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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Interactive writing

I've just come off a rather interesting project. It was writing, directing and editing a character randomiser.

Oh yeah? What's that then?

Well it's a short interview with a character, in this case a salesman. He gives his views in answer to various questions. Except that everytime you watch it his views are different. In fact there are 42,000 various combinations.

Now that takes some writing! And some acting. The clip above shows just one version. In the spirit of the blog here some lessons learnt to share about this project in case others want to take this idea forward.

Writing it:The final viewing experience is made up of 3 sets of questions and answers. 5 different versions of each question. 8 different answers. I created a different script for each question and answer.

Technical stuff: Each question and answer was filmed with 2 cameras. The reason for this was so that during each answer I can keep popping up with 'noddies' or follow up questions. If I didn't do this then the audience would spot the randomiser working. It would be clear that any visual cut would be the randomiser picking a clip. This way you don't know what is a 'randomiser cut' and what is a 'normal cut'. So each question or answer is then edited up in final cut so I have 39 short clips. These are then selected and played (jukebox style) by the randomiser program which is build using Flash.

Shooting: The black set is just set up in a dark normal office room but with £300 worth of black material everywhere.

How to write it: The characters opinions are mapped on a grid so as to get a good range of views. From highly skilled to low skilled and high commitment to low commitment. It's then a case of reading it again and again, in lots of combinations. If they don't work then rewrite either the question or answer.

Does it work then?It works okay. I give it 8 out of 10. The writing works perfectly. In fact I think it is the questions that are letting it down. Because they can't really follow on that makes the performance difficult. It seems sometimes like I haven't listened. If I did it again I would probably work on that. One solution being a very definite pause and a clearer statement about moving on or drawing a line in the sand.

Here is a snapshot of the script. Or you can download the whole thing here.

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