On April 19, I’m opening the second part of my neighborhood love stories. Below is the official press release for NY_Hearts: Park Slope. I’d love to see you there. And if you’re interested in doing some press on the show, hit me up!
MULTIPLE LOCATIONS IN PARK SLOPE BROOKLYN
INCLUDING BABELAND, DELUXE COFFEE & BAR TOTO
Following up the first of his neighborhood experiences, writer and experience designer James Carter heads to Park Slope, Brooklyn for part two of NY_Hearts. Part walking tour, part love story, NY_Hearts offers people a new way to discover NYC by stepping into the characters’ shoes. Set in four different NYC neighborhoods, participants enjoy drinks and other surprises from local businesses, which are featured in an audio story shared over mobile devices. Other bits of the story include character websites, online character vlogs, original music and visual art.
Carlo Albán plays the role of Sal, a struggling musician who meets the love of his life, Madelyn. Together, amidst the brownstones of Park Slope, they make music and find more than just a songwriting partner.
“I can’t wait to share the second part of this four part love story,” said creator and producer James Carter. “Part two brings the tale of Sal to a close and introduces a new chapter in this series. Plus, there are several great local Park Slope restaurants and merchants appearing in this story.”
Featuring six different locations in the Park Slope, Brooklyn including three small businesses, NY_Hearts: Park Slope integrates goods and services featured in the tale. Participating partners include Babeland, DeLuxe, and Bar Toto. Conceived as a fun way to discover the New York neighborhoods, the ticket includes coffee, drinks and a surprise toy.
Carlo Albán has been acting in theater, film and television for over twenty years. He has appeared on television shows ranging from Sesame Street to Prison Break, and in films such as Whip It, Margaret and 21 Grams. As a writer, he developed his solo show Intríngulis, dealing with his experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant, with Labyrinth Theater Company. Intríngulis received its world premiere in November 2010 in Los Angeles, in conjunction with Labyrinth and the Elephant Theater. Carlo is a member of Labyrinth Theater Company and a recipient of New Dramatists’ Charles Bowden Award.
One Muse Presents is a presenting and producing company of James Carter a playwright and experience designer. He uses transmedia to tell rich and exciting stories. Transmedia describes one story told over multiple digital and physical platforms. His previous transmedia play, Feeder: A Love Story, was presented by terraNOVA Collective at HERE. More about One Muse Presents and James Carter at www.onemuse.com
Recently, I was invited to join the ArtsFwd Blogging Fellowship. From now until the end of June, I’ll be offering my suggestions on innovation in arts administration. ArtsFwd is an extension of EmcArts, a social enterprise for learning and innovation in the arts.
From EmcArts website:
We serve as a nonprofit intermediary for many arts funders, and as a service organization for the arts field around innovation. We exist to strengthen the capacities and effectiveness of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, serving their needs in the design and management of innovative change, and assisting them in building their adaptive capacity.
Transmedia is the art of sharing a narrative over multiple media platforms (print, online, stage, film, social networks), where unique content is delivered through each platform. For example, Fringe, the hit television show, used transmedia to expand its storyworld and reward its biggest fans. To learn more about how Fringeused transmedia, read my case study about the multiple platforms implemented over the show’s five seasons.
Though arts organizations are different than television programs, I believe it is increasingly imperative that arts organizations employ transmedia thinking as a way to expand a story over multiple media platforms.
The ArtsFwd program is inspiring, and I’m having great fun so far. Shout out to Karina Mangu-Ward, Director of Activating Innovation, and Kendra Danowski, Associate Editor, for spearheading this important outreach initiative. Thanks for having me on board.
It’s no surprise The Film Society of Lincoln Center offers an annual festival of French films. The French are to cinema what Cuba is to cigars. Other countries produce them, but not quite like France. They birthed cinema. Now, France aims to deliver audiences a new era of storytelling: the age of transmedia.
Transmedia is the art of sharing stories over multiple media platforms. Channels include online videos, comic books, mobile devices, alternate reality games, books, puzzles, and social media. In 2012, The Film Society of Lincoln Center decided to explore this media mixing and launched Convergence as part of The New York Film Festival. Over two days, immersive theater, interactive group video games, and panels on film and television extensions took over the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Thus began an exploration of the shift in storytelling in the 21st century.
After the success of Convergence, The Film Society looked for ways to develop this examination beyond its annual fall festival. Knowing transmedia isn’t solely American, the next clear step was highlighting transmedia work from around the world. With Rendez-vous with French Cinema on their season’s horizon, a special project came into focus.
ALT_MINDS is a fast-paced immersive experience that casts the audience in the role of an investigator. Creator Eric Viennot requires the audience to engage in the action and play an integral part in the expanding narrative. When six promising scientists disappear while on assignment, their kidnapping sparks a manhunt across Europe. Mysterious online videos, mind bending puzzles, and clues point to a dark conspiracy that threatens to ensnare the team of investigators charged with unraveling the mystery.
“ALT_MINDS is cool because it really blurs the line between fiction and reality,” said Matt Bolish of The Film Society of Lincoln Center. “You can become as involved as you want. There’s more going on than meets the eye.”
A big hurdle for this kind of mobile-based multi-platform storytelling is distribution in the United States. There aren’t many companies taking the risk. In France, ALT_MINDS received development support and distribution through the communications company Orange. Additionally, artists receive government support more easily. Between corporate and government support, creators like Mr. Viennot have more opportunities than American creators. That is one of the reasons The Film Society at Lincoln Center is offering this special event as part of Rendez-vous with French Cinema. They want to introduce this innovative work to an American audience.
“We are really excited to move ahead and start navigating transmedia and the development of transmedia in an audience,” said Mr. Bolish. “It’s important to have a global perspective.”
To sneak a peek at the next exciting revelation in cinematic storytelling, stop by ALT_MINDS and the art of French Transmedia on March 2. Creator Eric Viennot presents the project and offers a sample of what players experienced. He will also screen a portion of the web series and discuss how French creation is different from the United States. For more information about ALT_MINDS and the Art of French Transmedia, visit The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s website.
ALT_MINDS AND THE ART OF FRENCH TRANSMEDIA ERIC VIENNOT, 2012 Saturday, March 2 at 5:00pm FILM CENTER AMPHITHEATER
A woman appears on a computer screen and smokes a cigarette in a tiny London flat. She coyly asks if you’ve ever followed a stranger to a hotel room. In Australia, a bouncy blonde wearing what looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume pops up on a laptop, insisting she met you hundreds of years ago. Together, you have a plan to save the world. A third woman – a Romanian – shares a sad tale about her boyfriend, photographs and donuts.
This isn’t a private adult video chat you discover after accidentally clicking a link in a spam email. This is theater. Long Distance Affair, produced by PopUp Theatrics, takes the audience on a journey around the world. And you don’t even have to get on an airplane.
Creators and directors Tamilla Woodard and Ana Margineanu create intimate theatrical experiences for one person. Digital theater for one. Some of the performances are interactive, requiring audience members to engage with the character. Others are passive, offering a more traditional theater monologue. Each piece is more unpredictable than the previous.
With Long Distance Affair, Ms. Margineanu and Ms. Woodard partnered a director, a playwright and an actor to create eight minute bits of theater performed live from the actor’s own home. The audience views these performances via Skype from New York City’s The Gershwin Hotel. Here’s the catch (as if there wasn’t enough of one already): None of the creators live in the same country as their collaborators. In two weeks, they write, rehearse and perform the short plays. All over Skype.
“In Romania, the director is considered a god,” explained Ms. Margineanu. “In America, the playwright is god. In Russia, the actor is god. You can imagine what happens when three gods try to work together.”
Not only is it an experiment in form and process. It’s a test of endurance. Actors must perform the same eight minute piece up to 30 times in one evening – sometimes at 3:00am, if they live seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
PopUp Theatricals is devoted to unpacking the creator’s relationship with the audience. With their other major production, Hotel Project, PopUp again assembled international creative teams. In another exclusive performance, a lone audience member becomes a fly on the wall while a scene plays out around her or him.
Long Distance Affair runs through February 28, and tickets are limited due to the intimate nature of the event. Because of the staggered schedules and time differences of actor locations, audiences can attend multiple nights and might see different plays. Don’t think this is an entirely digital experience. There are analog elements that allow audience members to connect with the characters, too. Who knows? You might even receive a present from a new friend in another part of the world.
LONG DISTANCE AFFAIR
THE GERSHWIN HOTEL
7 east 27th street, NYC (next to the Museum of Sex)
Tickets ONLY $25
Available at ovationtix. com or by calling 866-811-4111
After five seasons, two universes, and multiple timelines,Fringe ended its run January 18, 2013 on Fox. I’m proud to say I stuck with this show to the very end. More than anything – like other fans – I connected with the cast’s phenomenal performances. When the sci-fi was good, the show was great. When there was more “fi” than “sci,” the actors buoyed the show to the next peculiar portal.
For those unfamiliar with Fringe, it follows a team of FBI investigators in the “Fringe Division.” Not unlike The X-Files, Fringe had a case-of-the-week structure with a dense, over-arching mythology spawned from most of the cases. At the heart of the mythology was the story of Walter (John Noble) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), an estranged father and son who – with the help of FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) – grew to love each other. Add lab assistant Junior FBI Agent Astro…I mean, Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole), and Special Agent-in-charge Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick), and you have the Fringe team. Nina Sharp (Blair Brown), COO of Massive Dynamic, a corporate entity frequently responsible for the bizarre events the team examined, often aided the team in their investigations. Oh yeah. And bald man who wore a suit and fedora observed them. His name was September (Michael Cerveris).
Now that the show is over, I decided to compile as many of its transmedia extensions as I could in one place. LikeLost, another J.J. Abrams production, Fringe created a rich storyworld in which fans delighted throughout its five seasons. From viral videos and comic books to Easter eggs and science education, Fringe stretched its tentacles around numerous platforms.
I’ve done my best to keep story descriptions vague and spoilers to a minimum; however, there are a few. If you wish to keep completely in the dark, proceed no further. And watch the show.
SEPTEMBER’S NOTEBOOK: THE BISHOP PARADOX
Let me start at the end. My impetus to create this compilation grew after I learned Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams’ company which produced Fringe, is publishing a book from the show. Unlike the “The Lost Encyclopedia,” a post-show summary book about another Bad Robot production, Lost, “September’s Notebook” actually appeared in episodes of Fringe.
Throughout the series, a group of twelve bald men took notes about Earth’s history. Named after months of the year, the one called September followed the Fringe team, detailing their every move in a notebook and gradually becoming more attached to them. The Observers were an enigmatic element in Fringe’s mythology, and Fox harnessed that mystique in marketing campaigns, both commercially and virally. Fringebloggers.com has a great history of the Observers’ appearances.
Interestingly, the notebook comes from the same writers who created “The Lost Encyclopedia,” Tara Bennett and Paul Terry. Being friends with Fringe executive producer Jeff Pinkner, Tara sent “The Lost Encyclopedia” to him, hoping to do something similar with Fringe. Both Jeff and executive producer J.H. Wyman loved the idea. They assigned Noreen O’Toole, who works as a producer on transmedia projects at Bad Robot, to work on the extension. Together, they imagined several options, and Warner Brothers chose “September’s Notebook.”
Recently, Tara and Paul spoke in-depth with the Fringe Podcast about the year-long creation of the notebook. Most of the details I’m sharing come from that interview, which you can listen to here:
The most exciting facet of the notebook is that it isn’t just a translation of September’s writings. The book includes artifacts September collected and placed inside for safe keeping. The authors are attempting to put the fan in September’s shoes. Touch what the characters touched. Feel what they felt. It is a tactile and interactive augmentation on what fans have already seen to give context to the series.
Fringe’s showrunners always tried to honor the feedback their fans offered. After the backlash from the Lost series finale, it felt as though Fringe creators didn’t want a repeat of last time. With the notebook, they’re attempting to thank fans from all over the world by treating them as Easter Eggs. Fans that used #FringeFridays on Twitter get a special shout out in the book.
That is how you connect with fans. Listen to them and speak with them – not at them. Fringe fans have changed how social media affects the longevity of a show. “September’s Notebook” is a way to thank them for going above and beyond.
THE OBSERVER LANGUAGE
One of the more controversial aspects of the show is the Observer language. Initially created by actor Michael Cerveris, who played September, Fringe eventually imbued the random symbols he scribbled with meaning. The producers frame “September’s Notebook: The Bishop Paradox” as a translation of the language written in the notebook.
Fringe fan Drew Crawford wrote a nice post on his disappointment of discovering that many of the Observer words are gibberish; however, the symbols are still a fun frill on the Fringe mythology.
One of the first big Easter eggs Fringe disseminated to viewers starting with the first episode was theglyph cipher. The glyphs appeared leading into each commercial break. Each had a variation of a glowing yellow dot in one of the picture’s four corners.
It took the better part of the first season for someone to decipher the code, and Julian Sanchez was the guy who did it. Each glyph corresponded to a letter of the English alphabet, and together, the letters spelled a word that corresponded to a character or a theme related to that episode.
To prepare its audience for the drastic shift in tone of season five, Fringe released a series of public service announcements…er, warnings…from The Observers. They directed fans to the now defunct rewardwire.org, where they could engage with the story.
The videos also included the hashtag #AreYouDonald?, a reference to an unknown ally of the resistance, and who the Fringe team sought for most of season five.
COMIC BOOKS BY STAFF WRITERS AND CAST
Before the pilot even aired, Bad Robot created content to prep their new science fiction series. The “Fringe Preview Comic” is the prequel to a six-partFringe comic book series that cover stories prior to the series’ pilot. From WildStorm Productions, they distributed it for free at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2008.
The second series of comics “Tales from the Fringe,” was a six-issue miniseries that featured a different main character on the show that added to the show’s mythology.
The third installment did something unique. The producers let Joshua Jackson – one of the show’s stars – write a series of comics. “Beyond the Fringe,” offered alternate universes not seen on the show. There were 12 individual chapters divided between six ‘A’ stories that tied directly to the show storyline and six ‘B’ stories postulate a ‘what-if’ tale. The ‘what-if’ tale even goes as far as to make Peter (Jackson’s character) into a superhero who protects the citizens of “Boston City.” For real.
One other trivia tidbit I enjoy: DC Comics published the second and third volumes, and the show carried over a shout out to its red alternate universe storyline on television, in which the “Red Lantern” and “Red Arrow” are DC comic characters.
One of the lesser known aspects of Fringe is its partnership with the non-profit organization Science Olympiad during seasons 2-4 in which they offered lesson plans for science teachers. “The Science of Fringe” inspired lessons that use the episodes to teach about hard science.
The Massive Dynamic website of the fictional, monolithic corporation that touches everything in the Fringe universe is still up and running. It offers a peek inside this probably sinister company, including mock press releases you can download. It also led to an ARG that Jonathan Waite covered on ARGNet.
Fringe launched a scavenger hunt at the 2008 Comic-Con in San Diego, and an online sweepstakes began at the now dead, imaginetheimpossibilities.com.
If you watch or read interviews with the showrunners or cast of Fringe, fans are almost always acknowledged with a heartfelt thanks. Everyone involved with production knows the opportunity to see Fringe through to a satisfying conclusion was a rare and wonderful television event. Often, the showrunners shifted the plot of the series because of fan feedback. This is most evident in season five, where numerous fan favorite episodes made cameos – or became integral plot points, as in the case of “White Tulip.”
“White Tulip” by Anthony Petrie
In January 2013, Jensen Carp of Gallery 1988 curated the “Fringe Benefits” exhibition. Known for showing art inspired by television shows, like Breaking Bad. With “Fringe Benefits” co-creator J.J. Abrams and his team asked viewers to judge 31 episodes. The top six episodes acted as inspiration for artists to create work. Limited edition prints were sold online, and proceeds went toThe Mission Continues, which awards community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans.
One of the best things about Fringe was its sense of humor. Typically, Dr. Walter Bishop was the character tickling ribs. Having lost his mind and lived in a St. Claire’s Mental Institution for 17 years, his wild perspective was always fodder for fun. Also, his frequent LSD and THC trips made for some of the series most imaginative and goofy episodes.
During the first season, Fringe was establishing their characters. A wild way to share intimate moments with Dr. Bishop was through silly supplementary shorts in the style of Jack Handy’s famous SNL “Deep Thoughts” called “Deep in the Lab by Walter Bishop.”
ALL FIVE COMPLETE SEASONS
At the foundation of all these bits and pieces is a great television show. If you haven’t checked it out, you can watch the entire series through Amazon. The fifth and final season DVD drops on May 7, 2013. Pre-order it here. Amazon Prime also has Fringe Seasons 1 through 4 to stream online at Amazon Instant Video.
If you’re a Netflixer, you can get disks mailed to your house.
I’m sure I missed something. Over five seasons, there have been tons of bread crumbs scattered across the Internet and real life. If you know an aspect of Fringe‘s transmedia swell I missed, please sound off in the comments.
I must thank all the sites dedicated to this now classic television show. They archived tons – tirelessly writing, recording podcasts and observing Observers in the background of scenes – for five seasons. Kudos for your devotion. I enjoyed your commentary nearly as much as I did the show, itself.