell the story of a character, offer up a single joke or jointly experience a single day, all these examples point out how social media is opening doors for the public to the big screen.

What filmmaker would you want to collaborate with to share your story?

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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April 20 2011

14:59

10 Big Ideas for the Future of Film

Alfred Hitchcock said a film is made three times: when you write it, when you shoot it, and when you edit it. Today there's a fourth: when you distribute it. With all the new technologies and D.I.Y. opportunities available to reach people with your project in fresh and exciting ways, you get to be just as creative when you take a film out into the world.

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My team and I have done a lot of experiments in distribution with our film "The Tribe," which played at Tribeca Film Festival in 2006. In many ways, I felt like we were throwing spaghetti at the constantly receding wall of the Internet to see what sticks. A lot stuck. Our 18 minute film, "The Tribe," became the first documentary to ever reach #1 on iTunes.

This was thanks to an amazing community that we connected with at festivals like Tribeca. They supported us, followed us, linked to us and continued to spread the word, which ultimately made it so we raced past Pixar and Universal on that iTunes list.

That was five years ago. With all the new tools available today, we're not only able to throw pasta strands but able to have a big feast with all the people that want to engage with our films.

10 Big Ideas

In terms of the future of film, below is a list of things I want to help make happen in the future.

1. All films would be translatable to every language on Earth so everyone could experience them.

2. All video images/songs you found online could be easily negotiated with a simple rights page, or through Creative Commons.

3. There will be a true transparency on distribution sales, expenses and with aggregators.

4. The crazy time labels/constraints will be removed. No longer a world of just "shorts & features." Time is a construct and there is room for every length and every length should receive the same respect.

5. When you search a subject on Google, the results you get -- along with books and articles -- you would also see trailers of videos about the subject too (that one is not too far away).

6. In whichever theater the audience member wants to stay connected to the issue, to the director, you can find an easy way to stay connected (oh yeah, we already can do that).

7. As a documentarian, there could be a website where you could show a whole film and hyperlink outward every clip that you can contextualize or get more info.

8. 3D documentaries will be inexpensive to make so the visceral experience of important subjects of our day can be conveyed in immersive forms.

9. Last, I hope some filmmakers will call themselves interdependent rather than independent filmmakers. All these new tools are about the power of us being connected, helping each other, sharing best practices, sharing networks, strength in the network. So ultimately, we are interdependent filmmakers.

10. Any small idea repeated thousands or millions of times via the web becomes a big idea. That's the power of the network. That's the future.

Triggering Conversations

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The goal with all of my films is to trigger conversations about important issues of our day. In some ways I no longer think of myself as a filmmaker but more like a conversation maker. We want to provide people a way to engage with the core ideas in the film through many entry points and experiences...whether it's the film, physical objects to read or play with, mobile phone apps and live events.

While nothing will replace the bonding that happens in the dark watching a movie together, there are many tools that can help extend a conversation that a film sparks. For "The Tribe," we created a discussion kit that included the film, a written guide, conversation cards, and curriculum. 2006 was also when critical mass had finally appeared on Facebook so we were able to expand the discussion and community. I also have had an email newsletter for a decade since I started The Webby Awards called, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" which I send out to my community 4 times a year. Old school email is still a great way to engage people in dialogue and experiments.

For our new feature documentary film Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology (Sundance 2011), we engaged our community -- even while we were making the film. Filmmaking to me at its core is one big collaborative interconnected idea fest. I write collaboratively, edit collaboratively, get a lot of feedback from minds I love as well as from the hive mind online through Twitter and Facebook. During the script writing, I asked questions about subjects we were wrestling with, song suggestions, archival shot ideas and received amazing responses -- many of which ended up in the film. It's ultimately all about the push and pull of other people's perspectives that excites me about the collaborative nature of filmmaking and the Internet.

We want to take all forms of engagement with our audience to a whole new level with our new film, "Connected" by giving our community even more ways to experience the ideas of the film now that it's been released. "Connected" explores what it means to be connected in the 21st century -- both personally and globally. Here's the trailer for it:

For the film, we have a mobile phone app coming out and an iPad app with Mopix we are working on. We just released our educational kit for the film that includes a curriculum, a 100-page book and conversation cards. We were able to use a new eco-friendly DVD that is recyclable and the whole kit is handmade. We also just released an educational guide to the film. Even though we are fully living in digital times, I am still very into the handmade, and we have a lot of exciting plans coming up in the fall. There are various ways we hope to trigger a global conversation about what it means to be connected in the 21st century.

Going Farther

It's an incredibly exciting time to be a filmmaker. Not only are we able to make films with inexpensive tools that allow each of us to really have our own production studio, but now we can have this direct connection with our audience. To challenge us, to support us, to engage with ideas so we can all understand them further.

One of my favorite quotes about the future is by John Pierpont Morgan, "Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see farther." The future of film is about us all seeing as far as we can see, imagining new forms of connection, making it happen with other filmmakers, supporters and those that engage with our films so we can all see farther ...together.

This article was cross-posted at The Future of Film blog, launched as part of the Tribeca (Online) Film Festival, features leading filmmakers and other experts within the film industry sharing their thoughts on film, technology and the future of media. Click here to follow Tiffany Shlain and other experts from film and technology as they comment on the changing media environment on the Tribeca Future of Film Blog.

Honored by Newsweek as one of the "Women Shaping the 21st Century," Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker, artist, founder of The Webby Awards and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Her new feature documentary is Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology. You can follower her on Twitter @tiffanyshlain

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March 25 2011

16:30

SXSW Showcases Rise of Multiplatform Storytelling and Collaborative Filmmaking

South By Southwest (SXSW) is an annual gathering of interactive, film and music creatives, executives and marketers in Austin. It is the ideal setting to explore multiplatform storytelling, multiscreen experiences and projects that reflect the talents of the collective. After several days of knowledge-filled panels and hyper-networking featuring digital thought-leaders, there were a few notable trends that made an imprint once the conference's closing credits hit the screen.

The Two-Screen Experience

The two-screen, or so-called companion viewing experience, was recently implemented at the Academy Awards via the Oscars All Access app, which gave viewers multiple camera angles within a paid app. While laptops, smartphones and tablets are all capable of the two-screen implementation -- basically, using a device while watching additional programing -- the ideal form factor is the tablet due to its screen size and ease of interaction. The rapid emergence of tablets such as the iPad have opened up a new opportunity for studios and networks wishing to amp up DVD sales and TV ratings.

SXSW featured the "TRON: Legacy" Lounge, which allowed visitors to experience Disney's Second Screen -- a parallel universe of interactive features on an iPad in sync with the Blu-ray version of the movie (available April 5). The additional content on display included filmmaker annotations, image sliders, progression reels to show effects in a scene and more ways to immerse yourself in the movie's Grid. Learn more about it in this video:

A separate SXSW panel titled "TV + New Media = Formula for Success" featured executives from USA Network highlighted Psych Vision, a two-screen experience to promote the TV show "Psych." The app enabled viewers to check into the show, unlock exclusive video content, earn points and redeem them for show merchandise.

Telling stories in multimedia

Transmedia, or telling stories across multiple platforms and formats, is in chapter one of its journey to mass adoption. But it has quickly moved from experimental buzzword to a powerful new storytelling genre.

There were several panels focused on transmedia at SXSW, including: "Can Transmedia Save the Entertainment Industry?," "Transmedia Storytelling: Constructing Compelling Characters and Narrative Threads," and "Next Stage: Transmedia: An Interactive Exploration of the History and Future of Production in a Transmedia World."

I attended the "Unexpected Non-Fiction Storytelling" panel, which featured many creative interactive projects, including "Collapsus," this year's SXSW Interactive Award winner in the Film/TV category.

"Collapsus" is a great example of the promise of transmedia. This eco-thriller from director Tommy Pallotta (producer of "A Scanner Darkly") was developed by SubmarineChannel and is based on the documentary "Energy Transition" from Dutch broadcaster VPRO. It is a mix of animation, interactive maps and documentary, presented in three panels and requiring viewers to make informed decisions about energy production:

Collapsus Walkthrough from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo

While a worldwide tour with PowerPoint slides may have been effective in driving awareness on global warming, "Collapsus" presents a compelling new media approach to addressing planetary issues.

The National Film Board of Canada showed several interactive projects, including "Test Tube." It deals with another global crisis -- the exponential growth of the human population (represented by bacteria) within a finite planet of resources (symbolized by the test tube). The site asks visitors what they would do with an extra minute, then environmentalist David Suzuki makes a compelling case on why we're in the final minute of existence. The concept is thought-provoking and the innovation is evident in the various tweets that are dynamically pulled into the site based on your "extra minute" entry.

Out of more than 67,000 entries, the most popular response to the minute question is "sleep" followed by "eat." (Disclosure: I entered "make coffee" for my final minute, which may not have been the best answer to save the world/test tube.)

Crowdsourcing and Collaboration

Star Wars Uncut "The Escape" from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

SXSW also featured award-winning crowdsourced projects and the premiere of one of the most anticipated crowdsourced video initiatives. Creators of the Emmy-winning "Star Wars Uncut" film, which is featured above, discussed how "the Force" of the crowd helped re-imagine one of the most beloved films in the galaxy. More than 1,200 contributors from 100 countries helped build the final film, elevating scenes into the film based on popularity or likes.

Annelise Pruitt, one of the project designers, called it "the largest user-directed movie" in history. She attributed its dynamic playback capability as the main reason that "Star Wars Uncut" won the 2010 Emmy for interactive media.

Another contemporary classic in the brief history of crowdsourcing is The Johnny Cash Project, a music video for "Ain't No Grave" composed of 1,370 frames built from art submissions worldwide. And there ain't no stopping the success of that project as it received another prize at SXSW, the Interactive Award in the Art category.

The YouTube project "Life in a Day," produced by Ridley Scott (Oscar-winning director of 2000's Best Picture "Gladiator," as well as "Alien" and "Gladiator"), also relied on the submissions of the collective. The project received more than 80,000 video submissions from people in 140 countries who wanted to share their personally documented story on July 24, 2010. The film made its premiere at Sundance earlier this year and was screened at SXSW last week. National Geographic Films picked up rights to the movie and will distribute it in theaters this summer.

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For filmmakers looking to develop and distribute full-length features rather than a slice of a larger project, JuntoBox Films is a new collaborative film studio that merges social media with traditional film production. They plan to finance five films in 2011 with a budget range of $200,000 to $5 million each. Filmmakers are encouraged to "get junto'd" after creating a profile on the site and having their project rated by their peers in order to be considered for the film assessment phase.

"Junto" means together in Spanish. The interactive storytelling, the two-screen experiences and the collaborative initiatives showcased at SXSW reveal that projects built together and experiences shared together are worthy of the highest rewards.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and Web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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February 25 2011

17:00

How to Experience the Oscars on Mobile, Social Media

The Academy Awards are less than 127 hours away. While most people haven't seen all 10 Best Picture nominees, the Oscar-nominated reels may still be experienced through the revelry of mobile, digital and social initiatives. For moviegoers who still want the big screen experience of dreams and swans before Sunday, AMC Theatres offers the final chance with its Best Picture Spotlight.

If you can't commit to a movie marathon this weekend, the Academy, as well as media and technology companies, have created digital popcorn for snacking on the Oscar experience before Sunday.

The Academy

The Oscars and nominated movies are omnipresent in digital media and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is showing true grit with its promotional campaign. ABC, the official broadcast partner for the Oscars through 2020, created the Oscar Backstage Pass, a companion app for the telecast that offers live camera views from the red carpet, the Kodak Theatre and the Governor's Ball. Available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, the $0.99 app (iTunes link) gives viewers directorial powers previously limited to a select few. Out of the nine camera angles offered in the Kodak Theatre, including Host Cam, Thank You Cam and Audience Cam, the most intriguing may be Control Booth Cam. When a winner's speech exceeds the time limit, this viewpoint could possibly give us the Cue Music Cam.

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For those who prefer the free experience, download "The Oscars" mobile app for access to the latest news and events or try to predict the winners in all 24 categories. Currently, 23 percent of The Oscars app users think "The King's Speech" will win Best Picture, while "The Social Network" is second with 18 percent. The only runaway favorite is Natalie Portman, with 71 percent believing that she'll dance away with Best Actress.

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Walk down Broadway about 20 blocks from the New York City Ballet and you'll find yourself next to an interactive display called The Oscar Experience. Fans can have their picture taken next to a virtual Oscar statuette. Some hold the statue, while others prefer to smile or cry as if they are giving an acceptance speech. The photo galleries may be viewed on the Academy's Facebook page.

Google

Google is tracking the global search trends for the Oscar nominees in an easy-to-use tool appropriately called Oscar Search Trends. The charts for all categories may be customized for the last 30 days, the last 12 months or all years. Obscure international search results include the following: "Inception" leads all searches among Visual Effects nominees with Singapore driving the volume above India, while "Inside Job" leads Documentary Feature nominees with Portugal edging out Canada in volume. "Black Swan" leads all Best Picture nominees in global search popularity. And if you know Google, they prefer "Black Swan" searches over black hat search engine optimization.

Twitter

The cinematic characters and the actors who potray them will surely be a focal point of the tweets that Oscar watchers will post on Sunday. Follow the #Oscars hashtag on Twitter to see a continuous stream of comments on all things Oscar -- the winners, the fashion, the jokes, the speeches, the surprises, the parties and the totally inappropriate or irrelevant. For a more intimate and insightful Oscar experience, follow the tweets of these Oscar nominees:

  • James Franco (@jamesfranco) - Co-host of the Oscars and nominated for Best Actor ("127 Hours")
  • Mark Ruffalo (@mruff221) - Nominated for Best Supporting Actor ("The Kids Are All Right")
  • Helena Bonham Carter (@_HelenaBCarter_) - Nominated for Best Supporting Actress ("The King's Speech")
  • Trent Reznor (@trent_reznor) - Nominated for Best Music, Original Score ("The Social Network") with Atticus Ross

AOL

You may want to believe that "The Kids Are All Right," but in kid reenactments of the Best Picture nominees, the kids are all ridiculous. Yes, ridiculously cute and cut-throat, as in "The Social Network" clip (below), or cute and cut-arm in "127 Hours."

GetGlue

While you're watching Sunday's telecast on ABC and seeing the accuracy of your picks dwindle with each category, find comfort in something that truly sticks -- such as an official Oscars sticker from GetGlue, a social network that enables entertainment check-ins. It may not be "The Social Network," but it's one of many digitally choreographed programs attempting to get movie fans glued to the Oscars.

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Have you participated in any digital Oscar engagement programs or plan to watch Sunday night's show? Share your favorite digital enhancements to the show in the comments below.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and Web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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December 22 2010

18:17

'The Social Network,' Streaming Boom Dominate Film in 2010

From Pandora to Palo Alto, digital and social media grabbed movie headlines in 2010.

The year started with a box office record-breaker that captured our 3D imaginations ("Avatar") and is ending with David Fincher's fascinating look at Facebook ("The Social Network") collecting awards for film of the year (American Film Institute, Los Angeles Film Critics, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics, et al). Although, according to Facebook (Top Status Trends of the Year), the most talked about films among its members were actually "Toy Story 3" and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." The latter was also the most watched trailer on YouTube this year with 17 million views.

When it came to Twitter, the dream merchants of "Inception" produced a summer blockbuster and the top film-related Twitter trend this year.

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As an overall trend, however, moviegoers continue to explore different platforms to experience films, from streaming and downloading to apps or social networks. As a result, they are disrupting traditional models of distribution and revenue sources (see Blockbuster Files for Bankruptcy After Online Rivals Gain, a report from Bloomberg, for example).

I asked several filmmakers and digital executives for their thoughts on the biggest trends, behavioral shifts and technology developments of 2010. Below are their responses.

Film Trends of 2010

Opening Friday Reviews
"Mobile apps and social media came into their own this year, as one of the most important ways by which moviegoers share their opinions, read reviews and decide which movies they're going to see ... Moviegoers relay their opinions to millions of other people the minute they leave the theater. Opening weekend used to forecast box office -- now, it's opening Friday." -- Steve Polsky, president and COO, Flixster, whose app is used by more than 23 million people

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Multi-Platform Viewing
"Consumer demand for anytime, anywhere access to movies means it's not just about watching in theaters and on television in living rooms, but also about watching on computers and mobile devices like iPads and iPhones. This was the biggest transformation of the movie industry in 2010. Studios are realizing that they need to reach consumers on their terms and that we have an opportunity to reach more people if we embrace what consumers want. The demand for entertaining movies has never been higher; people are watching them in new ways and Hollywood continues to tell stories that captivate audiences around the world." -- Mark Greenberg, president and CEO, EPIX

Internet-connected HDTVs
"Although 3D has been the hot topic this year and received most of the press, I believe the real story was the quiet rollout of consumer HDTVs with Internet capability. Over the last year, I have been testing this exciting new delivery method and have discovered that it is a viable alternative to traditional broadcast to the home. If you understand the power of social networking and direct marketing, it becomes obvious the worldwide potential of this exciting new opportunity." -- Randall P. Dark, president and CEO, Randall Dark Productions

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Streaming Content
"The greatest trend in 2010 was the growth of viewers watching movies and TV over web-enabled streaming devices. Of course, Netflix is leading the charge in streaming content, but other players will emerge in 2011 and I think digital historians will look back on 2010 as the year the streaming wars began and DVD started to assume its place alongside the cassette tape and laser disc." -- Richard Raddon, co-founder, Movieclips.com

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Crowdfunding
"Continuing the trend towards the democratization of filmmaking that began when affordable cameras and editing equipment became available in the past 15 years or so, crowdfunding has opened up new avenues for film financing. IndieGoGo.com and Kickstarter.com offer a simple interface through which fans and investors can help fund film and media projects that often would not meet traditional financing requirements. This revolution enables independent artists to not only get the financial support they need to complete their projects, but also to build a fan base that can later become essential to the marketing and distribution of the project." -- Academy Award-nominated director Roko Belic, Wadi Rum Films (Happy - The Movie)

2011: Transformative Innovations?

With "The Social Network" an early favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture, 2010 may end up being remembered as the year when our web-connected way of life finally reached a tipping point on the big scren. As Sean Parker stated in the film, "We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we're gonna live on the Internet."

The release of "Tron: Legacy" furthers this theme for 2010, giving moviegoers a new digitally immersive experience, while also spurring conversation on the future of our virtual existence and networked worlds. 2011 is sure to expand upon the trends above and quite possibly introduce some transformative innovations.

Or as Kevin Flynn states, "Now, I kept dreaming...dreaming of this world I thought I'd never see. And then, one day, something happened. Something extraordinary."

*****

What do you think were the extraordinary innovations and trends of 2010? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and Web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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September 27 2010

23:45

Adrian Grenier Turns Camera on Paparazzi in HBO Documentary

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"I'm going to meet Adrian Grenier from 'Entourage' and see his new documentary," I told a friend recently. That friend is a female who's married but also a fan of "Entourage."

"Can you tell him I think he's cute?" she said.

I think he gets the message. Grenier plays Vincent Chase, the good-looking idiot savant in "Entourage" who makes the money while his crew does all the dirty work. But Grenier in real life is someone who can take that parody of celebrity culture even further. In his new documentary, Teenage Paparazzo (premiering tonight on HBO), Grenier is the director, on-screen star, and master manipulator. The story is ostensibly about a 14-year-old paparazzo named Austin Visschedyk, who lives in Hollywood and has parents that don't mind him going out till 3 am and stalking celebrities to get photos of them.

But very quickly, you realize the film is more about Grenier and his own interactions with paparazzi, and his musings on privacy in the digital age. Grenier purchases a high-end camera for himself, and with Austin's help, joins the pack to try to get photos of celebs. He becomes a catalyst of sorts for Austin, helping him become a celebrity with his own reality show on E! Though Grenier interviews media experts like Henry Jenkins (at a Boston Red Sox game where an "Entourage" fan rudely interrupts), the documentary prompts more questions than it answers.

Why is Grenier on-screen so much, interacting with the main characters and ratcheting up the drama? Isn't he having a long-term effect on a young man's future? Is that good? But more than that, Grenier leaves it all in the documentary, his own musings and even his own questions about what he is doing, and whether it is for good or ill. At one point, he stages an elaborate "date" with Paris Hilton just to get tongues wagging -- as well as good photos for his pal, Austin. And more than that, he shows the protagonists the film so far to see how ashamed they are of their actions.

While Grenier weaves the story well with the expert analysis, including interviews with stars such as Hilton, Whoopie Goldberg and Alec Baldwin, he misses an opportunity to get at the power behind the paparazzi. When he finally goes to the photo editors at the tabloid magazine, OK, he never asks them what their responsibility is when it comes to privacy and stalking. And while he shows Austin obsessively posting and editing photos on his computer, and mentions the phenomenon of sites such as TMZ, he never talks to bloggers beyond Perez Hilton.

Though it feels like Grenier is in every frame of the documentary (behind or in front of the camera), we still don't know who he is, how he differs from the cipher of Vinnie Chase. After I saw the preview showing of the documentary, I asked Grenier why I still didn't know who he was and what his emotional response was to the action in the documentary.

"That's what my girlfriend said, too," he responded. "I've always had a very objective personality, not putting my opinion up front. My last documentary 'Shot in the Dark' is very personal, about my search for my father."

Twitter Interview

I had a chance today to do a live interview of Grenier on Twitter, and asked him the question again: What makes him different than Vincent Chase?

"The difference between me and Vince is that I see irony in everything and he is more earnest," he wrote back.

So maybe this is all about irony, and Grenier definitely leverages more irony in his social media promotions for the documentary, including the ridiculous S'leb Suit infomercial (starring celebrities, of course). Below is my Twitter interview with Grenier, edited via Keepstream.

What do you think about the notion of privacy in the digital age, and rise of sites such as TMZ? If you saw the "Teenage Paparazzo" documentary, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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September 21 2010

18:14

How Filmmakers Use Crowdfunding to Kickstart Productions

art machine grab.jpg

According to the crowdfunding pitch for the film "Art Machine," a $1 donation will buy you "love and respect from the cast and crew." And if you give $1,000, you get perks like a DVD and a speaking role in the film. That's the promise from director Doug Karr and Chop Wood Carry Water Productions for anyone who supported his film, which raised more than $26,000 using Kickstarter.

Two startups, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, have jumpstarted online crowdfunding for filmmakers. Kickstarter describes itself as "a new way to fund and follow creativity," while IndieGoGo says that it's "a collaborative way to fund ideas." A mix of the two taglines defines crowdfunding, allowing the audience to fund films with small donations.

I spoke with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler and received feedback from IndieGoGo CEO and co-funder Slava Rubin about crowdfunding, their respective sites and how filmmakers can effectively raise funds and awareness through them.

The Crowdfunding Comparison

Strickler called Kickstarter a flexible tool and resource for filmmakers that, thanks to its integration with social networks, is "an easy way to aggregrate all the love and support that a filmmaker has in the world." Kickstarter aims to be "a place for artists to build a community" and where filmmakers "get to control what success is and talk to their audience the way they want to."

Kickstarter homepage.jpg

Kickstarter's supporting film role:

  • A total of $6 million has been raised for film projects since April 2009
  • More than a dozen filmmakers have successfully raised $40,000 (the maximum individual donation is $10,000)
  • 2,500 film projects have been supported so far
  • 45 percent of filmmakers successfully reach their funding goal
  • What Kickstarter gets: a 5 percent, one-time fee
  • Filmmakers only receive their funds if they reach the set goal

IndieGoGo calls its crowdfunding approach as "Do It With Others" (DIWO) fundraising, giving any ideathe tools and process to raise money, offer perks and keep 100 percent ownership. Rubin said that filmmakers on the site "range from Sundance award winners to college students making their first film."

IndieGoGo homepage-thumb.jpg

IndieGoGo's supporting film role:

  • Hundreds of new film projects are launched on the site each month
  • One film was able to raise more than $70,000
  • The "sweet spot" for films raising funds on the site is between $2,000 and $13,000
  • The average funding contribution is $84
  • What IndieGoGo gets: 4 percent fee if filmmakers reach their goals or a 9 percent fee if they don't
  • Filmmakers are able to keep the funds even if they don't achieve their goals

Both sites have grown more than 400 percent over the past year, while Kickstarter has attracted seven times the number of unique monthly visitors as IndieGoGo. Kickstarter also has doubled site traffic in the past six months, according to Compete.com.

Perks for Pledges

Both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo give filmmakers the freedom to add incentives to encourage various levels of contributions and a larger number of funders. "With a good pitch, proactive marketing, and some cool perks, it's amazing the support the film campaigns have been getting," Rubin said.

Strickler highlighted three categories that filmmakers should consider when offering perks or rewards for participating in the funding process:

  1. A token of recognition: A credit or some form of acknowledgment that the funder is part of the project
  2. Physical products: DVDs or props from the film, for example
  3. Creative experiences: Participatory opportunities such as watching the dailies, meeting the director, attending the premiere or even having a role in the film

For film enthusiasts interested in funding projects, the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the production and post-production processes can be a reward in itself. On the other hand, filmmaker Bill Delano will actually give you a prayer flag blessed by a guide named Karma, for a pledge of $300 to support his "Karma Walkers" film.

Karr, the writer and director for the Chop Wood Carry Water Productions film "Art Machine," used Kickstarter to raise "an eighth of the production budget" because "it seemed like the perfect mix of crowdsourcing, marketing and fundraising."

"I can't emphasize strongly enough how palpable the mix of awareness-raising tied with people helping to get the film made with even just a few dollars," he said. "It's really a fantastic way to open up the whole process."

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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July 28 2010

19:02

Gaming + Mobile + Social = 'Conspiracy for Good' from Tim Kring

Tim Kring, a long-time television writer and producer, is best known as the creator of the NBC show "Heroes." But he's rapidly expanding his media universe -- last week at Comic-Con he launched a new book project, "Shift," which will debut in August from Crown Books.

He has also created a new transmedia project called "Conspiracy For Good" (CFG), which describes itself as "a movie where YOU can be the hero and impact the outcome of the story for the better." Participants travel through a blurred narrative that mixes media, interactive storytelling and a learn-as-we-go collective approach to fight a greedy corporation and benefit good organizations.

CFG is being partially supported by Nokia and its Ovi mobile platform. Plus, the fictional story includes chances for players to do real good in the world. For instance, there is a collaboration with the Pearson Foundation and Room to Read, where each time an online visitor reads a book to a child, the corresponding book will be donated to five libraries set up in Zambia. Nokia and Room to Read will also fund a year of education for 50 girls in Zambia.

The first live meeting of participants in "Conspiracy For Good" occurred on July 17 in London. I connected with Kring to explore this new genre he calls "social benefit storytelling," and what its implications are for entertainment and social good.

Q&A

What is "Conspiracy For Good" (CFG) and how can people participate or experience it?

Tim Kring: The "Conspiracy For Good" is a global movement for change driven by a story, which the audience becomes a part of and every participant has the ability to impact the outcome of this story. The story will be played out on websites, mobile devices, at live meet-up events in London, and ultimately in a village in eastern Zambia where CFG will be responsible for building a library, stocking it with books and providing 50 scholarships for school girls.

This U.K.-based project of "Conspiracy For Good" is the pilot for game-changing entertainment -- narrative mythology that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, compelling the audience to become a part of the story with real world outcomes.

To get into the "Conspiracy For Good" and join in the story, simply go to the web page and watch the featured video. A recap will point you to the current activities and detail how you can get involved. And if you're in the London area, register online at the site and join us on the streets.

Anyone can follow along -- comment, contribute, share, decipher, solve, connect and collaborate at the website. The site is the global hub for all things CFG: Watch videos, follow progress and events on the blog, and make an impact and interact with the characters of the story through the main websites.

"Conspiracy For Good" is called "a social benefit experience." What does this mean and how can an entertaining story generate social benefits?


Kring: The "Conspiracy For Good" creates a new genre of entertainment which combines rich narrative, philanthropy and commerce. We call this genre "social benefit storytelling." The "Conspiracy For Good" aims to become a movement. Individuals are now being "tapped on the shoulder" and asked to join this movement to continue to make the work of the "Conspiracy For Good" a reality with global impact. By participating, members of CFG have the opportunity to affect real word change from the environment to education to the economy by applying their unique abilities, talents, networks and passion as an active part of the story.

The entire gameplay centers around causes, and direct action...on the streets in London, where participants will be involved in book drives, toy drives, cleaning the Thames, etc. By creating a secret society for good, and providing a forum for people to connect with one another, the hope is that there will be a tremendous amount of user-generated interest in new and worthy causes.

"Conspiracy For Good" says it integrates "interactive theater, mobile and alternate reality gaming (ARG), music and physical participation." Is there one component that excites you most? And will this multi-screen experience include movie theaters or television?

Kring: I am very intrigued by the mobile aspect. It has just exploded over the last few years as smartphones are reaching a wider demographic. I love the idea that a mobile phone can be both a content consumption device and a content creation device. In other words, an audience can use their mobile phone to receive story and create video and text and geo-tagging themselves. For a storyteller, this really piques my interest.

Tim Kring Headshot_300dpi June 2010.jpg

"Heroes" was a fictional story about people trying to save the world. "Conspiracy For Good" seems to be a real-life extension of this narrative. What elements and lessons from "Heroes" were applied to the development of "Conspiracy For Good"?

Kring: You are right that I came up with this idea when I saw how connected and committed the "Heroes" audience was to the underlying core message behind "Heroes" -- interconnectivity and global consciousness. So, I thought, wouldn't it be great to not just talk about "saving the world" in fiction, but to attempt to do it in the real world. In many ways this is the logical extension of what was known as the "360 Platform" that NBC.com and "Heroes" built around the show. The attempt there was to build a broad, connected universe around the show that created multiple extensions of the story that could cross all platforms.

We learned a tremendous amount doing this. One of the key things was just how motivated the audience can be to create content on its own. So in many ways, CFG takes that idea and makes it the ultimate goal -- to create a self-sustaining movement for good that ends up having real-world implications and direct action.

You just announced that Room to Read and the Pearson Foundation will be beneficiaries of the "Conspiracy For Good" experience. Will there be additional organizations and how can participants support them?

Kring: Other organizations are invited to include their missions in the "Conspiracy For Good," and participants are welcome to join those missions, too. The meeting place for missions and people is conspiracyforgood.com.


The experience includes live meet-ups in London. How will participants meeting other participants evolve the story? Will there be meet-ups in other cities?

Kring: London is the first of what we hope will be many cities around the world. When participants come together they will follow a clue trail of video drops that move the story forward. They will have to work together in teams to solve various clues in order to advance the story. They will find key props and sets and locations for the story, interacting with these and using their collective efforts to confront our bad guys and have justice prevail for our protagonist. Along the way they will interact with actors in character, creating a sense of a truly pervasive experience.

Here's a video giving the back story on "Conspiracy for Good":

Blackwell Briggs is a fictional greedy corporation in the energy industry that distributes false information. Is it inspired by any real-life company or event?

Kring: We've all become very familiar with corporate greed of all stripes. Blackwell Briggs is an attempt to draw from that sense of familiarity without necessarily conjuring up any one corporation in particular. The corporation seems to be involved in almost everything controversial. So, in many ways, they are a "catch all" for corporate greed. By showcasing a fictional, evil corporation, we also celebrate, by contrast, the admirable, real world companies that really do exist in the marketplace today.

What does success look like for "Conspiracy For Good"?

Kring: Teams in five different countries have worked together to bring an idea to life, to do something that has never been done before. Designed as a proof of concept pilot that integrates narrative, cross-platform participation and philanthropy, the measure of success is that it has been built and deployed and proves viable on a story level, a participation and community level, providing a foundation for greater expansion.

*****

Do you plan to join the Conspiracy For Good and contribute to the movement? Share your thoughts about this transmedia project in the comments below.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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June 29 2010

16:50

5Across: Arts Criticism in the Digital Age

news21 small.jpg

5Across is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

As newspapers and magazines have cut staff in the shift to digital, arts critics find themselves with less sure footing when it comes to a full-time staff position. According to a recent article in the Australian, 65 full-time film critics have lost jobs on American newspapers and magazines since 2006. Can't local newspapers just use syndicated reviews for movies shown nationally? And isn't the Internet giving many more critics outside of traditional publications the chance to shine?

Plus, there are review aggregator sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic that simply give people a roundup of what critics have said about a particular movie. In the case of Rotten Tomatoes, you even get a 1 to 100 rating that is an aggregation of all the major reviews. What is the state of arts criticism, and can traditional critics hold onto their jobs? We convened a roundtable to discuss the rise of aggregators, audience participation, and what happened when one San Francisco newspaper asked its critics to use social media. (They didn't.)

5Across: Arts Criticism in the Digital Age

artcritics.mp4

>>> Subscribe to 5Across video podcast <<<

>>> Subscribe to 5Across via iTunes <<<

Guest Biographies

Matt Atchity is editor-in-chief for Rotten Tomatoes. Matt is responsible for defining the editorial voice of Rotten Tomatoes, and oversees the publishing of all of the content on the site, including original news stories, interviews and columns. Before Rotten Tomatoes, Matt was senior content producer and managing editor at Yahoo Movies. He has also worked as a site producer for Warner Bros. online and Entertainment Asylum.

Kenneth Baker has been art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle since 1985. A native of the Boston area, he served as art critic for the Boston Phoenix between 1972 and 1985. He has written on a freelance basis for publications ranging from Artforum, Art in America, Art News and Art + Auction to Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times Book Review. He was a contributing editor of Artforum from 1985 through 1992. Baker is the author of two books: "Minimalism: Art of Circumstance" (Abbeville Press, 1989/1997) and "The Lightning Field" (Yale University Press, 2008).

Reyhan Harmanci grew up in Amish country in central Pennsylvania, and moved to San Francisco in 2001. She began working at the San Francisco Chronicle as an editorial assistant in 2002, eventually becoming an arts/culture/trend reporter in 2006. She took a buyout in April 2009, freelancing for California magazine, Village Voice, McSweeney's, Style.com, SF Weekly and others. Currently, she is the culture editor/writer at the new non-profit site, Bay Citizen.

Jonathan Kiefer is a leading Northern California freelance arts critic. He's a former arts editor and still a film critic for the alternative weekly Sacramento News & Review, and has written for Salon, the New Republic, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times Book Review, and Film Quarterly, among others. He writes regularly about books and theater for SF Weekly, and about film for the Faster Times (an online newspaper), KQED.org, San Francisco magazine, and several alternative newsweeklies. His book about Bay Area cinema is forthcoming from City Lights Books.

Susan Young is the president of the Television Critics Association, an organization of more than 220 professional TV critics and writers based in the United States and Canada. The TCA holds twice-yearly press tours in Los Angeles and hosts the annual TCA Awards. Susan was the TV critic for the Oakland Tribune for 15 years and now is a freelance writer for publications including People magazine, Variety and MSNBC.com.

If you'd prefer to watch sections of the show rather than the entire show, I've broken them down by topic below.

Traditional Jobs Disappear

Rise of Aggregators

Audience Participation and Comments

Who's a Critic?

Print vs. Online

Credits

vegaproject-pbs-mediashift.png

Mark Glaser, executive producer and host
Corbin Hiar, research assistant

Charlotte Buchen, camera

Julie Caine, audio

Location: Vega Project & Kennerly Architecture office space in San Francisco

Special thanks to: PBS and the Knight Foundation

Music by AJ the DJ

*****

What do you think? Should local newspapers continue to have arts critics on staff, or will more critics become freelancers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

news21 small.jpg

5Across is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

June 08 2010

20:40

How 6 Big Summer Films Are Using Facebook For Marketing

Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man, believes in "better living through technology." Most marketers would argue that better marketing is enabled by technology as well. One of the primary game-changers today is Facebook and studios are learning how to engage audiences online to spur a better box office.

Movie marketers understand the impact that reaching their desired audiences on Facebook can have on driving awareness and interest in a film. For them, the power of Facebook is its ability to quickly build a community and customer relationships, generate real-time conversation and feedback, create promotions that reach relevant users, and accelerate content-sharing across the web and mobile devices. (Also, see my previous post, Movie Apps Get Social as Studios Integrate Facebook Connect.)

According to Facebook, more than 25 billion pieces of content -- such as links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos -- are shared each month. Millions of these comments and posts are movie-related. Facebook is rocket fuel for word-of-mouth and studios are experimenting with how to best engage users in order to convert those who "Like" a movie to someone who purchases a ticket. With the arrival of the summer movie season, I decided to take a closer look at the Facebook pages for six studio movies and see which one, if any, was Buzz Lightyears ahead with Facebook engagement.

Iron Man photos1.jpg

Iron Man 2 | 1,360,503 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall (landing tab) | Info | Photos | Boxes | Video

Studio: Marvel, Paramount Pictures | 28,201 Likes

Release date: May 7

Iron Man 2 has made more than $290 million at the U.S. box office, according to Box Office Mojo. More than a million people are fans of the franchise on Facebook. While the Facebook page is nothing to marvel at when it comes to creativity outside of the core Facebook tabs, there are seven international pages (Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the U.K.) for "Iron Man 2" which is a testament to the global interest in the superhero. The U.S. page provides the essential photos and videos, but lacks the charisma of Tony Stark or the appeal of Pepper Potts. Alternatively, the Facebook page for Stark Expo, which includes a letter from Stark about his commitment to technological wonders, is a clever mechanism to get fans engaged with an event that occurs within the film.

When more than two thousand people respond to a simple question, such as "Did you see Iron Man 2 yesterday?," a Facebook page can be a weapon of mass conversation.

SexandtheCity2.jpg

Sex and The City 2 | 1,967,023 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall (landing tab) | Info | PREMIERE | Photos | Video | MORE FUN

Studio: Warner Bros | 62,308 Likes

Release date: May 27

Fittingly, the glossiest Facebook movie profile belongs to "Sex and The City 2." The "MORE FUN" tab on the page opens up a world of content, including a character quiz, an interactive trailer, a Girls Night Out planner, an iGoogle theme, a local hotspot guide and perhaps most importantly, one-click access to Carrie Bradshaw's closet.

While it's not clear how many SATC2 fans glammed up their Google page, the more than 30 official international pages reveal that the movie is a global phenomenon.

A Team movie.jpg

The A Team | 36,197 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | A-Team (landing tab) | Video | Photos | Discussions

Studio: 20th Century FOX

Release date: June 11

With a team member named "Face," the "The A-Team" is a natural fit on the A-list of social networking sites. While the page provides good mix of behind-the-scenes videos, character profiles and promotional news, it also should reflect the rogue nature of "The A-Team" and give fans a sense of adventure.

The page does link to a "Drive The A-Team Van" YouTube channel, where fans can drive the van in Google Earth to unlock videos. This is an innovative use of Google Earth that isn't easy to discover on the movie's Facebook page. The van is arguably the movie's most recognizable character and the opportunity to get behind the wheel of it -- even in a virtual scenario -- is a fun engagement vehicle that should be showcased on the page.

Toy Story 3 FB Tickets.jpg

Toy Story 3 | 791,581 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | Video Game | Fan Board | Tickets (landing tab)

Studio: Disney Pixar | 1,347,406 Likes

Release date: June 18

Disney Pixar movies have an advantage when it comes to Facebook movie marketing, due to the large Facebook communities for both Disney (more than 3.5 million Likes) and Disney Pixar (more than 1 million Likes). Four "Toy Story 3" characters even have their own Facebook pages (Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Buttercup and Lotso) that have larger communities than many summer movies. Disney Pixar also recently launched its Disney Tickets Together Facebook app, so now Facebook users can buy movie tickets without leaving Facebook. The combination of multiple Facebook pages sharing content and promotions with millions of passionate fans allows the box office for Disney Pixar films to, as Woody would say, "reach for the sky."

Twilight saga facebook1.jpg

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse | 6,154,389 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | Eclipse (landing tab) | New Moon | Discussions | Video

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Release date: June 30

Summit Entertainment is not one of the major six movie studios, but it is coming off a Best Picture Oscar for "The Hurt Locker" and big box office receipts for the "Twilight" franchise have the studio howling at the moon. "Twilight" also enjoys one of the largest audiences for any movie on Facebook thanks to the many community-created fan pages and groups dedicated to the movies and characters (e.g. Team Jacob or Team Edward).

But how effective is the Facebook page for "Eclipse" in engaging fans? Let's look at a typical day in "Eclipse" engagement. On May 12, the page shared eight pieces of content, which generated 60,000 Likes and comments. Much like the immortal characters in the movie, "Twilight" fans have an insatiable thirst for content. And for Facebook users who visit the page, the landing "Eclipse" tab does what all movie pages should do (but often don't) -- link directly to sites where tickets may be purchased online. And only a beloved franchise with ravenous fans could boldly ask viewers to organize a viewing party in their area. Twilight eclipses the rest when it comes to fan engagement and mirrors the massive built-in audience for Disney's "Toy Story" franchise.

Despicable Me FB.jpg

Despicable Me | 22,822 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | Win a Minion (landing tab) | Games | Minion Mail | Ringtones

Studio: Universal Pictures | 18,736 Likes

Release date: July 9

The Minions featured in the new animated film "Despicable Me" hope to rival the popularity of Woody or Buzz Lightyear. They have their own Facebook page with more than 68,000 Likes, or three times the number of the movie's page. "We're concentrating on building two Facebook communities for the film -- one focused on the film and one on the Minion characters from the film," said Doug Neil, senior vice president of digital marketing at Universal Pictures. "We want to engage our target audience with video clips, trailers, images, games, news stories, activities, etc., that help to drive awareness and interest in the film."

Regarding content that these communities find most compelling, Neil said that, "Video content -- trailers, clips, custom animations, etc. -- drive the most engagement and response. There has a been a lot of interest in the Minion Mail cards that have been themed to holidays and milestone events."

There are varying degrees of experimentation and community-building strategies being deployed on Facebook, but if movie marketers can agree on one thing, it might be the belief that there's nothing despicable about an engaged audience of minions with a positive message to share in their personal networks.

*****

Share your favorite movie page on Facebook in the comments below.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

May 26 2010

05:51

How 6 Big Summer Films Are Using Facebook For Marketing

Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man, believes in "better living through technology." Most marketers would argue that better marketing is enabled by technology as well. One of the primary game-changers today is Facebook and studios are learning how to engage audiences online to spur a better box office.

Movie marketers understand the impact that reaching their desired audiences on Facebook can have on driving awareness and interest in a film. For them, the power of Facebook is its ability to quickly build a community and customer relationships, generate real-time conversation and feedback, create promotions that reach relevant users, and accelerate content-sharing across the web and mobile devices. (Also, see my previous post, Movie Apps Get Social as Studios Integrate Facebook Connect.)

According to Facebook, more than 25 billion pieces of content -- such as links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos -- are shared each month. Millions of these comments and posts are movie-related. Facebook is rocket fuel for word-of-mouth and studios are experimenting with how to best engage users in order to convert those who "Like" a movie to someone who purchases a ticket. With the arrival of the summer movie season, I decided to take a closer look at the Facebook pages for six studio movies and see which one, if any, was Buzz Lightyears ahead with Facebook engagement.

Iron Man photos1.jpg

Iron Man 2 | 1,360,503 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall (landing tab) | Info | Photos | Boxes | Video

Studio: Marvel, Paramount Pictures | 28,201 Likes

Release date: May 7

Iron Man 2 has made more than $290 million at the U.S. box office, according to Box Office Mojo. More than a million people are fans of the franchise on Facebook. While the Facebook page is nothing to marvel at when it comes to creativity outside of the core Facebook tabs, there are seven international pages (Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the U.K.) for "Iron Man 2" which is a testament to the global interest in the superhero. The U.S. page provides the essential photos and videos, but lacks the charisma of Tony Stark or the appeal of Pepper Potts. Alternatively, the Facebook page for Stark Expo, which includes a letter from Stark about his commitment to technological wonders, is a clever mechanism to get fans engaged with an event that occurs within the film.

When more than two thousand people respond to a simple question, such as "Did you see Iron Man 2 yesterday?," a Facebook page can be a weapon of mass conversation.

SexandtheCity2.jpg

Sex and The City 2 | 1,967,023 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall (landing tab) | Info | PREMIERE | Photos | Video | MORE FUN

Studio: Warner Bros | 62,308 Likes

Release date: May 27

Fittingly, the glossiest Facebook movie profile belongs to "Sex and The City 2." The "MORE FUN" tab on the page opens up a world of content, including a character quiz, an interactive trailer, a Girls Night Out planner, an iGoogle theme, a local hotspot guide and perhaps most importantly, one-click access to Carrie Bradshaw's closet.

While it's not clear how many SATC2 fans glammed up their Google page, the more than 30 official international pages reveal that the movie is a global phenomenon.

A Team movie.jpg

The A Team | 36,197 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | A-Team (landing tab) | Video | Photos | Discussions

Studio: 20th Century FOX

Release date: June 11

With a team member named "Face," the "The A-Team" is a natural fit on the A-list of social networking sites. While the page provides good mix of behind-the-scenes videos, character profiles and promotional news, it also should reflect the rogue nature of "The A-Team" and give fans a sense of adventure.

The page does link to a "Drive The A-Team Van" YouTube channel, where fans can drive the van in Google Earth to unlock videos. This is an innovative use of Google Earth that isn't easy to discover on the movie's Facebook page. The van is arguably the movie's most recognizable character and the opportunity to get behind the wheel of it -- even in a virtual scenario -- is a fun engagement vehicle that should be showcased on the page.

Toy Story 3 FB Tickets.jpg

Toy Story 3 | 791,581 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | Video Game | Fan Board | Tickets (landing tab)

Studio: Disney Pixar | 1,347,406 Likes

Release date: June 18

Disney Pixar movies have an advantage when it comes to Facebook movie marketing, due to the large Facebook communities for both Disney (more than 3.5 million Likes) and Disney Pixar (more than 1 million Likes). Four "Toy Story 3" characters even have their own Facebook pages (Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Buttercup and Lotso) that have larger communities than many summer movies. Disney Pixar also recently launched its Disney Tickets Together Facebook app, so now Facebook users can buy movie tickets without leaving Facebook. The combination of multiple Facebook pages sharing content and promotions with millions of passionate fans allows the box office for Disney Pixar films to, as Woody would say, "reach for the sky."

Twilight saga facebook1.jpg

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse | 6,154,389 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | Eclipse (landing tab) | New Moon | Discussions | Video

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Release date: June 30

Summit Entertainment is not one of the major six movie studios, but it is coming off a Best Picture Oscar for "The Hurt Locker" and big box office receipts for the "Twilight" franchise have the studio howling at the moon. "Twilight" also enjoys one of the largest audiences for any movie on Facebook thanks to the many community-created fan pages and groups dedicated to the movies and characters (e.g. Team Jacob or Team Edward).

But how effective is the Facebook page for "Eclipse" in engaging fans? Let's look at a typical day in "Eclipse" engagement. On May 12, the page shared eight pieces of content, which generated 60,000 Likes and comments. Much like the immortal characters in the movie, "Twilight" fans have an insatiable thirst for content. And for Facebook users who visit the page, the landing "Eclipse" tab does what all movie pages should do (but often don't) -- link directly to sites where tickets may be purchased online. And only a beloved franchise with ravenous fans could boldly ask viewers to organize a viewing party in their area. Twilight eclipses the rest when it comes to fan engagement and mirrors the massive built-in audience for Disney's "Toy Story" franchise.

Despicable Me FB.jpg

Despicable Me | 22,822 Likes
Top Tabs: Wall | Info | Win a Minion (landing tab) | Games | Minion Mail | Ringtones

Studio: Universal Pictures | 18,736 Likes

Release date: July 9

The Minions featured in the new animated film "Despicable Me" hope to rival the popularity of Woody or Buzz Lightyear. They have their own Facebook page with more than 68,000 Likes, or three times the number of the movie's page. "We're concentrating on building two Facebook communities for the film -- one focused on the film and one on the Minion characters from the film," said Doug Neil, senior vice president of digital marketing at Universal Pictures. "We want to engage our target audience with video clips, trailers, images, games, news stories, activities, etc., that help to drive awareness and interest in the film."

Regarding content that these communities find most compelling, Neil said that, "Video content -- trailers, clips, custom animations, etc. -- drive the most engagement and response. There has a been a lot of interest in the Minion Mail cards that have been themed to holidays and milestone events."

There are varying degrees of experimentation and community-building strategies being deployed on Facebook, but if movie marketers can agree on one thing, it might be the belief that there's nothing despicable about an engaged audience of minions with a positive message to share in their personal networks.

*****

Share your favorite movie page on Facebook in the comments below.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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May 18 2010

19:31

4 Reasons Why 3D TV Is Years Away From Adoption

After a multi-decade struggle, 3D is finally catching on in theatres.

It was a challenge for 3D movies to get where they are today, but I'd say the studios (and theater operators) are finally calling it a success. All the pieces have come together, spurred on by financial support of the infrastructure and much-needed exposure of the latest 3D technology thanks to "Avatar."

The prospects for 3D television, however, are another story. I like the concept of another dimension as much as the next guy, but can the big screen 3D theater experience translate into the typical living room setting? In my opinion, not really. At least not yet. From a design standpoint, it's going to take time for consumers to buy into the idea of 3D TV.

While the technology's developers may think they're sitting on a gold mine here, they've unfortunately failed to consider some critical issues that will severely slow its adaption. As a result, here are four reasons why 3D is years away from adoption in the home.

1. Different Context

The assumption that acceptance and desire for a technology in one environment (movie theaters) will translate well to another (home) is a mistake that's easy to make. But, in this case, several differences between the contexts will deter adoption of 3D in the home.

At the theater, it's about a communal experience of many people joining together to be entertained in a way they can't replicate at home. They want to go out for the evening and make an event out of it. But entertainment at home is by its nature a more casual and personal experience that, with the advent of 3D, raises issues such as:

  • Will there be enough 3D glasses for everyone to enjoy the experience? What about guests?
  • The hassle and comfort factor of wearing the hardware at home.
  • The extremely limited availability of desirable content in 3D. And would we really want to watch the local news or "American Idol" in more than two dimensions even if it were possible?
  • It requires a significant investment of money to upgrade for what is (by many accounts at CES) minimal improvement in the viewing experience.

2. High Cost

In these (post?) recessionary times, people view large expenditures differently than they did a few years ago, when every room in the house was seen as a prime spot for a new flat screen. 3D-TV is not the sort of design solution people are willing to spend money on these days. The industry is pushing an expensive novelty that adds little of the kind of meaningful benefit consumers look for in high-end purchases.

3dtv.jpg

The economic downturn has encouraged consumers to re-examine their shopping behavior, and they've become more thoughtful and considerate of their purchases. Buying decisions fueled by novelty or impulse have been replaced by a desire for long-term value from a product, with benefits that consumers readily see as adding to the quality of their lives. Consumers now ask themselves "Will this make my life easier, better, or more fulfilling?" rather than "Oh, look at that shiny new toy, I want one!" -- especially if it's a matter of several hundred or thousand dollars.

3. Poor Timing

People will eventually replace their current flat screens when needed, and may well consider 3D at that time. But 3D will not, on its own, be a compelling reason to buy a new TV for most consumers within the next few years. The flat screens in use now are largely recent purchases, with many years of service life to come. People bought into these TVs too recently to consider an upgrade within the next couple of years.

4. Lack of Universal Standard

The adoption of 3D-TV faces a similar challenge to the acceptance of Blu-ray DVDs, but without the "stick" the DVD market has had -- the threat that standard discs will be discontinued, forcing a (relatively inexpensive) upgrade to a new player. Blu-ray may be the new standard format for DVDs, but 2D-television is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. And with incompatible 3D technologies competing in the market right now, it's inevitable that consumers will wait on the sidelines until a universal format like Blu-ray becomes the norm.

Missing the Point

So will 3D-TV eventually catch on? Inevitably the tech will improve, enough homes will be at a stage to upgrade to new screens, prices will come down, it may no longer require glasses and so forth. But for the moment, 3D simply doesn't deliver a meaningful experience to consumers on the home front. The value they will place on the technology is not at all commensurate with the hassles and costs of adapting it.

Home entertainment is about spending enjoyable time with family and friends, kicking back and forgetting about the stress of the day. Any new technology aimed at this market has to be responsive to the underlying needs people have for this aspect of their lives. The DVR is a perfect example of truly meaningful design in this arena, and its rapid success was virtually ensured from the day it was introduced. It solved a problem and addressed a compelling desire.

Similarly, instant access to movies and events through direct streaming to your TV has taken this desire for personal control over TV viewing to a new level. That's the kind of innovation people are looking to spend money on right now. Online gaming, direct to TV, seems to be the natural evolution of this trend. Several companies have promised that, as soon as next year, we'll be able to stream the latest games to our TVs without the need for a dedicated console that's obsolete in two years. Play when you like on a subscription basis, no need to invest in games that you may tire of in a few weeks. If it works as promised, I think it's going to be a huge success.

But for now, I think Sony and other manufacturers betting big on 3D TV have missed the point. Design and innovation have to be in sync with consumer needs, even if they lead by a year or two. Pushing 3D TV seems like more of a "we can do it, so let's do it" approach to product development, ignoring the reality that adding simulated depth to the at-home viewing experience is pretty low on most people's priorities right now.

Image of 3D dinosaur by Mark Wallace via Flickr.

Joel Delman is the Los Angeles-based design director of Product Development Technologies. With a background in corporate law and business, and 15 years in product development, Joel understands the business side of creativity and how to strategically guide innovation and design. Prior to joining PDT, Joel spent time as a senior designer for Zenith Electronics, Cousins Design and Henry Dreyfuss Associates (New York). He also practiced corporate law with Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart in Florida. Joel received his Master of Industrial Design from Pratt Institute, his JD (corporate and patent) from Harvard Law School and his Bachelor's in Economics from New York University's Stern School of Business. His personal blog is Product Fetish.

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April 15 2010

07:52

How Film Festivals Use Twitter to Boost Attendance, Engagement

Action. Animated. Documentary. Experimental. These are four of the categories that film festivals program in their schedules. But they're also apt descriptions of the Twitter narrative that film festival organizers are weaving into their filmgoer engagement and marketing initiatives.

Leslie Feibleman, director of special programs and senior programmer for the Newport Beach Film Festival, said Twitter is similar to the film industry in that it's "dynamic, continuously emerging, and is infused with new talent, technology and ideas -- a place to discover and be discovered."

I connected with organizers, programmers and social media strategists working for the Newport Beach Film Festival (April 22-29), Phoenix Film Festival (April 8-15) and Wisconsin Film Festival (April 14-18) to gather insight into how they engage filmgoers and drive them from Twitter to theater.

Action: Inspire Interest and Attendance

"We find that followers respond well to giveaways, promotions and visuals," according to Feibleman.

Robert Aldecoa, marketing director of the Phoenix Film Festival, has used Twitter in a variety of ways to reach and expand the festival's audience.

"The largest efforts were initially geared toward announcing film screenings and directing users to the appropriate ticket page," Aldecoa said. "We tried to include a useful hyperlink in as many tweets as possible in an attempt to engage our followers beyond 140 characters. You really do have to provide consistent, useful information. It also helps to give your followers a reason to participate in your efforts -- whether it's to win some movie passes or see their name and user pic on a big-screen in the party tent. If people have a great time and talk about it, their friends wonder what they're missing and we'll see even more of their happy faces next year."

PhoenixFilmFest tweet.jpg

But does all the content-sharing, contests and click-through opportunities result in a higher level of attendance? According to Gregg Schwenk, CEO and executive director of the Newport Beach Film Festival, the answer is yes. "The Festival has seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in pre-festival ticket sales between 2009 and 2010 due to social media, including Twitter," he said.

Animated: Have Fun and Show Personality

Most festivals screen more than 100 films over the course of a week, so they have a lot of content to talk about and share on Twitter. Equally important to some organizers is the ability to share a smile and showcase the festival's true essence.

wifilmfest tweet.jpg

"Bring your sense of humor. Make it personal, not corporate. Respond," said Meg Hamel, director of the Wisconsin Film Festival. "Don't make it seem like you're only doing this only to sell tickets. Don't make it seem like you're doing this because somewhere you read that social media was the next big thing. And here in Wisconsin, people really do care what you have for breakfast, as long as it involves bacon."

Documentary: Tell the Real Story

People want to hear the true story. Hamel strives to integrate an authentic, insider approach for her followers, giving "the people reading those messages a realistic and unfiltered view of what it's like behind the scenes."

She continued:

It's helped those people interested in the Festival understand that this is an event assembled by real people who are passionate about what they do, work crazy hours to make it work, encounter unexpected obstacles and invent ways to move around them, and care deeply and authentically about the audience experience. The Wisconsin Film Festival is not an event organized to capture the attention of film industry people far away, it's homegrown specifically for the people of our state and for our friends and neighbors who want to enjoy an April weekend watching cracking-good motion pictures.

Experimental: Create and Pursue Opportunities that Add Value

For film festival organizers to transcend the expected and reach avant-garde status in social media, they understand the need to experiment with what they offer.

Newport Beach film fest tweet.jpg

Kelly Strodl, a social media consultant for the Newport Beach Film Festival, provided an overview of how they plan to do this.

"We plan to utilize a number of tactics -- hyper-syndication, mainly -- on our several blogs, our Facebook fan pages, and other posts. [These include] geo-location tagging, promos, retweets of filmmaker posts, video posting to 12seconds.tv, which posts quick clips to Twitter, and posts from YouTube," she said. "We're also going to try and connect filmmakers already on Twitter in possibly a tweet-up or simply an impromptu sit-down discussion of how social media, namely Twitter and Facebook, have influenced their ways of filmmaking and promotion."

The Phoenix Film Festival recently showcased the filmgoer conversation in visually compelling ways that brought the conversation to life.

"We're doing something pretty cool right now," said Aldecoa. "There are two big screens in the festival tent and an LCD in the VIP area that display a social media feed along with our sponsor ads. Each time a user mentions @PhoenixFilmFest on Twitter or checks-in via Foursquare, it shows up for everyone in the tent to see. It's pretty neat for festival attendees to [be able to] provide instant feedback on the films they see, and the fun they have at the parties."

There's one additional film category that matches Twitter's communication style: Short. While film festival organizers and programmers are limited in characters on Twitter, they've used the service to reach reach moviegoers who may be new festival followers and attendees. For the Newport Beach Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival and dozens more, Twitter has emerged as a valued "reel-time" communications and promotions platform.

Twitter is now playing at a festival near you. Do you have a favorite film festival on Twitter? Share it in the comments, and follow some of the festivals listed below.

21 Film Festivals to Follow:

Atlanta Film Festival
Boston Film Festival

Chicago International Film Festival

Dallas International Film Festival

Florida Film Festival

Hawaii International Film Festival

London Film Festival (British Film Institute)

Los Angeles Film Festival

New Zealand Film Festival

Newport Beach Film Festival

Philadelphia Film Festival

Phoenix Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival

Sonoma Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival

Sydney Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

Vail Film Festival

Vancouver International Film Festival

Wisconsin Film Festival

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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March 05 2010

21:54

Can Social Media Chatter Predict Oscar Winners?

The biggest night in movies is two days away, and everyone has an opinion as to who will win an Oscar. While there isn't a proven formula that can tell us which film is going to win, a closer look at social media such as blogs and Twitter can provide some interesting perspective as to which nominees are dominating conversations and spurring emotional reactions.

Here's a look at the favorite contenders, as determined by social media chatter.

What the Blogs Are Saying

Sysomos, a social media analytics firm, today unveiled an updated buzz chart for the 10 Best Picture nominees. The chart outlines which films captured the most attention and generated positive buzz -- two potential indicators of Oscar destiny -- on blogs over the past month. The blogosphere was measured based on share of voice (percentage of overall conversation) and sentiment (percentage of favorability).

According to Sysomos's findings, "Avatar" leads the conversation with 25.6 percent of blogger attention (share of voice), while "The Hurt Locker" was second with 18.1 percent. Based on this assessment, "Avatar" is the favorite to win Best Picture.

I asked Sysomos to apply the same blog research to three other Oscar categories: Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director. To keep the searches relevant, Sysomos narrowed the queries to include the name of the actor, actress or director and "oscar" or "oscars" and "academy awards."

According to the share of voice analysis, Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"), Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") and James Cameron ("Avatar") look like good bets to win in their respective categories. The sentimental favorites are Colin Firth ("A Serious Man"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Lee Daniels ("Precious").

Best Actor

Actor Share of Voice.jpg

Share of Voice Rankings:
1) Jeff Bridges (25%)

2) George Clooney (24.4%)

3) Colin Firth (18.2%)

Best Actor (Sentiment).jpg

Sentiment Rankings:
1) Colin Firth (62%)

2) George Clooney (58%)

3) Morgan Freeman (57%)

Best Actress

Actress (share of voice).jpg

Share of Voice Rankings:
1) Sandra Bullock (28.2%)

2) Carey Mulligan (22.2%)

3) Meryl Streep (20.8%)

Actress (sentiment).jpg

Sentiment Rankings:
1) Carey Mulligan (63%)

2) Meryl Streep (57%)

3) Gabourey Sidibe (57%)

Best Director

Best Director (Share of Voice).jpg

Share of Voice Rankings:
1) James Cameron (33.8%)

2) Kathryn Bigelow (24.9%)

3) Quentin Tarantino (16.3%)

Best Director (sentiment).jpg

Sentiment Rankings:
1) Lee Daniels (68%)

2) Jason Reitman (62%)

3) Quentin Tarantino (56%)

Talk of the Town on Twitter

In Hollywood, it's not always good to be the talk of the town (see the controversial news that broke about "The Hurt Locker"). On Twitter, the talk is real-time and runs the gamut from great to good to bad to downright nasty. So while a high number of Twitter mentions might signal heightened interest in a nominee's performance, it doesn't necessarily mean they're gathering support.

The nominees who have the largest share of voice on blogs over the past month were also talked about the most on Twitter. Sandra Bullock has the most Twitter mentions (8,732), followed by James Cameron (6,176) and Jeff Bridges (5,785). In addition, the sentimental favorites on Twitter reflect the same emotions of the blogosphere, as tweets around Colin Firth (second), Carey Mulligan (second) and Lee Daniels (fourth) are highly positive, yet trail the category leaders in overall quantity.

Twitter Rankings (past 30 days)

Best Actor

Colin Firth tweet.jpg

1) Jeff Bridges (5,785)
2) Colin Firth (1,886) - positive sentiment leader with 61%

3) George Clooney (1,706)

4) Jeremy Renner (1,239)

5) Morgan Freeman (733)



Best Actress

Carey Mulligan Twitter.jpg

1) Sandra Bullock (8,732)
2) Carey Mulligan (3,839) - positive sentiment leader with 63%

3) Meryl Streep (2,494)

4) Helen Mirren (451)

5) Gabourney Sidibe (22)



Best Director

Lee Daniels Twitter.jpg

1) James Cameron (6,176)
2) Kathryn Bigelow (2,982)

3) Quentin Tarantino (1,100)

4) Lee Daniels (971) - positive sentiment leader with 69%

5) Jason Reitman (633)

Will Social Media Predict the Winners?

Now that we know the names and films dominating the discussion on blogs and Twitter, it's simply a matter of sitting back and watching the show on Sunday. Then we'll have a sense of whether our collective sentiment is also interesting science.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital strategy, distribution and engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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December 22 2009

17:31

Film Industry Experts Offer 10 Predictions for 2010

Films such as "2001" and "2012" illustrate how the future has long fascinated Hollywood. With a new year on the horizon, I asked 10 executives and analysts, many of whom were in attendance at the recent Future of Film Summit in Santa Monica, Calif., for their predictions about the film industry. Below are 10 topics and thoughts on what the industry and consumers should expect next year and beyond.

1. 3D

Ahmad Ouri, CMO, Technicolor: "2010 will be a defining year for 3D in theaters, in the living room, and even on mobile. For nearly a century, Technicolor has innovated entertainment for the big screen and the small screen, and we've seen the 'big' get bigger, and the 'small' screens get smaller, with the advancements in mobile devices. In 2010, we'll see 3D film and other content infiltrate all of these visual display mediums, and 3D will no longer be confined to the multiplex."

2. Alternative Content

John Rubey, president, AEG Network Live: "Alternative content (e.g. concerts and sports in movie theaters) continues to grow in importance as traditional audiences shrink and fragment, while the alternative content grows and shows better, more predictable results."

3. Digital Production

Steve Canepa, general manager, IBM Global Media and Entertainment Industry: "2010 will be the year that Hollywood productions begin to go digital end-to-end. Starting with capturing films on location with digital cameras and scanning analog prints into digital form, the footage will move across studio lots as digital data files. This will help to streamline workflows, to shorten production cycles, to support day-in-date release windows (theatrical, DVD and potentially video-on-demand for some markets) and to provide a readily accessible archive of all the film source content."

4. Digital Living Room

Mike Saxon, senior vice president, research, Harris Interactive: "We have seen steady growth in consumer uptake of legal digital distribution outlets, including iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu. We expect this trend to continue in 2010, as Internet-connected TVs shift these services from the office to the living room."

5. DVD Rentals + On-Demand Online

Steve Swasey, VP, corporate communications, Netflix: "In 2010, the trend toward movie enjoyment via the Internet will continue to grow, but not only as you might guess. Yes, more people will instantly watch movies and TV episodes from Netflix via the Internet on the TV or their computer in 2010 -- this area grew by 100 percent in the last year. But more people also will continue to rent DVDs online in 2010 compared to 2009. Netflix will increase its U.S. postage bill to $600 million in 2010, and to $700 million in 2011, to keep pace with the increased DVD rental demand. Whether it's streaming instantly or sending DVD and blu-ray discs via the U.S. mail, Netflix will continue to increase its delivery to people who want to watch great movies."

6. Mobile Video

Frank Chindamo, president and chief creative officer, Fun Little Movies: "In 2010, everyone with a mobile phone will realize they're also holding a really cool video player, and start watching what they want to watch, when and where they want to watch it -- instead of having crappy over-hyped TV shows shoved in their faces."

7. Online Distribution

Rick Allen, CEO, SnagFilms: "Online distribution will play an increasingly important role for all films, particularly documentaries, as audiences demand convenience and accessibility, and filmmakers seek to overcome the diminished opportunities on traditional platforms. Documentarians will bring in partners such as charities and advocates to help expand awareness, as well as audience."

8. Release Window

Blair Westlake, corporate vice president, media and entertainment group, Microsoft: "As studios look for more revenue streams, a premium-priced home viewing window for movies will be commonly sandwiched between the theatrical release and the DVD release."

9. Theatrical Exhibition

Andy DiOrio, corporate communications manager, AMC Entertainment: "Our crystal ball says that we will continue to see digital deployment expand in the industry, and at least one film is sure to pleasantly surprise us and exceed our expectations at the box office."

10. Video On Demand

Jamie McCabe, executive vice president, worldwide PPV/VOD and EST (electronic sell-through), 20th Century Fox: "We will see continued growth in VOD across cable, telco and Internet delivered platforms with a significant expansion of available content and increased access to multiple screens."

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital strategy, distribution and engagement. He blogs at The Social 7 and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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