TV Seminar (Media 6) – Weekly Blogs

Week 2

This week the class divided up into different seminar groups.  I was slightly torn between film and television, but ultimately decided to join the TV seminar group since I thought I could get some interesting speakers in.

There were some initial discussions about what to call the seminar, who to approach as guests, and so on.  Other students wanted to get in individuals from some of the new VOD platforms, such as Stan, Netflix and Pronto.  I tried to make initial contact with an individual who works at Stan but they were too busy to help out and I know that Netflix does not have HQ, as such, in Australia.

I contacted Stephen Corvini from Fremantle Media (soon Matchbox Pictures) and he agreed to participate in the forum.  With his diverse experience in both the creative and business-side of television production in Australia and abroad, I thought he would have a terrific overview of the state of the industry in Australia, both now and into the future.



Week 3

I tried to provide feedback to some of the girls who were involved in putting together promotional materials (posters and such) but this was not met well.  Receiving a hostile reaction to feedback put me off-side, but ultimately I was able to resolve this with Jess, the group’s highly competent Production Manager, and felt that I could continue on in the TV group.

In terms of sourcing the remaining guests, some student suggested getting someone in from a pay TV provider (namely Foxtel).  I had considered contacting Penny Win, who is the Head of Drama at Foxtel, however she is Sydney-based.  While a Skype inclusion may have been an option, I felt that having a guest join us remotely might create a less-than-cohesive atmosphere amongst the panel of speakers, as well as potentially open the door to additional technical complications.

I was hoping to include a female guest amongst the panel, but unfortunately the individuals whom I had in mind were either flat out in production, or interstate.  Thus I contacted an individual I’d had recent contact with – Gareth Calverley.  Similar to Stephen, Gareth has had a diverse career working across a range of platforms and genres.  I knew his honesty and knowledge would combine well with Stephen’s.  I am also conscious of getting together guests who will riff well off one another.


Week 4

This week I spent some time discussing the structure of the seminar with Will & Regina, who are overseeing the format of the seminar, as well as timings.  They spoke about incorporating a competition into proceedings, and we discussed what form this might take.  I also started drafting some preliminary questions for the guests with Tiana & Jess’ help.

I tried (unsuccessfully) to contact some additional female guests (namely Jo Bell from the ABC), but unfortunately she was busy.


Week 5

After not receiving responses from a couple of potential attendees, I contacted Stuart Page, a screenwriter, about participating in the forum, and he responded favourably.

I continued to work on the questions for the guests with Tiana, as well as writing up an intro script for the host of the seminar, David.  I also wrote up bios and supplied the students working on the promotional side of things with photos of the guests.   All in all, things feel like they are coming along nicely.

I also met with Stephen and Gareth during the week, to discuss the seminar, as well as some of my own persona work andl goals (and garnered useful insights which will go towards my Personal Network Report).  

Jess was a deft hand at organising group meet-ups (usually held on Thursday before class) and the group’s Facebook page provided a relative efficient, if potentially combative, forum to exchange ideas and organise things.

Jess had worked out a schedule for the day of the seminar, and from this I organised a time to meet up with the guests, with enough time to have a coffee and give them a chance to chat amongst themselves and meet the seminar host.



Week 6

This week, Tiana & I refined questions for the panel.  We created a surplus of questions in the unlikely case that we got through the ones we had already devised quicker than expected!

On the day of the seminar, I helped with a bit of the grunt work in moving some of the furniture (couches) for the seminar.

I met the guests and from there on it was all stations go.

All in all, I was very pleased with how the seminar unfolded (notwithstanding the terrible timing of the fire alarm).  Had we not been robbed of this extra time, I feel that there would have been the opportunity for the guests to provide comment on a wider range of topics and areas of interest.  Nevertheless, I felt that there was a good emphasis placed on starting out in the industry, as well as honest and realistic career advice from our three guests.

Reading some of the responses of the audience, I was pleased that many people seemed to enjoy themselves.  Some people commented on the fact that all the guests were male, of a similar age.  I suppose there is some merit to such comments but ultimately I feel that this is a little bit of a petty political point; from the outset my desire was to find three individuals that would have a good rapport with each other and speak plainly and usefully about their experiences, regardless of their gender.


Story Lab – Week 9 Reflections

Fortunately this week was quieter on the assignment front and I was able to devote a large slab of time to working on the story.

Given the mystery and tech elements at play in the story, there’s a level of plot intricacy which requires a level of creative immersion; thus I find it more productive to work on the project in substantial blocks of time rather than incrementally.

As Type 1 Error is set in Melbourne, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on iconic Flinders Street Station, I feel that there’s a great opportunity to incorporate real locations into the story experience.

I have constructed a sequence where the protagonist is contacted by an anonymous source, who sends them a sound sample linked to an iconic Melbourne location (which is where they want the protagonist to meet them at a set time the following day).  The user is presented with five different locations, being able to listen to the soundscape at each of these and decide which one matches the sample the source has sent you.

Whilst this doesn’t translate to the user physically being in the real location (as we saw with Urban Codemakers, for example) it enhances the immersive experience by grounding the user in a real locale.  The aural dimension – namely the evocative and sometimes haunting sounds at locations such as the William Barak Bridge in East Melbourne – beautifully complements the mystery feel of the story.

Story Lab – Week 8 Reflections

Sam and I have started to consider how we might go about incorporating the very clear feedback we received from the panel during last week’s pitches.

Many of the points raised were of no great surprise.  For instance, we appreciate the need to incorporate more photos, sounds – and indeed, further transmedia engagement (i.e. videos, covert documents, etc.) in a bid to enhance the user’s engagement through a richer interface to break up the text-dominated mode of storytelling.

This may be as straightforward as incorporating stylistic photos to accompany the various slides in the story, although I’m really interested in mining the narrative for genuine ways to incorporate transmedia cum interactive elements into the experience.

Another key element we received feedback on was the tone of the project; namely, pushing the content and presentation more into iconic Noir territory.  While I would largely agree with this, my inclination is also to infuse the project with a sense of irony & humour and not make it straight-Noir, given the incongruity this might present given the very modern story of metadata collection.  On the other hand, this juxtaposition between the new (metadata) and old (noir) could work quite well; I suspect it comes down to a matter of taste, and my feeling is that a gentle sense of Noir-parody will work well to enliven the content.

Story Lab – Week 7 Reflections

This week, each group pitched their projects to a panel comprising staff from RMIT’s School of Media, as well as Dr Troy Innocent.

The older I get, the more I enjoy pitching as a way of distilling the core aspects and unique appeals of one’s work (in marketing parlance, its unique selling points).  I think a good pitch should be well-rehearsed, however there is value in leaving a little bit of room for ad-libbing, to ensure that one’s presentation maintains a sense of spontaneity.

I have had some experience pitching my own work in my previous studies.  One very important rule which I try to adhere to is to not pack too much detail into one’s presentation.  In my opinion, pitches should convey a flavour of the project, not the minutiae of the plot and the characters, and it is very important to remember that generally this will be the first time your audience will have heard about the project.

With some of the groups’ presentations, I found myself unclear of the overall plot/through-line of the story, whilst nonetheless recognising a lot of great ideas.  Perhaps the staccato feel of some of the projects were reflective of (a) the fact that several groups comprised four or five members, so the content of the speeches had to be divided and/or (b) the transmedia/multi-platform nature of the projects.  However, as discussed, the process of pitching is a great opportunity to distill the essence of a project, and some level of judicious  is very important.

Nevertheless, I was impressed by the breadth of ideas presented and the very individual nature of each of the projects being pitched.

Story Lab – Week 6 Reflections

This week, Troy Innocent from Swinburne University came to present on his work in constructing narrative-based games in real physical environments.  The main example of this which Troy presented was his project Urban Codemakers, which played out in Melbourne and Sydney.

Sam and I have been contemplating ways to incorporate a physical dimension to our project, as an ancillary aspect of the digital gameplay.  By contrast, Urban Codemakers is fundamentally physical-based, with the digital component being a secondary/supporting aspect to log players’ progress in the real-world.

I was struck by the complexity and contrivances of the narrative, and the fantasy elements which abstracted players’ objectives from the reality of their environments.  This isn’t a negative; more a matter of taste, and got me thinking that if one is going to situate a game in a real environment, then perhaps one can enhance the immersive aspects of the gameplay by adapting the narrative to extentuate the real, the normal, the ordinary of its physical surroundings.

Story Lab – Week 3 Reflections

This week everyone presented their case studies for Project Brief 1.  It was really interesting to hear the diverse range of media that had been chosen for the task – some choosing to deconstruct music, songs and albums.  It goes to show our natural tendency to read narrative across diverse media, including non-verbal form.

As for this week’s readings, I found that Jenkins’ piece provided a very digestible overview of transmedia.  Nevertheless, in practical terms, I feel a ‘take it or leave it’ approach to some of these theories about what does and does not constitute transmedia.  This is based on the fact that there seem to be a wealth of interpretations of what constitutes transmedia, and as such there is a great deal of room for subjective interpretation of what should represent a transmedia project.

Murray’s reading was also very interesting.  Meanwhile, I lost interest in Eco’s piece fairly quickly; not based on content, but on the author’s fairly verbose style.

Type 1 Error – Participation statement

My role in Type 1 Error has been to write up the story following brainstorming done by myself and Sam.  This includes many of the individual ‘pages’ of the story in twine, as well as deciding on suitable linking points to other pages in the story or other media platforms, such as external webpages, audio, mocked-up documents such as Google maps, and others.

I am considerable more comfortable in this ‘analogue’ activity of putting words down on paper than I am constructing the story digitally and creating the effects which help to considerably build the mood and sell the idea, which Sam is mainly responsible for.

My preferences for stories have tended towards the linear told across a single medium, namely stories for film and television.  Personally, I prefer the content to dictate the form, rather than the other way around, otherwise content can tend to feel contrived and the exercise intellectual and disingenuous as a whole.

Fortunately, much of the narrative of Type 1 Error is about a character (Sam Farris) traversing online space to cover and mystery; thus, shifts between media are integral to firstly the plot and then to the experience, in placing the user as much as possible in the protagonist’s shoes.

The extent to which are project is transmedia depends on what definition you are using.  While each individual media artefacts (for example, webpages and audio) can be understood and enjoyed as a standalone piece, they are conceived as part of the web of the story.  That is, they are not intended for individual consumption; although a radio podcast that we aim to appropriate was developed as a standalone product.  Thus, this level of co-dependency might move away from other large-scale transmedia projects, such as The Matrix & Animatrix, as well as The Dark Knight.

Regarding the forward direction of the project, the two main objectives at this stage are to expand on the story and to create a more immersive world through innovative hyperlinks and various decorative elements, which I’ve mentioned above.

Tone is especially important, I think, in differentiating this project from others of its ilk.  While I am pleased to push the project in the direction of hard-boiled detective/noir, subversion is something that I find myself to firstly make the process of writing more interesting, as well as create a unique ethos which I hope would resonate with users.

For instance, humour and irreverence, a sense of irony and so forth, are important to alleviate the dense and potentially solemn tone and paranoia which surrounds metadata collection.  Anything which helps to provide an element of surprise, whether tonal shifts or trans-media, will be beneficial in our attempts to sustain user involvement, once the novelty of the hook has worn off.

Story Lab – Week 7: Pitching Projects

This week, Sam and I pitched our interactive narrative, Type 1 Error, before the panel.  The process of constructing the pitch was a great exercise in distilling the core of the project and its fundamental appeals.

I was pleased that we were able to very clearly convey the user-experience of the narrative, by presenting our pitch through the program that we are using to construct the main narrative – Twine.

While our project may be less transmedia than others pitched by students, I also feel that the clarity and linearity of the main narrative allowed us to very clearly portray our intention, whereas I felt some of the other groups found it a challenge to clearly convey the user-experience for their projects.  At times, I found it hard to grasp what the essential story of some of the projects was; nevertheless, I was impressed by their scope and originality.

Given that Twine is a text-based, hyperlinked platform, bringing to life what largely amounts to words on a page will be a central challenge for Sam & I.  Things like differentiating screen backgrounds and adding music (if possible) will help to make the experience more immersive for users.  Providing innovative links to other media are also critical.

I had also begun to instinctively push the tone of the story towards noir/hard-boiled detective, because I felt this would best suit the story’s core elements of mystery, investigation, intrigue, conspiracy, and so on.  I was a little bit surprised that the panel encouraged Sam & I to push the project further into genre territory, however I think ultimately presenting the incredibly complex area of metadata in a recognisable and digestible genre form is a fairly safe bet in terms of ensuring user captivation.

‘Type 1 Error’ – Rules of Engagement

Sam and I drafted 5 rules for our collaboration in the project:

(1) To keep in regular contact.
(2) To share the workload evenly.
(3) To complete work on time and to an expected standard.
(4) To approach the project in a professional manner, with the aim of pursuing the project beyond the classroom.
(5) To remain close to source material and achieve a level of realism within the narrative.
… As well as adhering to a smart-casual dress code in all meetings…

‘Type 1 Error’ – Project Proposal

Post 2015. Metadata is collected on every Australian citizen to fight terrorism. To protect the people. Jump into the shoes of a journalist.  You get your first big break – you are approached by a government whistleblower who claims that a recent high profile terrorism conviction was a miscarriage of justice. The man convicted was innocent despite the overwhelming evidence in his metadata. He was present but not involved, like the thousands of other people who saw Flinders Street Station disappear.  But how could a law enacted to protect the Australian people be used to oppress them as this source suggests? Can the whistleblower be trusted or do they have a vendetta of their own? If the data doesn’t lie, who does?

You will be forced to choose on a course of action and follow your gut instincts.  Who should you believe?  Sifting through the data and documents collected will be daunting, but will it reveal the truth? The story will be explored through Twine and other digital documents.  Can you solve the mystery?