Based on Christopher Nolan’s 1998 debut feature The Following, our transmedia experience is an attempt to extend the film’s story universe by encouraging users to engage with Nolan’s narrative across several different platforms, that include: GPS cinema, Wordpress, and Facebook. Nolan’s film centers on a young writer who begins to follow strangers in order to gain inspiration for his first novel. His voracious appetite for voyeurism is soon satiated by one of his ‘subjects’; a man named Cobb who provides him with a glimpse into the criminal underworld. Cobb reveals to the writer that he is a serial burglar: a man who takes more pleasure in showing people what they have rather than what they have lost. In other words, material gains from the crimes committed by Cobb are of secondary importance; more significant is the shock of violation that he engenders in his victims that cause them to re-examine their lives.
Using our own original footage (shot on the Canon 7D) and social media platforms such as Facebook and Wordpress, our group extends Nolan’s story universe and further develops the unique relation between the Writer and Cobb through a transmedia narrative experience. Our group endeavors to create a hyper-textual narrative for users that immerses them in an intricate story universe and engages them in the bond shared between the characters in The Following and the concept of voyeurism in contemporary society that our project is predicated upon.
I. GPS Cinema
In order to produce a fully realized version of our project for this class, our narrative is restricted within the York University Keele Campus. Due to the time allotted for this project, and the respective schedules of our group members, the film could only be shot on campus in order to meet the project deadline. However, our group imagines the narrative of our GPS film, taking place in Toronto’s downtown core. We discussed the idea of utilizing recognizable landmarks within Toronto to establish a topographic bond with our users. Furthermore, we also aspired to use Cobb’s logo as a marking point for chosen areas in the film to extend the visual motifs from our story world into the reality of Toronto’s physical landscape. In other words, posters, stickers and (more ambitiously) Vuforia markers would appear at the designated points of our GPS narrative. Overall, our group’s goal with this project is to blur the boundaries between story world and reality: to reinvigorate the user’s physical surroundings through a compelling narrative that encourages them to interact with their reality in new and imaginative ways.
Although our group is extending Nolan’s narrative, we aspire to take our story beyond the relationship between the Writer and Cobb to include new characters to accommodate the diverse personalities of our users. In other words, our group would like to develop more compelling characters that provide our users with a selection of possible stories to follow and identify with. Furthermore, our group discussed the idea of certain, ‘privileged’ users getting acquainted with characters from our story world in the flesh. Working on the basis of a reward system, users who activate numerous GPS points may be granted the opportunity to meet with characters at other locations and thus become active characters in their own right. By visually documenting these interactions between user and character(s) and uploading them to our social media outlets (Facebook,Twitter, Wordpress) we hope to blur the distinction between active participant and active character.
III. Social Media
The social media aspect of our project is integrated in order to flesh out the characters in the GPS narrative, namely the ‘Writer’ and ‘Cobb’. The Writer is the character we as the user inhabit, following Cobb to gain inspiration for our novel. Using social media, our group intends on extending this peculiar relationship beyond the physical landscape of reality into the fluid environment of the digital. Creating a blog for the ‘Writer’, we intend on providing our users with psychological insight into the Writer’s character and filling in the narrative space left unfilled by our GPS videos. The short posts on the Writer’s blog are not meant to encourage narrative cohesion, but rather provide the user with small bits of story information to deepen their understanding of the GPS film.
Our group also developed a Facebook profile for ‘Cobb’ to further flesh out his character. Like the Writer’s blog, Cobb’s Facebook profile provides the user with alternative narrative information that encourages more involvement in the story. Pictures, videos, and text are uploaded to the profile to further develop the GPS films and build on the mystery shrouding the relationship between the Writer and Cobb.
Our aspirations for the social media aspect of our project are to engage users in a narrative that is told across different platforms and as a result encourages them to engage in storytelling in many different ways. By chatting with Cobb over Facebook, or posting to the Writer’s blog, social media can be used as an auxiliary to the visual narrative provided by the GPS films. In sum, social media is being utilized to stimulate our user’s interest in the narrative: the nexus between digital platforms and GPS cinema create an intricate narrative structure for the user to navigate through, and interact with in a more rewarding and invigorating way.
Although our group successfully bridged the narrative across these different social media, we have aspirations to further develop these aspects of transmedia storytelling. We discussed the idea of using these media outlets to implement a ‘reward’ system into our GPS cinema experience using ‘bonus’ story information that provides dedicated users with more intimate insights into both characters. If a user visited all the GPS points for instance, we would provide them with additional photos or videos via Facebook or e-mail. Furthermore, we also discussed the notion of sending our committed ‘followers’ objects that correspond with Cobb’s character, such as his favorite books, movies and/or paraphernalia related to the narrative. Overall, our aspiration is to not only use social media to simulate real interaction with the characters in our narrative but also to establish a reward system built around story information that gives devoted users more access.
IV. Technical & Creation Process
For our project, we settled on using the Canon 7D to shoot all of our scenes for the film.
The Canon 7D appeared well-suited for our project: it provides the cinematic aesthetic we are after and Andrew not only owns the camera but is also a skillfully, trained operator. Although our group did grapple with the idea of using cellphone footage to heighten the sense of realism we felt is crucial for our narrative, the 7D ultimately offered a sharper image that could be easily discernible on the small iPad and iPhone screens we imagined being used to access our project.
Andrew’s Steadycam rig proved useful for the production process, as it permitted the first-person perspective we are telling the story from to become mobile. Thus, our footage provides the user with a sense of mobility, as it brings to life the act of ‘following’ that is demonstrated by Cobb in the film. Overall, our visual aesthetic is mapped closely to Nolan’s cinematography in his film The Following: the high-contrast black-and-white, grainy footage is recreated by our group in order to immerse our user in the neo-noir atmosphere of the film’s narrative.
While we focused our attention on communicating our narrative through GPS cinema, our group did imagine utilizing the other technologies highlighted in the course, namely: Vuforia, the Flartoolkit, and the Ladybug camera. We discussed the idea of establishing Vuforia markers at the site of our GPS destinations to convey even more story information to the user. Alternatively, we imagined using the Flartoolkit in a similar way; where physical markers would be hidden at our GPS points and could encourage the user to physically participate in our narrative. Lastly, our group aspires to integrate the unique aesthetic afforded by the Ladybug camera to provide users with the 360 degree view of the locations that appear in our GPS narrative. Overall, our group’s goal is to incorporate as mediums as possible into our narrative to encourage different methods of participation from our users. Vuforia, the Flartoolkit, and the Ladybug camera are all technologies that we imagined utilizing in order to provide our users with unique visual perspectives that go beyond the ‘cinematic visuality’ of Nolan’s original film.
In re-creating Cobb’s character in our GPS narrative, our group decided that a logo would be useful in not only intensifying the mystery shrouding our story, but also embedding another form of vision in our transmedia experience. Nick developed several logo prototypes that could capture the feeling of deception that pervades the narrative in addition to stimulating the user’s curiosity in our project. Our group settled on an image of a serpentine arm holding an apple: a logo that evokes the deception, treachery and curiosity that we feel are the overarching themes of our narrative. Our aspirations behind the use of this logo are manifold. While we use this logo currently as Cobb’s Facebook profile picture, and to signal the beginning of each of our GPS videos; our group hopes that this logo could be utilized around the city as a visual motif to campaign for our transmedia project. In other words, our group hopes that this logo could be one of the primary gateways to our project that stirs curiosity in surrounding communities and pulls potential users into the story world via an image.
Nick, Morgan & Andrew