AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS Case Study & Interview with Christy Dena


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AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is an award-nominated web audio adventure for the iPad (with a Chrome App version coming soon!). You travel across the web with characters who face ridiculous obstacles to being themselves. It is inspired by audio drama, audio tours, and alternate reality games...and it's about identity, mortality, and pizza toppings...
This case study and interview gives you a behind the scenes look at the creation of this innovative narrative experience.

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AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS Case Study & Interview with Christy Dena

  1. 1. Authentic in all caps Case Study & Interview w/ Christy Dena
  2. 2. AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is an award- nominated web audio adventure for the iPad. You travel across the web with characters who face ridiculous obstacles to being themselves. It's about identity, mortality, and pizza toppings. what is it?
  3. 3. why look at this project? Christy Dena has long been a force of nature in the transmedia world. Her dedication is not only to the craft of world building but also in developing community and creating open forums to develop best practices. Her work is as much about the final product as it is about the creation of an open source set of processes and tools to help us all build better projects.
  4. 4. Why did you make this project? After working on commissioned projects for brands, agencies, and broadcasters, I wanted to do a project that takes the sensibilities of professional team work and approach and mixes them with a healthy dollop of creative freedom. All projects have constraints, but this is one where we can say and do a lot more than other client-led situations.  The idea of the audio-driven navigation system came in response to a problem I saw happening in highly dispersed projects. There is a design issue/challenge in successfully encouraging your players or audience to travel across numerous websites - to go to lots of different "places" to experience a work of fiction. Many creators have gone the route of "convergence", where they combine everything in the same place...thus removing any "divergence". I'm interested in "unmixed media" aesthetics. So the question I asked, is how can I maintain divergence whilst benefiting from convergence? The audio-driven navigation system does this. An audio layer works as an intangible glue, guiding you across different spaces. 
  5. 5. Why did you make this project? As for the story. There are a lot of influences on the playful story of AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS. A major one is the unexpected death of  my mother from an aneurysm. I took care of her property, and spent a long time searching through her books, notes, emails, and phone calls, to understand what had happened and why. I became a Philosophy Detective.  And then there is the ongoing journey of "being yourself" - how I've spent my life peeling back the layers of what I should be, and how so much of the world makes it so weirdly difficult to do anything but the "shoulds".
  6. 6. The project started with the idea of audio tours of the web. I worked on developing a startup technology business that utilises that idea. At first the plan was to release a creative project as a way to showcase what the technology can do, and open it up for anyone to create their own audio tour of the web – for educational/non-fictional or fictional purposes. The work involved in creating both a fictional project as well as a startup was huge, and so I had to make a decision which one I’d put my energy into — first at least. I decided on the creative project of course. how did you come up with this idea? So the idea developed away from an audio tour, to more of a radio drama layer that involves traversing specially-created fictional websites. While there are many characters in the story, you travel primarily with the Pathologist and Part-Time Time-Travel Student. The characters live in a world split in two: the Overworld and the Underworld. The Pathologist decides to take on a bet to find the meaning of death. 
  7. 7. Why did you choose to open up the creative process through your creator’s log? Very early on in the process I started the diary of my thoughts. But my ideas kept changing and so I couldn't share them as they were happening. People may like a character and the next day I decide to not use it. I needed to have the freedom to create without people staring over my shoulder. But I do love sharing the process of creating and the insights I gain along the way. For some reason, the urge to create and the urge to share the process of creation are equally strong in me. The common factor is muddy messes. I channel what I experience into creative projects, and I channel the creative process into education. Either way, I take what I experience and try and make it into something useful...and beautiful. I also find other diaries and insights helpful and so I want to return the gift. 
  8. 8. What were the outcomes of working in this way? I was surprised by what I discovered from the diary process. The action of writing down my thoughts helped me understand and solve problems. The simple act of getting them out of my head and formed in words crunched through invisible walls. It was a nifty way to keep my notes together and easily searchable. I usually have pieces of paper and notepads all over the place. By using a document I always knew where the ideas were and could search for terms. Importantly too I discovered things about myself. For instance, I noticed that I would have an intuition about something but then would investigate through testing alternatives. Some time later I would end up having the idea again after I forgot I had it already. So I learned to trust my first instincts more. 
  9. 9. creative goals Audio is a powerful element in any creative project -- and we're drawing on it to explore characters, setting, navigation, and emotion on the web in a new way. The unusual mix of using audio as the major delivery mode, along with visuals, and the need to act, is a great creative challenge we're relishing. You don't just listen, you look, and do. But all of the visual and action elements need to compliment and not compete with the main audio channel. We're drawing on animation and audio tours to guide our insights. 1
  10. 10. creative goals In terms of character design, the story has a strong female lead that doesn't need saving but still has her own flaws. She is courageous enough to be herself. In fact, the whole ensemble of characters explore different aspects of the obstacles to being yourself -- from not knowing who you are, to being courageous in the face of financial, social, emotional, and psychological walls. This approach has meant finding some unusual approaches to protagonist, sidekick, and ensemble design 2
  11. 11. creative goals They are playing with an idea of 'immersion'. When you read a book or listen to a radio drama, you spend a lot of mental effort creating the environment and appearance of the characters in your mind. They want to encourage this imaginative projection as much as possible, and so we've developed aesthetic principles to facilitate this happening. 3
  12. 12. creative goals They are playing with the notion of 'space' on the web. What if each website is a 'place' -- a company, a building, a hideout? They are using spatial sound, wayfinding, and aesthetic principles we've developed to facilitate this idea. 4
  13. 13. creative goals They are making this for people who have always wanted to dive into stories delivered across the web but found them unapproachable; for people who have started engaging with online experiences but found they demanded too much time and effort to stay with; and for those that are keen to explore something fun and different. 5
  14. 14. Placeholder Text topicName
  15. 15. platform Overview over 1 hour of audio drama Social media accounts for characters over 10 websites all accessed via an iPad App or {upcoming} Chrome App Artifact: Sent to Registered Users
  16. 16. Placeholder Text topicName
  17. 17. Financing Small grant from Screen Australia to port the app (create a desktop version) and do a new trailer. Financially, AUTHENTIC happened because of 4 factors: Universe Creation 101 (Christyʼs company/Christy) channelling income to pay the sub-contractors and cast ($28,500AUD)* 1 2 Sub-contractors not charging full rates 3 Crowdfunding contributors from 14 countries (15,000AUD) 4 * Christyʼs own funds included paying for business development, marketing materials (trailers, posters), software and subscription costs, all the prototypes, and so on. She didn't draw any income for her work on this project over the 3 years of almost full-time work. In the end when she deducted fees and costs to run the crowdfunding campaign, the Pozible funds didn't end up contributing as much to the project. But the cash influx and the swelling of support were gold. 
  18. 18. Crowdfunding AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS Pozible crowdfunding campaign successfully reached its goal. length of campaign Number of contributors total amount raised A$15,214 242 30
  19. 19. Crowdfunding rewards for contributing app The unique web audio adventure that includes three 20+ minute episodes which involve moving through the 10+ websites, with optional playful missions, and further activities outside of the main audio experience. soundtrack Digital download of the complete custom soundtrack composed by Trevor Dikes of Soundplay Interactive for all three episodes! Here is a sampler of Trevor's work:
  20. 20. Crowdfunding Christy Dena shares her writing, design, and directing decisions made during the project. It includes videos, podcasts & articles that inspired or changed her thinking, art, audio files, writing scripts (see this article), as well as a topic-driven navigation system for ease of use. This will be in digital format, but not iOS. creator’s log They created a personal audio introduction to AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS, guiding you to the app with a special narration written by Christy Dena and performed by the narrator of the project - the ACE comedian Jimmy James Eaton (who is also the narrator of our video). personalized prologue by jimmy james eaton Be a part of the development process by playing a pre-release version of the App. Find bugs and give us feedback! You'll need an iPad of course, and we'll be tracking your actions remotely, or if in Melbourne in person too! All playtesters will be in the credits of the App. user tester
  21. 21. Crowdfunding mini game In the AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS world, philosophers are gamblers. So we have a casino where philosophers play...philosophy games. Some are games you'd find in a casino, with a philosophic edge, and others are just games that make you think...really think. For example, we like games such as Jason Nelson's game, game, game and again game as well as Molleindustria's Every Day the Same Dream. But let your imagination go wild. If you would like to create your own special philosophy game (or let us know about your existing one), we'll link to it from the app! In the AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS world, Artists are Assassins. They get funding and critical acclaim by killing people with their art. You can be a part of the AUTHENTIC world by having your own Artist Assassin Avatar created by artist Simon Howe (the artist behind the video). We'll work with you, and based on the character traits you select (art weapon, weaknesses, etc), an avatar will be created and exist in the world upon launch! artist assassin
  22. 22. Crowdfunding sponsor You or your team can have a 2 hour meeting with Christy and a crew or cast member. We'll do this either in person (if in Melbourne) or via Skype, or some form. We can do a presentation, consult on your work, entertain, whatever cunning plan you come up with! As a sponsor, you'll receive 3 copies of the complete 3 episode iPad App, the Creator's Log (digital version), and your branding included as a special sponsor in the App for all players to see. consulting
  23. 23. marketing strategy Christy started by launching a website and teaser trailer right at the beginning o the project, back when I didn't even have a full script. She did this to commence the long process of building an audience, to gather some pre-sales, and to collect data about who the project appealed to. That resulted in some pre-sales peers sharing the news, some articles and podcast interviews. The awareness was out there and so I continued to casually get the news out at industry presentations. The next major milestone was the crowdfunding campaign. I spent months researching journalists and strategies. The campaign involved personal emails to people, special landing pages, press kit, trailer, interviews an so on.
  24. 24. marketing strategy That attracted an amazing response from my peers and beyond, with people around the world supporting the project. When it finally came to the release of the app I had run out of money. But Screen Australia had offered me a small grant to port the app and create a trailer. So I decided to leave the full launch until I had all that in place. I did, however, do small things such as creating personalized prologues to the experience. I researched some journalists and created a custom script narrated for them. That was a hit with some of the journalists and a blast to do. The next stage is to release the new trailer with announcements and the desktop version of the app.
  25. 25. audience The primary audience is 35-49 year olds, equally male and female. Younger and older audiences find it appealing though too. She found that story-lovers respond to it the most ardently, with sales from around the world. It appeals to alternate story and format-lovers, and surprisingly not necessarily those who have an existing interest in audio.  
  26. 26. response The response post-soft-launch has been quiet but growing. She hasnʼt done hardly any promotions since the soft launch, but she has had sales around the world. Players have sent her emails about the experience and the project was selected for the 2014 Electronic Literature Organization's Media Arts Show. It was reviewed along literary novelists which is a great sign regarding the place it has for some players. It is also being studied by cross media design students in Sweden.
  27. 27. Team ipad version CAST (in order of appearance) Narrator + Underworld Goon: Jimmy James Eaton Pathologist: Alison Richards Assistant: Nadia Collins New Client: Adam McKenzie Ticket Officer + Philosopher Gambler: Ben McKenzie Philosopher Ex: Stefan Taylor Artist Assassin: Richard McKenzie Quantum Pizzeria Waitress: Tegan Higginbotham Quantum Boss + Philosopher Gambler: Kevin J Powe Writer, Designer, Director: Christy Dena, Universe Creation 101 Sound Artist: Trevor Dikes, Soundplay Interactive Illustrator: Yangtian Li App Art: Adam (Elroy) Mazzitelli Logo: Simon Howe Artifact Art: Juliana Loh App Programmer: Craig Peebles Web Programming: Andrew Hine, Penny Lyle, Adam (Elroy) Mazzitelli, Ajay Ranipeta, Christy Dena Recording Production Assistant: Pamela Davidson Featured Music: The Guggenheim Grotto Teaser Editor: Atalanti Dionysus CREW
  28. 28. Team crowdfunding campaign CREW Writer-Director: Christy Dena, Universe Creation 101 DOP & Editor: Lester Francios Animator + Logo: Simon Howe Sound Artist: Trevor Dikes, Soundplay Interactive Web Programmer: Ezra Silman CAST Narrator: Jimmy James Eaton prototype 2 CREW Writer-Designer-Director: Christy Dena, Universe Creation 101 App Programmer: Craig Peebles Artist: Juliana Loh Sound Artist: Trevor Dikes, Soundplay Interactive CAST Narrator: Jimmy James Eaton Pathologist: Rebekah Stone Assistant: Nadia Collins New Client: Adam McKenzie Ticket Officer: Ben McKenzie Philosopher Ex: Stefan Taylor
  29. 29. Team CREW Writer-Director: Christy Dena, Universe Creation 101 Producer: Beatrix Coles Art Director & Editor: Garth Jones Web Programmer: Tom Stones DOP & Editor: Adam (Elroy) Mazzitelli CAST Featured Player: Leena van Deventer Cafe Extra: Laura Crawford prototype 1 concept teaser CREW Writer-Designer-Director: Christy Dena, Universe Creation 101 Producer: Simon J. Green Sound Designer & Composer: Stephan Schutze Tutorial Graphic Artist: Nilson Rea CAST Narrator: Rebekah Stone Pathologist: Karin Muiznieks Assistant: Tegan Higginbotham New Client: Richard McKenzie Ticket Officer: Adam McKenzie Philosopher Ex: Stefan Taylor
  30. 30. Team Christian McCrea Dan Golding Danny Stefanic Jessica Lowry JC Hutchins Katharine Neil Kevin Marks Morgan Jaffit Russ Weakley Sarah Jansen playtesters Consigliere Anna Burkey Beatrix Coles Brian Jeffery Deb Polson Edward Colclough Harry Lee Lois Spangler Morgan Jaffit Robert Reid Sayraphim Lothian
  31. 31. next steps Christy always wanted to make the App accessible beyond the iPad, and so the Screen Australia grant permits that. She decided to port it to a Chrome App because Chrome has huge market penetration, the app isn't limited by platform concerns such as iOS or Android, and it suits the aesthetics of the project the best. She has made the Creator's Log public, and she will be making some announcements over the next few months... 
  32. 32. links
  33. 33. get in touch! TMC Resource Kit AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS Case Study & Intweview prepared by: Anthea Foyer @redsquidlab with help from Zan Chandler
  34. 34. THANKS to... tmcrk partners
  35. 35. tmcrk partners AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS Case Study is released under a NonCommercial ShareAlike Creative Commons license to be shared, remixed and expanded non-­‐commercially, as long as you credit the TMC Resource Kit, the creator of the Case Study, Anthea Foyer or Dr. Siobhan O’Flynn, and license your new creations under the identical terms. Third party images retain their original copyright.