Films you may have missed 2016

Here’s some films which I watched recently, which seemed to sneak under the cover for what ever reason. All worth watching at least once… I kept the spoilers to a minimum but there might be slight light spoilers, which you can get by reading the description of each film pretty much.

The Escort

The Escort

This film puts a spin on the pretty woman thing, it could be seen as the anti-pretty woman film. Our heroine/Natalie is smart, quick thinking and knows what needs to be done. Shes very practical about everything, which is kind of refreshing. You could draw parallels with the girlfriend experience but it’s much more fun and doesn’t take itself so seriously.

Interestingly all the men in this film seem to be a little dim, at least in comparrison to Natalie.

Eye in the sky

Eye in the sky

If you haven’t seen this film you are missing out on quite a intense film. The premise is simple, do they launch a targetted drone attack on a house in Kenya? One with a known terrorist that has been confirmed. But it’s complex and gets more complicated as time goes on, the exact thing you don’t have time! The pace and suspense in the film is great.

Everybody involved do a great job portraying the decision process and you can feel the tension in the air. It’s also one of Alan Rickman last films before he died.

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The Lobster

I have no words to explain the Lobster except if you liked I heart Huckabees, you will be in good company here. It’s kinda crazy but being very into how people date find it hysterical. There’s also some deep rooted messages about societys push to bring people together and not being complete without someone else. You can never be happy alone, well if you are; you get turned into a animal.

Very weird film you have been warned!

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Victoria

I saw this late one night and was kinda gripped. To be fair the first time I saw it, it was German language with no Engliah subtitles. The English parts had subtitles in German; it was quite unique from a outsiders point of view.

Victoria is a Engliah woman working in Berlin and goes out one night alone (as I have done many times). She understands a basic amount of German to get the basics done but she meets up with 3 men that night. They have an experience like no other. My instant thought was she was in danger of being attacked or worst. I kept saying “go home, leave, turn back.” What actually happens is on the verge of crazy, and makes me think hummmmm next time I go wondering the streets of Tokyo, San Diego, NewYork, Bucharest maybe I should be a little more careful?

Good film, highly recommend trying it first time without english subtitles to get the full effect of being in Victoria’s position. Being daze and confused about what they are saying; will add a lot, even if you know a bit of German.

Room

Room

This film was quite popular so I won’t be surprised if you already seen it. Imagine living in a small room for you’re whole life! Not being able to leave ever and having a young child which has never known outside that room. Its quite a unbelieveable story but its the detail which drives the drama. Can’t really think of a film like it really except maybe 10 cloverfield lane.

Even lambs have teeth

Even lambs have teeth

I’m not a horror fan (not because I’m scared of them but I don’t jump at scary bits and find gore just boring) however, I found even lambs have teeth more thriller with horror elements. Its a basic plot but it kinda reminds me of kill bill and falling down in the second part. Revenge is certainly served and it’s vicious!

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Knock knock

Temptation is killer and a bit like Victoria, you are wondering where things are going. I guess unlike that film, most people (mainly men) will be saying keep going. What the hell, what difference does a night make? Well the results of that are shocking. Yes its drama but on another level.

Good reminder to keep you’re wits about you, not cave into temptation and bloody think! When you know its going to drop you into the deep end, just stop and think! This is the lambs have teeth type crazyness without the gore.

We are your friends

We are your friends

I won’t lie it’s hated by many but I just found the film great for focusing on dj and dance culture. It’s certainly no Kevin and Perry go large but it’s not going to be a classic like human traffic. Maybe it’s more like groove crossed with the drama of go.

The characters are a little wolly but it doesn’t matter as the music speaks for everybody in this movie.

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Race

Such a great film and Jesse Owens story is so amazing. Facing the racism from the germans is one thing but also from your own nation and team mates is hard to take. Its crazy to remember even in 1936, there was such vicious racism in the states. If you are not outraged, sadden and uplifted by the end of the film, you need to check your human attributes (no spoilers). It is an incredible story and told extremely well in this film. Do not miss this, its one of my films for 2016.

Also don’t forget my beautiful broken brain, which I have wrote about previously

DatingYarns.com fictional dating stories based on real experiences

internet changed my life

I decided after my TEDxManchester Talk, that enough is enough its about time I stopped talking about my dating stories and just
started posting them. So I bought a domain name – datingyarns.com and setup a tumblr blog on it. As it says, its fictional dating stories based on real experiences. I change peoples names, change places and maybe combine the start of one date with the end of another in the rare case, as most don’t need much crafting at all. I’m mainly changing them to stop myself being sued or causing upset to those involved.

Its also not going to be anything like the tale of Jared Rutledge or even 52 First dates. Nobody will be picketed outside vivid lounge calling for my castration (I hope). Its more like no bad dates just good stories but with very dates stories?

I was thinking about posting them here on cubicgarden.com but I decided I really wanted to have others post their yarns/stories/tales too. As some of them are far better/tragic than the experiences I have had.

Its all a bit of fun (a good yarn) and I hope you will enjoy the stories and have fun working out which bits are fictional and not. You will be very surprised… Maybe I’ll meta blog about a few of them sometime.

My first yarn/chapter/story is up and its called Everybody lies online right?

Enjoy! I have many more where that came from…

Perceptive learning resources

Future of StoryTelling

For the last few Wednesdays I have been watching the Future of StoryTelling hangouts online. I first heard about them from Matt Locke and Frank Rose last year when I gatecrashed a planned hangout with Perceptive Radio.

The Future of StoryTelling speaker Hangout series continues on Wednesday, January 15th, with a discussion about interactive gaming, and how great entertainment can transport you from your daily life and immerse you in another world.

You can watch the whole thing here on youtube. and last weeks with Google creative labs Robert Wong. This weeks Including my question which is based off my noticing, interaction and narrative keeps getting thrown around together when they are quite different things.

The guest this week was Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis, General Manager at Xbox Entertainment Studios. She said a lot of things I agreed with but switching narrative for interactive, paused me to think about the origins of Perceptive Media.

I’m not going to say Games and interactive experiences are not storytelling. I would be very wrong, but what I’m surprised at is Microsoft have this amazing device with cutting edge sensors and they sound like they are doing some perception. But they are only using it for Games? Shannon even talks about the golden age of Television then slides off into Games again.

Real shame…

Anyway there was a question asking about what this all can mean for children. Most of the guests give some answers which I couldn’t disagree with but Charles Melcher (founder of future of storytelling) jumps in with something quite profound.

I clipped it and put it on Archive.org but its something I’ve been thinking about since the early days of perceptive media.

The beauty of media which adapts, responds or as I prefer preconceives the audience and the context. Is it can unfold one way and unfold another way for someone else. Like Charles, I’m dyslexic and sometimes just can’t get my head around learning resources which are written for a majority of people.

I understand why its been that way. The cost of creating multiple versions of a learning resource is going to be a bad idea from a resourcing idea. But that only applies if you build your resources in a solid non-flexible way (like a blob) your going to run into the same problem described.  However if you have something more fluid (generative) or object based you can change aspects on the fly.

Simple example, a Book (any book) vs a Ereader (like a Kindle). I’m sure I’ve talked about this before but line lengths is a common issue with people who are dyslexic. We tend to loose what line we’re on for a split second.

I can reshape the lines lengths to make it more readable for myself (thats interactive). An Ereader with sensors could follow my eyes patterns and reshape the line lengths and fonts to give me the best reading experience (now thats perceptive). This all works because the text is digital and therefore an object which can be manipulated.

Back to Charles, a resource which can be manipulated by a person is good but one which can be manipulated by a process of data and sensors is even better (if they are working to aid you). Combining/aggregating resources together gets you to a position where you can weave a story together. I won’t bore you with my campfire == perceptive media equals and this is what humans do thoughts. But I do feel this is the future of storytelling. Charles vision is achievable and its something I’d love to talk to BBC Learning about in more depth.

I’ll be honest and say not only has this one got me writing but I also started writing after hearing Robert Wong talking last week about leadership and inspiring people.

Quantified self will change the way we tell stories

Adrian Hon

Was first alerted to Adrian Hon’s post when Laura tweeted me about my photo being used by Wired Magazine. I shot it Thinking Digital 2012 and really happy to see them getting some great reuse.

The article is Wearable tech can change the way we tell stories By Olivia Solon and yes they can use the photo as she respected the creative commons licence (see the attribution link at the bottom).

However more interesting is the article its self…

“As we start getting more data, optimising how we make an impact is possible,” Hon said. One example of this is Six to Start’s Zombie Run fitness app, which uses GPS and accelerometers to generate a dynamic story where you are running away from zombies. “We always think about the medium when we are telling the stories.”

I put all these wearables in the quantified self field, something I’m deeply interested in for multiple reasons including Perceptive Media and personal improvement. Adrian is correct, don’t make the mistake of falling into the trap of “thats a game, thats narrative” its all a blur and the best experiences are… I will admit we have had some great conversations about Perceptive Media in the past and I look forward to more of them in the future.

Talking of which, I’ll be at the Quantified self European conference this year hopefully (need to book a ticket). Part of my new going to conferences on the edge where the real interesting things happen.

The power of narrative

Children at First Lubuto Library

While working on Perceptive Media, I came across many examples of narrative and the power of storytelling. Something which I’ve been trying to demonstrate in my presentations pointing at how little subtle things can have huge effects. Recently I saw this which reminded me I haven’t posted anything about it recently

Telling stories is not just the oldest form of entertainment, it’s the highest form of consciousness. The need for narrative is embedded deep in our brains. Increasingly, success in the information age demands that we harness the hidden power of stories…

…in four decades in the movie business, I’ve come to see that stories are not only for the big screen, Shakespearean plays, and John Grisham novels. I’ve come to see that they are far more than entertainment. They are the most effective form of human communication, more powerful than any other way of packaging information. And telling purposeful stories is certainly the most efficient means of persuasion in everyday life, the most effective way of translating ideas into action, whether you’re green-lighting a $90 million film project, motivating employees to meet an important deadline, or getting your kids through a crisis.

When I was training to be a designer, it was drummed in to our brains that you need to have a story to explain the product, service, etc… Without that story or narrative your on a loosing road. Not only that but you want to give them the least distractions as possible.

Stories, unlike straight-up information, can change our lives because they directly involve us, bringing us into the inner world of the protagonist. As I tell the students in one of my UCLA graduate courses, Navigating a Narrative World, without stories not only would we not likely have survived as a species, we couldn’t understand ourselves. They provoke our memory and give us the framework for much of our understanding. They also reflect the way the brain works. While we think of stories as fluff, accessories to information, something extraneous to real work, they turn out to be the cornerstone of consciousness.

Enough said… but if you do get the chance to read all 3 long pages, it will be worth it…

Are ARG’s dead?

The 3rd Olympic Ring description

Arg’s or Alternative Reality Games, are really interesting and form a very tight and rich experience for thsoe who play them. But the mass adoption has stalled and tailed off as creators go for something more simple and easier to craft aka Transmedia.

So what happened? Is the genre dead before it really got going?

Well I saw a really interesting post on ARGN (alternative reality gaming network) written by friend Adrian Hon of SixtoStart. When ever I see him (usually at conferences) he likes to quiz me about what the BBC is doing regarding taking storytelling forward. And I like to question him about moving away from ARGs.

My feeling is there is much more potential/fuel and in the ARG genre and it will come back in another form. But I do share a lot of the points Adrian identifies in the post…

Most companies in the business now disavow the term ‘ARG’, preferring the trendier but frequently reviled and frustratingly vague term ‘transmedia’. In that context, it’s not surprising that people are happy to say “ARGs are dead” because it helps distinguish themselves from the old-and-busted crowd.

I can agree with that… I mentioned ARG at the recent Transmedia London festival and it was really interesting to see peoples faces from a panel member. Some were confused and some were shaking their heads disproving. When I was asked what transmedia is to me, I said something about it not being about screens but surrounding the person(s) with an immersive story. Like a ARG I would argue…

But for everything I like about ARG’s there is some serious problems and things which need to be ironed out. Adrian does a really good job covering the main ones…

1) Increase accessibility. People remain genuinely intrigued by ARGs, but they’re put off by the comparatively massive level of time commitment required to get involved. Yes, people will happily spend dozens of hours watching TV or playing video games, but those require less attention and crucially, they have a much quicker payoff. A good game or TV show will have me hooked in the first five seconds, and I know that I’ll have fun even if I just stay for 30 minutes. ARGs need to be more transparent and more accessible. If that means the end of ‘TINAG’, so be it.

Yes the best ones are when you can dip back in and help out, then take a less detailed role. I cant stand the chase element of ARGs. This is something I expressed with Larkin-about‘s ARG when I first met them. The best ARG’s have many layers just like great films. For example Donnie Darko you can watch and just enjoy the 80’s style highschool fun but theres a layer underneath which is about something much darker. Too many ARGs are like a Micheal Bay film or even something too deep and meaningful.

2) Make money. No-one is going to take ARGs seriously as a creative or commercial venture if they can’t get players to cough up cash. There’s absolutely a place for ad-funded or sponsored content, but good quality movies and TV shows still find millions of happy viewers willing to buy tickets and DVDs. Why not ARGs? Focus on the platforms where people have demonstrated a willingness to pay, like on iOS, Android, and Facebook, and learn from the successes of other apps. There isn’t much separating The Room – an incredible blockbuster iPad puzzle game – from being a full-blown ARG (the same applies for Zombies, Run!).

Although I don’t know too much about this side, he’s right. They need to be sustainable, be that with funding, adverting or paid for by the audience. Too many are made to flip and sell or made to be a one off. This leads to scummy people entering trying to cash in on the genre, like SEO and social media. All these one off’s pollute the work of others and make it even more difficult to be taken seriously.

3) Take the best and discard the rest. How can you replicate the immersive sensation of a good ARG at a low cost? Do you really need to have video, or can you just use audio? Do most people really enjoy decrypting hexadecimal strings, or are there more compelling challenges you can provide? Can you fake the experience of calling up real phone numbers or writing to real email addresses?

Absolutely too many copy cats… Another phone drop, another treasure hunt, yawn… seriously. Its lazy and boring. Innovate and push away from whats known. Its like when Perplexcity’s purple treasure hunt ended in a character from the group jumping into a helicopter. Mind blowing but how can you better that? Think! Creativity and think about the audience/participations not your own ego.

4) Think about scale. Almost all ARGs are live and cannot be easily replayed after the fact. That makes it difficult to make money, especially if you don’t have a big following. Imagine if Angry Birds or Farmville were only playable from April to June 2010; that’s what ARGs are like, and it’s mad. If you are going to run a live ARG, be sure to keep your costs down and charge players an appropriate amount for the privilege of getting personal interaction – no-one bats an eyelid at paying $25 or $50 for a theatre ticket, and the same should be true for a live ARG.

This is one of the most destructive thing I’ve known in ARG’s and one of the points I keep banging on to Adrian… Scale, repeatability and sustainability. No company is going to take this seriously if the resources are peed up a wall never to be seen again! How do you replay it and improve on it each time.

I have suggested an ARG framework before and somewhere along the line it fits with the notion of Decentralized systems. Stroytellers want to tell there story and don’t want to reinvent the book everytime.

Even the games I’ve played like the rings one (picture above) I was lucky enough to be in Manchester where the ring was found. For everyone else it was far less interesting. Plus the cost of creating and putting those rings in art gallerys around the world. Its not scalable and if you go about it that way, it never will be.

Total respect to everyone involved in the genre but its going to die before its gotten a chance to develop and spread its wings…

Reinvent content and the tools

A number of things on my mind recently centring around narrative again. There also connected (at least in my mind they are)

George Entwhistle today gave a speech to BBC Staff… (read the whole thing) where he mentions reinventing content

In a bold first-day speech, the BBC’s new boss says the corporation must stop thinking that online innovation means repurposing broadcast content and instead ‘create genuinely digital content for the first time’.

As we increasingly make use of a distribution model – the internet – principally characterised by its return path, its capacity for interaction, its hunger for more and more information about the habits and preferences of individual users, then we need to be ready to create content which exploits this new environment – content which shifts the height of our ambition from live output to living output.

Adam Curtis argues TV needs better techniques

Television no longer has the dramatic techniques to explain today’s world, according to leading documentary-maker Adam Curtis.

At a masterclass session at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television festival, Curtis will claim that the traditional techniques television uses, such as the identifying of good and bad guys and a linear narrative, are obsolete.

Apple was awarded a patent on a broadcast device that uses implicit acts to decide if you’re going to be interested in a section of the content (thanks Tony)

A user … may not be interested in every media item provided as part of a broadcast stream. For example, a user may not like a particular song broadcast by a radio station, or may not like a particular segment of a talk radio station (eg, the user does not like the topic or guest of the segment). As another example, a user may not be interested in content originally generated by sources other than the media source (eg, advertisement content). Because the user has no control over the media broadcast, the user can typically only tune to a different media broadcast, or listen to or consume the broadcast content that is not of interest.

Connected Studio, what a good idea…

News recently has been talking about Ralph Rivera’s Connected Studio.

Mr Rivera is set to announce the creation of a £3m “Connected Studio” project which aims to connect BBC developers and producers with their commercial counterparts, and establish a new technical platform for outsiders to build digital services around BBC content.

Speaking about the plans at the conference today Rivera said “the studio is that space where technology and the creative storyteller come together” and that it “made sense” to “create a connected studio”.

He told the audience this could see the creation of a virtual space and possibly a physical one also.

What a excellent idea…

Just the kind of thing which cuts the gap between, narrative and interactivity. painters and hackers? storytellers and architects? Something which has been crumbling for as long as I can remember.