Aug 262010

“We live in extraordinary times and the last five years particularly, a renaissance of storytelling. We are, as we were pre-printing press days when we equally shared, enhanced and distributed the fragments of our engaging stories. Today’s technology has delivered a new spirit of connectivity, a democratisation of story given back to the ‘many’. Storytelling not at walking speed but the speed of light. You equipped to deal with this?”

OK enough opening fluff and straight to the point. I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague at Screen Australia trying to answer a simple question. Cue music…

If you have a story project, that’s a little bit ‘strange’, who ya gonna call?

Magic Point Maroubra LX3 dBW 26

Not Fearing to Tread - Photo cc GHayes

(Strange = new format, transmedia, innovative, social, game-like, fragmented.) If you have a film and TV project and you need assistance to develop the script, help with the production, work through the characterisations, get advice on Red or 3D etc: there are a zillion consultants, vocational educational courses and many willing wannabe advisors to draw on. Film, Radio & TV particularly have 100+ years of maturity so it is also pretty easy to incrementally innovate, floating in watertight boats on tried and tested waters. Sadly the options for story rich projects that fall outside the straight and narrow linear path, have a more difficult time.

To be professionally guided or get the skills to create new storytelling formats you can

  1. Get in touch with professional agencies already doing this stuff. But they are often rather busy making ends meet and engrossed in ‘transmedia’ marketing big budget or existing story brands to really give you the time and advice you need.
  2. Find a traditional academic ‘digital story – type’ course (marketed as a world first) in your local area. Spend 6 months or longer working with ‘we need to do this stuff’ academics and theorists or at best, passionate aggregators of the best ‘new story’ project trailers masquerading as educational case studies. Also these course tend to be trials and under resourced – erm not the views of me with lecturer hat on, local employers 😉
  3. Find a local specialist individual who ‘seems’ to know about this new space – very few good experienced, passionate folk about and also a bit hit and miss.
  4. Seek out a handful of seminars, short workshops or networking events around the world. There are actually very few and they are often of the evangelising vs really getting down to nitty gritty ‘storytelling’ processes.

So here we are, a great dawning of transmedia storytelling, innovative new services and products yet still no true, deep development initiatives? Academia and industry either too money-busy, unable to take risk or focused on the past to really fill in this void?

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Mar 312009

A cross-post from the LAMP blog I also run: LAMP mentored ‘Social Media, Multi-Platform’ Drama Scorched won the coveted International Interactive Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last night at MIP TV. The first time Australia has won this award.

A big congratulations particularly to producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox from Firelight Productions. These awards are held annually at MIP TV in Cannes and celebrate the most innovative drama, documentary, informational and entertainment services delivered on multiple platforms.

iemmy-awardThrough these awards, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is celebrating a significantly growing sector of the television industry and recognize excellence in content created and designed for viewer interaction and/or delivery on a digital platform.

The 2009 Winners.

Fiction category winners “Scorched” Firelight Productions in association with Essential Media & Goalpost Pictures, Australia

Non-fiction category winners “Britain From Above,” BBC / Lion, United Kingdom

Children and young people category winners “Battlefront”, Channel 4, United Kingdom

Brian Seth Hurst (Second Vice Chair at Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and CEO at The Opportunity Management Company) who helps organise these awards sent through this Twitpic of himself (mid left), Chris Hilton from Essential Media and Entertainment (far left), Marcus Gillezeau (mid right) and Mike Cowap (Innovation Head at Screen Australia – far right), at the after awards (30 minutes ago!). Picture from Brian Seth Hurst (actual photographer as yet unknown).


The story has also been covered in The Hollywood Reporter, TVAusCast,  TV Tonight, Digital Media, Campaign Brief, ShowHype and NineMSN

Digital Media magazine has a few ‘delegates’ over there at the moment who are twittering events as they happen you can follow them here. This is how we found out about the award over here from several other tweeters…

  • PipRMB: Aussie digital media company Firelight Prods. have won the first ever International Digital Emmy for best drama for Scorched – huge congrats
  • BrianSethHurst: Winner Fiction Int’l Digital Emmy Award “Scorched” Australia Goalpost Media, Essential Media
  • FanTrust: Check out Scorched which just won a digital Emmy— outstanding fictional drama for 3 screens. Live from #miptv

The Digital Media magazine also featured an article prior to MIP TV referring to LAMP’s involvement in the project –

“Meanwhile the makers of NineMSN cross-platform drama Scorched, Marcus Gillezeau, Ellenor Cox, Michael O’Neill and Brad Hayward, have been nominated for an International Digital Emmy Award. The awards ceremony will be held on March 30 at the MipTV conference. Scorched was financed by Nine Network, ITV International, Screen Australia and the New South Wales Film and Television Office and developed through the Australian Film Television & Radio School’s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP), which is Australia’s premier emerging media research and development production lab.”

Other awards winners noted by TV Week

The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences revealed the winners for the International Digital Emmy Awards at the MIP TV opening festivities in Cannes, France.

Australia won its first International Digital Emmy award in the fiction category for “Scorched.”

The non-fiction category went to “Britain From Above,” while “Battlefront” won the children and young people category. Both programs were from the U.K.

Below is a shot of the team with Jackie Turnure (far right – now at Hoodlum) back in May 2006 when they started planning the Social Media elements of the experience on a LAMP residential. There were then several follow up sessions with them to help crystallize their ideas. (Pic Catherine Gleeson)

Scorched has received a great deal of attention and commentary from press and also those closer to the project. This is the LAMP post about the launch, here is Guy Gadney at MIPTV at the moment (then head of PBL New Media, Channel 9) and Gary Hayes (LAMP Director’s personal media blog). It is great news that another LAMP connected project has won the International Emmy’s – examples of earlier ones included Jim Shomos (LAMP mentor) with his Forget the Rules projects, the winner of the Ogilvy Amex award by then LAMP mentor Jackie Turner and other LAMP projects such as The Deep Sleep won development awards too.

xeno_cannes01-ghayesPrevious iiEmmy award winners in related categories have included Canadian Xenophile’s Alternate Reality Doco/Drama Regenesis and Total Drama Island plus fellow Canadian’s Zinc Roe with their Zimmer Twins service (now featured globally).

Link to the Canadian’s winning most awards two years ago here and the image below is of the two teams during the awards taken by Gary Hayes.

Apr 192007

A great 3rd day at Milia and a much broader spectrum of issues discussed around the many Milia halls. It started with the world’s most advanced broadband nation with Dr. Hyun-Oh Yoo giving us a rare insight into the worlds most culturally integrated social network – Cyworld in South Korea. This was the first time he had shared some of this information with a European audience (almost dwarfing the impact from and Asian perspective, Peter Li’s IPTV talk later in the day). Fighting through a hay fever Dr. Yoo talked in a gravelly voice about the ubiquitous infrastructure, and how it allows Cyworld to be accessible across the super-broadband fiber pipes and always-on wireless networks. The figures surrounding the service, particularly penetration make MySpace look like a niche activity, well not quite. But here goes:

20 million subscribers
40% of TOTAL population
96% of 20-29 year olds use Cyworld regularly
20 billion monthly page views and 22 mill monthly unique visitors
$300 000 in sales of digital items daily
100 000 video uploads daily
210 million songs sold, currently 6 mill per month


That last figure makes it second only to iTunes for volume of music sales – who says social networks don’t have business models. Dr Yoo also presented a slide that compared the service to some of our more recognisable web 2.0 brands – it is interesting how Second Life is up there with YouTube and flickr, more so as the Cyworld virtual reality is extremely Habbo in style vs true 3D.


A refreshing follow-up to this talk was an uncomfortably titled “The Future of Interactive TV”. Eloquently steered and captained by Brian Seth-Hurst (who is also the key enabler also for the International Interactive Emmy Awards of course– see later) it became apparent that labelling TV services that have an interactive component as Interactive TV is now too limiting and emphasises TV too much – perhaps if the service ‘€˜only’€™ appeared on the one (TV) screen and all interaction took place there fine, but these are really in the minority and most are via mobile sms, telephony, stretched out across many platforms (TV is a part of the mix) or synchronised with online. There were some great new kid on the block examples of iTV and ones that started to merge media . Kim Lindholm from Motion Avenue in Finland showed something on the edge of my “mixed reality” continuum (a soon to be published post) a game/quiz show from Vietnam that has viewers appear as avatars in a virtual audience who get knocked out if they get answers wrong – of course the audience pays per question. He was followed by the grandfather of iTV Robert Chua who presented a more philosophical view of iTV. He questioned the definition of iTV as a relevant term when the same type of services are controlled by or fed to PC, mobile and TV via broadband pipes. The second panel in this session looked at enablers like Microsoft and OpenTV who themselves appear to be struggling with the melding of broadcast and broadband, games and linear.

Then a day of pitching started. Top and tailed by commercial entities that sandwiched a swathe of public service BBC 360 panels. My LAMP friend and colleague Jackie Turnure was pitching in the most defined session being Cross-Platform Brand Marketing. The three propositions trying to fulful a tight brief from Ogilvy and American Express were in brief terms, 1) an amazing race clone, 2) a chroma key ‘card ride’ and 3) an Alternate Reality Game. Without showing any bias I personally thought the ARG from Jackie the much stronger in terms of reach and originality but more importantly having a story (we shall see tomorrow who won).


These and many of the pitches that followed from the BBC panels seemed very light on narrative and most were function over form, without clearly defined structure or focus. There is a sense that many ad agencies and traditional broadcasters (as I said in the last post) are seeing Emerged Media as a way to allow users to participate, sometimes I feel to the detriment of the actual integrity of the proposition. We may be creating too many empty shells for viewers to fill without really drawing them in first with a great story. Frank Boyd again led key BBC folk though some less than enticing pitches. I thought the first two panels one on 360 docs and the second on 360 participation actually seemed interchangeable. All the doc props involved viewer input and the community ones were themed around documentary topics like the environment. So more blurring of labels as form, function and genre meld.


By the afternoon I was suffering from conference fatique, that moment when panels and panellists start to blur into one another. Luckily the IPTV vs Internet TV was a great idea and Justin Hewlett and others showed off a great cross section of the new walled garden TV, data and telephony services. After a while though all the badly designed interfaces started to blur into each other too. It became apparent in these sessions that penetration for many pockets of services around the world in the 50-100 thousand audience range is still very low and not significant due to two key things:

1 You can get most of the IPTV offerings via traditional TV distribution channels, so nothing really new to entice viewers (it was cited that 50% of subs were actually for the telephony and data elements and not the TV!)
2 The topic of the panel, the wild west internet is now delivering a much broader and compelling range of audio, video content.

The panel topic echoed a talk I gave to an IPTV ‘hyped’ audience in Sydney nearly two years ago (and cited on a few IPTV info sites) – the main premise being, the cats out of the bag, Internet TV (or broadband TV as I called it), the wild west way to get your TV morsels means IPTV may only have another 12 months or so to deliver on its promise, or be gone for good. As mentioned earlier I found Peter Li, the VP from BesTV in China illuminating if only for the stats he presented as context to IPTV potential in China.

CNNIC report for China July 2006 Internet users 130m. 40% growth for past 6 years Broadband users 80m Youth: 18.5 hrs/wek online vs 6.7 hrs/wk on TV Over 220 online video portals, 500 000 clips uploaded daily Concurrancy of viewers watching video online 500 000. ADSL 2.0+ goes to over 10 million users

The keynote of the day, after I managed to rush out and get my glad rags from the dry cleaners, was Jana Bennett and Ashley Highfield. I would like to give this more time and the awards so will leave that until the next post. For now though a taster shot of the BBC keynoters.


I was lucky to be a judge again at the Interactive International Emmy Awards and invited to the splendid evening session at the Carlton Ballroom. Only three awards up for grabs (and a special prize this year to BskyB -€“ well done). The event was excellently organised in the tradition of all the A-list ceremonies and I was lucky to be on one of the front tables, with the interactive programme folk. Also managed to grab a chat with Phil Rosedale who leads Linden Lab (Second Life) in the pre-award cocktails, which was a treat for me 😉


To the awards. Great to see the BBC finally win for their BBCi all emcompassing eTV and 24/7 service (I remember the days when it was called Digital Text – but wont go there now!). Great to see my old cohorts Nick Cohen and Phil Jay with big grins on their faces for the rest of the evening. Canada took the second award, Interactive Channel, for BITE Television a slightly anarchistic, irrelevant channel. The most exciting award of the evening though for me was the interactive programme award and I was siting between two of the nominees on a distinctly Canadian table 8. Three of the four nominees were Canadian! But I had Aaron from the Zimmer Twins on one side and Patrick Crowe from Regenesis on the other (Zinc Roe Design and Xenophile respective companies) – and it was a surprise to all, that they both won! Yes a two-way tie and a table creaking later with the weight of two Emmys 😉 As one would expect both teams were delighted and it was wonderful both for Canada (and the Bell fund that partly helped Regenesis) but also for the interactive form as both services are innovative and pushing the envelope. But will write more later (congrats to Evan Jones and Tony Walsh also who were major parts of Regensis) – for now a picture I took of the double winners. A busy and even more exciting day tomorrow (well actually today now as I finish this).

© Gary Hayes 2007

Jul 192006

Thanks to my friend Brian Seth Hurst for sending this to me and for almost single handedly changing the way Emmy Awards, for one, recognise emerging and I suppose emerged media. This article in LA times is one step on from my posts back in April about the first International Emmy Awards in Cannes – where I talked about how then, the interactive Emmys were a little slim having only four categories, it seems now things are expanding and are far more integrated and expansive…

The academy’s board of governors has approved a change in its bylaws, establishing broadband as a recognized distribution center for television along with broadcast, cable and satellite. Academy officials said this week that they haven’t worked out the details but that drama series, reality shows, sitcoms and other video programs designed specifically for websites may seek to compete in all 27 prime-time categories…This summer AOL plans to launch “Gold Rush!” as a Web-only reality program produced by Burnett. It’s also signed an agreement with Ashton Kutcher’s production company, Katalyst Films Inc., to develop five programs, each with at least 20 “webisodes.”

There are still some details to be worked out, namely should a sixty second phone episode, or a two minute webisode be able to compete with the longer form TV or even cinema versions? Perhaps so, if the experience is what it is about at the end of the day, if 20 million enjoyed the 2 minute versions more than the 45 minute episode should that be reflected. It is awards like this that will inspire producers to consider media properties appropriately for the platform rather than just see mobile and broadband as alternative delivery platforms. Brian is quoted extensively in the article, here is a comp…

“The implications, in my mind, are pretty huge,” said Brian Seth Hurst, a member of the board who has led efforts to recognize “new” media programming at the academy. “It now means that Mark Burnett’s ‘Gold Rush!’ on AOL could be entered into competition against ‘Survivor.’ We used to be the redheaded stepchildren, and now we’re a legitimate part of the business,” said Hurst, who also is chief executive of the Opportunity Management Company in Los Angeles, which helps companies develop cross-platform media strategies.

It would be nice to think that awards in the future are focused on immersion and associated entertainment value so that games and linear forms are not differentiated. What would be the categories in this world? If it becomes genre centered would and educational magazine TV programme compete with a learning event in Second Life, would a fantasy cartoon on a mobile phone compete with a sub-world in WoW or would a psychologial interactive TV show compete with a similar quiz in SimsOnline? There is an interesting road ahead as this pans out and as TV as we used to know it (mass entertainment) merges into the multi-faceted entertainment menagerie.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

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