Awake

An interactive 360° film where viewers use tablets to explore the wake of esteemed cultural critic Leyland Barracroft, uncovering schemes, secrets and shame.

Role: Writer and script editor
View the project on GoPano.com (best with an iPad)
View a script from one of the rooms (PDF)
View a sample from the story database used for organizing the interactive narrative (PDF)

October 2013 – December 2013

 

What I Changed?

The Awake team, minus myself, who was back in the studio.

Awake was a complex and constantly-changing project. Developing 360° film is tricky at best and with a limited scope (especially for time) the team had to pivot and iterate very quickly. This was a project with a tremendous amount of writing and narrative work–Awake provides four major storylines in each room (iPad), all of which interact and progress towards several endings. The writing team had to mesh multiple early story concepts and produce a huge amount of written script to make the story interactive.

After providing two story concepts that were fused together with two others into one story arc, I created the design of the plot to incorporate the interactivity provided. Each room at the fictional wake had to be viewable on a separate iPad with characters moving between them to create a story in each room and with each character, not to mention the experience as a whole. This plot map became the basis for the division of writing tasks, which I coordinated, and also for meshing the storylines and characters together.

The team had to collectively re-scope several times. The interaction design changed early on, and that forced the writing team to expand the storylines. We also had to adapt from a film storytelling model into a theatrical model to account for what the technology could do. Limits on casting and location layout, as well as time and team ability meant some significant iteration had to occur once the scripts were written.

 

What I Learned

The Awake Team on set, exhausted after a 14-hour shoot.

This was the second project I’d led a writing team on, and establishing the collaborative culture and boundaries between five writers in five days was difficult but worth it. Once each person was responsible for owning a character, content began coming together. Unfortunately, the quick and Agile iterations on the interaction design (which I was doing simultaneously while writing script) meant that it was very hard to get all five writers on board and on the same page with the complex story structure. Given the time limits, scoping down the complexity and amount of writing would have been wise. I learned that it is essential to create and maintain absolute buy-in for a writing team early in the process. Because we spent a long time debating story directions, we ended up harming our ability to take control of the storylines later by losing time in concepting.

Local actor Gerald Williams, playing the late Leyland Barracroft, gets ready for shooting.

For the first time, material I had written was recorded in studio and acted out on a stage. That taught me to be more understanding of changes in direction that have to occur on the fly in order to keep production moving. It also helped to show me where I can adjust earlier in the process to avoid large changes having to be made. Scoping, testing and creating buy-in can help avoid lack of communication between production and story teams, a problem exacerbated by communication challenges and time constraints that will always exist.

Working with sound and with the new 360° video showed me new options for telling stories, as well as the effect those technologies have on scope. I learned a lot about GarageBand recording on this project and had to teach myself voice direction on the fly as the team only had one day to record all the 10 characters. I helped set up a recording schedule and manage between two separate studios while also coaching two professional actors and several students through long voice recording sessions. This was a big success for me, but I made some technical mistakes which I now know to look out for in the future.

 

Notes

Awake is available on the GoPano website where the films of each room can be viewed. I recommend viewing them on an iPad–more than one if possible–as the video rotates as one moves the iPad. The project has typically been displayed as an installation, using five iPads set up across a house or room. Each iPad displays a room as characters move in and out.

A sample script can be viewed as a PDF. This script covers one of the rooms in the story (equivalent to one iPad). Each room has its own story and, taken together with the others, reveals the secrets of the Barracroft family. Each writer covered specific characters, so these rooms are co-authored by the entire writing team.

I coordinated the story composition using, in large part, this database to track the main subject of each room and how each scene would be timed. The database provided a grounding during writing and a foundation for the changes necessitated during staging and technical production.

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