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    How to go om concept to anchise and

    make your story last for generations


  • 7/27/2019 Make Your Story Really Stinkin Big 25 page sample



    why you should ReAd this Book

    FoRewoRd By RoBeRt PRAtten

    A Few things to get out oF the wAy

    why i decided to wRite the Book

    chAPteR 1: get on youR soAPBox! 1

    chAPteR 2: Build youR chARActeRs A house to live in 19

    chAPteR 3: time to Finish the house 39

    chAPteR 4: whAts the stoRy oF youR woRld? 57

    chAPteR 5: the stoRies within the stoRy 81

    chAPteR 6: sPReAd em! 109

    chAPteR 7: All hAil the RAt king 125

    chAPteR 8: uP, uP, And AwAy 139

    chAPteR 9: so, now whAt? 157

    chAPteR 10: some sAge Advice 165

    ABout the AuthoR 171


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    Tanks, God, or giving me access to Your matchless creativity.You did me a solid and I greatly appreciate it.

    For understanding my long hours on my laptop, Id like tothank my wie, Courtney. Coolest. Wie. Ever.

    Also, thanks to my parents who have always encouraged me to

    ollow my dreams.Tanks to my One 3 Productions team or your trust and or

    helping me harness a seemingly impossible creative vision. Iron

    denitely sharpens iron.

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    why you should

    readthis book

    At this point, youre probably wondering why you should

    spend a portion o your hard-earned paycheck on this book. May-be youre trying to decide between this book and another industrybook? Or possibly youre considering saving the cash and going ona Red Box binge this weekend instead?

    Listen, I love Red Box binges as much as the next guy, but hon-estly you should opt or the book. Why? Because all the things

    youll learn rom it are things I wish I would have known when I

    rst began pursuing entertainment as a career.You see, I graduated rom law school on the East Coast. So,

    when I moved to Los Angeles to start producing and writing, I hadtwo choices: go to lm school and take on another $40,000 in stu-dent loans or gure out how to do it on my own.

    I chose Door Number wo.For the rst couple o years, I read every Michael Wiese book

    I could aord. Seriously, I read at least twenty; it was like my ownlittle lm school, but with a $39,600 discount. However, even withmy sel-taught knowledge, I still needed a way to set mysel apartrom the seemingly 14 zillion uber-talented people trying to breakinto the industry at the same time.

    I needed a way to do what I love, keep up with our ever-chang-ing entertainment landscape, and, at the same time, be successulon my own terms.

    So, I gured out a way to do it.And youve guessed it... all the secrets, tips, tricks, and strate-

    gies are in this book.

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd

    360 Storyweaving or what the PGA denes as transmediastorytelling is more than the meme o the moment. Its an es-

    sential way to attract and retain audiences and consumers. Withthis book it also becomes a methodical approach to maximizingthe business potential o any creative idea.

    In 2000, I quit work as a telecoms marketing consultant andwent to lm school. Eight years later and with two indie eaturesto my name I discovered transmedia storytelling and realized in-stantly this was the industrys salvation. Music, movies, and books

    had all been ravaged by online le sharing and an explosion o user-generated content. Tis same seismic shi in media consumptionand production had aected advertising, too making it harderor the sellers message to reach buyers and easier or potential buy-ers to dodge and ignore advertising. I realized early on there wouldbe a sweet spot or mysel at the intersection o entertainment,marketing, and technology: using transmedia storytelling to blur

    the boundary o entertainment and marketing and using technol-ogy to connect all the parts.In June 2012, I met with the author, Houston Howard, at the

    Bergamont Ca in Los Angeles on a typically Caliornian warm,bright morning. Wed met to discuss possible areas o collaborationand cooperation with each an admirer o the others work. WhenHouston told me he was writing a book to capture and share theknowledge hed gained in developing transmedia ranchises I im-mediately asked to read it. How could I have known, however highmy expectations, that once I had it in my hands I would be totallyblown away!

    forewordBy RoBeRt PRatten

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    Make Your Story Really Stinkin Bigis an essential book or any-one working in the creative industries and by ar the best o the

    transmedia books on the market at the time o this writing.On rst reading I ound the book to be a real page-turner. I

    know thats a clichd phrase but its seldom used to describe a reer-ence book. But with each passing chapter I was eager to know more,eager to learn Houstons perspective on how to leverage the mostrom a story, and eager to see how hed approached the job o struc-turing a ully-edged ranchise and built a coherent storyworld. I

    devoured the book in two sittings and immediately emailed Hous-ton to tell him hed written the book the industry needed someoneto write! A practical guidebook.

    And so what I love most about this book are the lists, thebreakdowns, the A-Z steps and the bullet points. Its a go-to prac-tical reerence book Ive returned to many times even beore itsbeen published. (Such as my privileged position as a reviewer has

    allowed me!)While there are a growing number o people analyzing workso transmedia and providing us all with valuable and much neededinsight, ew oer practical how-to advice on how to set o in theright direction and how to improve what may already be in place.Maybe this is why Houston and I get along so well? We both have adesire to encourage others to get started and we endeavor to showhow that might be done.

    My own work is less about developing transmedia ranchisesand more about audience participation applying storytellingand game mechanics to create dynamic, personalized experiencesmuch like Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and location-basedstories. I apply this to storyworlds to create a layer o social partici-

    pation that binds all the various platorms books, videos, toys,and so on. When used with a ranchise, the participation aspect is

    usually thought o as part o the marketing.It was while working on a movie project in which I was tasked

    to build audience participation through social media and email

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd

    that I rst read Make Your Story Really Stinkin Big. Te sectiontitled Segments and Ladders immediately grabbed my attention

    and started a series o discussions with the scriptwriter. Not onlywould the script be better or creating hierarchies in the two warringactions but it would give me additional material to work with. Rela-tively painless changes to the script were in act made, opening up a

    whole host o new possibilities or a social game with better achieve-ments, levels, and personalization. And the two platorms eaturelm (the entertainment) and social game (the marketing)

    were now much more tightly bound to the same storyworld andboth were better or it.Te potential impact oMake Your Story Really Stinkin Bigon

    the readers work should not be underestimated. Te book is ullo useul tips and checklists that allow the creator the best possibleoundation or expanding and maximizing the business potentialo his or her story.

    Tis truly is my go-to book on transmedia story development!. . . .

    Robert Pratten is a eature flm director, the ounder o Transmedia

    Storyteller, and an expert on interactive, social, and pervasive cross-

    platorm entertainment and marketing.

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    Who is this book for anyway?

    Tis book is or any proessional, amateur, or would-be story-teller. You might be a novelist, comic writer, toy maker, producer,game designer, screenwriter, playwright, or transmedia enthusiast anyone who is looking to get much more out o a story.

    You want your story to be bigger? You want to position yourstory or mainstream engagement and commercial success? Ten,

    whatever your creative title, this book will help you move in thatdirection.

    Who the heck is this guy?

    Simply put, Im the Co-Founder and Chie Storyteller o One3 Productions a collection o diverse creative proessionals com-

    mitted to telling stories that cause positive changes in peoples lives.Teres work and theres your calling.A calling is the kind o work that never actually eels like work.

    Te kind o work youd never compromise on. Tat youd sacriceor. Te kind o work that has your ngerprints all over it and addsup to something. Something big. Something that couldnt happenanywhere else or with any other group o people.

    Tats the kind o work we do at One 3 Productions.Weve assembled a team made o music producers, board game

    designers, screenwriters, editors, directors, marketing proessionals,comic writers, actors, and singers who all understand the times in

    a few thingsto getout of the way

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARdwhich they live and are committed to using their combined talentsto tell powerul stories that leave an endurable mark on todays

    culture.We have a threeold approach to our business:

    1. We develop original intellectual properties (IPs) with theocus and intent o producing the projects independently astransmedia ranchises;

    2. We develop original transmedia-ready IPs with the intent o

    shopping the project or acquisition or license rom a studiopartner or another entity;and

    3. We consult with other content creators on the best way todiversiy and grow their projects to have maximum com-mercial and mainstream impact.

    With all three o these aspects, we use a comprehensive cam-paign approach, which weve coined 360 Storyweaving. An opti-

    mum 360 Storyweaving Campaign includes three distinct phases:

    1. Te Creation Phase, where we create and design the storycomponents around an original concept;

    2. Te Immersion Phase, where we design and plan marketingsupport or the story components through thematic mer-chandising and media blurring;and

    3. Te Community Phase, where we build communities throughonline engagement and interactivity as well as implementsocial outreach, which springs rom the original purposeand theme o the project.

    As a side note, this book is geared mainly toward the CreationPhase, which will deal with creatively developing the story conceptsaround the original concept and IP, which we consider to be theheart o any 360 Storyweaving Campaign. Te other phases existto support and drive audiences to the story components and will bediscussed in this book, but will mainly be detailed and studied inuture publications.

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    With creative ragmentation in the entertainment industry be-ing one o the major obstacles to commercial transmedia design,

    we eel that when you can assemble a team o creative proession-als rom dierent industries and dierent backgrounds to worktogether rom the inception o a project, the nal product will beinnitely richer, deeper, and more coordinated.

    So what is 360 Storyweaving?

    Simply put, 360 Storyweaving is a specic type o transmedia.

    You may or may not have heard o the term transmedia. Chancesare you havent. And even i you have, youve probably heard it usedincorrectly or have some unortunate misconceptions o what it ac-tually is.

    For example, some olks think transmedia is simply equatedwith technology and new media, with the phrase, Hey, I got anapp or my book transmedia, baby! possibly being one o the

    most oen used phrases o late. Others think transmedia strictlymeans extreme levels o an interaction and participation. Somecontend that transmedia is simply a marketing tool. and there aresome who staunchly believe transmedia is orever tied to AlternateReality Gaming. While technology, interaction, marketing, andARGs denitely have roles in designing the 360 experience trans-media producers seek, at its core, transmedia is much simpler.

    Essentially, transmedia is a ancy (and potentially scary) wordthat simply describes an innovative way to grow and expand astory. Again, while many content creators will use a tremendous

    variety o bells and whistles to make their transmedia experiencesunique and tailored to their audiences, the basic principle ostoryexpansion is the common denominator that ties all the approachestogether.

    Most transmedia proessionals ocus mainly on perectingand innovating the end-user experience and become specialists inthat regard. While this specialization is needed and really a verycool job to have, we believe content creators shouldnt skip to the

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd

    experience part until theyve perected the art o expanding theirstory in the proper way.

    Accordingly, in this book were actually going to deal with whatwe call 360 Storyweaving our own very specic and unique ap-proach to taking a single story idea and growing and expandingit into an ever-increasing creative sandbox where the whole storytransorms into a project greater than the sum o its parts.

    Basically, it shows you how to make 1 + 1 = 3 instead o bor-ing old 2. I always describe a great 360 Storyweaving project as a

    photo mosaic. Each picture in the mosaic has its own independentvalue and contribution. However, the magic happens when youstep back and see its not just a bunch o independent photos tossedtogether theres a bigger, more rewarding picture to be seen. Ocourse, this takes planning and coordination, but i you can pull ito, youll have craed something not many people can create.

    Again, 1 + 1 = 3. Te old answer, my riends, is 2. In the twenty-

    rst century, 2 is or the birds.

    You can still be you.

    I can hear you now:

    Im a screenwriter/novelist/producer/poet! I dont want to changecareers and become a transmedia proessional!

    o be honest, I didnt actually hear you (i I could hear youright now, itd be really creepy), but Ive gotten that commentenough that Ive become adept at anticipating it. All I can say is,Dont ret. 360 Storyweaving is just a tool that will help you boil

    yoursel back down to the essence o being astoryteller. Once there,youll learn techniques that will help you when you turn your ocusback to your area o creative expertise.

    However, beore I get ahead o mysel (which Im relatively

    sure I already have), lets go through a general, basic transmediaprimer to make sure were on the same page.

    First o all, because its such an emerging market, there isnt aconsensus as to the true denition o transmedia. However, the

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    Producers Guild o America recently ratied an established creditor a ransmedia Producer. In its code o credits, the PGA simply

    denes ransmedia Narrative as at least three narrative storylinesthat all exist in the same ctional universe on a combination o

    platorms, including lm, television, comics, mobile technology,short lms, publishing, etc. Te credit goes on to reinorce thatthe narratives arent the same stories repurposed or dierent me-diums. Instead they have to all be unique narratives.

    Additionally, the credit denes a ransmedia Producer as

    someone who, among other things, oversees and is responsible orthe creation, planning, development, and production and mainte-nance o the ransmedia Narrative across multiple platorms.

    (For the entire text o the ransmedia Producer credit, visit thePGAs website,

    Others have dened transmedia as a collection o narrativecomponents transmitted via numerous media and communication

    platorms which, when woven together by the audience, results ina richer and deeper story than any o its individual components.Henry Jenkins, an American media scholar, USC proessor,

    and trusty transmedia expert, has dened transmedia as:

    A process where integral elements o a ction get dispersed system-atically across multiple deliery channels or the purpose o creatinga unied and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, eachmedium makes its own unique contribution to the unolding o the


    I tend to believe that all three o these denitions coexist po-litely and harmoniously in the same denotative space and are thedenitions I apply to my own work.

    Regardless o your perspective, however, a very broad take onthe subject would describe transmedia as storytelling across multiple

    orms o media with each element making distinctive contributionsto an audiences understanding o the storyworld. Its a powerul andprotable storytelling method that has developed out o extremecultural shis, which have made traditional storytelling methodsoutdated and ineective with todays Youube-driven Generation Z.

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd

    So, or example, a multimedia approach would tell a story ina lm and then retell the same story in a book novelization and

    then retell the same story yet again in a comic book. Te wilightnovels tell the same story as the lms, which tell the same story asthe graphic novels, etc. As you can see, a traditional multimediaapproach is almost wholly built upon derivative works.

    Conversely, a transmedia approach would develop a ranchiseuniverse not based on a character or a specic plot, but rather acomplex ctional world that can sustain multiple interrelated

    characters and their subsequent stories. Once the universe is estab-lished, multiple stories are developed or a variety o mediums withkey bits o inormation conveyed through the mediums.

    Each one o these mediums tells unique stories that exist with-in the ramework o the ranchise universe and also give audiencemembers unique perspectives and inormation. With thisadditivecomprehension approach, there is no single source or gaining all the

    inormation needed to comprehend the universe.For example, Te Matrixisnt just a story about Neo and Mor-pheus. Te Matrix is a story about a uture where machines takeover the planet and use humans as batteries. Part o that story istold through Neos story via the lm trilogy, part is told throughtheAnimatrixanimated eature, and part is told through the videogames, and so on. Te stories are all dierent, but still work to-gether to orm a great whole.

    Whats the difference?Because there hasnt been a consensus on the denition o

    true transmedia and because our process is unique, we thoughtwe needed to avoid conusion and come up with our term. Hence,360 Storyweaving.

    360 speaks to broadening a story beyond the our corners oa page or the our corners o a screen and expanding into multiplemediums to a point where no matter where audiences turn, thestory is there. Story speaks to, well, stories. Weaving communicates

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    the level o coordination, cohesion, and connection you need tooptimize the entire campaign.

    Te way people are consuming media has changed (and its stillchanging) and 360 Storyweaving is an extension o that. odays

    young people, the so-called digital natives, are growing up in aconnected world with technology that seems completely naturalto them. Tey and others are changing and rewriting the rule booko what is possible. With people such asHeroes creator im Kringdecreeing that one-channel storytelling is now considered archaic,

    the age o this new orm o storytelling has only just begun.

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    get onyoursoaPboX!

    c h a P t e r o n e

    soaPboX, Viable setting, macro-story,

    micro-stories, multiPle mediums,

    dynamic connections, Vertical eXPloration

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd


    Where do we start?

    As with most projects, knowing where to begin is one o, i notthe, most important steps to execute properly. I you dont, youllonly experience grie later in the process because you set o in a

    wrong direction and are orced to backtrack and revise. Listen,theres so much to do, why not just get it right the rst time?

    So, the rst thing you need to do is build your x. Figu-ratively speaking, o course. Unless, you actually need a soapbox,

    which in that case, happy building.

    In the nineteenth century, people would plop down actual soap-boxes so they could be elevated or a public speech. Generally, thesespeeches had to do with politics, but at the heart o it, the speeches

    were opinionated, passionate, agenda-driven, and rabble-rousing.People who used soapboxes were, predictably, called soapboxers.Tats the rst step using your project as a soapbox and proudlyaccepting the label o a modern-day soapboxer.

    You may call it theme, moral premise, message, agenda, or evenmeta-story, but whatever you call it, its going to become the oun-dation o your project.

    Why start with theme?

    Why not start by designing characters, strategizing what medi-ums to use, or creating a setting or eshing out your supercool orig-

    inal idea you sketched out last year but havent done anything with?Its because theme gives your creative decisions purpose and allows

    your project to connect with your audience on a greater level.Im not saying your story cant be good without a strong mes-

    sage. Im saying that stories without strong thematic oundations arelike sugar rushes they get you excited or a bit, but cant sustain

    you or a long period o time because they dont have substance.

    Conversely, stories set on strong thematic soapboxes are more likelyto endure and continue to resonate because even though the culturemay change, universal themes tend to remain intact and continuallyconnect with people across multiple generations.

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    get on youR soAPBox

    Have you ever watched an old movie and ound it difcult torelate to because the actors talk dierently than you talk, they act

    dierently than you act, things look dierently than they do now,and culture has signicantly changed since the movie was released?

    Well, i the movie has a strong thematic oundation, thats whatwill connect with you, allow you to look past all the surroundingirrelevance and keep you watching.

    Honestly, the thematic heartbeat oIts a Wonderful Life is theonly reason I would still watch that lm. I know Jimmy Stewart is

    good and all, but there are so many things that just dont click withme. But, Ill still check it out because despite the act it was madebeore my parents were even born, it carries a great message thateveryones lie has meaning.

    Te coolness o plots ades over time, the initial ability o char-acters to relate will wane, and the wittiest line o dialogue in 2013may be glazed over thirty years rom now without even being no-

    ticed. But your theme, your message, those things you want to sayto the world, your soapbox they hold up through the years.

    Why should anyone care?

    Seriously. Why should anyone care about your project?Why should anyone give you money that theyve spent hours

    o their lives earning? Because theyll be entertained? In a recessive

    economy and a ridiculously saturated entertainment landscape,simply being able to entertain or a ew hours isnt a sae bet.

    Dont get me wrong, Im not saying entertainment is bad. Itsabsolutely essential. Im merely advocating that you inspireanden-tertain because a strong soapbox and an entertaining story arentmutually exclusive ideals.

    Youll build a bigger audience.Simon Sinek gave a ED alk where he presented a concept he

    calls the Golden Circle and spoke on the reason you should alwaysstart with why.

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd


    By the way, as a side note, i you dont check out ED alkson a regular basis then you should because theyre awesome videos

    that give tremendous insights into people on the oreront o in-novation, creativity, and leadership.

    In the ED alk (and also in his bookStart with Why) he ex-plores how great leaders, whether they be politicians, creative vi-sionaries, lmmakers, inventors, or corporate CEOs, not only mo-tivate people to act, but also inspire people to ollow them.

    He points out that all industries, creative and otherwise, needs

    to motivate people to act in order to sustain themselves. Paintersneed to motivate people to buy their paintings. Writers need tomotivate readers to buy their books. Marketers need to motivate

    people to actually act on their calls-to-action. Filmmakers need tomotivate audiences to watch their movies. Restaurant owners needto motivate people to eat at their establishments.

    But how do you motivate people?

    When it comes to motivations, people tend to be swayed byincentives price, convenience, social benet, etc. However,when you can inspire people to act, as opposed to just motivatingthem, you actually impart an innate sense o purpose and belong-ing, which is so much more valuable. As a result, you dont juststart building an audience or a an base, you also start cultivating adevoted ollowing.

    Motivated consumers, because they are responding to externalincentives, will almost always all away when those disincentivesappear the cost is too high, the theater is too ar away, none otheir riends are into it, etc. Its not worth it to them because theirconnection is a supercial one. Devoted ollowers, however, are

    willing to pay more i needed, endure inconvenience i required,and even suer a bit i theyre called to do so.


    Teyre ollowing you not because you have the coolest projectaround, but because you believe what they believe and that alwayshas value. You may think Im getting too deep, but when what youcreate starts to only serve as proo as to what you believe, youll

  • 7/27/2019 Make Your Story Really Stinkin Big 25 page sample



    get on youR soAPBox

    start connecting to your audience in ways youve never planned.Te diagram below actually shows how inspirational leaders

    communicate and operate. It documents a pattern o thought andaction that any content creator, with a little discipline, can put to use.

    Tis shows the order in which people communicate ideas in anattempt to get others to do something they wouldnt do on theirown accord.

    In the creative space, when trying to motivate audience mem-bers, nanciers, or people they want to acquire the property,

    writers, producers, and creators typically work rom the outside in.Tey know what their product is, so thats where they begin.

    Ie written this amazing sci- script that is screaming to be shotin 3D!

    I they actually move past the what, theyll start describingthe how o their project.

    I saw how successulAvatar was, so I really used that as a tem-plate or how to maximize action, story, and isuals.

    Now at this point, most everyone stops. My thinking is mostpeople dont ever consider why, so they honestly wouldnt knowwhat to say, or i they have, they dont think the person theyrepitching to actually cares.

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd


    ruly inspirational leaders and artists work rom the inside out.Tey start with the why o their project, go to the how and

    eventually nish with the what. I really wanted to communicate to young people how destructie

    it is to be drien by pain and anger and, no matter what kind otragedy theye dealt with, the best thing to do is to let it go andmove on.

    So I ended up using a great combination o isuals, action, andstory that I knew young people would respond to, especially aer

    seeing how Avatar broke so many box ofce records. What I hae now is an amazing sci- script thats screaming to be

    shot in 3D!

    Tis just eels dierent. It has more substance and I promiseyou, it will ultimately yield you better results.

    Lets say youre having this conversation with a producer youwant to attach to your project. I he likes science ction movies, he

    may be motivated to read your script even i you start with what.Tat is, o course, i he has time (which always works to de-motivate

    people), i hes even looking or a new project, i he doesnt alreadyhave 403 other sci- scripts on his desk, i he doesnt think yourea hack because you dont have any IMDB credits, and i he doesntthink youll sue him because youve brought this up unsolicited.

    As you can imagine, working your way through these objec-

    tions is difcult when youre only armed with a what. But, i youconnect with him on the why, its more likely these other actorswont matter as much and hell read your script. Why? Because,theres a good chance he believes the same thing and, ultimately,

    people dont buy what you do as much as why youre doing it.Apple doesnt market themselves as a company that makes

    beautiul, easy-to-use computers (their what), or that hires thebest designers and most brilliant minds in the marketplace (theirhow). Tey start with how they want to make everyones liveseasier and how they dont believe people should have to settle orthe status quo when it comes to technology (their why). Tiscauses them to go out and hire the best designers and the most

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    get on youR soAPBox

    brilliant minds in the industry (their how) and, in the end, theyproduce beautiul, easy-to-use computers.

    Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didnt motivate people to go toWashington, D.C., on a sweltering August day by laying out a logicaltwelve-point plan on how to x the countrys racial divide. Instead,he inspired people by telling them what he believed, conveying hisdreams, and explaining why change was necessary. He ound people

    who believed what he believed and he built a ollowing.In Hollywood, a huge part o the lmmaking game is getting

    people (agents, producers, actors, janitors, the guy on Craigslistyou bought the used uton rom, etc.) to read your scripts. I youcan get anyone to actually read anything, its a huge victory and

    worthy accomplishment. Tats the same game everyone is playing,which means the producers and the agents dont have to take all othem they have their pick o the litter. However, as a company,

    we at One 3 Productions purposely avoid asking anyone to read

    our stu.Seriously.Because were a mission-driven company, whenever we meet

    with industry contacts, we always start with why were doing whatwere doing. From there, we talk about how we use a transmedia ap-proach to develop the projects and eventually get to what our proj-ect actually is about. Every single time weve done that, the person

    were meeting with, be it a studio executive or an actor, has asked usi he or she could read ourscript. No joke. Its because they see oursubstance, our long-term value, our passion, and our purpose andthose actors immediately disarm all the objections, legitimate orotherwise, they have cocked and ready to use against us.

    When you start with why youre doing what youre doing,youre connecting to peoples souls rather than dueling with theirlogic.

    Now apply this to your transmedia project.

    oo many times I have heard transmedia producers begin talk-ing about their projects by telling me about their tech, their apps,

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd


    and their whiz-bang platorms. Almost every time, I tune out. al-ented olk that have awesome razzle-dazzle technology with their

    projects are a dime a dozen. Unless youve actually invented a newpiece o technology, your platorms arent what make your projectunique, and even i you have, it doesnt mean Im completely sold.I may be interested in your new toy, but why should I be interestedin your story?

    Instead, use the method Ive been detailing. Why are you evencreating this project? Tis is the soapbox/thematic oundation

    weve been talking about. How are you doing it? Well, i youreollowing our process, youre using a macro-narrative approach totransmedia. What are you creating? Tis would be your individualstories, components, and whiz-bang, razzle-dazzle tech elementsthat you love so much.

    This will actually help you creatively.

    Some creative proessionals, rom songwriters to authors todesigners, reer to a destructive phenomenon called scope creep.Tis is when the scope o a project starts to grow and grow andgrow and grow and grow until the whole project becomes messy,unocused, awkward, and ultimately ragile. I you, as the contentcreator, havent created your project with a steely ocus, how can

    you reasonably expect your audience to ocus? In todays enter-

    tainment-saturated culture, i you lose someones attention or veseconds, theyre o playingAngry Birds and you have as much o achance o regaining them as ans as they have o beating the game

    with the boring red birds. Not likely.How do you combat scope creep? You orm borders to your

    project. o make a sandbox, you dont start by dumping a buncho sand on the ground. You begin by building the our walls that

    contain it. Likewise, puzzle masters never start a puzzle by trying togure out the middle. Puzzle masters worth their salt start on theedges; they dene their borders.

    Your soapbox is what will orm those borders or your project.It will dene a very clear narrative space or you to sink your teeth

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    get on youR soAPBox

    into and allow you to carve out a more ocused project by inorm-ing every single creative decision you make. A thematic oundation

    and border empower you to reuse anything that alls outside itsscope. I something doesnt reconcile with your theme, its not al-lowed. I a creative decision starts to tear down your soapbox, youditch it.

    rust me. Adhering to a strong thematic soapbox will help yourom straying o the path. Its like when you go hiking and everynow and then you see a sign that says KEEP ON HE PAH.

    Some may say those signs are inringing on your hiking reedom.I say theyre helping you not be eaten by a mountain lion and youshould thank the guy who put them there.

    Start an argument.

    Remember in high school and college when you would haveto write persuasive essays? Building your soapbox and laying your

    thematic oundation work the same way. Your theme will simplybe an assertion (or assertions) you want to make to the world. Yourentire project and every story you write will be your argument as to

    why your assertion is true. Te Lord of Rings series is actually centered on a number othemes, one o which is that no matter how small you are, you canstill do something great. Troughout the books, olkien is con-

    stantly making that argument. Every time the Hobbits unexpect-edly succeed at doing something great, his assertion is strength-ened, and by the end, he proves his assertion true.

    In the Craig Brewer lm,Hustle & Flow, the theme that reso-nates above all others is that no matter how ar o the path youvegone, you should always pursue your dreams. Every crazy situationDjay nds himsel in deals with that question and is Brewers argu-

    ment as to why that assertion is, in act, true. When the lm is over,you end up not only agreeing with Brewer concerning his thematicassertion, but you also nd yoursel saying, Hey, i a pimp in theghettos o Memphis can change his lie and achieve his dreamsthen so can I.

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    mAkeyouR stoRyReAlly stinkin Big - houston howARd


    Good storytellers, though, put pressure on their thematic as-sertions and take you through a thematic roller coaster beore ulti-

    mately proving their assertions true. So, when you watchHustle &Flow, you nd yoursel going through a very dynamic will he/wonthe process. You think he can change, then you think he wont, then

    you think he can, then you think he wont, and so on.Finally, when Djay beats the tar out o Skinny Black in a bath-

    room stall, you completely write him o as a potential candidateor change. But, in the end, Djay pulls it together and you see the

    ulllment o the theme in the characters lie.Brewer obviously and purposely craed the story this way. Firstand oremost, its to make the story more dramatic, tense, and in-teresting or the audience. But also, on a thematic level, you need

    your argument to be seen as realistic and credible, so you want toput pressure on the theme in every way possible.

    How do you choose?Its easy.

    Just nd something youre passionate about. Identiy a causethat makes you cry. Pick something that gets you out o bed in themorning and that you nd yoursel talking about to other people.

    What are the topics that cause you to raise your voice or to waveyour arms around like a crazy person? What do you want your kids

    to learn? What do you want to teach uture generations? Your proj-ect is your soapbox, so now that you have a stage, what do you wantto say? What do you believe? Or what dont you believe?

    Be careul not to just pick open-ended topics, though. I justgoogled most common literary themes and I pulled up this list:

    1. Good versus evil;2. Man versus nature;

    3. Love and riendship;4. Man versus society;5. Man versus himsel;6. Fate versus reewill;and7. Suering versus redemption.

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    get on youR soAPBox

    Tis is not what Im reerring to when Im talking about yourtheme, message, or soapbox. Tese can, however, help you nd

    your soapbox, but these are just categories. Remember that yoursoapbox should be opinionated and passionate. Its the dierencebetween a regular newspaper article (just the acts, expository, etc.)and an editorial opinion piece.

    Sure, Star Wars dealt with good versus evil, but Lucas didntjust present the battle and back away he actuallysaidsomethingabout it. He didnt just present the struggle between suering and

    redemption, he openly declared that even one o the most evildudes in the galaxy can be redeemed. Tats a bold statement, buthe wasnt araid to say it.

    Be opinionated. Have a voice and a unique perspective. Its thedierence between saying, Racism is my theme, and saying, Mytheme is that racism is evil. Te latter is much stronger and willelicit more o a response rom an audience.

    I someone walks up to you and says, Love and riendship,youll probably just look at her weird. But, i the same person walksup to you and says, I think a man who is loved and who has riendsis the richest man in the world, youll have a completely dierentreaction a better reaction. Plus theres now room or dialogueand interaction whereas beore there wasnt.

    Tat being said, choosing an open-ended topic isnt a bad placeto start per se. Just dont stop there. But i you cant think o a themeright o the bat, just choose a topic. Once you have the topic, writean opinion on that topic.

    For example, well take the innocuous open-ended topic oeducation. Tat was easy enough to select. Now, just write anopinion about that topic. Education is good.

    Okay, lets make it stronger by punching it up.

    Eeryone should be educated.Were getting there. Lets punch it up again.

    Eeryone should be educated, but education can come in

    many orms.