Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Krispy Kay Goodness...

Awhile back, I solicited Kay Reindl's comments on an article I saw in the Los Angeles Times regarding how writers were turning to the web. Kay sums up a lot of my feelings with her reply which I am reprinting here in its entirety:

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Bill wonders what I think about this article
from the LA Times.

While I think it's good that writers are looking to the internet, one thing we must be cognizant of is how we're doing it. The internet isn't simply TeeVee on the computer, and it shouldn't be treated as such. Look at QuarterLife. This is a show that was developed for network, and not much has changed since it went to the internet. If all we're going to do is take failed and/or unproduced pilots and put them on the internet, we will not succeed. The potential audience on the internet is a new generation of viewer. Networks have already been freaking out about how the way people are watching TeeVee is changing. Now, audiences don't have to wait for anything. Want a song you just heard on the radio? You can buy it from iTunes moments later. Miss an episode of TeeVee? iTunes, or Bittorrent. You don't even have to be present to record your favorite shows. Just one push of a button programs a Season Pass on your TiVo or cable/satellite DVR. "Spoiler" has become a part of our lexicon. In the far-off past, you had to watch something when it was on, or you missed it for good. But now, you can watch TeeVee at your leisure, so there's no longer any such thing as a water-cooler show. People don't gather to watch shows, not nearly as much as they used to. We used to take it for granted that after watching something on Thursday, we could safely talk about it on Friday. But that's not the case anymore, so it's a lot harder to build a phenomenon. You don't have to rush home to find out who shot J.R. anymore. You don't have to watch commercials (unless you're at the movies, in which case you PAY for the pleasure).
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And, most importantly, we're living in an instantaneous society that moves so quickly, it gives everything potential meta value. Was the "Leave Britney Alone" guy being serious, or ironic? Doesn't matter. He's now a celebrity. We treat the Lindsay Lohan trainwreck like a sitcom, because it appears alongside the Britney guy. We don't know what's real anymore because reality and meta-reality exist next to each other. The creators of Lonelygirl15 understood this and although the show wasn't entirely successful on a story level, it was insanely important on a meta-cultural level. The debate became less about the plot and more about the question of whether or not it was real. If you turn on the TeeVee and there's a living room with a laugh track, you know you're watching a sitcom. There's nothing the writers can do to make you think otherwise, and the network wouldn't let them even if they tried. "The Daily Show" may approximate a real news show, but you know it isn't, no matter how prescient it is. The act of turning on the television puts you, the viewer, into a familiar box.
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The internet isn't like that, which is a large part of why people are fascinated with it. Anybody can shoot video and put it up. You don't see a "created by" credit. There isn't that familiar "let us entertain you" vibe that most of us are so used to with television. But the real point is, there's an entire generation that is growing up with MetaLife and it's our stodgy old TeeVee viewing habits which are confusing to them. The reasons they watch have changed. They DO watch with a different point of view.
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They aren't passive observers. They are involved and invested in their online, "web 2.0" experience. They make anarchist videos from clips they find on the internet and post them on YouTube. They create fake social profiles on Facebook. They buy virtual gold from gold farmers so they can power up in WOW. They create whole worlds of machinimas INSIDE the already virtual world of Second Life. Simply putting a TeeVee show on the internet isn't going to be of any interest to them, unless you speak their language. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay understand this a little bit. Although FunnyOrDie.com is obviously a haven for comedy sketches, the outrageousness of some of the films shows me that they get that the internet is a different animal. They'll do faux "outtakes" from "Knocked Up" that mimic real-life shit that's been on the internet. The viewer knows it's not real, but it's so meta that he doesn't care. So far, comedy has worked much better on the 'net than has drama. But then comedy's always been the first to break the fourth wall.
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So yes, it's good the writers are turning to the internet. The strike videos have been numerous and, for the most part, really fun and enjoyable. But we have to WANT to go the internet. And right now, it feels like we're being pushed there because of the strike. We need to take a step back and really ask ourselves, How do we do this and make it a great experience for the viewer, as well as for us?
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My take, anyway.

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Agreed and thanks. We are dealing with a new method of distribution here that will affect how we tell stories. When comics came to life in the late thirties, it changed the way pulp writers who got into comics approached those stories. One only has to look at the work of people like Edmond Hamilton who wrote both to see the changes. The basics were there, but the grammar changed.

What's interesting about today's "readers" of Pulp 2.0 is that many more of them are invested in the whole process and want to become as much a part of that meta as they are interested in being entertained...

And thanks to the web, they can be.

But this also put the burden on us to feed that machine, quickly and fully. To be the personification of pulp and get it out there for the audience to read/watch/listen and then comment. That is an incredible burden and I think it's one that TeeVee and The Web has given us the answer in terms of feeding this machine. I'm specifically thinking of a Writer's Room methodology for web creation of content -- "open source" as Rogers puts it -- and Creative Commons licensing.

For Discussion:

1) The Writer's Room -- a group of like-minded individuals create a property overseen by a "Showrunner." This group is responsible for the creation of all the content - audio, video, prose, art, etc...with a singular vision for the property. The group spreads the work amongst them equally.

2) Creative Commons licensing - allowing the readers to contribute to the overall work via the web. All work written/drawn/recorded regarding certain characters and the universe they inhabit must be hosted on a singular designated site/server in order to be considered "official."

3 comments:

Shawna said...

The Writer's Room concept for web content creation is one I've been very interested in lately.

How much of the 'Cloverfield' viral online marketing have you been exposed to? Are you part of the ARG? www.cloverfieldclues.com has a good roundup of most of the discovered sites/storyline that plays alongside the actual movie.

You can tell that there is a team of people there having a lot of fun teasing an audience and producing fascinating content. Most telling is the idea that the online content is not meant to subsititue for the movie, nor is it required for the film going experience. It serves as an alternate framework from which to view the film, a seperate part of the film reality.

That's cool stuff.

Jill Golick said...

What a great post. I am with you and Kay on changing the way we tell stories to adapt to this new medium.

Yes, yes, yes, let's bring the story room with us. I can't imagine how anyone could feed this size machine alone.

And I can't wait to see how the audience feeds into the work and changes it and us as we go.

This is going to be a very interesting year.

pretty shaved ape said...

Bill, a really fascinating year ahead to be sure. And thanks for the effort you've put into this site, I've learned a ton already. I'm one of he goobers daft enough to think that I can create something of value and share it through these new media. I wear the pulp badge with pride.

An interesting adjunct to the writer's room concept is the virtual writer's room. I still bang my noggin against the notion that not all of the creative needs to emerge from the same literal room. One of the most appealing features of the Celtx software (besides being free and open source) is that it provides for that virtual writer's room. They have a dedicated server that allows the show runner to post scripts in progress and others can work on in real time as it updates. I've only toyed with it in a very limited sense but combined with video conferencing it has enormous potential.

Over the next months I'll be putting the pieces together with the goal of beginning to shoot in spring/early summer. Consider yourself a touchstone and inspiration for those of us in the hinterlands.