Syllabus - Producing 1 - TNUA Spring 2015

The short video (above) shows Prof. Henry Jenkins of USC answering one of the key questions that we'll be asking ourselves this semester: Can filmmaking in the 21st century be studied in an academic setting without reference to the new tools for immersion and interactivity?

Here is a link to the syllabus for the graduate producing students at TNUA who are taking Producing 1 with Prof. Finch in the spring semester of 2015.

Birdman: Behind the Scenes

Frank Rose on Immersive Media

Frank Rose's book, The Art of Immersion, is a must read for 21st century filmmakers.

Even if you're not a filmmaker, and you're just curious about the new tools that storytellers are using to make and market their 21st century projects, Frank's writing about how brands and authors are building immersive worlds is deeply compelling.

If the video (above) has you intrigued, and you want more of the essential insights that Frank Rose is sharing, you might want to take a look at Frank Rose's February 9th, 2015 post to Strategy&.

In that piece, Frank Rose starts with a marketing case study - How every decision made by the creators of Kate Spade Handbags was anchored in an immersive strategy:

"Every decision they made—where to open their first store (downtown Manhattan, in SoHo, in 1996), what color soap to put in the bathrooms, whether to just sell handbags or to also sell flowers in the shop—was part of this story. “It was about this world we were creating, which was about graciousness,” Andy Spade told Inc. magazine in 2013. 'We built it around Kate’s personality.'"

As Frank Rose notes, Kate Spade was not the first brand to realize that an all-encompassing approach to marketing messages, the retail experience and product design could pay-off in sales and loyalty (Frank Rose mentions Apple, Ralph Lauren and Nike as other fine examples). But keep reading. Even in this short blogpost, for Strategy&, Frank Rose examines how creating a successful immersive experience may require a new approach to producing.

As anyone who has tried knows, creating a fictional world is not easy. Just making a short film, a live theater piece, a watercolor illustration of a fantasy world or styling a simple magazine ad can trip up an inexperienced, inattentive or unlucky storyteller. The challenges of creating an experience that works across multiple platforms - the techniques and tools for creating immersive experiences - are often orders of magnitude more complex than what we knew as Old World storytellers. And the techniques for immersive storytelling are still poorly understood.

If immersion is the experience of losing oneself in a fictional world, the ability to create a consistent fictional world that works on mobile device screens, movie screens, and in the real world of stores and marketing messages etc., and that invites immersion...? 

Being an immersive storyteller is hard. It requires a new approach and a skill set that very few schools are teaching. (Is your film school preparing you for this New World?)

In his blogpost, Frank Rose quotes Avatar-creator James Cameron and numerous scientists who are exploring the psychological and neurological reactions to stories. 

Immersion is a fascinating human experience - but how many producers are prepared to create immersive experiences?

The work that Frank Rose is doing is foundational. In my view it is essential for 21st filmmakers (and other storytellers) to understand. 

The techniques available to us to help our audiences to immerse themselves in our stories can be learned. There is still a lot of room for art - but the craft of immersive storytelling is something that can be practiced and improved upon.

We all want "leave our day-to-day existence behind when we enter a story" - Frank Rose is helping storytellers to understand how we can do that.

What the End of Amy Pascal's Run at the Top of Sony Says About Hollywood and the Internet

Today there is one less woman with the authority to approve the motion picture fantasies that will play in theaters and then on TV and the Internet all around the world.

Movie theaters matter less and less in the age of the Internet. But, for a certain kind of motion picture fantasy, theaters still really matter.

For just over 100 years, the power to create Hollywood movies has flowed through the offices of mostly white men (and their designees) willing to undertake the chancy and demanding work of satisfying the socially-acceptable dreams that can play to big audiences in darkened rooms in approximately 90 minutes. Sure, satisfying adolescent impulses can be craven (e.g., sexist, racist, reductive, etc.) work. But it pays well. And these days, the studios still have jets and many other powerful perks.

It's easy to understand what's exciting about approving Hollywood motion picture fantasies. And we all know that Amy Pascal didn't create gender-based inequality or casual racism. It was just a couple of emails and some bad PR when Sony got maliciously hacked... But will history be kind to her - or to the other studio heads of the last 50 years?

Even though they control so many of the outlets where their (and our?) stories are told, do Rupert Murdoch, Sumner Redstone and John Dolan really deserve all the credit they'll continue to give themselves for their efforts in bettering mankind (rhetorical question: will the Academy Awards find time to say nice things about the good done by MPAA movies this year?)

Despite what you might hear at that Awards show later this month, race and gender equality (like a wag once said about satire) still closes after one Saturday night. There are fifty shades of regressive gray in Hollywood that will always play to larger audiences. That's why "action-packed" and "sexy" reliably outperform movies that simply offer strong stories about real women and people of color.

I know that bad taste isn't something that Hollywood invented. But it is something that the current Titans of Hollywood have codified.  When "The Interview" could only find a theatrical home in "arthouse" theaters, the audience for cinema art had already moved on - leaving those aging brick and mortar artifacts of another era for the old folks and tourists.

Make no mistake: Cinema art and innovation is more alive and vibrant than ever - it just isn't happening at the studios or in any major commercial theaters in the US.

So goodbye Amy Pascal. You've earned your "major producing deal." You worked your way up from the bottom (starting at a time when it was OK to call the underpaid women who developed formulaic
scripts for the studios "d girls"). You've played the game as well as any of them. By Hollywood's standards, you're one of the best. What tripped you up was the awesome (barely controllable?) power of the internet to elevate what in the Old World might have been a mere moment of embarrassment into an intense topic of global fascination.

Ironically, it seems that the voracious demand for simplistic "Good guys v. Bad guys" dramas (a narrative that Ms. Pascal endlessly served up) has consumed one of its own. Amy Pascal is gone from the top of Sony. But the epic story of the studios battling against a technologically-advanced and death-dealing hydra-headed New World of entertainment goes on. Amy Pascal was by many reports a good executive and even a kind and good person - but the story can go on without her - remember, the central characters in Hollywood are usually white men.

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.