An interesting article appeared recently at This Is Transmedia, discussing whether or not transmedia is simply a form of marketing. It’s rather short and sweet, but the author does make an excellent point on how marketing executives seem to throw the label around, often using it to refer simply to having an active Facebook page.
Here in Aurelia, we continue to we progress forward with the show and with Theatrics, our host platform. Together we continue to pioneer new forms of transmedia in which the audience truly controls what happens with the story, inside the medium of a web series.
All in all, it’s a fascinating prospect to ponder as we see the idea of a medium’s audience participation growing from a farfetched idea to reality before our very eyes. Perhaps we will see the expansion of audience participation over the next few years to include in a wider range of television shows and films. And to think, our little show has a chance to contribute to that conversation! We’re excited tonight.
Now, back to work on Aurelia . . .
The actors didn’t need me.
Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty to do to keep the show together. But right now, actors’ individual and collaboratively-conspired plots have taken center stage. The action is moving on its own. So much so, that I’ve purposely held off the next meta-story plot point, while actors continue to respond to what they developed themselves last week.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet . . . I’m not sad about this!
So how is it that actors work together to build momentum? Largely, it’s by nurturing “stories-within-the-story” that they initiate as their characters rub shoulders in the world of Aurelia. These interactions can take many forms:
1. Direct requests
Whether or not they’ve agreed ahead of time, Aurelians often make direct requests to one another in their videos. This is one of the easiest ways for a new actor to engage other actors and get plugged in. By targeting another character and asking them to join a cause or offer help, actors spark new mini-stories and run with them—with plenty of clever results.
2. Insults or challenges
Nothing sparks drama like a little old-fashioned rivalry. Of course, to maintain the fun, actors must be able to clearly separate character-to-character animosity from real-life disagreement. Often before posting an inter-character assault, the initiating actor will contact the recipient backstage to let them know the affront is of course entirely IC (in character).
Some actors have begun experimenting with holding IC events. Currently, our playwright “Josus Thimblewick” is preparing to open his new play The Calamitous Siren, an entirely in-world enterprise. Another character, nobleman “Gervain Khorvanus,” posted an invitation to a social at his estate. The actor playing Gervain wants to experiment with holding this social as a mass roleplay via Google Hangout, a recording of which would be uploaded to the Theatrics site.
Story momentum in Aurelia has been gathering steam (pun intended!) quite nicely on its own. With all these deals, insults, and invitations flying around . . . the only question this showrunner now has is: “How do I keep it all straight in my head?”
Oh — and by the way, there’s PLENTY of room for YOU to come join the fun!
Aurelia is, however, a lot like playing chess.
Given the cloak-and-dagger nature of Aurelia, individual plots tend to unfold like a carefully-plotted chess game. Characters have competing—even hidden—motivations. Some actors plan their characters’ stories weeks in advance, while others work out the details as they shoot. All strive to move across the board on their own terms. Yet they must work together and against each other.
In such a checkered landscape, how do Aurelians ever collaborate?
Here are a few of the most popular methods:
1) Video Tagging
The Theatrics platform allows actors to “tag” other actors in their video posts. Many actors use this feature regularly to notify another actor via email that s/he has been mentioned in a video. Often, this is the start to a more extensive series of back-and-forth videos that represent a kind of “subplot” for that actor’s story.
2) Out-Of-Character Dealing
Actors have two easy options to contact each other “back stage” as we call it around Aurelia. The first is through our closed actor Facebook group, which serves as a home for general announcements, out-of-character discussion, and a springboard where actors can find and friend each other for deeper conversations.
The other option is our Public Discussion forum on the Theatrics platform. This feature uses Disqus to power a similar type of interaction to Facebook.
3) Surprise Challenges
In this instance, a character challenges another character to take a particular action without prior notification. For example, in a recent video, noblewoman Eugenia Sphazomai begged scientists, Marius Menchevit and Nicodeamus Barzimon, to shelter her fugitive son. Will the actors behind these scientists choose to take Eugenia’s son into their storyline? Or will their characters refuse to help him? The actress playing Eugenia (and incidentally, her murderer too!) doesn’t know. She awaits her opponents’ next move, so she can plan her future story installments accordingly.
Starting to understand why I compare Aurelia to chess?
In Aurelia, I make a move. You make a move. We ponder our options and make a different move. And suddenly, somehow, we find ourselves moving across the board.
Back in June, I wrote a post about structuring the story of Aurelia. Theatrics‘ unique actor-response model has only been used a couple of times, so my twelve-week arc was tentative at best. What would happen when an unknown number of individual stories entered—and altered—the equation?
The answer to that question still eludes us. But after experiencing the story at work for the last few weeks, here are a few thoughts:
1) Aurelia is co-created.
The truth of this idea did not really hit me until this past weekend, as I began assembling our fledgling show wiki, powered by Wikia. In traditional role play environments, players refer to and work within the guidelines of an often-huge “world bible.” While Aurelians have asked this type of content—and our team continues to deliver—we also encourage actors to consider their own self-generated details, props, and lore as part of that “world bible.” The team may set guidelines, but actors ultimately bring the world to life. Their vision of Aurelia is as important as ours.
2) Aurelia is asynchronous.
In traditional role play or theater environments, interaction happens synchronously. Actors gather at one place and time, to experience community face-to-face. (An exception to this would be text-based forum role play.) By contrast, Aurelia’s story unfolds in smaller visual parts and pieces, one video, blog post, or photo at a time. One might imagine this format impedes the development of community. But our actors are collaborating regularly backstage, helping one another, and even planning social gatherings (in real time), all based on a community that accommodates their individual schedules.
3) Aurelia is orchestrated.
Recently actors have asked if I’ll ever take over the role of a play or film director in Aurelia—telling actors what plots to pursue, or how their characters’ stories should turn out. The answer is always “no.” While I act more like a storyteller in a role play environment, stirring the pot and keeping things on track at a very high level, I also encourage actors to become proactive in choosing which stories interest them, who they want to collaborate, and what will happen next. Nonetheless, their inter-character decisions will affect how I spin the meta-story. What an adventure!
AURELIA. It’s not quite LARP. Not quite community theater. It’s co-creative, asynchronous, orchestrated storytelling fun. Now if somebody could just come up with a term for that . . .