The WorkBook Project is for those who want to be creative in the digital age. An open creative network that provides insight into the process of funding, creating, distributing and sustaining from one's creative efforts.
Where do you go to find the right team of collaborators for something that’s never exactly been done before? Who’s your Dream Team for the Unseen? What are their roles and responsibilities? Here’s the situation: I’m a writer/director/producer of a transmedia documentary called “Get It All Out” that is now in its 4th year of development, with a goal of a feature-length film, an eBook for iPad and Android devices, a new 12+ member orchestra (playing and recording songs that haven’t been heard in nearly 30 years – this summer in NYC), and a remix contest – as just 4 of the elements of my project. After much reading and thought, here’s a list of both people I’m currently working with, and people I’m looking to collaborate with, and why (not necessarily in order of importance):
1) Interaction Designer
2) Art Director
3) Editorial Director
4) Music Director
5) Director of Photography
While we have located 4 and 5, the first three roles remain to be filled. To fill these “vacancies” in the team, I will attempt to describe the who and why of these titles.
1) Interaction Designer – With a background in information architecture (IA) and user experience (UX) design – the Interaction Designer is responsible for engaging and placing the audience in the story, regardless of interface. I would define the person in this role as a deep, yet motivated thinker – someone who breaks down the director/producers assertions of what the storyworld is thought to be, and puts them back together in elegant and compelling ways. I think this role will only increase in importance to producers as the workflows and processes of cross/ transmedia continue to be defined.
2) Art Director – In 1992, I had the privilege of seeing 2 designers set the direction, logo and tone of the design of what would become Wired Magazine. John Plunkett and Barbara Kuhr of Plunkett+Kuhr were the team behind the look of a magazine that generated strong reactions in most everyone who saw it (both positive and negative). Art Directors should bring a powerful toolkit, language and sensibility to a project worthy of their time, and my hope is to frame my story in a way to attract that caliber of individual. Part of their role is authentically conveying the story behind the documentary’s “brand” – but it so much more than just branding. A holistic mental model of how navigation, print, online, apps, signage, merch and more all play a role in the meaning-making process.
3) Editorial Director – Is your narrative a 360° experience? I’m not simply talking about the devices it appears on, but the way in which it unfolds, reveals itself, hangs together – complementing each manifestation with integrity and thematic resonance. Here’s where the curation responsibility gets real. Right now, we’re looking for an Editorial Director to take a collection of poems, papers, photos, lyrics, video clips, illustrations mp3’s and sheet music into a suite of artifacts for the creation of an eBook to compliment our documentary. In fact, it’s an essential part of the documentary – and the creation of the eBook will be referenced in the film and be published before the film debuts at a festival. It’s a skill-set that blurs disciplines and boundaries – and we’re looking for an exceptional generalist – someone who knows the value of richly textured multimedia object, but wants to keep Story (capital “S”) at the heart of the experience, wherever and however it’s told.
Keeping story at the center - Music as DNA
4) Music Director – Another translator, the role of the Music Director in this instance is more about orchestrating the live instantiations of the song story DNA, and less the traditional soundtrack music supervisor of feature films. David Terhune wears that hat in the SAS Orchestra, and I chose him for his many years of helping re-animate the songbooks of a host of pop and rock icons during his night job of helping lead the Loser’s Lounge in NYC. For some cross/transmedia producers, it’s likely that there is nothing more central to their narratives than getting the game mechanics right. For me, it the expression of the musical DNA that is at the core of Get It All Out. I’ve used the word “re-hydration” to describe our process, and it’s truly apropos – as music is like water – fluid, connecting and giving life to the spirit of the tale. These songs were basically desiccated and orphaned, and their ongoing recapitulation is both a meaning-making process and a music-revivifying process to find them new homes.
5) Director of Photography – When I started down this path in 2008, not knowing anyone in my immediate circle of friends who was either A) a documentary filmmaker with time on their hands, or B) crazy enough to believe that this particular story was worth a multi-year journey for – I did what anyone in my position would do: I placed the obligatory ad on Craigslist. One persistent person who saw (and evidently liked) my ad kept emailing me, and it’s a good thing. My DP and co-director Chris Schuessler produces news and documentaries for ARTE TV of France, and teaches young people how to tell their own personal narratives with video for NYC’s City Parks Productions. His role has been traditional in a doc filmmaking sense, but invaluable in consistently getting the best possible interviews on camera.
Each of these team members come from different productioncultures and exercise varied production models. “Mono-medium production cultures” (Dena) exist because individuals rightly want to master their chosen creative fields and that takes time (maybe not Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” – but years of work). My role as a producer is to both translate the different languages/dialects they all excel at into a common tongue and to orchestrate their work to align with the vision of the story.
That said – nothing can be orchestrated without collaboration. The efficacy of which may in fact be proportional to the producer’s level of transparency and quality of articulation re: the subjective merits (artistic/cultural/political) of the work/storyworld. The Catch 22 resides in the writer/producer’s vision needing a development team constituency from across disciplines to make it concrete – to give all the envisioned connected manifestations of the story life – and given the nature of the wrangling and coordination of talent that must take place, improvisational management and leadership becomes both the catalyst and the glue for progress. So, in some ways – this dispatch (like the music when it was first created) is also an improvisation. And in the spirit of transparency, I hope to improvise further updates here as our team grows and our story develops.
More about the documentary Get It All Out can be found here at getitalloutmovie.com. More about the SAS Orchestra can be found here
Will Kreth is the NYC-based director/producer/founder of MediaGroove LLC - and has worked in media for more than 20 years (e.g. - public access TV; indie music soundman; audio post for film/video; multimedia; interactive TV; magazine publishing; web content; broadband services; and back to interactive TV) - at places like Apple, Wired Magazine, HotWired, Road Runner and Time Warner). All of which (to a varying degree) have led him to take on the x-media documentary film/eBook/orchestra: "Get It All Out"
1. We cannot logically justify any ticket price whatsoever for a non-event film. There are too many better options at too low a price. Simply getting out of the house or watching something somewhere because that is the only place it is currently available does not justify a ticket price enough. We still think of movies as things people will buy. We have to change our thinking about movies to something that enhances other experiences, and it is that which has monetary value. Film’s power as a community organizing tool extends far beyond its power to sell popcorn (and the whole exhibition industry is based on that old popcorn idea).
This and the other 37 points are definitely worth reading. They raise numerous questions while hinting at possible solutions. In relation to the first point that Ted raises I was struck by the fact that “Hosted Screenings” present an interesting option for those looking to roll something out in today’s theatrical market.
We had a chance to catch up with filmmaker Sol Tryon from Mangusta Productions to hear about his recent experimentation in the hybrid distribution world and how he and his team are working around a “Hosted Screenings” model for their theatrical releases.
What lead to your hybrid distribution efforts around your slate of films?
Over the past few years we have seen the independent film industry flip on it’s head. With the number of films getting big advances for all rights deals dropping drastically, it became apparent that in order to be independent filmmakers with sustainable careers we were going to have to know how to market and distribute our films ourselves. We began exploring and comparing the different options for self, hybrid and traditional distribution. Fortunately, there have been a few other filmmakers blazing these trails already giving us some points of reference to work from. For the most part though, these strategies are only being implemented as a one off sort of thing for specific films. Seeing this as a developing trend, we decided to try to shape our company around eventually being prepared to release all of our films ourselves theatrically. With that as the strategy, we have begun including a modest P&A (prints and advertising) budget into our production budget in order to finance a theatrical release. This puts us, the filmmakers, as well as the initial investors in a greater position of power when it comes to managing the distribution options. If one of the precious few large all rights deals comes our way, we can take it and just distribute the remaining funds back to our investors. If there aren’t any offers we are jumping up and down about, we have the ability to distribute the film ourselves in a way we feel it deserves. The ideal situation being that we develop this strategy for distributing our films to a point where other filmmakers and distributors want to work with us because they see the value we are able to add to a project.
Can you explain how you’re approaching theatrical and the results you’ve seen so far from your efforts?
Our first theatrical release was FIX (directed by Tao Ruspoli; starring Olivia Wilde and Shawn Andrews). We opened in New York and played for two weeks at the Village East. We generated a lot of press and saw a real tangible jump in awareness for the film. One of the most effective strategies we employed was setting up hosted screenings where we invited cast, crew, friends and influential personalities to take part in themed post-screening Q&A’s. For instance, we invited Daniel Pinchbeck, a proponent of hallucinogens, to participate in a discussion with Tao Ruspoli titled: “Drugs: Culture, Addiction and the Exploration of Altered States of Consciousness”. Pinchbeck promoted the screening on his Reality Sandwich blog which, combined with our promotional and marketing efforts, enabled us to sell out a Tuesday night screening.
With our two current films, The Living Wake and 2012: Time For Change we’ve continued in this direction. With 2012: Time For Change we partnered with Green Festivals (the largest green expo in the U.S.). They hold five events throughout the year (San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Washington D.C., and San Francisco again). We premiered the film April 9th at the San Francisco event where we organized panels on the green festival main stage featuring participants in the film and set up a booth to promote our screenings, build our mailing list, and sell merchandise. Outside of the festival, we booked a Landmark Theater for one screening a night for three nights. With the awareness we built up at the green festival and our grass roots marketing, we sold out all of our screenings and built a strong base of interest in the area for our film. Each night the film was followed by a Q&A featuring a different lineup of luminaries from the film. These events became great opportunities to bring together an eclectic mix of personalities into one space for unique discussions. The guests included Paul Stamets (Mycologist), Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation: Musician), Tiokasin Ghosthorse (First Voices Indigenous Radio), Richard Register (Ecological City Design), Barbara Marx Hubbard (Futurist, Writer), and many more.
We are continuing this approach next in Chicago and are expanding the idea in Seattle to incorporate a full one week theatrical run. The thinking is that Seattle is a great market for this film and with the green festival’s outreach, as well as the attention we received from our San Francisco event the time is right to explore taking things to the next level. We are also planning an event screening in NYC for early July with Sting, Paul Stamets, Ganga White, Daniel Pinchbeck and director Joao Amorim where we will be doing simultaneous screenings through several platforms and streaming the Q&A/panel discussion live after the film.
With our latest release, The Living Wake, we are collaborating with Dylan Marchetti of Variance Films on our theatrical bookings. We started by booking theaters in New York (May 14th) and LA (May 21st). From there we used those dates to build around with other cities. We currently are planning on releasing the film in Seattle (June 4th), Chicago (June 25th) and several other cities through June and July. We have also recently secured separate deals for the DVD and VOD rights, coordinating them both to be released on August 3rd.
Can you share how you design your self hosted screenings?
For our New York release of The Living Wake this week we have a total of twenty hosted screenings set up, and are planning to do the same in Los Angeles next week. Many of the screenings will be hosted by the Filmmakers and Cast members themselves (Sol Tryon, Jesse Eisenberg, Mike O’Connell, Jim Gaffigan), while others will be hosted by special guests such as Shirin Neshat (Women Without Men), Mark Webber (Explicit Ills), Cory McAbee (American Astronaut), Daniel Pinchbeck (2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl), Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness), and Jimmy Miller (Step Brothers). Several companies and film festivals we have screened at are also jumping in and hosting select screenings in support of the film.
Our goal is to create an event type of experience within the traditional theatrical format. The approach with each host is slightly different. Some hosts are trying to just promote us and our film by bringing people that they think would enjoy it to a specific screening. Others it works two fold for, where they are promoting us, but we are promoting them as well and it becomes a mutually beneficial experience. All of it though is targeted at creating a particular experience around each and every screening for the audience.
What tips would you offer for someone who is interested in booking their own event / hosted screenings?
Give people as many reasons as you can to go out and see your film. It’s hard to get people into the theater, it’s expensive, and you’re competing with a zillion other things so you have to work to make the experience unique and memorable. Form partnerships whenever and wherever possible with groups and individuals and help promote each other. Get as much advice from people who have done it before as you possibly can, but remember that Self and Hybrid Distribution is still very new, there are no set rules as to how it is done so be creative. Lastly, be prepared to work harder than you ever have. The only guarantee in going this route is that the fate of your film rests on you and how much work you are able to put into it.
What’s next and will you be releasing theatrically in more cities?
The Living Wake and 2012: Time For Change will be rolling out to more cities throughout the summer and fall. The next film on our slate for distribution is Being In The World, a documentary directed by Tao Ruspoli (Fix). This project we have been with from the beginning and are devising a strategy for a theatrical tour building on the experiences gained from Fix, 2012: Time For Change and The Living Wake, but gearing everything specifically for this film. We have also decided to work on supporting other indie films that we think deserve a theatrical release, but have not had the opportunity for what ever reason to make it happen yet. In that vein, we are providing the P&A financing for Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench to be released by Variance Films. We have a few projects in development and plan on continuing to do theatrical releases on our own films as well as others. Our goal is to work with filmmakers on establishing a sustainable environment for us all to continue creating the projects that inspire us.
Lance Weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects.
Convergence Cultures Christy Dena is one of the most knowledgeable people I know working in the cross-media arena. Having studied the topic for years, she is at the forefront of a new emerging form of entertainment. Christy has written a comprehensive essay on the topic for the Feb 2008 issue (vol 14, no 1) of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into… read more
HOW TO: Cutting through the static Cutting through the static
by Lance Weiler
Last November the internet hit a major milestone, over a 100 million sites with registered domain names and active content. The web is considered to be the great equalizer for filmmakers, one which promises cost effective promotion and distribution. But where do you start and whatâ€™s the best way to design a cost… read more
BTS The Road to Park City – sold out screenings So, we’ve been in Park City for five days now and my head is spinning. We premiered the film on Saturday and had a great crew in town: Jen Welsh, who plays Kat, Greg Lyons, who plays Jack, my finance Beth, high school pal Tom Bilotta, and Greg’s ECC bandmate, Josh Ostrander. Of course, 10AM on a Saturday is a… read more
“What the hell am I doing? I can’t write. How do people fucking do this for a living?” These are the poisonous phrases of defeat that loop inside my brain prior to my turning into a robot and heading toward the refrigerator to binge on cheese even though I’m a vegan.
I’m a firm believer in rolling up your sleeves and jumping into whatever project moves you. Passion can be an immense driving force, even if you don’t have any formal training in a particular endeavor. This obviously precludes any dangerous stuff. I’m speaking creatively. I don’t want to get all ‘Life Coach’ on you guys, but I feel pretty strongly that anyone can go as far as their passion leads them. The only obstacle is self-doubt.
Jeff and I are writing a screenplay, a narrative based on my mom and dad’s life story. We’ve read the books we’re ’supposed’ to, we’ve brainstormed, we’ve nitpicked over tiny grammatical stuff to avoid the larger issues of structure, character development and figuring out the intricate puzzle of Act II. To all of the countless souls who have been down this path, we feel your pain.
The creative cycle is as predictable as the seasons. You settle down to write, you get distracted, you procrastinate. Then you hear weird noises coming from next door, you’re thrown off balance, you lose focus. So you go eat some more cheese, walk the dog, make some coffee, sit down and force yourself to write a little bit, you gain confidence, not too much…oh no, here it comes…”What am I doing? I can’t fucking write!” Writer’s block is back.
Jeff and I take turns writing. We rely on one another. He is definitely alpha when it comes to making the larger decisions, because he is the one who started this project. It’s his baby and I don’t want to tamper with a direction or vision he may have. But having said this, if he were to bear the entire burden alone, it would be incredibly overwhelming. Not all artists want to work with others, but I’ve come to learn the value in partnering with someone you respect and admire. There are times when Jeff comes up with an idea, incorporates it into the script and I read it and get goosebumps. This is when I know it’s exactly what belongs there and how the story should go.
I think that Jeff and I make a good team because of our ability to communicate with one another. Again, we’re learning as we write. Since he and I are pretty green, the writing journey has been an especially slow process. We’ve been locked in our cave for the past year-and-a-half, not having shown a word of the first draft to a soul. We’re almost ready for a select group of writing friends to have a look. We’re both a little nervous. It’s going to be like standing up before a crowded room to make an announcement and then dropping your drawers…and there you are with all of your pimples and sagging parts, getting gawked at by critical eyes.
Some might argue that working in a vacuum is dangerous. I think that when you’re ready to let someone see your ‘creation’ it should never be a half-finished work or something that starts out solid and peters out because you’ve rushed to complete it. You cannot go out onto the stage without practicing first. Always put your best foot forward. Whatever the end product is that you’ve created, it has to be something that you are totally proud of…not something you half-assed in a half-baked state.
Our project started out as a 10-page treatment that grew to 40 pages over the course of several months and then the realization set in that, instead of trying to tell someone else how the story should go, we might as well just write the script ourselves. Jeff and I didn’t know what the hell we got ourselves into when we started working together on the documentary, but that film is still out and about and maintaining a steady momentum fed by word-of-mouth. So it’s not a totally radical concept for us to take it a step further and fictionalize my dad’s life story for the big screen.
Whatever it is that you want to create, study what others have done before you, not to mimic, but to be shown the light. Jeff and I watched hundreds of documentaries before we set out on the journey to make our own first film. And for our current writing project, we try to study as many screenplays as possible. When they’re written well, you can’t wait to get your hands on another one. It’s a total addiction. Honing in on certain styles, subject matter and writers we like, we’ve read screenplays like ‘Man on the Moon,’ ‘Hudsucker Proxy,’ ‘Adaptation,’ ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,’ etc.
Recently, I’ve become fascinated with articles detailing how long it takes other writers to pump out their screenplays. I was giddy over the fact that some professional writers take years to complete their first draft. This means there truly is hope for us!
Jenny Abel graduated from Emerson College with a degree in video and
television production. Moving to LA shortly thereafter, she
coordinated overseas productions for Nu Image and Millennium Films and
helped the company produce twenty-six pictures over the course of
several years. Saying goodbye to the 'glamor' of Hollywood, Jenny soon
shifted her focus toward the completion of her first independent
feature documentary project, ABEL RAISES CAIN.
I’m not sure that tonight I will get much sleep – at around 4 in the morning I’ll be heading to the Detroit airport with several bags of equipement and one under-packed suitcase of clothes. In the air I plan on reading over the film’s script again and look for holes in the storyboards and shot-list. I’m excited. I’m nervous.
It still amazes me to stop and think that all of *this* is thanks to everyone who helped Amanda and I hit our goal on kickstarter. And I don’t simply mean that in a sense of backing the project, but all the people who helped share it, who wrote emails to their friends, who twittered and who posted it to their facebook pages on multiple occasions. KSR campaigns are a lot of hard work, and we could not have come so far on our own.
I think it’s best (because I have a lot of packing to do still) to leave you with this video that we first posted when launching our campaign – I think it really helps put the next 10 days in perspective:
POLLINATE: The Film and the Roller-Coaster Ride Pollinate is a new addition to the Workbook Project network. Its focus is on all things related to audience. In an extensive four part series Lisa Salem looks at how Mark Francis’ feature doc BLACK GOLD reached global audiences.
By Lisa Salem – The irony is that these multiple posts have come about as a result of what was originally… read more
WATCH – girl talk crowdsourced animation
Brett Gaylor’s “Basement Tapes,” is a collaborative documentary project about copyright in the digital age. We interviewed Brett a bit ago for TCIBR.
The above video was a group project done by 64 students from Concordia University.
TCIBR Podcast – Don Argott This edition of TCIBR is brought to you by IndieFlix and Breakthrough Distribution – Our guest today is doc filmmaker Don Argott. Don exploded onto the scene with his feature debut Rock School, an entertaining doc about the Paul Green School of Rock. Rock School was acquired by Picture House for a low seven figure advance out of the… read more
Pollinate is a new addition to the Workbook Project network. Its focus is on all things related to audience. In an extensive four part series Lisa Salem looks at how Mark Francis’ feature doc BLACK GOLD reached global audiences.
By Lisa Salem – The irony is that these multiple posts have come about as a result of what was originally intended to be a short phone conversation with filmmaker Marc Francis a couple of weeks ago – for a short piece looking at the film and how it managed to so successfully reach audiences around the issues it documents.
Our conversation turned into a long one though, and I’ve been at odds as to how best to cover the different points that were brought up as Marc recounted the story of how BLACK GOLD got made and put out into the world.
In the end I didn’t want to leave much out so I’ve decided to transcribe a lot of our 90 minute conversation over the next three posts and then post a fourth which will meditate upon some of the points we hit.
Marc is one half of the co-directing/producing team that made this film (his brother, Nick, is the other half) which looks at the worldwide coffee industry and the relationship between western coffee consumers and coffee farmers in the developing world.
It’s remarkable within the genre of social-issue documentary making because it’s audience took the film for their own and because it’s been the instrument of tangible change around the issues it explores.
lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects