Masterclass on Interactive Storytelling and Panel on New Media Platforms-
It was exciting to attend the 5th Asian Side of the Doc (ASD) in Chengdu, China last week. There are very few international markets targeted specifically at Asian factual producers and broadcasters. The Chinese factual producers attended this conference in full force. I knew China wanted to be a big force in the factual market, but I didn’t realize that they were doing THIS quantity of work. State broadcasters, factual channels, video on demand services –all reeled out numbers -1500 hours of original documentary commissions, 200 million subscribers for a specific factual show- numbers that the rest of us can only envy. But it wasn’t just Chinese government hype. I was also happy to meet some gutsy documentary independents with ideas that questioned the country they were living in. They revealed passion and courage, two hallmark qualities of documentary filmmakers, that many of us forget in our race to meet commercial requirements.
Master class on Interactive Storytelling–
My favorite session at the Asian Side of the Doc at Chengdu was the Master class on Interactive Story telling by Michel Reilhac, Independent transmedia expert and Tom Perlmutter, Consultant and ex Chairperson of National Film Board of Canada (NFB). It was under Tom’s leadership that the NFB created so many cutting edge interactive documentaries, (a couple of which have been featured in this website-Bear 71, Fort Mc Money). Tom mentioned how it had been an uphill task for him to fund this new form of storytelling. “At the beginning everyone asked me why I wanted to set aside funds for technology enabled stories, it was a huge struggle, but I prevailed and that’s how NFB funds interactive documentaries.”
Michel and Tom call interactive storytelling – the birth of the new art form. Michelle ,formerly a commissioner with Arte, introduced his fascinating new app Cinemacity ,an app that allows you to explore and walk around a city by checking out all the films that have been shot there.
Not many traditional broadcasters across the world have accepted interactive storytelling, but to accept something new always takes time. Michel mentioned how we invariably choose stories according to what our friends recommend (73% of Netflix use is based on recommendations). And increasingly broadcasters are coming to realize the power of the social communities.Searching for an organization to commission your trans media project? “Don’t go to broadcasters.Talk to alternative players in media,search for innovators and leaders,rather than traditional broadcasters.”said Tom during one of the conversations I had with him.
Some of the interesting highlights from the discussion were-
-Interactive is not a genre, it’s an ingredient
-Simplicity and interface design are key to successful projects
Straightforward points that I feel all interactive projects must follow.
After the workshop we even managed to go and see some pandas, which is what Chengdu is really famous for.
Panel on New Media Platforms-
I was invited to moderate a panel that discussed the subject of Producing for New Media Platforms. It was great to have representatives from Youku.com, and iQiyi.com , two of China’s leading VOD services. The other panelists included Marcus Nikel from Italian public broadcaster Rai ,who is very involved with new media projects (one of the projects has been featured previously on this website) and Patrick Hoerl from Autentic, a Germany based producer ,distributor and pay TV channel manager.
The VOD platforms from China spoke about the millions of subscribers that they had garnered for their services, how they were still trying to figure out the best economic model for their services, and how they had to self censor viewer comments on social media. It was a well received panel with the audiences appreciating the fact that the Chinese VOD players were being open about the challenges they faced in running new media platforms.