Phrenic is having a one year anniversary party on Wednesday (post & pictures to come). Here are some screenshots from scenes I’ve been editing. Two take place in a creepy asylum environment. The other is a fun clone assassin episode. A new version of the app (with a new icon and design) is coming soon too. The website looks newer too! PhrenicWorld.com
League of Normal is a fun little distraction designed to be sort of like The Avengers meets The Office. It’s about a superhero who loses his powers and has to start living a normal life. I’m using some cool software called Plotagon to make it. I just type the script and the characters act it out with some text-to-speech thrown in there. (Much easier than the way I did Blind Date: A Grand Theft Auto Love Story.)
I’m in the process of notecarding out another feature. It’s probably the most fun part of making a movie because there is no technology to troubleshoot, people to schedule, locations to coordinate with, or money to try and not spend. It’s just writing and imagining new scenes and what could happen in those scenes. There’s not even dialogue yet. Improvisation happens sometimes on the set, but this notecard process is pure improvisation. What if this happened? What if this character did this? Sure, there is a little bit of practicality, like realizing that where a scene is set or how many people are in it can affect all the scheduling, budget, location scouting, etc. Working within limitations makes me more creative.
I wasn’t interested in doing another feature immediately after Did You Kiss Anyone? The idea of making a new standalone feature seemed almost tiresome at the time. If I was going to make another feature, I wanted to be excited about it. So instead I worked on what excited me: creating Phrenic. People seem to like it and I’ve been able to do some cool things because of it, like Grimmfest, speak at UO, the Film Trooper podcast, and the Foes of Reality interview. The app allows me to send push notifications to people who opt in, which amounts to sending a message directly to the screens to of the number of people you’d find in in a packed theater. The flexibility of the storytelling framework lets me experiment with new platforms, like Plotagon or Theatrics, as well as create new characters or storylines whenever I want.
But I missed making a feature and all the agony and ecstasy it involves. I toyed with going back to an old script and building a transmedia framework around it, but then I realized I’ve already got a transmedia framework with fans in place. After a few days of staring blankly lost in thought, I knew how I could make a feature that tied into the world of Phrenic and included some of the characters. I started writing out notecards, one per scene.
So far, I think it’s kind of awesome.
I was excited when Mary Erickson asked me to talk about indie film and transmedia for her film industry class at the University of Oregon. I was also a little nervous when I found out there would be about 100 students because I didn’t know exactly what to talk about or what level of experience the students had. I joked with friends that I would ask the class, “Who here has made a feature film?” and every single hand would raise. “Okay, but who here has made an app or transmedia experience?” and every single hand would stay raised. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, but I think many of them will be doing those things in the near future.
Before class, I got to do a nostalgia tour around campus. I quickly visited the classroom where I met my wife and hung out at Espresso Roma, where I spent many hours reading and writing and drinking mochas. I’ll also probably blog about this at This Is Transmedia with more transmedia-y insights, but I’m posting this on this blog as a proud UO Duck.
I’m happy/relieved/excited to finally release the second version of my iOS app Phrenic. I’ve learned a lot since launching it in March (and even more since the initial app rejection in October–long story). What’s new? Why should you download it? Why am I making the totally unreasonable demand that you pay .99? First watch the new trailer, then read below…
Now I can add new content without forcing you to install another app update. Just launch Phrenic 2.0 and you’ll have the latest story elements and behind-the-scenes extras. This version has a new mini-episode, a new short story, and a way for fans to submit their own content.
Phrenic still does not have push notifications because I hate those and turn them off except for things like Twitter.
I get asked about allowing fans to get involved by submitting stories or videos to be included in the world of Phrenic. Not that fans are actually requesting to do those things, but some people think a good transmedia project MUST have audience participation. I was initially skeptical but I’m coming around. There are some risks to opening a project to fan generated content (which I talk about here) but I realized I can let someone else’s lawyers worry about that.
I’m now using Theatrics to allow Phrenic fans to submit videos or other content. To stoke creativity and give people a chance to remain anonymous, I’ve created a cut-out doll mask where people can disguise themselves and record a video about being a clone (or clone protesters). Approved videos will show up on the Theatrics site, PhrenicWorld, and the iOS app. A rough storyline will launch next week that will make it easy for engaged fans to jump in. If you’re thinking of doing it, PLEASE DO!
Here’s a picture of me wearing the doll mask….
Phrenic 1.0 was free to download and watch episodes 1 & 2, but then it cost money for episodes 3 – 7. What a genius way to keep making money off your audience by releasing more episodes and charging for them! Except people don’t like that idea very much and the always-imminent cost becomes a barrier to getting involved in the story. I’m asking for a very small, one-time fee of .99 and I’ll give you a new kind of story that I hope you’ll enjoy so much that you tell everyone with an iPhone to download Phrenic. I like this model better.
The other reason I got rid of in-app purchases is a technical one. To sell the episodes as IAP, you’d have to download them to your iPhone or iPad. That’s fine if it’s a pre-determined, finite amount, like a movie or comic book chopped into chapters. But Phrenic is on-going with no end in sight. There wasn’t a clean way to delete the in-app purchase episodes and adding more would quickly fill up your device. Phrenic used to be about 45MB before you bought all the episodes, at which point it ballooned up to 165MB or so. The more you watched Phrenic 1.0, the more it bogged down your device. What do you do when an app takes up too much space? Delete it! Phrenic 2.0 is down to 9MB now because all of the episodes are now streamed (which means you’ll have to be online–deal with it!)