360MC CW2 was an interesting second part to the module. I think it’s the first time we truly had to independently study on this course, other than the two lectures we had before and after the Christmas break. In a way I think this was good because it gave us complete freedom to come up with an idea for our FMP, but not so good when we had a burning question on New Year’s day. Before I started university, I don’t think I ever would have chosen to create an interactive film for my final project. This is even after taking into consideration the fact that the first ever task I created for university was an interactive game. I think the university’s emphasis on trying new things like Korsakow & Popcorn Maker really had an effect on me.
Feel free not to watch the video below. It’s three years old and incredibly embarrassing!
It’s funny that although I got my initial idea for my FMP – to create a film using only Web 2.0 to show the positives of it – during my year abroad and even with all the research I did over the summer, it wasn’t until the middle of the first term of university that my idea started to develop. Hmm, maybe stress is good for me!
Anyway, onto the evaluation.
I think there are many positives to my proposal. For instance, I think I engaged the viewer since I asked a question at the start to make them think about my subject. What’s more, I included my mood reel and artefacts to show that I know what look and feel I’m going for, and that I tested some scenes to make sure they will work and I know how I can improve. If I had more time, I think I could have talked in more depth about my artefacts. But I guess this can be found on my blog and production folder.
My Blog & Production Folder
I embraced the development elements of CW2, however I personally think I lacked in research. Once I had enough influences towards my film, and I got statistics to show that the websites I am going to use is justified, I didn’t know what else I needed to research. I’ve always struggled with contextual research and honestly, no matter how many times I look it up or ask someone about it I never feel I’ve fully grasped it. Having said that, I tried my best in my two blog posts regarding the contextual side and had I had more time, I would have looked into digital media too.
I am proud of the production folder that I’ve made. I think it looks very clean and professional. Given that it is outward facing, I made sure not to express any doubts I have about the project, as I would usually do on my blog, to show that I am confident about what I’m making. I included facts, with reliable references to indicate that I know what I’m talking about. The producer in me is still going strong, given that I’ve already found my main actors and have the contracts with them sorted out. It’s also the page I finished editing first because I knew exactly what I was doing.
I think my Impact page could be improved hugely as it was underdeveloped and I understand exactly why I’m neglecting this area. I’ve never enjoyed showing other people my work due to the vulnerability that comes with it. I’ve never created a Facebook or Twitter “fan” page for myself to get people to support me or showed my work to people other than friends or if I need to include it with my CV. This is quite ironic considering producers, which is what I want to be, usually deal with the distribution and marketing side of the production. But for 361MC, I definitely want to let go of my insecurities, just go for it and try to get my work into the real world.
I knew that if I wanted Lost Online to be able to enter film festivals, I would have to do everything in a legitimate way (not that I don’t already), and get permission from all the software, websites and apps I’ll be using in the film. However I didn’t know how I would go about doing so and who I needed to get in contact with. After I couldn’t find anything online, I tried to get in contact with the companies themselves however I didn’t know their email addresses for matters concerning this. I tweeted and direct messaged Snapchat Support, and messaged Facebook’s Facebook page asking how I would get permission to use their brand in my film. Sadly, I didn’t get any responses. The proof of this can be seen below.
Tweet to Snapchat
DM to Snapchat
Message to Facebook
I finally discovered that if I typed in “brand request” after the name of the product I wanted to use, I would find the page that explains how to request permission. I have listed the links of where to get permission for each online entity that I intend to use.
Some of these products want a lot of information before they can grant permission. For example Facebook want the final version of the film and a detailed synopsis. Whereas Snapchat want the part of the script that discusses the brand, a description of the film and how the brand will be used and a mock-up of the scenes. Because of this, I will be requesting permission once the film is complete, as there are many changes that can still be made to it. Once I’ve submitted my request, I don’t think I will have a problem being accepted, due to the fact that I am shining a positive light on the brands.
I created a logo for Lost Online to add to my Facebook and Twitter pages. I thought it would be a good idea to use an eye, with the reflection of Facebook being used. The app is being used on the phone to indicate that it is Aliya’s eye, not Jeremy’s. The use of the eye is to show that the audience won’t be seeing much of the actual characters in the film. The dark blue and white in the title is to represent Facebook, as is the font. I’m not very happy with what I’ve created and I think it looks very amateurish. I think one of the reasons it doesn’t look as good as it could be is because I myself was confused whether I was creating a logo or poster. My image sort of sits between the middle of the two. As well as this, the title looks like it’s just been plastered on top of the eyeball.
I asked a classmate and friend, Shahid Mahmood, to help with the designing of the logo and he was happy to do so (so he said). I showed him the design I had already created and left him to come up with some ideas. After a couple of days he showed me three different logos, which were great. I particularly liked the eye with the writing in it. Because these are just drafts too, I won’t be adding them to the Facebook & Twitter pages. Although, the fact that Shahid created three designs gave me an idea. Once the pages build up a small following, I’ll post either the current designs or newer ones and ask everyone to vote for their favourite logo. I think this will create a dialogue with the audience, and fits very well with Lost Online because they will both require interactivity.
I have done a lot of development for Lost Online and I’ve decided to put most of it into one blog post.
Once I had my basic idea for Lost Online, I wanted to do some location scouting, so I didn’t end up writing my script and then not be able to find a suitable location. This may be backwards to some people, but one of my locations were very important to the storyline, so I needed to make sure I could find it. The setting I needed was a small dingy room, which looks like it’s underground. I wanted there to be no natural light as this is the place I wanted the woman, named Aliya, in Lost Online to be trapped. I set aside a budget of £100 for this location, given that I would only need it for about two hours and the filming would be done on a mobile phone.
I found what I thought to be the perfect place on the website UK Film Location, as it fit my criteria well. I request a recce and received a call the next day. The lady on the other end of the call asked about my project, which I discussed with her. She then asked me what my budget was and when I told her, she said that I wouldn’t be able to find a location to hire under £500-£600 for half a day (4 hours) minimum. This was way over my intended budget, which I didn’t want to change because I felt that no location would be worth that much money considering it was to be filmed on a mobile phone. I stopped looking at websites like this, knowing that they would all be this expensive.
East London Location 1
East London Location 2
East London Location 3
Not feeling too disheartened, I remembered a location I filmed at during my time at college. It’s called the CoffinWorks, and is based in Birmingham. One of the rooms here looks abandoned and is quite dirty, which would work well in my film. I emailed one of the workers, as I was told to do on their website, asking her to use the location. However it’s been 3 weeks and I still haven’t received a reply, so I guess I won’t be using it as a location.
As a last resort, I decided to use a location in the Ellen Terry building in Coventry University. It’s on the second floor and is a small tunnel that leads to an emergency exit. I’ve taken photographs with a mobile, instead of a DSLR camera to try to create the feel I’ll be going for in the final film. I’ll admit this area doesn’t look very threatening and seems like it will be easy to escape from. However this lights will be switched off during the scenes and the light will be provided from the mobile, when the actress is filming herself – for a Blair Witch Project sort of feel. What’s more, when she is filming herself, the stairs will not be in shot and the emergency door will be unable to be opened.
This is an updated version of the story mapsI have previously created. As you can see it is a lot more developed than the first drafts, but I don’t think this is my final version. I’d like to think that there will be one or two more updates to it. The story starts from the green note on the top left corner and the pink notes are the endings. It starts with Jeremy logging onto his Macbook and closing his lesson plan, to show that he is a teacher. He puts on some music and logs onto Facebook. After responding to a couple of messages, he sees Aliya’s post begging for help. This is where the first point of interactivity comes into play, because the audience are asked whether they believe her post and have to make a choice. The narrative is vastly developed now because I’ve added more than one positive ending, to show that there is more than one way to use social media to help others. However, there are still more bad endings than good ones, with there being five in total, so I may try to make this equal. Making this plan was quite hard and took a long time as I had to make sure everything would link together correctly, yet would still make sense to the overall narrative.
I met with Clifton and showed him my plan. He really liked the story, but suggested I have a few parts which are “red herrings” and distract the audience. For example, someone could comment on Aliya’s post with rude remarks, telling her she’s writing the post for attention. I really liked this idea and I am going to take this into consideration. I may add it into my final story, but my only concern is finding someone (or some people) to do this, as I don’t want to have to pay people just to write a couple of comments. Clifton asked a few questions regarding the characters and I mentioned that it is later revealed, if the audience pick certain choices, that Jeremy is actually Aliya’s ex-boyfriend. Clifton thought that this was good as it added depth to the characters, but suggested that it is brought up at the start, rather than in the middle. I’m not sure whether I will do this because I don’t want to give too much away about the characters early on.
I created a mood reel to show anyone who wants to get involved with, or learn more information about Lost Online. The intention of it is to give an idea of the feel, tone and look I’m going for. The music used is quite eerie, to indicate that the situation is quite a mysterious one; even in the preferred ending I have created, many questions are not answered. Having said that, this is not necessarily the kind of music that will be used in the film. I may be going for more of a contrapuntal sound, as I told want to tell the audience exactly how they should be feeling. However because this is not set in stone, I haven’t shown it in the mood reel.
Finding existing films that are somewhat like mine was somewhat of a difficult task. Usually when someone is in distress, the story is told from their point of view, but Lost Online won’t be doing that. I have of course used Noah (2013) and Inside (2011) in the reel, given that they are my biggest influences. I have also included a clip from The Blair Witch Project (1999), as I have mentioned earlier that when we see Aliya live streaming, or when she sends a video to Jeremy, this is the style I want it to be in. The horror films SNAP (2015) and Unfriended (2014) are in the mood reel to show that Snapchat and Skype will be used in Lost Online.
This was my first time using Klynt, so I downloaded the trial version to test it out. It was surprisingly easy to use. I created a new project and within minutes I worked out how to import the videos I made on Premiere Pro and link them to each other. It also didn’t take me too long to figure out how to change where in the first video the options will appear (as they were originally showing throughout the whole of the video). My difficulties began after I had exported the project for the web. In the 3rd image in the gallery below, you can see that I was presented with a number of folders. I didn’t know what to do with these and when I looked online for answers, I learned that I needed an FTP client program and could download FileZilla to do so (Klynt, 2014). However in order to get my project online, I would need to create a domain. I thought that once my Online Production Folder was finished I could add it to this, but I soon found out that Wix does not support this feature. I resolved this issue by recording the project using QuickTime Player and whoever watched would see me choosing the options, instead of doing it themselves.
Klynt: Creating Project
The test shoot can be seen below. It is the first scene of the film and part of the scenes that come after. I used my own Facebook profile and such to do it, as I am yet to create the characters’ profiles. I am quite happy with the outcome, however there are many improvements to be made. For example, I’m worried about it being boring to watch because the audience will be just watching someone typing. Therefore I want to cut down “the dialogue” throughout the film (side note: is it still classed as dialogue if they’re not actually saying it?). I also think there needs to be more movement on the screen to replicate where Jeremy’s eyes will be looking. There is some movement already, but not as much as there could or should be.
I created the full script for one of the possibilities to the film to get an indication of what the endings would look like. This section also includes a mobile phone, so I wanted to test recording off it. The script can be found here and the test shoot of the final scene can be seen below. As I’ve already mentioned, I think the dialogue is too long and I intend to cut it down. I think the fact that there is no sound, other than the typing and clicking is quite unsettling, which I think is good. I didn’t want the MacBook screen and the mobile screen to be shown at the same time, so I made them overlap each other, to represent Jeremy putting down his phone and using his MacBook. The audience made are aware how many endings there are in the film, to make them want to try and find the other endings (at the time of making this there were 4 instead of 5).
Now that I’ve figured out that Lost Online will be a mixture of a game and a film, I need to find out where my FMP will sit contextually. Cambridge Dictionary defines the term new media as “products and services that provide information or entertainment using computers or the internet, and not by traditional methods such as television and newspapers” (2017). I find this definition to be quite basic, because if we followed it, almost anything today is part of new media, including Lost Online. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun gives an alternative definition; “fluid, individualized connectivity, a medium to distribute control and freedom.” (2006: 1). This sounds more like it! Based on this, I would think that Lost Online falls into the category of new media given that it will be made to be played individually on the internet, and allows freedom due to the fact that the player can make decisions on how the story will progress. However there are a few problems with the term new media, such as the question, “What makes new media new?”. According to Chun, “Computation may be key to new media, but computation does not automatically lead to new media” (2006: 2). This was an interesting point because it meant that Lost Online isn’t necessarily new media, just because it’s using computers and the Internet. In fact Chun claims that using the Internet in a medium is quite unoriginal in comparison to films and television when they were not part of mass media, especially because the Internet is not new, even back in 1995 (2006).
So I went on a hunt to find out what the factors of new media are. The book New Media: A Critical Introduction claims there are about six constituent parts to the term. I think Lost Online fits very well with the fourth constituent, “new experiences of the relationship between embodiment, identity and community” (Lister, M. et al. 2003: 12). This means there is a part of new media that creates a new experience for the audience and has the potential to impact the way in which people view themselves and the world. The reason I think this is because Lost Online will be showing the audience how their actions and choices have an effect on the world around them and the people they love, and this will be done through interactivity, a normal aspect in new media. As interactivity becomes commonplace, “the audience for new media becomes a ‘user’ rather than the ‘viewer'” (Lister, M. et al. 2003: 21). So will Lost Online be classified as new media? Definitely. Not only does it follow the basics of new media, such as using a computer and the Internet to create it, it is also going apply interactivity and could also possibly create a new experience for audiences.
But where is it within this category that Lost Online gravitates? Interactive Cinema is a section within new media, which I think my FMP will fit perfectly. As you can probably guess, this is essentially a film that can be interacted with. Kinoautomat (Činčera & Roháč 1967) is arguably the world’s first ever interactive film. At nine different points in the film, a moderator walks onto the stage and asks the audience to pick where they want the film’s narrative to go. Regardless of the choices the audience make the ending is always the same, ironically making the interactivity of the film moot.
Just as new media is a broad term, interactive media is too. England and Finney define it as, “the integration of digital media including combinations of electronic text, graphics, moving images, and sound, into a structured digital computerised environment that allows people to interact with the data for appropriate purposes.” (2011: 2). While this is still somewhat expansive, it narrows it down a lot. If we break down each part of the sentence, we can find that it is appropriate for Lost Online to be in this category. Interactive media is a mix of electronic text, graphics and moving images. This will be an integral part of the film given that it will be filmed through the screen of a Macbook, and will be using a range of social media websites. There will also be moving image in it, due to the Skype calls and videos filmed on mobile phones. What’s more it will be put into a digital computerised environment, i.e the Internet, on a website that I will create specifically for the film. The appropriate purposes for the interactivity is for the audience to be able to change the narrative.
Whenever I tell people about my FMP idea, many of them say it reminds them of a video game or the “Create Your Own Adventure” books they read as children. So I decided to look into this in more detail. Gamebook is the official term for the books in which you find your own way through by making choices. These are one of the earliest versions of interactivity within text. The first ever published book which falls into this category is The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen (Katz, 2017). This story breaks the fourth wall as the reader is informed that they have enough information and clues to solve the mystery in the book. Gamebooks usually follow a simple tree structure that allows the reader to navigate their way through the story (Aarseth, 2004). In a similar way, Lost Online will be following a tree like structure which will lead to a number of endings. The pictures of my drafts can be found below. Aarseth mentions that Gamebooks usually only have one acceptable path as the rest have negative endings and once the reader has found this path, there’s no need to play again. I believe that my first two drafts of Lost Online does not have one acceptable path, as sometimes the player can make a choice that will lead to a negative ending but later on it will come back round to a choice they didn’t pick earlier. However there is only one acceptable ending, as there would be in a Gamebook. Finding that my audience wouldn’t need to play again once they’ve found this ending is quite disheartening so I want to create another story plan which has a range of happy and sad endings.
Ergodic literature is a term created by Espen J. Aarseth, a word “that derives from the Greek words ergon and hodos, meaning “work” and “path”” (1997: 1). In ergodic literature, an effort is to be made in order for the reader to make their way through the story. Though this can easily be associated with Gamebooks, Aarseth chooses to focus on cybertext which can be defined as “a machine for the production of variety of expression” (1997: 3). Books and literature are different to cybertext, in that the reader of the literature has everything take place in their mind, whereas the player of the cybertext can literally explore the world that has been created.
All video games are a form of cybertext. But how do video games differ from conventional films? And where does Lost Online fit with all of this? For the rest of this blog, I shall be referring to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) when talking about video games and The Avengers (Whedon, 2012) when discussing films. I understand there are many different types of games and films out there that wouldn’t fit with what I’m going to talk about. But out of convenience and the amount of time I have on this module, I will be looking at two of some of the biggest products in their medium.
(Marvel Entertainment, 2011)
When generically comparing a cybertext to a linear text, there are many differences that can be found. Focusing on just one example, in a linear text the reader has to accept and believe everything that happens in the narrative. With a cybertext however, the player is reminded of the choices they didn’t make and can never know what they missed out on (Aarseth, 1997). This example can be applied to video games and traditional film narratives. In The Avengers the audience have to accept the narrative when they see cars blowing up in the trailer, as there is nothing that can be done; this is the story they have been given. With Twilight Princess on the other hand, the player is given a plethora of choices. From entering their own name, so the game can refer to them personally, to deciding whether they want to help herd the animals into a barn with their horse. However with this, once the player has made a decision it is possible for the whole of the narrative to be changed and as Aarseth has discussed, they can be reminded of this which can make them wonder what they missed out on. This isn’t something you have an opportunity to do with a film with a conventional narrative and as a result the audience are powerless.
A good narrative is everything in a film; without a narrative there is no film. Yet this is not true for video games, it is possible to have a great game with barely any narrative (although they are recently getting more narrative-heavy). Games can be inspired from stories, but it’s not the same as when a movie is adapted from a book (Aarseth, 2004). Aarseth discusses that a video game will not retell the story of The Hobbit, for example, whereas a film will be a visual version of the book. Instead of focusing on the narrative, games “place a central importance on the act of doing that goes beyond the kinetic and emotional responses that might be produced by a film.” (Advameg, Inc., 2017). Turning back to The Avengers, it is a film about a team of superheroes coming together, despite their differences to defeat the villain Loki. This is the basic plot and without it, the film wouldn’t have worked or been enjoyable. The film can take you on a roller coaster of emotions as the narrative comes together. On the other hand Twilight Princess’ narrative of Link trying to get out of the Twilight Realm with Midna’s help, while important isn’t the main focus of the game. The player doesn’t go through as many emotions, other than frustration when they can’t defeat a villain or excitement and happiness when they do. What’s more there are parts which you can skip, such as when some is talking to you, which indicates that it is more about the doing and the participation in the game than the feeling.
Jesper Juul suggests that films are usually about humans, or anthropomorphic beings as it gives the audiences something to identify with (2001). If we look at The Avengers, this is definitely true as all the main characters are humans. Even Thor, who is a God in the film, looks like a human being. In contrast, video games do not have to be centered around humans. However Link, the protagonist in Twilight Princess, does look like one even though he is not. But there are many games which do not include humans. Juul uses Tetris as an example saying that the game was hugely popular despite their being no humans in it. The reason for this is because it is not about identifying with something, rather it is about the player’s performance and actions as “games involve the player in a direct way” (Juul, 2001).
So will Lost Online be a game or a film? It will be a hybrid of both.
Lost Online will be taking place in a mixture of the real world and the online world. It’s not a world created by game developers, so in this sense it is not a game as there is no world to explore, like there is in Twilight Princess. What’s more, the narrative is one of the most important parts of the project, which is incredibly common in films but not in many video games, as already discussed. I feel that the audience need to a human to identify with in Lost Online, which is something that is frequent in films. Although the audience won’t see the human for the most part, it will be clear that everything is taking place on Earth in a human world.
All these points direct Lost Online towards the film category. But purely based on the fact that it has a level of interactivity that is vital to the project, it has the elements of a game. However because this is the only factor, as the viewer/player cannot explore the world around them, I don’t think it’s enough for it to be classified as a video game. If it is a game, it’s a very simple one.
Aarseth, E.J. (1997) Cybertext: Perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Aarseth, E.J. (2004) ‘Quest Games as Post-Narrative Discourse’, in Ryan, M.-L. (ed.) Narrative across media: The languages of storytelling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press