Such a great deck. Slide 80-100 are the best but there’s knowledge nuggets throughout. I’d consider coming back to advertising if it was at an agency that believed in and practiced this methodology.
(Watch the above video before reading on or at least the first few seconds.)
This topic of remix culture and storytelling has been dear to my heart since I wrote my masters on the subject but what concerns me now that I’ve been working in between film and interactive is that us internet kids don’t have the respect we should for the work that has come before us in our field. We’ll bite technology thanks to open-source software but technology is only half of the story, we still need the story, the narrative, the emotional connection.
In early days of cinema we had the same issue. When the moving picture camera was invented early filmmakers simply shot things that were moving. An oncoming train was super exciting because we hadn’t seen a moving image before projected on the screen. This was a crazy new technology but there was no story there. The auteurs that really moved filmmaking forward are the ones that understood the technology and the storytelling. Or should I say they borrowed both technology and story. Star Wars is such a simple classic story that was borrowed from hundreds of works before it but it applied new technology with a universal story and the rest is cinema history. Godard borrowed all his story from Hollywood but shot in a totally different style given the technology that he had access to. This made him the genius auteur that he is, among other things.
So as internet kids now making stories, for the web, for the mobile, for media projections, how can we stand on the shoulder of these giants? We can tell simple universal stories with our new technology. We can’t keep just experimenting with the technology. Technology is moving so quickly that we could spend our whole life experimenting, testing, optimizing. We have to jump in and use what we have or invent the technology to tell our story.
But again the story has to be simple and well told. My beef with “transmedia” storytelling is that the story and the technology are both so deep and complicated. There are multiple characters, over multiple universes, over multiple platforms, spanning four generations and 18 countries using five different types of media. I’m lost before I even begin. Remember Star Wars. Simple story, ground breaking technology.
When I watch Everything is a Remix I see how our modern filmmakers were students of cinema and were humble enough to know that they needed to borrow from the filmmakers before them. In our wild west interactive technology landscape I see too much arrogance that we are pioneers inventing everything from scratch. This arrogance will only slow down our gestation. Let’s learn from previous storytellers who use technology to tell our stories with our technology.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because everyone in the technology start-up world is talking about, “solving the pain point.” Traditionally entrepreneurs would analyze companies and try to find their pain points and then develop a software to fix that pain then sell it back to the company. Makes sense and it still works but I don’t think that’s where the big win is as an entrepreneur.
Do we need an iPad? Does it solve a current pain point that we have? No. But the iPad is a new model of media consumption that may render the old model of media distribution obsolete.
Who likes 3-D cinema? It makes me nauseous, not only because there’s stuff flying at me unnecessarily but also because it is “trying to fix an existing reality.” Contemporary cinema sucks and 3-D is not going to save it. It’s not even going to be a suitable band-aid.
In my opinion there is way too much effort and money being put into incrementally trying to fix current models and not enough brain power being put into inventing new models.
“There’s not such thing as old media and new media, just new tools for storytelling.”
When I first heard this, I loved it. Finally an expression that I could relay to clients when they got super nervous about new media and new tools. We can’t get all worked up about the changing media landscape or about all the new tools that pop-up everyday. We can’t throw out everything we know about media every time a new tool comes around because these tools are at our service to help us improve our storytelling not to intimidate us.
But the more I think about it the more I realize that the best case scenario is that you understand where media has come from, and where it’s going, along with the new tools. These triple threat people who are grounded in media history, with an eye on the future, who embrace new tools are much sought after in our media industry.
Having an understanding of media without knowledge of the tools to bring it to life makes for a pretty unoriginal form of media that lacks innovation. Understanding newer forms of media and new tools can sometimes make for an opportunistic and ungrounded form of media that will not stand the test of time. But a mind that can pay heed to old forms of media while always pushing for new ways to bring stories to life will come out on top. Ultimately, we all want to connect with a great story, but how we make that connection as media makers is really where the challenge lies for a contemporary storyteller.
So it’s still early in the year and people are still making new years resolutions, of which most will never work. Why? Because the resolution is so abstract. Take an exercise goal: I want to get in shape this year. It’s such an abstract goal with no attached measurement. Run a sub 3-hour marathon, blow a VO2 max of 72 or complete 700km in 7 days from Geneva to Nice. That’s a finite goal. Okay so we have a concrete goal, now forget about it and focus on the process to get there. There are many tiny incremental steps that need to happen to get there, focus on those not the goal. If you complete the incremental steps then you’ll surely accomplish the goal.
The real reason I’m talking about this is because I’m experimenting with applying this to the creative process where goals can often be abstract. Pure panic sets in when, as a creative, you focus on the goal. For example if we focus on delivering a website on February 19, or coming up with a great idea for a new campaign then we’ll never get there. We need to focus on the steps that have worked in the past to achieve this goal. The goal needs to become finishing the incremental steps. If we push this concept further then we need to divide up our time based on process not outcome. If we have three hours to come up with a great idea don’t focus on the idea, focus on the steps to get to that idea. So I’ll spend 30 minutes researching, I’ll spend an hour jotting down random ideas, I’ll spend 30 minutes grouping ideas, 30 minutes flushing out one group and 30 minutes honing in on one idea in that group. Developing this process is personal and only comes with experience. Over time creative confidence goes up because there’s a system in place to creating ideas. I’m not just mashing the keyboard praying for inspiration, I’m putting in the time and work and if your truly put in the time and work then you’ll get to the goal.
As a creative director my job is to help creatives refine their process to help them put in the time and work. Also it is good to have a clear goal so they can see success as opposed to a moving target that is only held in the whimsy of the Creative Director.
To bring it back to athletics, I know that I will be able to ride 700km in 7 days through the Swiss and French Alps because I have a training plan in place. I just need to complete two short rides, one interval ride and one long ride a week with core work on off days and I’ll surely be ready for the Haute Route Race in August.
Put in the work, stick to the process and you’ll accomplish your clearly defined goal.
And remember that the brain is a type of muscle to that can grow and strengthen over time through training so it can accept more and more complex creative work if it is continually challenged, pushed and trained. Also wearing spandex helps in any brainstorming session.