At SXSW Keefe Boerner spoke on the 3D Steroscopic Production Tools, Production and Post panel. He has been a production coordinator, editor, visual effects and motion graphics artist, visual effects producer and post-production supervisor on feature films. Some of Keefe’s credits include collaborations with Robert Rodriguez on Sin City and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D. In this interview we discuss the ins and outs of 3D filmmaking.
Highlights at SXSW this year?
I had a busy SXSW this year. I hosted a panel on 3D filmmaking as well as attending three screenings of a film I post supervised, Dance with the One. Because of a last minute cancellation on the panel, I spent most of the weekend arranging for a replacement, ftp-ing clips, preparing presentations, making DCPs and QC-ing the material at the Alamo Drafthouse for the panel. Most panels are a bunch of folks showing up 15 minutes beforehand. Not this one. We were working on it for weeks, selecting materials, making 3D DCPS and PowerPoints, coordinating what each of us was going to talk about. I wanted the panel to be very informative. Given that we were on the other side of downtown from the convention center, it was very well attended and had a great response. Folks were coming up to the panelist during the rest of the festival and telling them how much they enjoyed it.
I did attend the future technology panel and met Paul Debevec, who turns out is a cousin of a friend. He’s an associate director of the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies Graphics Lab and co-inventor of HDMI and Light Stage, necessary, cutting edge tools in the VFX world. There were more highlights of the week, but I had to sign an NDA.
How did you get started as a filmmaker?
I went to film school, expecting to work my way up as an editor. My desire to stay in Austin forced me, like others, to wear many different hats. I eventually got into motion graphics and visual effects. One of my former interns had gone to work for Elizabeth Avellan and called me up when they were looking for a VFX coordinator on Spy Kids. I worked with Robert and Elizabeth for seven years, working my way up to VFX Producer and Post Supervisor. After my wife and I had a child, I decided I needed to take a break from the 80 – 100 hour work weeks and took a job at the University of Texas at Austin, managing the facilities for the Radio, TV and Film Department.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about 3D?
That all you need is two cameras and you can shoot a 3D film. It’s a specialized craft, like cinematography and editing. You need a stereoscopic specialist on your show who know the equipment, the theories and the ‘rules’ to advise production on how best to shoot 3D that is compelling, yet comfortable. The second misconception is that 3D appears the same, no matter the size of the screen. In reality, the stereo effect is lessened on a smaller screen and more intense on a larger screen. You cannot judge the 3D effect on a 19 inch field monitor if you are shooting for theatrical distribution. Of course, the Imax master is going to be different from the normal cineplex master as well.
Are all film genres enhanced by being shot in 3D?
Of course not. I really don’t have any desire to see ‘No Country for Old Men’ in stereo, nor most any other content. But what I would give to see ‘The Matrix’ in Stereo.
What are your favorite scenes from a 3D film and why?
Technically, if something was really good in 3D, I probably will not remember it. The problems or the thrills and great content are what stands out to me. I’m going to get nostalgic for a moment. When I saw ‘The Polar Express,’ I remember being thrilled by the roller coaster and flying ticket sequences. I adore ‘Coraline’, but it was mainly because 3D enhanced and was a perfect fit for an incredibly visual story. I’m happy with their decision to flatten the stereo for the real world sequences and increase the stereo for the imaginary world. So many of the shots were amazing. The Rats with their tracing left a strong impression, but again, it was amazing animation and art design and the 3D simply enhanced it. I didn’t really care for the narrow depth of field in some scenes – I would prefer wide depth of field in stereo to allow my eyes to wander in the scene – but I respect their decision.
Have you heard of D-Box (shaking amusement park-like chairs for movie theaters) and what are your thoughts on them being used along with 3D glasses?
I don’t think it is going to be able to replicate the thrill of an amusement park ride, where the entire viewing space and screen production is designed to work in synch to give you the impression of being in the experience. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another. I know some folks who love it and some who think it’s lame, but they have a tendency to piss on a lot of things. Stereo has been around for a long time, this is a reincarnation of an experience that has been around for 50 years and more if you include still photographs. Despite the history of stereo, we are still developing the theory and trying new things out. D-Box is breaking new ground and it’s a risky proposition. You have an incredibly expensive technology that is only able to recoup it’s cost one ticket at a time. I really respect what they are doing and I think it’s like any craft, when the filmmaker goes into the expectation that there will be motion editing as part of the post process, you can design the action sequences appropriately. It’s still in it’s relative infancy, but I expect to see (or feel) great things if folks take it seriously and can design around the limitations. But to answer your question, as immersive as you can get into the film, I think 3D and D-Box could make a great combination.
What is your advice to low budget ($100,00-$500,000) filmmakers who want to do a movie in 3D?
Forget about Stereo and focus on getting the story, actors and production design right. I’d ask them why they feel stereo is important. Of course, the economics of box office make it very desirable to have a stereo release, but bad stereo can ruin a good picture. And, with major box office films dominating the 3D screen space, there isn’t going to be a place for a low budget feature. It can also add significantly to the time and expense of production. I guess I would first talk them out of it unless I felt all the money for other needs was appropriately cared for.
What is your advice to film executives who want to produce big budget 3D films?
Get the stereographer involved in pre-production. Their job is almost as important as the cinematographer, Art Designer, Costumer and Visual Effects Supervisor. Sets and action should be designed to take advantage of stereo and stay within it’s boundaries.
Posted in editing experience movies storytelling television video
Christopher Bolton is a Canadian writer, producer, and actor, best known for his award-winning comedy series, Rent-a-Goalie. A few months ago, Christopher — AKA “Bolts” — contacted me asking for feedback on his latest project’s transmedia strategy. After a few minutes of chit-chat and an exchange of development documents, I realized that the project, a comedic exploration of Canadian landscapes popular and physical, entitled In Search of Gordon Lightfoot, was much more than a TV series with a few transmedia extensions tacked on just for the hell of it; no, this was something different, something much more integrated — transmedia from the get-go. And, as it happens, it was also something that sounded quite funny and more than a little community-minded in its direct engagement with audiences and Canuck mythology. Naturally, I wanted to be a part of it. A few web chats later, we came to an agreement — I would consult on the project and shadow Christopher as he worked his way through the development process, and in return he would share what he learned with me, here, in the form of a series of interviews.
This first interview is a snapshot of Christopher’s thinking as the project moves through the funding process and into the first stages of pre-production. It reveals a considered and well-informed view of transmedia and the new storytelling landscape. It is an inspired and often very funny view of the future of entertainment, and I look forward to speaking to Bolts more as his work on the project progresses.
You’ve worked in the Canadian film and television industry for a while now. What’s your background, and what’s changed since you got started?
My background is varied. Until my mid-20’s it was solely acting. In ’93 I took a stab at writing and that landed me at the CFC in 94 as a writer. I did the directing curriculum at nights and on weekends and directed my first two – and only two – short films there. In 2003 I teamed up with a fella goes by the name Chris Szarka and we formed a company to develop and ultimately produce a cable ½ hour comedy up here called Rent-A-Goalie. In there somewheres I did a few stints as A.D. and Props Man.
As for how it’s changed since I began…televisions are colour now and very crisp and clear.
It was during the production of RAG that I became interested in Transmedia though I didn’t know it was a concept with a name. I suggested ideas to the broadcaster, ideas intended to drive traffic to and from the mother ship – some UGC, a genre bending prequel movie, some mobile applications – but it was always met with a no. It was a licensing issue and I get that but…well…I’ll leave it there. I blame myself. I should have pushed harder.
When I began developing In Search of Gordon Lightfoot I met a woman named Jill Golick, a digital pioneer in Canada. She began my indoctrination into this world.
Man-oh-man, forget how the industry has changed since I started; in just 7 years, dated to when we began development on RAG, it has broken almost to the point of no-fixee. I was at a card table recently of smart broadcasting folk with impressive CV’s discussing the future of our industry. The hardcore estimate for conventional broadcaster life expectancy in Canada was 2 years and the optimistic guess, if you’re said broadcaster, was 10 years. Basis or not to such speculation I was rocked. The consensus was that cable isn’t going anywhere fast because subscription is consumer-choice. It just won’t look like pay cable does today.
The web has blown shit wide open. Access, audience contact and engagement, community building, social media, distribution platforms, the very nature of what content is (stop calling it a Television show for cryin’ out loud) is so drastically different that it needs to be called something new. There is a good and big explosion at the point that industries are colliding – tv/film/branding/communications/tech – and where the smoke clears is an opportunity to re-imagine and develop content specifically to meet the unique demands of all interested parties and, more importantly, audience. The excitement for content creators lay in the exploration of new ways to tell story. A fractured media landscape is exactly what I needed as it helps to make sense of how I think and speak.
This is a frontier and frontiers benefit the entrepreneurial spirit greatly. I think it was Ted Hope who said that it’s the era of Artist as Entrepreneur and it behooves anyone taking that notion seriously to look at how those industries conceive of and deliver content and will do in participation with one another.
The logline for my new company, Forty Farms, is…
The client is the brand is the consumer is the experience is the entertainment.
…and that could just as easily read…
The experience is the consumer is the client is the brand is the entertainment.
Ruminating on this one-hand-clapping-esque driver is a good way to get inside the headspace necessary for making resonant, profitable entertainment going forward.
What is In Search of Gordon Lightfoot?
ISOGL is the title of two of six platforms in an as-of-yet-unnamed Transmedia Project about searching for an identity, a sound, a connection to a landscape, and a warm dry spot to pitch camp for the night. The first is a 13 x 30 minute comedy that sees Ed Robertson (frontman for the pop-rock outfit Barenaked Ladies) and myself flying around Northern Canada in an iconic bush plane looking for reclusive rock legend Gordon Lightfoot. Why? Because he has something that belongs to us. We just miss him everywhere we look and become embroiled, instead, in some small town, wilderness related mayhem before a narrow escape back to the skies to search for another day. The second is a tribute record to the man himself. Our guest stars in the series will be well-known Canadian music acts who will do double duty – act their asses off for the show and then sing them back on covering one of Gordon’s tunes for the album. These two properties are designed for distribution together but that ain’t prescriptive.
The remaining platforms are a game, feature, feature documentary, and graphic novel. Our point of identification in the meta-narrative is a guy, a creative guy, who stumbles, flies, loves, fishes, hikes, and writes his journey. It’s a walk through time, media, story and Canada with a fella trying to make sense of it all. Taken together it will serve as a big ol’ love letter to this country as well as warm, beautiful, funny and musical showcase of Canada to the rest of the world. The idea is to entice more Germans – as if that were possible – to come canoe our rivers and lakes.
Do you conceive of the project as a show with a Transmedia experience, or a Transmedia experience that includes a show? Is there a difference?
I’m reluctant to answer this question because it implicates me by rendering the project’s history a little less pure than I’d like it to be. The series was to be my sophomore ½ hour effort. Discussions with broadcasters were frustrating me – one guy’s problem with it was that he didn’t like flying so he bumped on the aviation part – and I figured that it was the right time to dig in the dirt of new business models and alternative modes of storytelling. I began thinking of an extended narrative for Search, ideas I wanted to implement but that didn’t fit in the series as well as different platforms that interested me. Writing for gaming for instance has particular cache. Are you kidding me? No limits storytelling? It was like my head exploded and I knew my time in traditional would serve me well here because what that did teach me was restraint. Restraint, I think, is key to navigating a world as full of opportunity as No Limits Storytellingville.
That’s the long way round to saying that, though I didn’t conceive of it as such, I absolutely consider this project a Transmedia Experience that includes a show.
I love that you call it a Transmedia Experience because that is key to how I frame this thing. It’s a creative and production process experience and the user can consume it soup-to-nuts or in parts. Empowering the audience to participate breeds pride of ownership and I think people will respond to that. What’s really blowing me away is people contacting me with platform ideas of their own as well as reach-outs that I initiate bearing fruit as well. This dialogue between you and I is a prime example: a) it helps us both in our respective missions b) it is content c) it will drive traffic to our mutual benefit. That’s some performing shit in my opinion.
As to whether there is a difference between a Transmedia experience with a show or a show with a Transmedia experience? Abso-lute-ly and it’s as important a distinction there is in defining Transmedia. It’s essential that TM design be ground up rendering every platform essential to the broader stroked narrative. Tacked on properties will feel like tacked on properties and your audience will at best dock you points for that and at worse abandon the project altogether. It seems to be the mistake producers are making in trying to design additional platforms for their fleshed out traditional properties – done in this order it becomes re-purposed material as opposed to original, non-linear content that is platform-specific.
What got you thinking about developing a Transmedia strategy for Lightfoot? Why not do things the same way you’ve done them in the past?
What gets me excited about Transmedia is the belief that the present (past) model is broken and that the opportunities inherent in being an early adopter to this kind of storytelling are huge. It seems simple: a fractured media landscape begs a splintered approach and a savvy user demands that it be robust. I leapt at the chance to create within those parameters. And some of the best minds I know, people who’ve made good, albeit waning, livings in Traditional are meeting in dingy bars to discuss how to make ground-up changes in their industry because they don’t feel they have anything to lose. It’s electrifying to hear the talk. And it’s not griping ‘make the writer matter’ or ‘actors are people too’ stuff either. These are talented and frustrated professionals, who’ve read the writing on the wall, discussing a renovation of the system that values what they do and has everyone thinking creative + business + tech from step 1. Who was it said it feels like 1911 and we’re the guys learning that different angles and editing are good? Oh right, that was you. Spot on Mr. Watson. Makes me crave a cigarette and I don’t smoke.
Reminds me of a joke about lemon meringue pie. I’ll have my friend Jeremy deliver it to camera and post it on my site when I get a site.
Canadian TV productions have notoriously low operating budgets. How are you going to pay for all the different components of this project?
F@#ed if I know.
Kidding. Sort of.
Yes we have tiny budgets up here and they are getting tinier by the day. We shot Rent-A-Goalie for a half million bucks an episode in 3rd season and that was extraordinarily high then. Today you’d probably have to bring in a CSI for that. Not quite but, y’know, almost.
In my opinion the answer to low budgets is to go lower. Don’t try to make a $200,000 show look like a ½ million bucks because it’ll suck. Make a 100 K per episode show and don’t apologize for it. Don’t try to stretch the dollar. Don’t try to stretch anything. Just make the most awesome content you can possibly make with what you have and concentrate on what hooks – story. Necessity is the mother of invention and with today’s technologies you can make it beautiful for peanuts. The key is knowing how to make it beautiful and that is art as it’s always been. Ted Hope again – he tweeted recently that ‘A return to less could be more.’ Yes. Just plain yes indeed.
The agencies that help us make entertainment in Canada are trying hard to keep up with the changes and, on the business side of it, are thinking progressively. We’ve pitched the project to the Funds with no real ask other than a dialogue. We ask whether the model makes sense and how could they see being involved? They appreciate it because they’re trying to wrap their heads around new models as well and we appreciate the response because it helps us create accordingly. Assuming we get the Funds, and if we keep the thing indie-spirited, there will be shortages to make up but they aren’t prohibitively huge. For that we’re looking at brand relationships plus some crowd-sourcing options and a bit of private investment to top off. I’m not frightened by the financing plans yet. But then I’m the guy who writes fart jokes in these partnerships.
How has taking a Transmedia approach changed the way you’ve gone about raising development money and securing licensing agreements?
The absence of a broadcaster has cleaned rights up immensely. And, again, the wild west of the Internet means very few precedents so we’re kind of making it up as we go along. Talks with musicians, writers, performers have been positive – everyone seems to want to see it work. A western spirit of Kereitsu – a Japanese business model based on industries working with one another to the benefit of all – is what we’re looking to build. There’s power in that. The power of community.
We’ve received some development money from regular avenues for traditional deliverables like series bibles and pilot scripts for the 13 x ½ hr. I’m writing the feature script during the month of April as part of a month long script competition. With no dough attached to its development I am hungry to work completely and feverishly to reduce the time it takes to develop. That platform is a No-Budget film we want to make as a Canadian nod to the Mumblecore tradition. We were soft-offered some development dough for it but it would be recoupable so what’s the point? I’d rather put it on the screen down the road. That property sits with a different producer than the one who has the series, which is a different producer than the one who has the feature doc. So you see how the heavy lifting is spread out while the creative remains central. So there’s a bit of my own money – well, my wife and children’s too – in play on this one but that’s not a bad thing because I’m positive we can make a business out of it.
Here’s a two-parter: 1) What role, if any, do you see for the audience in producing and developing content for Lightfoot? and, 2) as an artist, how do you feel about opening up parts of the creative process to audience participation?
It is my sincere hope that the audience will do the lion’s share of the work. My favourite thing, by far, of having a popular show was that, love it or hate it, everyone had something to say about it. Inviting them to voice those opinions netted us feedback and story fodder. When I began developing Lightfoot I continued to invite that input. Everyone I talked to had a Lightfoot story – some were first-person accounts, some were major life events with Lightfoot as the soundtrack and some were tales of mistaken identity. They were all fantastic though and enthusiastically told. There is one that stands out – a guy nearing 40 now told me about a Sunday morning in the early 80’s where he and a buddy were playing hockey in an alley, taking shots against a neighbour’s garage. The puck-on-metal clang is a very common ruckus up here but it might be a little much for a rock-star early on a Sunday morning. This grizzled dude walks out in his robe and asks the children, in a charming and patient manner no doubt, to stop interrupting his sleep. The storyteller’s friend told him that was Gordon Lightfoot. I told Gordon the story and he swore it was his dad who tromped around city alleys in his robe.
An aside re. the organics of this thing – that story got back to Gordon and Gordon commented on it. Commenting is content.
So I wondered if it was possible to formalize this relationship between creator and audience and that’s the plan for ‘Search’. We are opening up the process, inviting anyone who has been touched by the subject matter to chime in. I want tales of bush piloting gone wrong and small town yarns, the instances where a song played over a formative time in one’s life. And then we want to be invited to shoot in the places where the story was originally set. We want to engage the people who helped develop the content in producing it as well. Maggie Ancaster of Herring Neck, Newfoundland gets to be prop master for a day or two. The result here, we hope, is to make shooting the show as much of a celebration of this country and it’s people as the content is. Totally 360.
This isn’t a new idea. One of the great Canadian storytellers of this generation, Stuart McLean, has been doing exactly this forever and a day. His material resonates because, beyond being talented, he sits with the people and listens to them. Gordon too. He says it’s dialogues with the people who consume his art that shapes it. Sure, he loves to play because he loves to play but it’s more than that. It’s an exchange.
Writing tv and film in the traditional manner doesn’t offer that opportunity exactly.
I’ve been warned off what this means to me as an artist but I don’t buy it. There’s a quote from Martha Graham posted above my desk that says, paraphrased – don’t be a donkey, you’re no genius. You’re a dude who types for a living. Just stay open and let flow through you what will. What I want flowing through me are the stories of the people I want to write stories for. If I can conceptualize a boundary that resonates with people, inspiring them to tell their version, my job simplifies to merely taking good notes. And ain’t it nice for Maggie Ancaster to get a credit on some quality Canadian content? Story by: Maggie Ancaster has a good ring to it don’t ya think?
I made the name Maggie Ancaster up. Any similarities to any living persons, dead or alive…yadda yadda yah.
Are there any touchstones that serve as inspiration for this project?
Stuart McLean’s stories for sure. Properties that have been sent my way since I began talking about it – Murray McLauchlan’s ‘Floating Over Canada’ is a good example. Specific properties have specific inspirations: the series is homage to John Lurie’s ‘Fishing with John’; the feature is inspired by films like ‘Wendy and Lucy’ and ‘Old Joy’; the feature doc by Werner Herzog’s Encounters At The Edge of the World; the record was a Rick Rubin inspired thing; and the graphic novel is egged on by the likes of Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Seth.
Is this the future of TV?
It’s the future of entertainment for sure. The single media property is done and so are sloughs of other givens we ‘know’ about entertainment. The audience is now referred to as the user and respecting them as a client will take us a long way. The power they have in pressing little buttons is unprecedented and so creating experience and empowering them to participate are paramount moving forward. In the not so distant future Networks will be of people around people not corporations defining content and retaining sole authority to distribute it. Speaking of which…has anyone tackled the David and Goliath story in the new era? They should.
About Christopher Bolton: Christopher Bolton began acting in his teens appearing in feature films Global Heresy, Killing Moon, A Colder Kind of Death, Dead By Monday and The Third Miracle, as well as the Showtime television movies Hendrix and Our Fathers. Additional television credits include roles on the series Northwood, Mutant X, Blue Murder, Little Men, PSI Factor, La Femme Nikita, Street Legal and The Outer Limits. Bolton earned a Gemini nomination for his guest-starring role as ‘Joey Williams’ on the award-winning series Cold Squad.
His work in film and television led him to try his hand at writing. This effort landed him a spot at the esteemed Canadian Film Centre in the Resident Programme. He entered as a writer, but left having written and directed his own short film entitled The Tooth.
He then completed a two-year stint acting on the highly regarded Showtime Network television series Street Time. It was on Street Time in 2002 that he met producer Chris Szarka, forming a partnership to create and produce the multiple award-winning television series Rent-A-Goalie for Showcase.
Bolton is the executive producer, star and creator/writer of Rent-A-Goalie. He is represented by DF Management in the US and Celia Chassel/Gary Goddard in Canada. His new Transmedia Production House, Forty Farms, will launch in May, 2010.
Posted in Person of Interest storytelling television transmedia
Update: There has been a bit of a scuffle over whether the transmedia producer credit includes creators of original IP, but PGA Director of Communications Chris Green assures us that it will (via NewTeeVee).
Also, Andrea Phillips takes the long view on what this will mean for transmedia artists.
Also, an interesting quote from NewTeeVee’s coverage – ” [Steve] Peters hinted at the fact that a new guild might be necessary for the transmedia world, “another organization that would be focused on Transmedia from its inception.”
Nikki Finke of Deadline reported yesterday that the Producers Guild of America voted, for the first time in the guild’s history, to add a new credit – “Transmedia Producer” – allowing artists who create expanded narratives for franchises to be credited alongside other producers on those projects.
Here’s how the new credit will be defined.
A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms: Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.
A Transmedia Producer credit is given to the person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms. Transmedia producers also create and implement interactive endeavors to unite the audience of the property with the canonical narrative and this element should be considered as valid qualification for credit as long as they are related directly to the narrative presentation of a project.
Transmedia Producers may originate with a project or be brought in at any time during the long-term rollout of a project in order to analyze, create or facilitate the life of that project and may be responsible for all or only part of the content of the project. Transmedia Producers may also be hired by or partner with companies or entities, which develop software and other technologies and who wish to showcase these inventions with compelling, immersive, multi-platform content.
To qualify for this credit, a Transmedia Producer may or may not be publicly credited as part of a larger institution or company, but a titled employee of said institution must be able to confirm that the individual was an integral part of the production team for the project.
In short, game and interaction designers can get Transmedia Producer credit, they can be brought in at any point in development and they can be working as individual artists. This is definitely in line with the kind of flexibility inherent to working in new forms of storytelling.
Finke said the adoption of the credit was shepherded by Starlight Runner CEO Jeff Gomez, among others. Reaction to the decision has been overwhelmingly celebratory in transmedia circles, but that hasn’t dissuaded analysts from taking a deeper look at the credit’s definition.
Christy Dena wrote an excellent breakdown of the credit, highlighting the three medium requirement as too limiting.
I know Jeff Gomez has been pushing for the 3 media-platform rule for a few years now. But that was because it was an effective pedagogical device to get new practitioners to understand the need to think expansively. Making this official is a mistake.
Dena said she hopes the three-medium rule won’t be strictly enforced in practice, and the credit will remain open to more forms of transmedia creation while dodging traditional franchise expansions that technically meet the requirements.
Posted in cross-media movies television transmedia