by Mike Knowlton
One of the
biggest challenges facing cross-platform storytellers today is that most
projects of significant note are often conceived as a side product of something
more "important”. For example: a traditional movie is completed so the studio
then creates a transmedia extension to help market the primary platform.
transmedia projects, conceived as truly cross-platform narratives from the
start, are still fairly underground and haven’t yet reached mass market appeal.
I am an immersive media creator myself and I know first-hand how difficult it
is to conceive, fund, produce and build an audience for an original
challenge in our industry is the preponderance of talk. It seems that every
conference features the same five transmedia case studies. The challenge is
really creating, not just talking about it. For immersive storytelling
to take place in the mainstream, it needs to be created deliberately.
To respond to
these challenges, my partner at StoryCode and I decided to borrow something that works well in the
tech space: the hackathon. A hackathon is an event where a group of programmers
collaborate, over a specific period of time, to create new types of software and technology. The mindset
is DIY and open-source.
have become a big deal. TechCrunch Disrupt is one of the most well known
events, and it attracts talented developers, press, venture capitalists, and
new technology companies who open their technology up to participants.
the "hack" culture doesn't really exist in the entertainment space.
Creation and ideation are often a much more closed process. We believe a
powerful disruption can occur by introducing tech methodologies like
hackathons, open-source frameworks, and agile/iterative development into
entertainment. Think of it as "transmedia on a budget.”
To this end we
created the first-ever "Story Hackathon,” a merging of storytelling and
hacking. The event, called "Story Hack:Beta,” was held over the weekend of
April 28th/29th 2012 at the Film Society Lincoln Center. Participants entered as teams
of four; a typical team might include a filmmaker, producer, developer and
Story Hackers in
challenged with designing a cohesive narrative spanning three or more media
platforms. They had to create and execute one platform over the course of the
36-hour event. They could use video, mobile, social media, live performance,
web-based and/or gaming (console or live) to tell their story. The common theme
for all story hacks was "courage.”
We delivered a
set of requirements to the teams one week before the event was held. Each hack
had to integrate at least one of the technology sponsors,
Kaltura, Logicworks, SocialSamba and Twilio. Finally, all the teams had to incorporate a dress as a
prop from brand sponsor, Free People, in their hack. We also threw the teams a wild card on
Saturday morning: integrating the Emily Dickinson quote, "Fortune befriends the
bold” into their story hack.
weekend of story hacking was a truly amazing experience for everyone involved. "I think the best thing to come out of an event like
this is meeting new collaborators and fostering a community,” said filmmaker
and Broadcastr Director of Platform Engineering Mark Harris, who served as
a mentor. "Becoming part of this community, and
discussing everything from storytelling, to technology, to magic, has been
instrumental in helping me determine my own course, in helping me identify
exactly how the various activities I do—technology and filmmaking—come
All hacks were
presented at a Demo Day event on Sunday. A video of the Demo Day event can be viewed here.
PGA Members Blaine Graboyes and Craig Singer, as well as other established
entertainment industry leaders. A cash prize of $1,000 was awarded to one
winning team. However the teams didn’t participate for the potential of winning
a prize, but took part because in many instances, this was the first time they
had the opportunity to actually create a cross-platform story.
Story Hack: Beta winners, Team Cupcakes and Rainbows
the most inspiring outcome of the event is a quote from a participant named
Randy Astle. In a series of blog posts he wrote for Filmmaker
magazine he said, "I’ve written sample bibles and transmedia proposals
before ... but I’ve never finished an actual project. So this Story Hack
is my first chance to develop something cross-platform beyond the page."
From Forbes to the Washington Post and PBS, Story Hack: Beta was reviewed and discussed as a
groundbreaking approach to creating cross-platform stories. This focus on
developing the collaborative process across disciplines including film,
technology, publishing, theater and advertising lays the groundwork for the
form to take shape and mature.
Our vision for StoryCode is to develop an incubator that
identifies immersive media projects and gives the creators the support, seed
funding, and relationships to launch them into the marketplace. Story
Hackathons are a key part of this vision.
Mike Knowlton is the
CTO/Co-Founder of StoryCode