Culture Hacker

My Culture Hacker column is extending beyond print. Earlier today, Filmmaker Magazine launched an online extended version of the column. I’ll be covering emerging tech, trends, policy issues and interesting projects at the intersection of technology and storytelling. If you’re working on a new app, immersive storytelling or gaming project I’d love to hear about it. Or if you’ve come across something interesting please let me know. You can contact me here.

For the kick off, I posted about my recent Twine unboxing. You can read it here.


It’s All About Story

The Summer issue of Filmmaker Mag is now on newsstands. For my Culture Hacker column I look at how transmedia can be used for R&D around stories.

Filmmaker Mag summer 2010

It’s tempting to get distracted. It happens to filmmakers all the time. Concern over gear, building audiences, developing social media strategies, new tools, new services. The promise of transmedia (the ability for a story to live beyond a single screen, device or medium) offers such rich storytelling potential. But for some it will become yet another distraction. Case in point: After a recent speaking engagement I was approached by a group of filmmakers. Some were trying to figure out the value of transmedia while others said with a sense of pride that they’d designed the perfect transmedia experience, as if it was something to check off a list. There was the Web component, a mobile series, a game and an app, not to mention an assortment of social media accounts thrown into the mix. It was if by adding more to their project they’d be guaranteed an audience in a media-saturated world.

Now don’t get me a wrong, I’m a strong proponent of filmmakers embracing emerging creative opportunities. But when I posed a simple question asking what the filmmakers with the perfect transmedia strategy were trying to say there was a moment of pause. I wasn’t asking about the plot or characters. I was looking for the passion behind the project. What was it that the filmmakers needed to say? What was their story really about? Interestingly, that simple question became paralyzing.

I’ve been there. I’m guilty of it. After all, most films are underdeveloped. It’s easy to fold to the pressure of what seems like a limited window of opportunity. The gut-wrenching feeling of “it’s either now or never!” But after finishing my last project I made a promise to myself that I would let the next one grow organically. By doing so I discovered that I could use transmedia as a way to develop the stories I wished to tell.

Transmedia is so much more than marketing and promotion. Of course, transmedia can benefit a project during a release or before, when a filmmaker attempts to build an audience. It also has value with regards to how a project can be funded and packaged. But let’s put that aside for a moment and focus on the creative side.

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For those in Europe who are interested in how storytelling is evolving, I’ll be part of a three day workshop called Transmedia Next which takes place in London Sept. 8,9,10. It’s a comprehensive look at how to fund, design, produce and distribute transmedia projects. Space is limited for more info visit

This Decade is About the Filter

More than a decade ago it was “search” that was driving innovation and large investments in both infrastructure and talent. When Google first started indexing unique URLs in 1998 there were already 26 million. Two years later the amount of indexed pages had crossed the billion mark. Flash forward to this winter and the amount of unique URLs exceeds 1 trillion.

We are swimming in a sea of data. On average Americans wade through 34 gigs of information a day according to a recent report by researchers at the University of California, San Diego. The ability to “filter” this information will drive future innovation. How people are posting, commenting and clicking will greatly impact the ways films are created, curated and shared over the next decade.

The desire to tap into social data is evident in recent deals that have Google, Microsoft and Yahoo lining up to access Twitter’s feed in an effort to improve their own traditional search results. The fact that three leaders in search are interested in something as small as 140 characters of information points to the value of social streams. From breaking news instantly, in many cases before traditional outlets, the power of word of mouth threatens to devalue massive ad spends by the studios; the ability of people to connect and communicate in real time through handheld devices is challenging many established industries while at the same time enabling a new form of social curation.



The Winter issue of Filmmaker Mag is on newsstands now. If you’re interested in checking out the newest Culture Hacker column it’s now live on the Filmmaker site. In the current column I spend some time with a number entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping some interesting startups.


It has been said that amazing things come out of difficult times. The recession of the late ’70s saw the birth of Apple and Microsoft. One can only wonder what innovation is going on today in garages, studio apartments and basements across the country.

I’ve often found it surprising that filmmakers spend years developing a film only to watch it die soon after it reaches the world. I’m sick of hearing the terms “creative,” “artist,” or even the phrase “I just want to make films,” as if uttering the expression excuses the lack of interest in the business aspect of our craft.

At the end of the day filmmakers are entrepreneurs. Independent filmmaking is very similar to bootstrapping a startup — long hours, little to no pay and big dreams. But are filmmakers so focused on a single film that they are missing larger opportunities to tell the stories they wish to make? Over the course of the last few months I’ve reached out to a number of interesting entrepreneurs in an effort to better understand what it takes to birth a company in today’s difficult economic times. In the process I came across some insight, which I think can be beneficial to filmmakers. READ MORE

CULTURE HACKER spring 2009

I’ve started writing a regular column for filmmaker magazine entitled Culture Hacker. The column just hit newsstands this past week.

I have to admit I’m a bit excited. As I stand waiting in an empty parking lot I feel as if I’m in a scene from All the President’s Men. Although I haven’t placed a red flag on a balcony, I have been granted entry to a world — one where music, films, games and books are free.

When Danny pulls up he seems like your average 20-year-old. Disheveled, self-aware and a tad bit paranoid. He’s excited to be interviewed but makes sure to remind me not to say anything to his parents in the event they come home.

Danny’s house sits at the end of a suburban cul-de-sac. His room is poorly lit. There is clutter. Piles of dirty laundry cover his floor, much of which appear to be t-shirts with logos. As he fires up his PC, there is an awkward silence as the system boots. His walls are adorned with posters of bands, scantily clothed women and beer. It strikes me that the analog things in Danny’s room were most likely purchased.

As I turn back he’s smiling and pointing to his computer screen. At first it appears to just be a product listing for Pirates of the Caribbean on Amazon. But as my eyes meet Danny’s tapping finger I see the words “download 4 free.” It looks like a mistake but Danny tells me with a sense of pride that I’m experiencing “Pirates of the Amazon,” which is an add-on for Firefox. Add-ons are simple scripts that enable the Firefox Web browser to extend its functionality. “Pirates of the Amazon” along with “IMDB Pirated,” which turns IMDB into a full-fledged torrent search engine of sorts, are two of the newer add-ons that are simplifying the discovery of torrents. – read more