Patti Smith, Katniss Everdeen, & Kenneth Cole: where is our counter culture revolution today?

I was lucky enough to catch Patti Smith at Massey Hall in Toronto last night & it was a fantastic two hour-ish show – Lenny Kaye on guitar & Patti with a voice I swear hasn’t aged. She opened with Dancing Barefoot, ad libbed a, hysterically funny spoken word piece on Nicole Kidman, TIFF, & Kidman’s gorgeous gown & red hair, dedicated This is the Girl to Amy Winehouse & connected that dedication back to Maria Callas singing on the same Massey Hall stage.  She did a beautiful version of Lennon’s Beautiful Boy, changing the last line to ‘Beautiful John…’, sang a kicking Horses into Gloria, and had the audience up, dancing & singing throughout.

At points in the show, politics were front & center with Patti weaving in protests on the handling of Snowden & Syria. What she ended with pulled me up short as after pulling out the strings on her guitar, she held it up and said: ‘Like Katniss Everdeen, I raise my bow, & send an arrow to you’ & then left the stage.

If you know the trilogy, you know that’s a call for a revolution against a corrupt & oppressive regime, in Collins’ The Hunger Games, the Capitol city of Panem. For Patti, clearly the current regime in Washington.

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Contrast Patti’s integration of punk’s counter-culture stance with Collins’ critique with Kenneth Cole’s crassly commercial tweet referencing Syria, which he has defended as an edgy engagement with issues: “I’ve always used my platform to provoke dialogue about important issues, including HIV AIDS, war and homelessness.”

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Reading further on Cole’s past forays into provocation, I was most struck by how Cole’s phrasing & tone are a dead ringer for the messaging Lionsgate is using in its promotion of the Capitol as the society to role play in through its marketing campaigns for The Hunger Games & now Catching Fire. Here from the Capitol Couture Tumblr page

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Surely, Lionsgate will recognize at some point how problematic it is to promote The Hunger Games brand asking fans to side with those who revel in the deaths of the Tributes. Fans are being quite vocal in how uncomfortable & misplaced this marketing is. On the Mockingjay.net, one blogger recently wrote:

‘In 2011 and 2012, I’m sure a lot of you can remember fawning all over every new image or piece of marketing. Capitol Couture was wicked cool and the .PN domains were amazing. The nail polish was an awkward topic, but lots of us still wanted them. Effie’s butterfly eyelashes were amazing and we all hurried to get our Panem ID cards where we were placed into one of the 12 districts.

But somehow this time around, things are different. I know I’m not alone. And maybe it’s because deep down, the real Hunger Games fan in me still lives. And that part of me–the part that was drawn to a girl’s will to protect her family from government oppression at all costs–just doesn’t care about Capitol fashions that are sort of just weird and too Capitol for my liking. It annoys me that Lionsgate feels the need to use the hashtag #UrAHungerGamesFan, leaving me mildly insulted that a series with such a serious message is being dumbed down so much in official marketing…’

Another fan here:

‘So they’re marketing THG by missing the entire point about the vileness of the Capital in THG. Coo, coo.’

And another exchange here opened up how to shift the marketing to the real themes of the series:

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Firmly committed however, Lionsgate most recently blithley announced the launch of a fashion line on NET-A-PORTER.com.

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Sigh… but then really, what am I thinking? that a major studio would advocate for the 99%? This is just a movie after all and it’s likely that co-opting fan empathy for Collins’ vision of the beginnings of a revolution in Catching Fire & the desire for societal change for a marketing campaign would be just as bad.

So it was fantastic to see Patti Smith, grey haired mother of two, still rocking, still punk, closing her show with this reference to Katniss’ disruptive power.  Her closing line, unlike Lionsgate’s messaging, was right on target, connecting her life, experience, and political views with a younger generation’s passion for something more than just fashion, consumerism & nail polish.

How to Start a Content Revolution. Design the Future….

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 9.27.51 AMFinally finally finally almost ready to post! stay tuned for a new EPIC TMC Resource Kit Case Study tomorrow  on The Mission Business’ transmedia serial production, Zed.TO & the rise & fall of the fictional bio-tech company, ByoLogyc.

“…imagine what the world would be like if Apple were a biotech company.” Or if “Proctor and Gamble was revealed to be in the same kind of scandal as Lehman Brothers.”

[last tweaks underway…]

You have to Love Lionsgate’s Commitment to the Dark Side: Catching Fire’s Misfired Marketing…

With November 22 now 2 months & 22 days away, you have to love Lionsgate’s commitment to marketing the vacuous superficial lifestyle of the Capitol Panem, which if you’ve read The Hunger Games Trilogy, you know is functionally a hyped up runway version of the Death Star.

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Cover Girl’s commercial above proclaims: ’12 districts . 12 looks. 1 collection’ – Hurray! no mention of brutality & deaths here!

Check out the Capitol Couture Tumblr page which has just launched its fall fashion issue, glamourizing the first of many could-be or soon-to-be-dead ‘stars’ of the games.

If you know Johanna’s story, you know that because of her choices (won’t say what), her loved ones are killed in retaliation.  And that she is tortured at a later point… won’t go into details.

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Yet meanwhile over on Capitol Couture we have this fashion mag blurb. The last line seems pointedly weird given that Collins’ makes the lack of agency and control the Tributes have over their bodies such a key theme of the series: ‘During make up, Mason doesn’t fidget as her artist adheres three-inch eyelashes to her lower…’

In The Hunger Games, Cinna warns Katniss not to resist & to do everything that her stylists want her to do. The implication is pretty clear that to resist is to risk extreme punishment or death, perhaps not one’s own death, but one’s loved ones potentially.

Check out the glamourized pic of Mags below & the accompanying text which also misreads the works, as Collins via Katniss is explicit in her presentation of Panem as a society that eschews aging, preferring extreme plastic surgery and thinness in a rejection of ‘aging with dignity and grace.’

That we have a ratings score on pout is a bit of an obscenity, to be blunt.

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I continue to be mystified by Lionsgate’s focus on the Capitol in promoting the film. In the lead up to the launch of The Hunger Games, Lionsgate & China Glaze teamed up with the Capitol Colours, with a line of 12 colours, one for each district and fantastic polish names like Foie Gras, Agro, Smoke and Ashes…

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One blogger posted a breakdown of the colours in the spirit of Capitol Couture here with enticing yet paradoxical descriptions such as:

‘Smoke & Ashes (District 12- Mining): Even though I’m not typically drawn to black nail polishes, I had to have this one (the fact that it is district 12’s color and I may or may not be in love with 2 of district 12’s leading men may have something to do with this).  The finely milled glitter flecks found in Smoke & Ashes are a mixture of blue, green, silver and purple, making this polish resemble the night sky – OBSESSED!’

Yes, indeed, paradoxical as the smoke and ashes are  increasingly unpleasant  as the series continues. The decision to market cosmetics to promote the film was fabulously expressed by Tim Palen, Lionsgate’s chief marketing officer, who said:

“Having a nail polish for the rabid young girl fan base to relate to our movie on a personal level feels smart.”

Monica Corcoran Harel quoted Palen in a biting article in NY Times in March 2012, ‘Forget the Plot. What Nail Polish Is She Wearing?‘ and her criticism is just as valid in the push to the second film as it was in the first:

“…[because] the film’s characters are too busy murdering each other to get manicures, the nail polishes are sold as products worn by the extras…”

Fans over at The Hunger But Mostly Death Games, thankfully, parodied the marketing campaign, launching their own line of nail polish, with colours replicating the pus oozing tracker jacker stings that kill Glimmer and numerous other brutal details of Collins’ series.

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So here we go again, now with major ads out in Vogue & other magazines, this time with Cover Girl partnering. Now you have to admire an ad that so blatantly promotes the Capitol in Cover Girl’s enthusiastic endorsement of Panem: ‘Coming to the Capitol this Fall’!

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So in the fictional world of The Hunger Games, Cover Girl is then the make-up of choice of the stylists who handle the body modifications & glamourizing of those 24 Tributes, 23 of whom will die? Surely, someone in house has read the book or has a son or daughter who has read the series!

“Capitol Fashionistas have a very big reason to look forward to autumn. Just announced, a premiere line of beauty products brought to you by the perennial COVERGIRL — The Capitol Collection — will soon arrive to glam the glamorous. This Collection promises to inspire a new era of expressive beauty through make-up.  Keep tabs on Capitol Couture for exclusive reveals and get ready to discover a new ‘you’ this fall.”

What oh what will this marketing campaign do next? It’s very deja vu to revisit my case study on the campaign for the first film, here, and see exactly the same problematic choices being replayed. Given how dark this series is, you really don’t want to be on the Dark Side. And the Dark Side doesn’t fare well in the end either.

The comments on Cover Girl’s commercial are predominantly critical:

‘any one feel a little bit scared out now’

‘To agree with them others: When this came on TV… I nearly shat nightlock’

‘Btw I’ve got nothing against people who like/use lots of makeup – but to do a promotion around this?!? *shakes head*’

Even the raves show tinges of guilt at buying in to the commercial sell:

‘Does it make me a crazy district 1 person if I am like.. super excited to waste my money and buy all of it? Because.. I am.’

So…. yet again, I’m hanging in to see how long it’s going to take for Lionsgate to shift the focus from the unequivocally evil Panem to the counter forces that Katniss represents. Seriously. What is Lionsgate going to do for The Mockingjay??? Promote a make-up line for civil war? for terrorism? Seriously.

World War Z’s Creepy In-Game Transmedia Campaign

Having thoroughly enjoyed Max Brook’s Zombie thriller novel, I’ve been wondering where the pre-launch transmedia campaign for World War Z is and last night I finally had some spare time to track it down.

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Cleverly named to stay in-game by hyping a growing crisis rather than the film’s end-of-days all-out War, the Crisis Zero website has a warning video, an alarming set of survival tips, links to a Twitter account posting intermittent updates since May 13, and a Facebook Alert Recruitment Tool to spread the ‘viral’ campaign.

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And if you follow the links in the Tweets you’ll find the CrisisZero2013 videos on YouTube. Judging by the number of views, which are comparatively small, the audience for these teaser videos hasn’t metastasized to its full viral potential (& yes, all the metaphorical uses of ‘viral’ seem totally appropriate here!).

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These teaser videos play deliciously with the premise of an unidentified growing, global infection by giving us snippet videos that hint at attacks or increased airport securitization & travel disruptions. This one below is a genius riff on the popularity of dashboard video cameras in Russia.Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.05.38 AM

Props to the transmedia designers for creating multi-lingual videos both from the ‘Official’ CrisisZero headquarters broadcasting to an affected/infected global audience and for the videos shared by alarmed citizens from around the world (India, Germany, Spain, Denmark, New Zealand). That a number are without subtitles for the English-speaking audience or have subtitles in other languages (French, Spanish) adds to the veracity of what are often the last messages these individuals will send.

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Meanwhile, the Facebook updates are tracking the growing scale of the airport shutdowns so with 4 days to go, I’ll be watching to see how the tipping point into global chaos of a zombie apocalypse is staged in this clever campaign.

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Netflix’ Arrested Development & The Future of Storytelling

As we countdown to Arrested Development’s launch day, May 26, I’m riveted by the potential impact of Netflix’s all-in-one season on the future of storytelling. Key is creator Mitch Hurwitz’s decision to construct the episodes as what one could call, following the experimentations of hypertext and database narratives, a recombinatory narrative system, but with a difference. As Willa Paskin notes in her feature in Wired on March 19th, 2013: “It’s something new—a collection of episodes released altogether that can be remixed and recombined and that gain something from each juxtaposition… Each episode will cover events from a different character’s point of view, like a comedic Rashomon. There will be moments and Easter eggs that will make sense only in retrospect. There will be a suggested viewing sequence, but it will be possible—even rewarding—to watch out of sequence.”

The more I think about the experimental possibilities of what Sara Thacher calls “‘Web-Native’ TV,” the richer future I see as, while the concept at play may be new for television, this model of spatial, fragmented and shifting narrative is well-established in other media, meaning there is a wealth of knowledge that can be drawn upon for this kind of experimentation. Netflix is now mainstreaming what has existed in film and literature for decades as postmodern subversive play with fragmentation, point of view, narrative in/coherence, and the spatial, distributed, and associative design that underlies much interactive/experimental cinema, and interactive documentaries – iDocs – in particular. What we’re seeing is content design responding to platform and to audience – what Paskin describes as ‘television built be binged’ based on Netflix’s knowledge of audience viewing behaviour Where Hurwitz earlier toyed with the idea of using a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ model, the exiting recombinatory model creates a new challenge for the audience as the order of episodes you choose will impact on how you view and empathize with characters through given sequences. It’s this effect that has me jumping up and down inside! Portia de Rossi (Lindsay Bluth Fünke) describes how “I did a scene with Jessica [Walter, who plays Lindsay’s mother], where she seemed to be saying the nastiest things, in my mind, because it was so sarcastic…But in her episode, you realize that she was being sincere. If you see my episode first, u’re like, ‘That fucking bitch.’ But if you see hers first, I look completely heartless.” (Paskin, Wired). What I love about this is the dilemma I am now consciously aware of – which episode will I watch first? How will my construction of a linear viewing sequence impact my understanding of the whole? What are the other variables between different POV episodes? This really is a delicious dilemma as once I’ve chosen I can’t go back & recover my narrative innocence – return to a state of ‘unknown unknowns.’ (Ah…the shadow of Rumsfeld…) Once I watch one, the rubic’s cube of known unknowns will start to take shape as the story map of scenes and interactions is revealed. In the meantime, Arrested Development Season Four looks like it will offer one of the best forms of interactivity, which I started writing about in the context of interactive narrative design watching Nolan’s Memento.Though screened as a linear-viewing experience, the complications of the interwoven time-lines and unstable status of the narrative threads made for a cognitive interaction that was extremely active, as I worked to align and realign story threads & my understanding of character status. Think Barthes’ active engagement with the writerly text now derailing TV’s more often passive medium with Netflix’ disruption of TV’s traditional serial/sequential viewing. With Arrested Development, I’m going to bet that Hurwitz has crafted a viewing experience that will drive fans back for multiple repeat views, binge viewing continued in excess over time with the aim of mentally constructing and reconstructing the narrative whole. I often find that at the end of power viewing a series over a weekend that I’ve lost track of details in the first episodes & I want to rewatch in order to recover narrative coherence. Here too, no doubt, Netflix’s data analytics can provide insights on viewer habits of rewatching fave content in Netflix’s flat fee context. That audience loyalty is about to get rewarded as layers of AD narrative complexity will be presumably revealed in multiple viewings. Let the agonizing hilarity begin. Alyssa Rosenberg also has an excellent post on “Why ‘Arrested Development Really Represents a Breakthrough for Netflix” And Randy Finch has one here: ‘Will Arrested Development on Netflix Make Storytelling News?

Fantastic day with Jon Reiss! Think Outside the Box Office Masterclass – Transmedia 101

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We had a fantastic day with Jon Reiss who shared his expertise & experiences with a great group of filmmakers from Toronto & beyond, including Jill Golick, Tiska Weiderman, & Indira Guha. The note-taking was pretty intense, as was pic-snapping of slides, & I have a feeling quite a few people will be buying his books today. Jon, we are all now waiting for your new book, the in-depth breakdown of the role & responsibilities of the PMD –  Producer of Marketing & Distribution. Thanks all who came out for a great day!

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And after a delicious dinner at Mercatto with TM101’s Anthea Foyer, Zan Chandler, Luci Lalumiere, Julie Giles, out came the hat! Will this be our signature sign-off for Transmedia 101 events?

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Carrie, Jon & Siobhan after a very fine dinner