Pandemic 1.0 heads to Sundance

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be headed to the Sundance Film Festival with a new project entitled Pandemic 1.0 This marks the first step in a rolling release of a new storyworld that I’ve been building. It is part of what I’ve been calling a storytelling R&D (research and development) process.

Pandemic 1.0 Lance Weiler (U.S.A.)
Pandemic 1.0 is a transmedia storytelling experience that spans film, mobile, online, real-world, social gaming and data visualization. Over the course of the festival the story will unfold enabling viewers / players to step into the shoes of our protagonists. The story experience starts when a mysterious sleep virus begins to affect the adults in a small rural town, the youth soon find themselves cut off from civilization and fighting for their lives. Will they survive? Can you survive?


Hope is Missing

While going through some older files I found this case study for an ARG that I ran in 2007.

CINEMATIC GAMES: The first version of the cinema ARG started with a number of mashup screenings of my newest feature film HEAD TRAUMA. Version 1.0 was a collision of music, movies, gaming and tech. Here is a story that Current TV did about the release.

hope is missing

For HOPE IS MISSING the goal was to create a social media driven ARG. We wanted the game to have various levels of interactivity. For instance, someone might just watch the web series and do nothing more – others might choose to dig deeper.

HOPE IS MISSING consisted of four web films that were loaded with hidden clues. The videos were released on stage6, myspace and xbox. By design we wanted to make the ARG (alternate reality game) accessible. In order to do so, we created layers of interactivity that allowed viewers to go as deep into the experience as they wanted.

The Interactive Layers:
1. just watch the videos
2. read the forums
3. dig for clues
4. capture and share clues
5. create their own worlds – blogs, wikis, forums, and chat rooms

Richard Chambers is searching for his fiancee named Hope who has been abducted. Hope returned home after receiving a series of strange late night phone calls from her mother. In the brief conversations her panicked mother is convinced that people are in the house and trying to kill her. After each call Hope phones the police but when they arrive they find nothing and Hope’s mother has no recognition of making any calls or the incident.

After Hope returns home she uncovers her mother’s strange nocturnal behaviors and realizes that her mother is not alone. Hope begins to dig deeper in an attempt to pull her mother out. But then Hope mysteriously disappears – abducted by a hooded figure – her last moments are captured by a surveillance camera.

As the date of Richard and Hope’s wedding approaches he becomes frustrated with the way the police are handling the case. He is determined to marry her on Oct. 20th. But as things are lucking grim Richard receives a strange package in the mail. Inside the package are a number of tapes that show Hope, a strange letter and a return address that only says Deep Throat. Richard reaches out the video sharing sites and social networks in an attempt to spread the word.

Nocturnal Behaviors

We created four web episodes with the goal of releasing them leading up to the Warner Bros VOD release of HEAD TRAUMA. Each webisode was riddled with clues. There where audio clues that had backwards masking and subliminal frames that contained ciphers of varying degrees of difficulty. Once solved the clues lead to numerous hidden sites, blogs, social networking profiles and other media. They are what as know as rabbit holes in the ARG community which is a nod to Alice in Wonderland.


The HOPE IS MISSING ARG took a decentralized approach to releasing the game elements. ARGs typically will have many hidden sites and digital assets. For instance the 42 entertainment ARG for the THE DARK KNIGHT, the newest Batman film, has 10 different sites (as of 11.24.07). In order to increase our reach we gathered a number of partners and releasing outlets to help expand our reach.

Media Outlets: – this site is no longer active – the site will only be live through Nov.


Hidden sites

As the game unfolded we leaked clues detailing a number of secret HEAD TRAUMA drive-in screenings. In order to find the the locations players remixed a collection of media through As they remixed, certain combinations of footage unlocked hidden clues. These clues provided information about screening locations and point to additional hidden assets.



One of the subtle builds of the game was to blend the storyline of HOPE IS MISSING directly into the VOD promotion of HEAD TRAUMA. As a reward to players we offered a number of free screenings. The screenings were held in Milwaukee, San Francisco, San Raphael, and LA.

I was at the LA screening and over 70 people attended. The audience was a mix of people, some who were playing HOPE IS MISSING, others who discovered the location through friends that were playing, and some had simply stumbled upon the location and saw a movie playing.

The audience was a mixture people. There where those who were playing HOPE IS MISSING, others who discovered the location through friends that were playing, and finally some who had stumbled upon the location and saw a movie playing. During the screening audience members used their mobile phones to interact with the film’s characters. Then after the audience left, the movie followed them home. A couple days after the screening we called and texted everyone with a number of game related messages.

As players cracked the clues they were lead to hidden media, sites, blogs, and social networking pages. In some cases clues were multi-leveled and required keys in order to crack them. Often these harder clues would lead to a special call-in number that allowed the first 96 players into a special conference call. The calls included players and a number of moles from the game. During the calls players discussed clues and their theories around the game.ARGs are driven through community interaction so it is common to have moles or people within the game who assist with story or in some cases game direction. Players often help to shape game-play and in the case of HOPE IS MISSING we experience an interesting range of interactions as players created their own blogs, wikis, and forums around the game.



Some of the videos break into the top 10 most watched clips on the Web – Vidmeter 10.18.07



*Player interactions based on aggregation of forum posts and video comments across known outlets (myspace, stage 6, eyespot, etc.) – does not include player generated sites, blogs and forums.

Using apps to extend storytelling and build audiences

I recently wrote a piece for Filmmaker Magazine about designing mobile apps that extend storytelling and build audiences. Here’s a section from the story…

him artwork Jordan Grey

Where Data Meets Storytelling
Mobile apps offer not only a direct channel to audiences but they carry your story to places where the audience will consume it. As stories travel they can harvest a variety of data such as: GPS coordinates, viewer preferences and/or contact info. This data can be filtered and used in a variety of ways to enhance a story. For instance, media (video, audio, photos) can be released to viewers when they reach a certain location, data can be used to connect audience members who share similar interests around a story, and characters can contact players directly via SMS, e-mail or even phone calls.

With my newest feature/transmedia project HiM, my company Seize the Media, which specializes in story architecture (design and delivery of stories), is hard at work on a series of mobile applications and web browser-based extensions. Our efforts are focused on an area known as Contextual Storytelling – the use of data to enhance and customize the delivery of story elements and social entertainment experiences to audiences.

Pandemic is a transmedia property that resides within the storyworld of HiM. The game enables players to step into the shoes of the protagonist as they are forced to scavenge for food and encouraged to search for other survivors. One core feature of the game enables the player to create a 360-degree panoramic view of a space. By standing and snapping pictures in a circle, users can capture any space and place it within the game world. In a sense the Pandemic app creates a crowdsourced type MMO (massive multiplayer online game) that enables players to virtualize the real world around them.

Read more


Came across some of the “iamamiwhoami” vids at the end of last year and meant to follow up but have been too busy. The names of the vids look like coordinates and sure enough the folks at unfiction are on the case.

The marriage of ARGs and music is such a natural fit. NiN did an effective take on it with Year Zero a few years back. In fact many have thought these viral vids are the work of NiN and earlier tonight Trent Reznor tweeted


Gaming via the cloud

More and more things are moving to the cloud. The hype around OnLive and their solution for “Cloud Gaming” reached a fever pitch in early 2009. By years end they had a beta running. The following is a demo by CEO Steve Perlman to students at Columbia. As more things move to the “cloud” it offers interesting opportunities for new forms of social interaction. The following vid is cued to the demo section. But there is interesting info throughout the vid and Perlman gives a nice overview of the platform and biz model.