Living In Fragments is our interactive Eko film that we produced to depict a popularly misrepresented and misunderstood mental health condition, Dissociative Identity Disorder. Our fragmented film follows Dina, a young student living with multiple identities, developed as a result of past trauma. Her three different alters can be triggered in certain situations, but ultimately the choices of the viewer determine whether they will be introduced or not. As the user is given the chance to make decisions on behalf of Dina, the story progresses at a distinctive pace when the viewer stops being passive and interacts with the work. Because we do not suggest that disassociating and switching alters is a harmful thing, the film comes to the same conclusion for each viewer. Dina continues talking therapy and copes, which is the real experience for many who live with DID.
We consider our work to be web exclusive because the theme of mental disorders is sensitive in nature, and after our research we concluded that this sensitivity works best online, where there are already communities established that combat stigmas against mental health disorders. And if we were to propose that interactivity works best online (taking into account how easy it is for a user to interact and how this interaction often mimics the familiar act of ‘browsing’), then our project specifically works better online because the interactive style we have incorporated helps keep viewers engaged in our work, even though our project is supposed to be informative.
Many online projects offer the possibility of going beyond just watching that work, in the same virtual space. We have documented our project storyline and behind the scenes work on Instagram. Giving each character (alter identity) their own account can give further insight into who they are. This also gives our audience the opportunity to communicate with the characters, and even us on our Living In Fragments Instagram page. Because our aim from the beginning has been to promote awareness and encourage conversation, offering a space to do so became important for us. We encourage breaking the ‘conventional border’ between viewers and creators.
Our project contains elements of several online characteristics including interactivity (whereby one can make decisions about the next scene, and then provide a rating of our work), variability (as two people can have a varied experience of our same film), modularity (we constructed our film from over 18 shorter clips), fiction (the story came from a fictional script we wrote, and partly improvisation), cross platform (we have used Eko and Instagram), hashtag (#LivingInFragments to collate all of our Instagram posts into one defined space), automation in development (Eko provides a design template for our project timeline), and non linearity (our modules are actually not in chronological sequence, but in an order that we think would help the user gain insight into DID).
Throughout making and then finishing this project, I learnt that for me, the best kind of interactivity, or the type I appreciate most, is when the content is constructed from audience-given ideas, tips, inspiration, and feedback. Where there is an audience-author dialogue, and this dialogue comes before the content is made. This is something I mentioned that I admired when I first wrote about SKAM (2015-2017).
“Viewers would comment recommendations for the direction of the show and it would be taken into account. There were even episodes inspired by the fan-made artwork created for the series. Characters would mention topics and tag words created by fans, and that had no real place in the Skam world – in turn, breaking the fourth wall. I would consider this kind of model of production a collaborative process.” Note the influence:
A film or series developed from user-generated/contributed content is something I’d like to do. A reactive project, where the communication between author and audience informs the making of the project. There would always be an element of uncertainty in this kind of work, as a bit of control has been given up to the audience – but it’s an unpredictability that I admire.
At the beginning of this studio, our class came up with a list of questions. And while I’d love to have the answers to all of them, the ones that I can explore or I was reminded of while making ‘Friday in Melbourne’ and ‘Living In Fragments’ were:
How can we make engaging online content?
By taking advantage of the opportunities that an online environment offers! ‘Tapping into peoples’ emotions, offering them some form of personal gain, the opportunity for self-expression and recognition or appealing to the greater good’ (Aston & Gaudenzi, 2012) are motivations to pay attention. Appealing to a sense of curiosity and the natural instinct of us humans to learn the meaning of the world around us and in turn, the art in front of us.
How is the production for a smaller scale project different from traditional media?
I don’t think there’s significant difference in the production for a smaller scale project compared to production for traditional media, especially when the latter does not indicate large scale production. It depends on what you’re producing. But let’s assume that in this case, traditional media is referring to films I’ve seen playing at the cinema.
Our group projects have been small-scale. While we used DSLR cameras for our final project, we used iPhone cameras in our previous one. Despite a budget of 1.5 million USD, Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Unsane’ (2018) was filmed entirely on an iPhone 7 camera, and it’s being shown at the cinema. So what gives? Clearly, smaller scale productions can have elements of major productions. More importantly, does one or the other generate greater quality just because they have more people, better cameras, and more money to spend? A rhetorical question because I’ve seen some shitty films produced by Disney, and spectacular, heart-wrenching indie ones. It’s also been the opposite case, of course. With only four people, we filmed our final project in three days. Of course, in this case, had this been a longer term and larger scale production, I think it would have been better quality. And that’s the same with making something for traditional media. With more time and resources, anything can be made better.
Why is there such a big interest in online content?
This question has been asked and answered for years. But my view is that people are interested in creating online content because so many are interested in viewing online content. The market there exists. The audience is present. The ABS (2018) stated there were 14.2 million internet subscribers by the end of December 2017. Generally speaking, that’s the potential for 14.2 million people to see your content in Australia alone.
“…the 90-9-1 principle, as cited by Jacob Nielson (2006), which suggests that there is a participation inequality on the Internet with only 1% of people creating content, 9% editing or modifying that content, and 90% viewing content without actively contributing”, (Aston & Gaudenzi, 2012).
If the principle now is anything similar to how it was over a decade ago, the lack of content being created for the Internet would drive people to do so now because of how easy it is to hit ‘upload’. As celebrities and as actors, Will Smith and Priyanka Chopra are easily a part of the world’s picture of traditional Hollywood and Bollywood media. And yet they are both in partnership with YouTube Red to develop original online content (Oh, 2018). The cast of ‘Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes On Television’ (2017-present), a YouTube Red comedy series, consists of actors who found success in conventional television and films. Ryan Hansen of Veronica Mars and 2 Broke Girls, and Aly Michalka of Phil of the Future and Easy A. *Not so much Samira Wiley, who is known for her roles in the web television series ‘Orange Is The New Black’ (2013-present) on Neflix and ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ (2017-present) on Hulu*. But clearly, someone has recognised the amount of attention people will give a web series, and this has helped fuel the interest.
I have enjoyed the Thinking In Fragments studio a lot because it has made me think about making things in an online context like never before, despite the fact that I’m online for hours and hours per day. Without this studio, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the unusual yet brilliant step that someone like Steven Soderbergh is taking, with his interactive narrative app Mosaic (Burke, 2017), and latest directing credit, Unsane (2018) mentioned previously. Programs like Korsakow and Eko make it easier for us to put together something meaningful and engaging. We are offered inspiration by actors and directors to create something, and here we have the way to do it (through these kinds of programs). All that’s left is for us to take advantage of the opportunities these platforms offer creators like us.
Aston, J & Gaudenzi, S 2012 ‘Interactive documentary: setting the field, Studies in Documentary Film’, 6:2, 125-139, <https://doi.org/10.1386/sdf.6.2.125_1>.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018, Internet Activity Australia, December 2017, cat. no. 8153.0, viewed 20 May 2018, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0>.
Burke, S 2017 ‘Is Steven Soderbergh’s New App the Future of TV?’, WIRED, 10 November, viewed 2 March 2018, <https://www.wired.com/story/steven-soderbergh-future-of-storytelling/>.
Nielson, J 2006 ‘Participation inequality: Encouraging more users to contribute’, Alertbox, 9 October, viewed 20 May 2018, <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html>.
Oh, S 2018 ‘Will Smith And Priyanka Chopra To Develop Original Content For YouTube’, Film School Rejects, 4 May, viewed 5 May 2018, <https://filmschoolrejects.com/will-smith-and-priyanka-chopra-to-develop-original-content-for-youtube/>.