Big Day Out Evolution Grant

Ask and you shall receive. After writing on transmedia as a gimmick last night, low and behold a potential candidate for an evolutionary approach to transmedia hits my inbox.

David Tiley writes:

The Screen Producers’ Association of Australia is partnering with music stalwarts Big Day Out and Sounds Australia to offer the $20,000 Big Day Out Evolution Grant. For SPAA, this is a sideways step into new territory just as its new leadership takes control. For everyone else, it is a party in Texas.

Have a read, worthwhile few minutes I’d say

While I’m still not too sure what such a grant is going to foster, I am fairly sure this kind of movement towards collaboration can only be a good thing. I’m also unsure how the submission/selection process is going to take, or is taking, place.

However, Tiley seems similarly unsure. Having asked Millie Millgate and BDO themselves what the desired outcome is, the general consensus is some kind of new, unique interaction between performers, filmmakers, musicians, new media and anyone else who has the head to be able to piece this all together.

As BDO puts it, ‘it is time to create storified content, to produce interactive film, video, holograph and light shows that go beyond displaying a twitter feed on a screen..”

It sounds exciting. They’re talking about bring performances and interaction to new levels through the backing of an already established industry/event in Big Day Out.

But what are people going to submit? I’ve already got a few ideas myself.

Am I susceptible to Transmedia?

I figure we’re all suckers for some kind of fandom. Geek worship. Subscribing to the hype monster. But I find myself returning to the same question, is Transmedia for me?

Reading Jon Vidar’s article The Transmedia Secret of Secret Cinema in the Huffington Post, I couldn’t really appreciate his enthusiasm for Secret cinema. Sitting in a cell for hours prior to watching The Shawshank Redemption would sure enough get you a little toey to watch the film, but enhancing the experience? Expanding the story world in a useful way? I couldn’t think of anything worse.

So too, the idea of having to enter codes, or follow clues to find out everything I need to know about Lost or The Matrix similarly leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve tried to reconcile these thoughts by reassuring myself that said apprehension is the result of my relationship to entertainment. In that, I appreciate the traditional approach to watching a film, or TV. Sitting down and bloody watching the thing. While Vidar suggests the ‘lean back experience’ prevents potential ‘true’ engagement with the subject matter, I would argue that some Transmedia alienates a large part of its viewership – that is, if a piece of entertainment is to rely on transmedia being an integral aspect of the experience as The Matrix did.

What would, however, lead me to mindfully invest in Transmedia is some concrete or even just substantiated evidence that Transmedia increases the value, and hence money making ability, of the entertainment product.

Industrial as this may seem, surely the investment into online and real world structures, take for example a fully fitted prison for Vidar, has to be justified by dollars.

Perhaps, this relationship isn’t direct. Perhaps the real investment is in the ‘brand’, and by building the brand of a show or movie you gain a following that have a true connection with the content providing – love marks.

Surely I’m not the only one. Surely, films can be done with such affluence that the simple act of watching it in a cinema is so much more enticing than trawling through a whole bunch of ‘expansion packs’ to increase the attractiveness of this world.

After all, if Transmedia isn’t making the brand money, and torrenting, Netflix and others continue along the same trajectory, we’ll find ourselves relying on the ‘lean back experience’ to bring in the cash.

Can Transmedia transcend beyond a gimmick? I hesitate to respond with a yes.

‘Photogénie’ A vision from Jean Epstein.

By using a metaphor involving saimese twins, Jean Epstein brilliantly opens his speech ‘On Certain Characteristics of Photogénie’. To quote, Epstein believes cinema is ‘sundered at the heart, or by the higher necessities of emotion’, and hence needs a surgeon to separate the business from the art of it all.

Epstein puts forth that ‘only mobile and personal aspects of the world, of things and souls, may see their moral value increased by filmic reproduction’.

To this end, I feel Epstein seeks to usher in a cinema of personal visions of time, place, morality and happenstance. Having delivered this speech in November of 1923 to the Salon d’Automne, one can only assume that Epstein must’ve felt the arrival of Francois Truffaut some 36 years was a long time overdue (think Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, 1959).

I suppose when Epstein makes mention of a move away from the documentary, he is referencing films such as Nanook of the North (1922), so too this could be considered a history based film. However, on many accounts The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) is similarly historic, yet considered in a similar artistic ilk as D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece Birth of a Nation (1915). Which begs the question, what exactly led Epstein to attribute this time as one in need of change towards artistic merit?

Perhaps he had grown tired of successful films that lacked personality, although considering his love for Griffith, Way Down East (1920) was considered one the best films of the year, and how could he have a problem with Charles Chaplin’s The Kid (1921)? However, I can understand why Epstein may have thought cinema was headed downhill having to sit through the episodic first half of Robin Hood (1922), featuring Douglas Fairbanks in all his gaiety.

Alas, I am not suggesting Epstein was perhaps a little quick to jump. What he calls for in this speech are things we take for granted now in modern cinema – a sense of time, place, morality (of course this is debatable and not all encompassing) – and as such I find these words to be supremely important for the way in which they adequately chart the change that was to come in the coming years. James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), John Cromwell’s Tom Sawyer (1930), King Kong (1933) kept at their heart this sense of exploring morality and capturing time and space.

And for that Epstein, I tip my hat. But are these true photogénie?

Truffaut’s New Wave

Watching Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, I couldn’t help but feel at ease with subject matter that is undoubtedly disturbing.

For what is a film about a child pushed to delinquency by virtue of frivolous parenting, I always felt Antoine Doinel was safe. Safe despite being misunderstood and battling with what the world expects from him, for he is wise beyond his years with a street sense to rival most adults.

Much has been written about Truffaut’s motivations, or perhaps more pressingly his influences in creating this striking debut. As the ‘Grave Digger of French Cinema’, one can only presume this debut was met with much anticipation, piqued by his banning from Cannes a year prior in ’58.

Truffaut was a prolific writer, a critic, his ‘epistolary talents’ (John Conomos, 2000) not lost in the ether thanks to a mentoring Andre Bazin. Conomos goes on to suggest this base in writing is what leads Truffaut to Camera Stylo, a term coined by Alexander Astruc to describe the way a ‘filmmaker writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen’.

What is interesting to me is the angle in which Truffaut approaches his delinquent protagonist. I would hesitate to suggest that Truffaut really envisioned Doinel as such, for the humanity and subtleties he allows to take to the screen belie a child whose delinquency is only justified in the eyes of his contemporaries and elders, least of all in the audience.

As a viewer of The 400 Blows, I feel we are asked to reconsider the actions of youths. Perhaps, as it were, as a way for Truffaut to seek understanding from the audience for his own youth.

While we find ourselves in darkness, it is up to those around us to led us from this darkness.

Just as Bazin guarded Truffaut from enrolment, Doinel looks to us in the infamous freeze frame ending, eyes intensely searching, arms by his side, as if to say ‘what do I do now?’

After all, regardless of Antoine’s apparent maturity he is just a child. A child attempting to be a man (surely only a deep thinking, caring person would be capable of writing a letter of intent and farewell to their uncaring parents), but confused as to what is expected of him in order for this transition to take place.

It is clear then, that Truffaut uses Doinel as a vehicle to express his own beliefs of childhood, society, acceptance and fate. A trait that seems evident in what is soon to be termed the French New Wave.

We have Truffaut to thank for such a letter of intent and farewell to the studio based French cinema that followed the war. A true gift to behold if The 400 Blows is anything to go by.

Reference – http://sensesofcinema.com/2000/6/francois-truffaut/blows/

What the Transmedia..?

A few thoughts to come out of the first Production Project 1 lecture.

For starters, glad to have Emma Beddows on board – her take on Transmedia in Hollywood, in particular a reference to Batman across the ages, Pirates of The Caribbean and Tolkien made for some properly interesting and relevant trains of thought with regard to contemporary uses of Transmedia storytelling. Plus this kind of stuff is exciting – fandom, obsessive users, expanded story worlds.. Safe to say they allow for the geek inside to rage through all sorts of tangents.

Listening to Emma led me to wonder whether acceptance of bizarreness is generational. Whereby, we have become more accepting of bizarre and non linear story worlds, where we don’t care too much if something is missing, we just make up for it.

This thought came about when Emma suggested The Matrix wasn’t supposed to be understood from just viewing the movie. Rather, you had to watch the movie, go online, seek out the cartoon and a whole plethora of other things to kind of ‘get’ what The Matrix was about. Yet when Emma asked us if we were confused I think one hand went up.

Perhaps that’s just cos we’re media kids, and we like to think that regardless of the complexity of the narrative we get it (or perhaps more pertinently won’t admit if we don’t). But I’d also like to think that somewhere along the line we began to not care if a piece of the story was missing, and in our own heads were expanding the story world and doing our own kind of internal creation of Transmedia artefacts to fill the gaps and make sense of it.

But then, if it’s in our head, I don’t think this really counts as Transmedia. While it might expand the story world for us, it doesn’t allow others the same opportunity.

So, I’m left thinking that Transmedia can be kind of cool, but it’s a bloody hard thing to get right. For one, it seems that The Matrix didn’t exactly make its intentions clear.

That being said, I came at that film many years after it released, so perhaps my problem and lack of integration with the Transmedia around it is purely temporal.

So when Emma suggested that if one were to watch Game of Thrones and then read the books, the books could be seen as a kind of Transmedia, I wondered, if they were released first, do Transmedia artefacts have a chronology to be classed as such?

Here’s hoping I’ll have the answer for that in my next post.