What’s up in the world of digital storytelling?

Last year in the Huff Post media blog the founder of TalkNYC Derek Smith listed what he thought were the seven best examples of digital storytelling.

TalkNYC is a digital media think tank focused on addressing emerging issues shaping the evolution of the digital marketing ecosystem and is a site worth watching. The interesting thing about the seven examples that Smith cites is that they included a documentary (Bear 71), advertising (Coca Cola and Subaru), TV (Mad Men’s Twitter feed), politics and history.These were all really interesting but the one I wanted to explore in terms of digital storytelling was the Pine Point.

Pine Point

Pine Point is a website produced by the National Film Board of Canada and created by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons of The Goggles. The original plan for this digital story was an idea for a book about the end of photo albums but it turned into something a whole lot more. Shoebridge and Simons came across an amateur website that sought to remember the lost mining town of Pine Point in the NorthWest territories of Canada. The town was formed around a zinc mine and when the mine as shut down by its owners in the 1980’s the town was abandoned. Houses were moved and the people left.

An street in the abandoned town of Pine Point (J. Sandlos)

This digital story captures the memories and stories of the people who lived in the town using audio, video, text, still images. It has a great soundscape and a structure that reveals the history of the town. It introduces key characters including Richard Cloutier the self-confessed bully of the town. Ironically it is Cloutier, now suffering from MS, who has kept the memory of the town alive with his own website Pine Point Revisited, which inspired this digital story.

In some respects this is quite a flat website. There are videos to select and watch as well as images and audio but essentially it’s a narrative you follow from beginning to end. The strength of this story is the way it uses a range of media to explore memory. What does it mean to have a home town you can never visit? Does it mean that your past can remain a kind of utopia? Explore Pine Point yourself and find out at:

http://pinepoint.nfb.ca/#/pinepoint

Horror Story on Twitter

In 2011 screenwriter Kristi Barnett created a horror story, Hurst aka@KarenBarley, the first movie delivered on Twitter. Barnett and her team used videos, audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/404727-sneaky-recording-on-my-phone, photos http://twitter.yfrog.com/gy1j2pfj?sa=0 and links to build her story which culminated with this final video posted on Twitter on July 23 2011.

The links out to audio, video and stills gives us a sense of the story a sense of happening in real time and when being watched as it evolved on Twitter would have worked really well to keep viewers engaged.

Barnett not only used Twitter but also YouTube and Facebook to expand the story.  The character, Karen Barley also had her own YouTube channel at:

http://www.youtube.com/user/KarenBarley

Footage was shot using both a 1080p Kodak Pocket Zi8 Cam and the smartphone, HTC Desire Z. This is a great use of a new technology, probably best experienced in real-life as the tweets were delivered. But there is a detailed website supporting the project that does provide a list of the tweets (easier than scrolling backwards in Twitter). The end of the story on Twitter is quite like an analogue movie with separate tweets for ‘The End’, credits etc. Here’s the trailer.

 

Beat Girl

Just as Hurst was the first interactive story to be delivered on Twitter, Beat Girl was the first to use Pinterest as one of its delivery platforms. However where Twitter seemed to deliver a focused and immediate story in real time, the producers of Beat Girl seem to be more interested in covering every available social media and media platform, than matching the story they want to tell to a platform that delivers it in an exciting and engaging way. Here’s the trailer for the movie:

Created by BeActive BeActive the story has been delivered on a range of platforms, starting life as a book by Jasmina Kallay. It then morphed into a feature film, a TV series, online webisodes called ‘The Beat Girl Diaries’, a Pinterest project and more.  The Pinterest platform is interesting as this is utilizing a very visual, media rich site. Devon Glen wrote in SocialTimes:

‘What’s notable about Pinterest as a medium is that most people come into the content sideways, using the search bar to look up things like mid-century furniture or the color red. A person’s first experience with “Beat Girl,” which could be a video or a photograph, might not be the beginning of the series. Even flipping through the boards from left to right, top to bottom on the “Beat Girl” page, the story line feels more ambient than linear.’

The pins, which include photos, images and videos pinned by the lead character ‘Heather’, clearly provide an interested reader with a lot of backstory that could never be explored in a two-hour feature film, or even a TV series.  It allows a viewer to have different slants into the characters lives. Like the more successful Twitter story, Hurst, using a range of platforms has the capacity to extend the experience in real-time. However, I found that viewing these pins on their own was not that engaging.

http://www.pinterest.com/beatgirlworld/me-myself-and-i/

The webseries was a prequel to the TV series and the movie. Delivered as short (under three minutes) web videos it currently has  4020 followers and 98 following. Here’s the first episode:

It’s worth running through this one to about 1:35. Here we see the fictional Heather advertising herself (and the product) on various platforms directing us to video diaires, a DJ interview, DJ set list, to subscribe to channel as well as checking in on Facebook and Twitter. Oh, and the book is on Amazon and there’s a game on the way! This begins to sound a bit like a parody of a transmedia project! And for me that’s where this example seems more about utilising every available marketing platform rather than telling the story in the best way on the best and most compatible platforms.

Goldilocks

Goldilocks was made by two film students and was shot exclusively on the iPhone4 and iPod touch. Here is an example of using accessible technology to promote a story that might not otherwise have found a market. The students Michael Koerbel and Anna Elizabeth James based the film on a TV pilot script and the IPhone technology gave them the capacity to make a film that otherwise might not have been made. Here’s episode one:

Each new episode is delivered through the production company’s Majek Pictures iMovie app. In 2011 the filmmakers noted that the only revenue generated at that time had been through iAd placements and they were aiming for the series to become more widely available on DVD through Netflix http://www.macnn.com/articles/11/01/28/iad.not.bringing.in.much.revenue.says.pair/. They have not, like the makers of Beat Girl, hit every platform available to try to market their product. Perhaps this project could have benefited by extending it a bit more and providing viewers with different angles into the story and characters. I do think the Beat Girl Pinterest pages provided a very interesting avenue for this.

Goldilocks is an example of creators using accessible technologies and platforms to deliver their film with the aim of finding a broader and more profitable marketplace.

 

 

 

 

 

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