What are the essential elements of a story?
What are the rhetorical moves of a short film?
How can short films help students become better multimedia storytellers?
During the 13th annual Traverse City Film Festival, I attended the workshop “Anatomy of a Short” at the festival’s film school led by Lesley Tye and Andrew Hiss, instructors of Motion Picture Arts at Interlochen Arts Academy, I came away from the workshop not only with a new appreciation for the short films genre but with inspiration to produce short films with my Digital Storytelling class at St. Joe’s.
My write-up of the workshop titled “How to Get started with Shorts” can be found at agnès films. agnès films is a generous and supportive community of women filmmakers, scholars, and instructors who make and teach films. The article features five essential elements to create a successful short film and shares details from the films that we examined during the workshop.
Building quickly to a “moment that matters” is one of the secrets to a successful short film. For example — what happens to this protagonist in a mere eighteen seconds to cause her expression to change so dramatically? I’ll Wait for the Next One (2002).
Read the article at agnès films to learn about the five essential elements of shorts.
— agnès films (@agnesfilms) August 18, 2017
We are hiring a colleague with a specialization in Civic Media to begin Fall 2016. Since the day we started the Department of Communication Studies (at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia) we have been committed to working at the intersections of digital media and civic engagement—and this position is a reflection of that ethos.
This is not a traditional academic department. My colleagues come from many disciplines and continually extend teaching beyond traditional boundaries to help students become agents of social change. While many universities sit isolated in relation to the communities in which they’re isolated, we seek to better locate our teaching within the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Our goal is set an example for how teachers and scholars can take into account the ways in which students and community members can use new media to make positive social change.
We have an open mind about what “Civic Media” is:
- communication and social change
- race, gender, and ethnicity
- networked social movements
- transmedia activism
- community literacy
- collaborative design and democracy and the web
This fixed-term, renewable Assistant Professor position is for someone who wants to work in the classroom and in the community. The successful candidate will teach Civic Media (COM 371), one of the department’s core courses, which focuses on media, communication and social change. The candidate will also teach foundational courses in the program, such as Communication Ethics (COM 201), as well as develop upper-level specialty courses. The position is 4/4.
We are looking for someone who might want to:
- Put the academic resources of the university to work in communities for social change
- Learn how digital spaces can be a platform for influence in our neighborhoods
- Create technologies or practices that revitalize civic engagement
This position helps to redefine faculty work in our department – applying expertise to make real world change. We are a group of people devoted to creating a reciprocal partnership with the public sphere, extending new models of new media literacy into local community contexts. This is the foundational value on which this department was built and each faculty member plays a committed role to its success.
My colleague Mike Lyons is currently working on the Redemption Project, a multimedia documentary that tells the stories of four juvenile lifers. The goal of this project is to “disrupt” traditional narratives of incarceration and to tell the stories of people who are “conveniently” overlooked by the mainstream media.
I founded the B-Social Research Collaborative in 2010, which my colleague Bill Wolff now directs. This ongoing initiative has collaborated with more than 55 Philadelphia nonprofits to assist in social media strategy, web design and digital media production.
My colleague Steven Hammer developed a course last semester in which students collaborated with persons with disabilities to co-create Arduino-based instruments, to expand directions in physical computing and accessibility.
My colleague Rachael Sullivan recently held a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon to Write Women Back into History to change the low percentage of female contributors to the site (only about 13%).
This is the kind of work my department celebrates. This particular kind of work often entails a long-term commitment to working with local citizens and organizations. Building trusting, mutually enriching relations with community partners takes time. We are looking for a colleague who is interested in joining us to create a culture of civic action and participation within academia that is accountable to the broader public.
I’m currently teaching visual storytelling through the creation of Cinemagraphs — photographs with a whisp of narrative. Cinemagraphs are compelling images which feature a cinematic twist through the isolated animation of multiple frames. These animated images capture a moment in time or a living portrait of a person or place.
The screen on my iPad waiting for me this morning (I hadn’t touched it yet):
With iOS7, devices throughout the land have suddenly developed newfound human qualities, like putting together better sentences from data. Honestly, the lively prose was a welcome relief – I swooned a little. But then I got that eerie futuristic feeling. Did anyone else feel it?
I recalled the old “Knowledge Navigator” videos from Apple – a far-out concept at the time. The video I remembered featured a professor interacting with an iPad-esque type device with a Siri-esque interface. Notably, the interface looked and sounded human – without the usual computerese. The video is from 1987 – conceived by the higher education marketing team at Apple. It’s not too long until I have a bow-tie wearing butler to call my own.
James Turrell: Master of light. Player of perceptions. Orchestrator of aesthetic experience. Opening three major shows this June at the Guggenheim, LACMA , and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Turrell is the art event of the summer.
Never seen his work? Perhaps because many of his installations are hidden away – often in smaller museums and private homes around the world. He’s especially known for designing Skyspaces – a viewing area open to the elements. Turrell orchestrates an experience for the viewer with the use of computerized lights. The artist takes the viewer on a sensory journey – utterly transforming the viewer’s perception of color and depth based on a subtle and masterful manipulation of light.
This is what I experienced recently at The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida – home of Turrell’s Skypace, “Joseph’s Coat.” At thirty minutes before sunset, about two dozen people entered the Skyspace chamber and stretched out on the floor together. For an hour we stared at the hole in the ceiling. It went like this.
What I love most about Turrell’s work is the way he invites the viewer to participate and interact with the work. In fact, his works are nothing without our sensory perception. He asks the viewer to surrender to time. Surrender to the elements. And also to give up our endless meaning-making. When we do this, we receive a rare gift of pure aesthetic appreciation.
(1) Multiple rabbit holes – Total Recall (2012)
Walking in the Upper West Side, I spied a billboard: “Tell us your fantasy. We’ll make it real.” Intrigued, I took out my phone and entered the website listed at the bottom of the poster. There I received the following message: “We’re sorry – This content requires Adobe Flash Player.”
This was a frustrating-no-flabbergasting user experience. And one that just should not be happening in a 2012 transmedia campaign for a summer blockbuster. When I finally got around to looking up the site at home, I found a compelling (but limited) Surrogate-esque storyworld. The next day I saw another billboard in Greenwich Village – “Beware of Rekall: Don’t Let Them Blow Your Mind” directing me to a different website.
This one actually worked on my phone, and with an aesthetic reminiscent of the recent Internet Blacklisting Bill campaigns – featuring a dot org url and a censorship theme. Here, audiences are targeted in a smart way with regard to the billboard placement – certain neighborhoods in New York definitely evoke a certain ethos. This is about knowing the audience and creating multiple rabbit holes – or entry points for them to follow. Transmedia campaigns need to employ multiple mediums to deliver a message – each adding a unique contribution to the development of the story. It s about engaging the audience, drawing them in, and rewarding the curious and loyal.
(2) “This is not a game” philosophy – Prometheus (2012)
Like the “No Rekall” mock Public Service Announcement, a large part of transmedia storytelling is creating a believable fiction – a credible alternate reality. In some of the best cases, the storyworld blends with Real Life so seamlessly that we don’t even know when we’ve entered the rabbit hole (or are playing a game). Take Peter Weyland’s 2023 TED Talk. First glance, this appears to be bonafide TED Talk – it is posted on TED.com, after all. This was the first time TED used its platform for promotional purposes – fans didn’t see it coming.
This move brilliantly demonstrates the “This is not a game philosophy” by transcending the “rules” – what we expect from a “game” – guidelines, pieces/equipment, a playing field, and defined outcome. By blurring the boundaries between game and reality- we enter the immersive world of the alternate reality game.
(3) Here we are now, entertain us – A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Alternate Reality Gaming was born on the Internet, combining interactivity and storytelling to create a truly immersive storyworld. The classic example is the well documented Jeanine Salla, Sentient Machine Therapist, from A.I.
Starting with this name and intriguing title listed on the film poster curious fans were drawn into a highly complex interactive game so large it is simply referred to as The Beast. Leaving trails of breadcrumbs, clues, for curious fans to discover and advance, this alternate reality game pushed the limits of interactivity. The boundaries of the game were unknown. The platforms, playing field, and outcomes were all out there waiting to be discovered and developed.
The fact is, going to a site and pushing a few buttons isn’t going to entertain us anymore (if it ever did). We want to be immersed. We want to use our brains. Our imaginations. We want to work together. We want to contribute. Here’s the key: for effective transmedia storytelling, meaning has to be designed by the audience as much as by the creators.