Posts Tagged 'Casey McKinnon'

The Secrets of a Good Fiction Web Show (I) – The Plot

Producing a web show is a complex task. Usually we work without budget, and on top of our day job. The market is in its infancy, so it’s still a challenge to attract viewers. Many aspects of the format are not clear, such as interactivity, format, and length (a key point raised by Justin).

My approach to tackle these issues is that no one can beat a good story.

In this post I’ll share my thoughts on ways to create a compelling fiction episodic web show. Something to be desired (STBD) is an example of such a show – continuous story, with core characters.

The aim is to initiate an open brainstorming between new media producers, writers and actors, via the blogsphere, twitter, and all those nice 2.0 tools we have today.

The challenge

For me, the main challenge in writing dramatic web show is how to retain viewers in a continues story. I believe that the tool to do that is to create dramatic continuity and emotional attachment with the main characters.

How can we achieve that?

Here are the main elements :

Length– Justin wrote an eye opening post about his struggle with episode length and frequency. This issue is not only dramatic -it affects both production logistics and cost. I believe that length of a chapter is of importance – it shouldn’t be 20 seconds cause it is almost impossible to maintain a plot at this length, nor should it be half an hour due to budget constraints and viewers attention span. But the difference between 5 minutes episode to 10 minutes episode is not as important as the first 30-60 seconds. This time frame has to be very engaging in order to keep viewers watching. Both Something to be Desired and Galacticast are doing a great job in creating strong opening for each episode.

Cliffhanger – nothing new here. Cliffhanger is a must in my opinion at the end of each episode. This is the key to get viewers engaged with the show. It requires pre-planing of almost a whole season, or at least a block of episodes, but its importance cannot be overestimated. It is the link to the future of the story from viewers point of view.

Link to the past – some viewers didn’t follow the show from its beginning. it is extremely important to get them involved as soon as they see any episode. Some believe that additional information on the show’s website will do the job. I tend to disagree. I watch my shows on Democracy player, and others watch them on AppleTV, and on sites like Blip.tv. These viewers never get to the website. Furthermore, people want to be entertained, nothing else. We should make their life as easy as possible. I think that the best solution for this problem is “last week on…” clip at the beginning of every episode. Simple, cheap, and viewers already used to it.

Limited amount of characters and plot lines– we need to get people engaged quickly. In order to do that we should have minimal amount of lead characters. This will ease the process (and cut production costs). Supporting characters should always stay in the background, if at all.

Subtext – I am a sucker for subtext. That’s why I am such a big fan of “The Wire“. Subtext fills the characters, their relations, and the plot as a whole, with substance, and make the viewers think about what they see. However, it might be a personal fetish 🙂 .

What are YOUR views on these topics? What else is needed plot-wise in order to create good fiction web show?

I’ve tagged this post with the word story. feel free to tag your relating posts in the same way.

For inspiration, here is a short video clip of Robert McKee talking about Chinatown script.

What Old Media Can Learn from New Media Creators

The guys behind Something To Be Desired (STBD), Galacticast, and other great shows have one thing in common – they know how to create high quality content on the cheap. Most of them are not making a dime of their work. This is not their fault – it is a market that needs to mature. But still, they create great content in micro budgets.

How can STBD make a show for fraction of the cost of a regular TV show?

First of all they have one camera. Unbelievable, right? With smart editing they manage to make it look as if there are at least two cameras on set. Second, all their actors are volunteers. So, right, it is harder to do it for a long period with professional actors, but it is a creative way to do things. Third, they don’t have separate guys for editing, directing, sound, lighting, and overall production responsibility. It is all the same guy with the T-shirt. And fourth, their actors are involved in the script writing. Now compare that with the set of Studio 60….

As we all know, the world of television is changing. It is harder to get high rating for shows that are not event based. This viewership fragmentation reduces the economic value of single productions, and in time force old media producers to cut their budgets. So if there is one thing the old media guys can learn from these new energetic creators is how, with some creativity, to do things much cheaper than in the regular let’s-have-a-battalion-of-people-on-the-set-cause-everyone-does-one-thing approach.

This is not new. Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi for 7000$, using the same concepts. Did it change the movie industry? No. but I am certain that when gross revenues will drop, the Hollywood guys will wake up. TV industry can do it now.

Somehow, I don’t believe it will happen…

Flying to Italy – Looking for New WebTV Shows

I am flying tomorrow to IMTC board meeting in Italy, and I am downloading now several shows using Democracy player, after finding them in Network2.tv

Currently on my list:

1. Something To Be Desired

2. Scobleshow

3. Galacticast

4. For Parody Purposes Only

I’d love to hear about new, interesting, episodic shows worth watching.

What do YOU recommend? Leave me a note, or email me at kpravda AT gmail DOT com.

Update 1: Barlow recommended on Nontourage. I’ve added it to my download list…

Delivering Web Video to TV – How Will It Affect Content Creators?

In the recent months we see new ways to deliver web videos to your television. Apple TV, and Tivo’s new features are just two examples of this trend. With new Media Centers out there, we can assume that this trend will increase in both magnitude and importance.

How will it affect the world of independent content creators? I believe that this process is a double edge sword:

1 . We will see more exposure to independent content creators – as shows like Ask a Ninja and Something To Be Desired will be shown on living room TV sets, one of the major barriers of entry to these new media creators will be removed – people won’t need to watch video online, but in their regular TV. Though seems logical, I believe that this process will take some time to happen. Though Tivo users are not necessarily early adopters I still believe that it will take some time till my mother will use media center. Therefore, it is not clear how many new users will start watching web shows, as I assume that media savvy early adopters already watch them.

2. Production quality will rise – though current production quality of indie content creators is very good, when moving from small video screen in a web site to full blown TV format, things change. In the 3D animation company I had in the past, we had a clear distinction between productions for internet, mobile, television, and cinema as the effort to create high quality show is correlated with screen size in some aspects. Small details are more apparent.

3. And it will be harder to beat the competition – today most people do not expect the same level of product from internet video as they expect from television show. When users will be able to see a web show, and a minute later another episode of Studio 60 or Prison Break, their level of expectation will change, starting with script level, through actors, and general production value. This is THE major challenge for indie content creators in my opinion – as they begin to be an alternative to regular television.

4. Indie content creators will change the type of content they are creating – from short, 5-8 minutes flicks, to longer formats. The attention span in television is longer than in the internet, and people are willing to watch longer formats there. However, it might prove to be the killer of this industry. Longer formats are usually more expensive, and complicated to produce. As production cost and complexity rise, the competitive advantage of indie content creators, the ability to create quality content cheaply, is lost. Time will tell if there are enough talented creators to face the high profile, high cost productions out there. It might be that this will be the first wave of Creative Darwinism, when only the most talented content creators will survive.

How do you see it?

More to come…

Short Video Showing The Difference Between New and Old Media

Galacticast, a web show parody of Sci-fi genre, submitted a clip to N2 contest that clearly captures the difference between old and new media. Enjoy!

VON07 / Network2 Link-O-Rama

So, here it is – the complete link guide to the most interesting people I met in VON07 in N2 events (yes, it includes the lounge party, after party and the whole party thing), in no particular order:

Jim Long, founder of Verge New Media, NBC cameraman at day and entrepreneur at night.

Don Loeb, VP of Partner Services at FeedBurner, who gave a great presentation about the evolution of media distribution

Casey McKinnon, Galacticast executive producer, the group which made my favorite N2 submission of all.

E. Barlow Keener (didn’t know he has such a long name, everyone call him Barlow), my favorite MA lawyer, and a relentless networker who wants to do something with ads

Brian Conley, the guy behind Alive in Baghdad

Revital Westriech Reitzes, VP of Business Development of Payoneer, an Israeli who lives in the US, with the longest name I’ve ever heard for a business development person.

David Kowarsky, the guy with the cam, and the creator of Focus for N2

Mike Walsh, independent media and technology consultant from HK, who kept stealing my WiFi signal

Dovev Gouldstein, Founder of VooV, who has an extremely close relationship with Chris

Roxanne Darling, from Bare Feet Studios, that make Hawaii look even better

Hillel Scheinfeld, COO of Qoof, a user generated advertisement (usermercial) company , that tried to sell me a watch all the time

Christian Oxholm Zigler, CEO of Play Networks, who was a long way from home.

Justin Kownacki, the producer of Something To Be Desired, and a guy that finds a story in everything he sees

Karen Blanchette, ECC (Extreme Chick in Charge), the woman behind SkyDiveGirls, extreme sport show for women

Dina Kaplan, COO of Blip.TV, whom I wrote about already

Chaim Goldman, the guy behind IsraelHighTech.tv, and a full blown Zionist entrepreneur

Michael Bailey, President and CTO of Mobasoft, who was not in Kansas anymore, was kind enough to listen to a telecom panel, and didn’t have a liver

Bart Amelinckx, (no, it is not a typo, this is his name, really), xSP relation manager at Belgacom, and a great drinking buddy

Chris O’brien, CEO of Motionbox, who presented some very interesting ideas in his panel re video mixing for dummies

Jeff, Chris

and one British embassy rep.

Thank you all for a great week – reflections coming soon…

BTW – if you are going to do the same, please tag it with N2 LinkORama…


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