A few days ago, the Centre National du Cinéma organised a workshop on ‘new media’. And Prison Valley was invited. We chatted about web documentaries, ARGs, transmedia, cross media, and so on.
It was a day when people talked about how you could tell stories differently because the technology’s there and because it’s about time, for fuck’s sake, we changed the rules. Here’s the tale (linear, but for how much longer?) of a weird afternoon when we talked about anything and everything. And that was what was so good about it.
On 19th October, the Centre National du Cinéma invited every Parisian producer and writer interested in a strange thing strangely called ‘new media’ to the Forum des Images in the centre of town.
And it was strange.
And it was good.
And it was new.
And it was long.
And it was mixed.
The aim of the whole thing was to present eight selected projects out of the 87 that have been awarded grants from the CNC’s fund for so-called ‘new media’ since it was set up in 2007 – and one of them was Prison Valley (awarded in June 2009). It was a bit of window-dressing for a shop (the ‘new media’) that’s hardly even opened, hasn’t got its sign up yet but already has a queue waiting outside (three hundred bums on those Forum des Images seats, dammit!).
Guillaume Blanchot from the CNC opened the discussion by quoting a few key figures (“50% of the producers are from broadcasting and 50% are producers who founded specialist Internet companies.”) and a few promising signs such as “writers from a wide range of sociological backgrounds” meaning that some of us came from film and TV, some from Internet and video gaming, and some were into photography and publishing.
Which is why it was mixed.
Which is why it was new.
Which is why we’ve got to stop fooling around because it’s obviously this diversity that’s the whole point of the new media (dammit, bis repetitae). Melting borders; styles mixing, influencing each other, changing and shaking things up. Merging professions and knowledge, cultures and counter-cultures. In any case, that’s the type of thing we’re experimenting in Prison Valley. To blend different jobs, not superimpose them. Photo. Video. Forks in the path. Text. Journalism. Web. Interactivity. Hypertext. Hypermadness. Web and documentary. Web doc.
“Video games have been questioning linear storytelling and wondering how to break away from it for the last fifteen years.” Eric Viennot
Then Eric Viennot rolled up near the end. Eric makes video games. He created In Memoriam, one of the very first ARGs (augmented reality games). In one sentence, Eric brought the whole discussion to the point: “Video games have been questioning linear storytelling and wondering how to break away from it for the last fifteen years.” Eric’s a modest guy and what he really meant was this: the video game industry did away with linear narratives fifteen years back.
In the blink of an eye, a whole new world had opened up.
Maybe that was the real issue here: How do we tell a story differently because the technology is there and because it’s high time, for fuck’s sake, we changed the rules? How do you keep the feverish energy and rigour of journalism, but do something different with them because there’s no choice in the current journalistic crisis? How do you interest viewers in a story about the prison industry in the United States?
In a break, just before going out for one last cigarette, we went over to Eric at the bottom of the stairs. “Tell us where it is. And when. And how. And who are the best video game scriptwriters.” Eric smiled. He promised to put a few ideas up on his site. And he has.
To finish with, as always, here’s an original postcard (de)signed by Sébastien Brothier, Upian’s artistic director who’s as fast and good as the Wu-Tang Clan.
See you soon for some new adventures.