One of the readings for Week Five, written by Felicia Day, (http://feliciaday.com/blog/web-series-4-things-to-ask-yourself-before-starting/) talks about the four main things to consider before starting to create a web series. Felicia is one of the most prominent creators in the web series world, and even though this article was written in 2009, it still holds true for people creating content today.
I thought this was interesting because it is a realistic take on how to create content for the web, the stories that should be created, and the skills that you may need when approaching the task. I thought I would attempt to summarise this reading as I found it really interesting and could be useful for me in the future.
The three points I found most interesting were:
- “The web should be the place to tell stories and present characters that haven’t been seen”
- “Getting the word out is one of the biggest challenges in web video”
- “There is a good chance that very few people could see your video”
I thought Day’s post was incredibly helpful not only for people looking to create their own web series, but also for any one creating any kind of web content. Sometimes it is easy to get so lost in your concept that you forget about the audience, how they will find your project, and most importantly, how they will engage with your project. I also like the idea of telling a story that isn’t usually told in mainstream media, something that deviates from the norm.
In terms of our final project for this subject, I think the most important thing to keep in mind from Day’s article is the idea of having faith in your idea, knowing what is going to work for it, and what isn’t.
This week in Story Lab we discussed how franchises can create immersive universes for fans to engage in on a multitude of platforms. This use of multiple platforms and mediums was described in the Henry Jenkin’s reading as transmedia storytelling – the telling of “a narrative so large it cannot be contained within a single medium”. In class we watched some of the Animatrix series, which acted as a prequel for the incredibly popular Matrix series. While I handed seen the films for a while, I could see how the links between these two things can be seen.
I was really interest of the idea of fan theories this week – from the vaguely credible to the wildly ridiculous. When creating an engaging and multifaceted narrative, and the universe in which that narrative, a fan culture is kind of inevitable.
My favourite that I’ve come across recently is the Pixar theory (which can be found at http://www.pixartheory.com), which proposes that all of the films produced by Pixar exist within the same universe, and when arranged in the right order, tell a story in which three distinct groups (humans/animals/machines) are constantly in conflict. It’s an interesting theory (I still haven’t made up my mind about whether or not I think it’s true) but it’s definitely an interesting take on a narrative universe.
My other favourite fan theory I’ve come across recently is much more simple – it’s a narrowing down of which state The Simpsons live. It’s incredibly more simplistic but I think it’s a hilarious. The one I found was (http://funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/2850888/Which/) butI’m sure there are plenty more out there!
This blog post is a little late in going up (but better late then never??)
In our second week of Story Lab we played by the foundations of narrative – plot, character, time and temporal order – and how to play around and ‘remix’ these elements. In our group, we came up with a story surrounding a male protagonist who, due to life circumstances, has to move into a haunted house (which he initially purchased as an investment property) and begins a relationship with a goblin. After writing these out on cards – we played with switching the elements around and discussed how this impacted (or didn’t) the narrative.
We then had to come up with four ideas surrounding this concept – a screenplay, a comic, a short story, and a video game adaptation. This allowed us to see how transmedia ideas can come out of a simple story. It pushed us to think for creatively about our ideas and how they can be adapted to other formats to act as ways to further our storytelling abilities.
We used the case study of The Dark Knight in class to discuss how transmedia can help to promote a story and introduce the audience to the world of your story before your film is released. I thought this campaign was incredibly effective in establishing the main rivalries in The Dark Knight (i.e. Batman/The Joker/Harvey Dent) and also created an interactive space for fans to interact and engage with the story before they had even seen the film. More information can be found at http://www.firstshowing.net/2008/why-the-dark-knights-viral-marketing-is-absolutely-brilliant/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpuC7HhCPWA – those were the best resources I’ve found outlining the campaign. I think while not the typical definition of transmedia, I thought the use of crowdsourcing information and pushing the fan base to create parts of the narrative themself were incredibly interesting.
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” (2012) is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a classic novel originally released in 1813. While there has been a multitude of retellings of this novel, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” was the first of its kind to take the narrative to the medium of YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr, among other platforms. Characters and storylines were reworked and changed to suit a contemporary audience, while still staying true to the message and plot of the source material. The multiplatform adaptation of the source material meant that fans could interact with the characters on a variety of platforms and in a way that has been previously unable to.
While predominantly being told through a series of YouTube videos (mostly on Lizzie Bennet’s channel, although there are other side channels which explore other characters points of view), each of the characters had their own Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest accounts, which helped further push along the story. This addition of content pushed the audience to piece together the narrative themselves. Andrew Stanton called this the ‘2 + 2 method’, stating that “the elements you provide and the order you place them in is crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the audience” (Stanton 2012). The Lizzie Bennet content creators succeeded at giving the audience information to keep them engaged in the content, and creating an interesting retelling of a story that they were already familiar with. When following the narrative in real time, the audience was given enough information between episodes (3-4 days) to keep them interested in the narrative to keep them engaged and coming back to watch the videos.
Manovich (2001) describes this method of storytelling as “collections of items on which the user can perform a variety of operations”, and while Manovich’s writing is a little bit out dated, this definition can be applied to “The Lizzie Bennet Diaires”, as it draws together information from a variety of sources to tell a singular narrative, as well as allowing audiences to jump between a variety of sources at their own free will and choice. Through the multiplatform retelling involved with “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, the audience is given the opportunity to do this, being able to browse through a variety of Twitter accounts, YouTube videos and a variety of other platforms, to piece together the story for themselves. The audience also has the ability to go back and rewatch and view all of the content for themselves if they desire to. This works particularly works in regard to the Lizzie/Darcy storyline, as the audience can see how Lizzie’s opinion of Darcy evolves over the course of the story and go back and see each pivotal moment at their own choosing.
“The Lizzie Bennett Diaries” is a refreshing and interesting retelling of a story, which has, over time, become part of the cultural domain. The rejuvenation of the story into the modern day and into contemporary platforms allows for the audience to engage with a classic story in many new and interesting ways. The use of transmedia can be considered a model for many web series to come, considering not only the amount of views the videos got (over 1.5 million people), but also for the levels of engagement over a variety of platforms.
Manovich, L. (2001) “The database”, The Language of New Media, Cambridge, USA, The MIT Press, pp. 218-243
Pemberley Digital (2014), “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries”, Pemberley Digital, <http://www.pemberleydigital.com/the-lizzie-bennet-diaries/>
Potter, J (2013) “Five Reasons to watch The Lizzie Bennett Diaries” The Awl, <http://www.theawl.com/2013/03/five-reasons-to-watch-the-lizzie-bennet-diaries>
Stanton, A (2012), “The clues to a great story”, TED.com, <http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story>
McNutt, M (2014), “Webseries Phenom The Lizzie Bennett Diaires made it to 100 entries (and beyond)” The AV Club, <http://www.avclub.com/article/webseries-phenom-the-lizzie-bennet-diaries-made-it-201003>
After our first week of Story Lab classes, we were introduced to Dan and what the rest of the semester held in store for us. We explored what story means to us – what we thought a story needed and considered the possibility of a story without these elements. We watched a Ted Talk from Andrew Stanton, who works at Pixar on such films as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall-E, who spoke about the ‘rules’ of storytelling – and the importance of breaking those rules. There were a couple of things, which I really liked which he spoke about in the video. I really liked the 2+2 approach – which suggests that instead of giving the audience 4, give them 2+2 and make them work to put the story together. He explains it better – it’s at 7:15 in the video – which can be found here http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story/transcript?language=en#t-431941. I am a big fan of making the audience work for a story when creating narrative – I think it makes for a much for engaging and interactive narrative.
In our second class this week, we explored different ways of telling stories – through the examples of Orson Welles radio performance of War of the Worlds (1938) and the original Frankenstein (1931). While I heard a lot about War of the Worlds and spoken about it in relation to media theories in the past, I had never sat down and listened to the piece. I really enjoyed how many different ways the story was told – through news stories and interviews. I was pleasantly surprised at how funny the story was – the use of silence was incredibly powerful, as well the music, which was interwoven through the piece. I liked how well the piece played with form – through a medium the audience was incredibly literate in (i.e. radio), they used different forms to telling a story which was incredibly engaging.
Overall I really enjoyed my first week of The Story Lab, I think it’s going to be an incredibly engaging subject this semester.
Things to Remember
- The 2+2 rule
- Write what you know
- What does a story need – and does it?
- Play with form