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All opinions on this site are those of Mike Jones and are not intended to represent his employers or associates.

 

Coming Aug 2015… 

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Tuesday
May262015

Talking art, craft and passion in genre cinema

Is Genre the Universal Language? Audio podcast of panel session I hosted at the 2014 Screen Producers Australia conference is now available. Joining me on stage where three eminent producers and directors - Roy Lee (The Ring, The Grudge, Bates Motel) Michael Rymer (American Horror Story, Battlestar Galactica, Hannibal) & Chris Brown (Daybreak’s, Bait, The Railwayman).

It was a great discussion offering genuine insight on both creative and commercial elements of development & production of Horror, SciFi and Fantasy films. You can listen to the full discussion here.

“Genre films are understood universally – and make up the greatest proportion of the top films at the yearly box office. A genre film can dissolve cultural and language barriers at film markets all over the world. They attract audiences and have the most commercial appeal in the international marketplace. However creatively they are often misunderstood. 

While some of global Hollywood’s great masters of cinema are acknowledged for their classic genre work (Ford, Capra, Scott, Scorsese) – or for transcending genre with high concept work in these categories – the commercial success of genre tends to position most films to play to the lowest common denominator.

Genre films provide globally recognisable plots, characters and settings, but they also involve a complex layering of psychology and thematic, compelling and enduring characters – and an intense sense of place – all packaged with ironic flourishes and kinetic energy.

This session will unravel some of the challenges of staying true to a genre and to your audience. It’s this combination of elements that makes producing genre films fascinating. Panelists will discuss their approach to the highly creative aspects of genre filmmaking.

In today’s challenging environment of rapidly changing consumer habits, producers are also recalibrating approaches to releasing and marketing a genre film. While genre films are known for their box office clout many do also fail – what are the pitfalls? How easy are they to finance? Panelists will also discuss their experiences of setting up and producing a genre film compared to their work in drama”

Speakers:

Roy Lee - Producer, Vertigo Entertainment US

Michael Rymer – Producer/Writer/Director – Astral Pictures

Chris Brown – Producer, Pictures In Paradise

Mike Jones – Head of Story Development, Portal Entertainment, UK

Sunday
May032015

WebiPod - WebSeries Development Program

Over the next few months I’m going to be showing up all over the place to talk about writing and run a series of masterclasses and development programs for writers and producers working across platforms and genres. 

The Melbourne and Byron Bay writer’s festivals, Supernova, the Queensland Writer’s Centre, Storycode Sydney and PlatformX with the Australian Writer’s Guild are just some of the events I have locked in through June, July and Aug.  

And in the middle of these is the very exciting WebiPod with ScreenACT in Canberra.  

WebiPod is the latest in a long line of intensive development programs run by ScreenACT focused on generating new and innovative works by writers and producers. In July I’ll be running WebiPod centred on the creation of WebSeries and OnlineTV projects; a program that will blend writer-centric processes for episodic storytelling and storyworld building, with audience and business model thinking. 

The days of the Youtube amateur free-for-all are gone. As the distinction between ‘broadcast’ and ‘online’ TV collapses, audiences are becoming increasingly demanding and broadcasters see the online space as a first-run environment for commissioning and developing programs. The rigour and discipline of storytelling for the online space has become more sophisticated. 

In WebiPod we’ll be exploring the spectrum of online-series forms - from indie stand-alone projects, to integrated cross-platform productions, to commissioned series for MCN’s (multi-channel-networks). And to meet the challenges of these opportunities we’ll be fleshing out a craft-centric process for shaping episodic stories and storyworld engines that can generate ongoing narratives. 

This link has all the information and how to book. Hope to see you there in July.

Monday
Apr272015

Supernatural Mystery Drama, 'The Kettering Incident', coming soon...

First teasers have started to appear for new Foxtel Supernatural Drama Series ‘The Kettering Incident’. It’s an extraordinary and ambitious show and working with showrunner Vicki Madden was one of those rare career privileges.

The Kettering Incident was shown to international buyers at this years MIPTV and high profile international trade press C21 included it in their pick of the top 20 new TV shows generating the most buzz.

Air date for ‘The Kettering Incident’ will be announced soon with the premiere screening being held at MONA’s Dark Mofo festival - tickets for which sold out in just 3hrs..! 

And stay tuned because Vicki and I are now working on some very cool future projects set in dark and spooky places… ;-)

Wednesday
Apr152015

PlatformX 2015 - Writing Development Program 

In a multiplaform world writers need to be flexible. Fundamentally that means being able to conceive and develop stories in a way that allows them to move and adapt across different formats - small screens and large, episodic, immersive and interactive. 

Good writing on any platform can only come from a good creative development Process. PlatformX is a writer’s development program created with the Australian Writer’s Guild back in 2013 aiming to arm established and emerging writers with a writing Process that was designed to bring structure, discipline and pragmatism to writing for multiple platforms. 

PlatformX is about taking the buzzword bingo and bullshit guru-speak out of terms like ‘Storyworld’, ‘Transmedia’ and ‘Immersive Storytelling’  and articulating a tangible writing process that is grounded in long-standing narrative principles and practical, industry and audience-centric thinking for the the digital age. 

PlatformX is not a formula, nor a set of rules, it’s a development program looking to deliver a dynamic process for writers - one that provides a scaffolding for flexibility without sacrificing craft.

Today the Australian Writers Guild has announced the third iteration of PlatformX in partnership with StoryCode Sydney, which will continue to build on the successes of previous programs.

The most exciting part of PlatformX has been the collision of fresh blood with experience in the open writers-room spirit of the program. The multiplatform space over the past decade has been full of energy but, sadly, very thin on story craft. PlatformX is very much about rectifying that problem and bringing experienced writers with lots of skin the game to the table with the digital-native energy of emerging writers.

Celebrated Australian Screenwriter Deb Cox (Gods of Wheat Street & Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) was a 2013 participant in PlatformX and the multiplatform project she brought to the table is now part of the slate of projects she is putting into production. 

‘The AWG Platform X initiative with Mike Jones was a fantastic way of taking time out to immerse myself in the world of online storytelling, learn about the range of projects out in the world and be inspired by the possibilities for my own. With the benefit of Mike’s vast knowledge base and his story-crafting expertise, I felt confident to develop my multiplatform youth drama series in a supportive and encouraging environment that took it to the next level - helping to secure Screen Australia Enterprise funding to bring it one big step closer to realisation!’

So here’s what we’re looking for…

 

  • Exciting and dramatically engaging storyworlds that have the potential to span across platforms old, new and interactive. 
  • A narrative concept that is a powerful story engine - one that can drive experiences beyond a single plot or a single platform and which encapsulates a clear role for the audience to participate or play.
  • Creators with a strong sense of audience, engagement and genre as well as projects that will compel an audience to immerse themselves and become active within a rich experience.
  • You do not have to be a technology expert. We are looking for writers with vision and ideas for constructing narratives across media forms. 
  • This intensive master class is about distilling and articulating those ideas into a refined concept that can be presented and pitched with clarity and vision that spans multiple formats. 

 

To apply visit the AWG for guidelines and entry forms.

Wednesday
Mar252015

The Transgressions Cycle - PreOrder Now!

Pre-Orders are now Live in iBooks and Amazon for my new Supernatural Gothic Horror series…

“‘The Transgressions Cycle’ delves deep into the classic supernatural ‘weird tale’ and the long history of the gothic horror story. It stands on the legacy of great gothic writers - Poe, Lovecraft and M.R. James to bring a reflective gothic horror experience to a new generation.

Each self-contained novel of madness, mystery, ghosts, terrors and redemption, collates into a larger anthology exploring the shadowy corners of the human psyche - characters running from their sins, their personal demons and from themselves, confronting haunting spectres, monsters and manifestations of a dark past that compel them toward restoration.

The Transgressions Cycle is haunting, mysterious and darkly satisfying. Elevated genre with broad appeal, a guilty thrilling pleasure taken in the domestic confines of the home, in the dark, late at night…”

“The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces…” H. P. Lovecraft.

http://www.thetransgressionscycle.com

Monday
Mar232015

Six Principles for Writing in a Multiplatform World.

Long-standing tenets of narrative still hold, but if we’re going to live and work in a multiplatform world - where audiences are spread across many narrative forms, not conglomerated together around a dominant - then Writers may need to rethink their processes and even the definition of what they are and what they do…

My own work sees me hopping regularly between forms - from TV and Books, to Interactive and Online. And in juggling those shifts it’s become crucial to recognise what is consistent between them rather than focus on what is different. And from that thinking below are my 6 principles for writing in a multiplatform world.

1.
The Book, the Comic Book, the Theatre, the Radio, the Cinema and the Television - these are the long established forms of narrative storytelling. Yet despite the advent of the computer, the game console, the mobile device and the virtual reality helmet, NONE of them have gone away, none of the established forms have ever been made obsolete. The dominance of particular medium may shift with time, but they endure and they remain. We add new storytelling forms, but we have never replaced any.

2.
With increasingly diverse platforms, audiences diversify across them. What this means for writers is both profound and very simple - In a multiplatform world a Writer cannot be defined by a Medium. Novelist, Playwright, TV Writer, Feature Film Writer… these are unhelpful descriptors; restrictive with no ability to scale or adapt. In a multiplatform world the expectation of a writer is that they can work across platforms and that their skills are relevant and applicable in a variety of mediums.

3.
Technology has never changed what a Story is or what audiences expect of it. The commonality of Story between a stageplay, a novel, a film and a video game is much stronger than anything technology can throw at it. Tension, Action, Catharsis and Transformation, Character, Dramatic Questions and the rise and fall of hope and fear in the audience. These are technology independent. But technology and new platforms do change Process and ‘Narration’. They change the Process by which we develop stories and they change the way they are Narrated to an audience. In a multiplaform world, writers need to be closely examining and articulating their development Process and the mechanics by which they execute on Narration.

4.
Storyworld before Story. The central IP that a Writer creates and possesses is not their plots or their characters but the storyworld that generates both. Storyworld as a vibrant pressure cooker of oppositional forces that propel ongoing narratives that can be generated across platforms. Storyworld is a platform and technology independent story engine, so your ability to design dynamic storyworlds is fundamental.

5.
Genre is platform agnostic. Genre defines emotional expectations, genres tell us how a story is going to make us feel and a story that sits within a genre makes a promise to deliver on those feeling states. This emotional expectation is the dominant driver of audiences. The narrative execution of genre is consistent regardless of technology or platform. The story tools of Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Comedy are universal to any platform, so understanding genre at a rich and sophisticated level, not just as superficial trappings, is crucial to delivering compelling stories that can work on different platforms.

6.
As a writer in a multiplaftorm world your ability to TALK is more important than your ability to write. The ability to build, extend, articulate, express, communicate and verbalise story ideas in collaborative open writers-room environments is the most important skill you can possess.

Friday
Mar062015

Storyworld Rules

Worlds are Defined by Rules. As true in life as it is in fiction. In this gloriously simple document, seminal animation director Chuck Jones sets out his 9 Rules for ‘The Road Runner’ cartoon series.

Tomorrow I’ll be delivering a 2-day masterclass on Multiplatform Writing and Storyworld Design as part of the AFTRS Open​ ReFrame series.  Front centre of the writing process I will lead participants through, will be defining and articulating the rules of their Storyworld. 

Before characters and plots, there must be rules. And the best narrative rule-systems will be those that are naturally pressurised to generate and spawn ongoing storylines and characters. You only have to read Chuck Jones’ 9 rules and already the endless story possibilities begin to pop…

Wednesday
Feb252015

The Transgressions Cycle...

Sneak peak… my new supernatural gothic horror book series, ‘The Transgressions Cycle’, coming Aug 2015 from Simon&Schuster… Stay tuned. More to come including speaking events, festivals and more..


Monday
Feb092015

Inventing the Future: Innovation Incubators for the Media & Entertainment Industry

Over the past year, in my role developing horror and thriller interactive projects with Portal Entertainment, I have been involved with the TimeWarner MediaCamp incubator program. Such a program is designed to import and cherry-pick innovation development for a major entertainment business like WarnerBros. Portal was one of  a handful of companies brought into the program and put thorough an intensive incubation process. For Portal this was based on our technology platform that creates interactive narrative experiences that react to audiences emotions and facial expressions. In other words horror stories that know how scared you are… For us this fusion of tech platform and narrative experiences in intrinsic and it spoke to the objectives of a major entity like WB. 

Post-grad student from the Australian Film TV and Radio School Chantal Abouchar recently completed a detailed thesis  paper examining the role of incubator programs and profiling the Warner Bros Mediacamp program in particular. In the paper Chantal poses important and provocative questions around the nature of innovation in the media and entertainment space and asks the simple question, Could Australia’s media and entertainment industry benefit from such a model?

Chapter One focuses on definitions and context. Providing an overview of startups and startup communities, accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces. It provides a brief history of the startup space in Australia and the US, an overview of the different types of accelerators and incubators. 

Chapters Two and Three go into key case studies of the Turner/Warner media camps.

Chapter Four provides analysis of the research and conclusions of the findings and include brief case studies of the MAP accelerator program and two of the startups from Media Camp, Portal Entertainment and Incoming Media.

It makes for a compelling read if your thinking big about where innovation will come for creative practitioners sand where the real intersections between technology and experience will be.  

The full paper is available here (as a PDF) by kind permission of its author, Chantal Abouchar 

Friday
Jan302015

Re-Frame: The Storyworld Writers Workshop

I firmly believe that the creative work you make is only ever as good as the creative process that generates it. In a multi-platform world, the rigour, focus and discipline of that development process is more crucial than ever. 

In the midst of developing cross-platform projects with studios in the US and my own supernatural gothic horror project, ‘Transgressions’, here in Australia, I’m going to be putting my money where my mouth is with a dedicated workshop looking at storyworld development process for episodic TV and cross-platform projects entitled ‘Re-Frame: the Multiplatform Storyworld Writers Workshop’. 

The blurb reads like this….

“Following a structured process for shaping and framing a dynamic, narrative driven, storyworld for delivery across platforms, participants will be taken through a series of exercises, concepts and templates that will challenge the way they think about writing and story development.

From defining the rules that shape a dramatic cross-platform engine, to the interactive role-play for audiences immersing themselves in your storyworld, the workshop will encourage participants to engage with a fresh approach whilst grounding consistent and long-standing narrative principles, universal to platforms old and new. 

This workshop is suitable for writers with some experience, and would also be really useful for any producers developing their own dramatic concepts.” 

Details here. Love to see you there.