Iteration Process

I have divided the intervention that is the event ‘Escape To Atlantis To Interzone’ into four separate processes:

Conceptualisation >>> Launch >>> Scripting >>> Event

Each process is separate and lessons learnt from each step are not dependent on each other – this means that I can learn from the launch and do another launch based on those learnings before the event itself has happened – dramatically speeding up my iteration process.

The next ‘concept’ for immersive / music tribute events can learn from the previous conceptualisation and launch process. The first learning is that simple messaging is vital, and that a complication concept for an event is unappealing to people when advertising an event, as evidenced by the overwhelming popularity of the facebook advert discussing music only rather than immersive (see previous post). Simply put, the music will sell the event for now.

The second learning is that in order to have a big enough budget to pay for actors / set design etc, scale is critical. Since the cost of advertising per response correlates directly to the size of potentially audience targeted, and the music is the selling point at this stage (the hope is that the genre itself is eventually the selling point, once people have experienced the event, but this requires scale to be impressive, hence the chicken / egg situation), the musical theme for the next event must be broad.

With these two things in mind, my next concept is:

‘The Electoral College Dropout: The Story Of Kanye West’s Election Party’

The premise of the event is that Trump is up against Michelle Obama in the US election, and Kanye West is standing as an independent. Whilst he is an underdog, his election-night party is the hottest ticket in town. But all is not as it seems…

 

 

 

 

 

Event Launch

I have launched my first event (7 days ago). I consider the event itself to be 3 interventions – the campaign, the creation (and iteration) of the script, and the event itself.

The launch was a moderate success – in 7 days I have had over 1000 people interested in the event on Facebook, and about 25 sales, at a cost of £1000. I have tried 10 different adverts with various pieces of content and messaging, using the different videos. The one speaking entirely about the music is by far the most successful, and is the only one left running, at £20 per day. Note that all ads are paying for attendees on the facebook event – closer to the time these ‘attendees’ can be solely targeted with adverts which convert interest to ticket sales at a low price. Hence a small ration of sales to interest at this point. The final 2-3 weeks will be all money spent targeting this group.

The biggest learning from this (which is obvious in hindsight), is that the music is the sole draw of this type of event for now. If and when it becomes known as a genre this will change, but if big production spend is to be used, the stories should centre around broad and popular musical themes going forward, to make it an easy sell.

 

Learning & Iterations

In light of my research so far, I am adding 2 additions to the script.

Firstly, an idea to create a ‘funnel’ to get the entire audience as close to the ‘oceanic experience’ as possible. Upon entrance to the event, audience members will be ‘processed for Mars’, where they are greeted by actors, and asked for their personal data (they are told this is necessary to become a full voting citizen on Mars) – this will be an increasingly unreasonable request, from facebook password to bank card PIN – requests no one will agree to. Upon refusal, audience members will be told that unfortunately without that personal information they will be ‘half citizens’ without voting rights. They must now be marked as such, which involves a stripe of neon, glow in the dark face paint across the eyes.

This will achieve four aims. Firstly, it will be my equivalent of Punchdrunk’s mask – a way to give people anonymity and lose their inhibitions. Secondly, it will be a form on commentary on personal data, which is the underlying message of the piece (more on this later).  Third, the neon aesthetic is very in fitting with the aesthetic of the musical scene ‘Nu Rave’, and will create a scene of 750 people all glowing in the dark, a real spectacle.

Fourth, and most importantly, there will be a section of the audience who refuse to give their data AND refuse to be covered in neon paint. These are likely to be the most inhibited audience members, and by revealing them I can give them special attention and convert them into my MOST enthusiastic audience members. This will be achieved by actors saying ‘come with me please’ and taking them away for a ‘scene’. The specifics will be budget dependant, but they could be ‘arrested’, ‘recruited for the opposition’ or marked in some other elaborate way – any of which will give them access to a unique and engaging experience.  This kind of ‘funnel’ to take the least enthusiastic and make them the most enthusiastic will raise the overall atmosphere, and I believe it could be the key. I hope to come up with more such funnels.

The second change is an attempt to resolve the problem I identified yesterday – that immersive events based on existing media (play / film / TV show) set up the ‘first act’ of the story in the mind of the audience in advance – thus giving them a huge advantage in terms of scene-setting. As my story is original, there must be a way to establish the precedent and the characters in advance. I think the way to do this may be a short film (say, 1 minute) emailed a few days before the event, setting the scene to the audience – a film that is ‘in character’, sent ‘from Space X to all passengers’. Act 1 occurring before the event appears to be the logical way to proceed.

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the hero in immersive?

In all the narrative theory I have read, most point to a ‘hero’ in some form as being central to most narratives. In particular these two books on film / novel storytelling theory:

.

When applying this to immersive story telling, I kept wondering whether the story being told needed a hero / central character, or whether the audience should be playing the role of hero.

Last night I attended an immersive dinner / scripted event based on the TV series ‘Peaky Blinders’ entitled ‘Feasty Blinders’.

This helped clarify my thinking on the matter significantly. The event had 100% of the audience in fancy dress from the show.  This was post-war glamorous cocktail-dresses for females and suits with hats for men. Clearly, the appeal of the event is that the audience imagines itself as the hero characters from the show itself, and wishes to have a deeper (experiential) identification with the roles in the show than from merely watching. This event has sold out every Monday & Tuesday for 6 weeks, over 300 people per night at £50 per head average ticket, showing significant demand. The audience must identify themselves as the hero, based on last night’s experience.

Two further learnings from the event.

Firstly, the ‘immersion’ and storytelling can be minimal if the audience already knows the characters / storyline (as with TV or film themed events). The scenes and dialogue were sparse, but with the entire audience cheering and greeting characters like old friends, and all dressed indistinguishably from the cast, immersion is relatively easy to achieve. My own concept, with original setting / script does not have this advantage. Secret Cinema uses films, Punkdrunk uses famous plays, but my event lacks this (although it uses living characters like Elon Musk). I need to find a way to bridge the gap between the audience and my imagined world if I am not to rely entirely on amazing stagecraft (which is expensive and difficult to achieve). The musical theme is the familiar part of my story from a marketing perspective, but unless the narrative directly relates to that (it doesn’t in my first intervention), how do I bridge the gap?

Secondly, this event was based at ‘Proud Cabaret’, a burlesque club; although the audience were not made aware of the location until the day before. The burlesque performances were interwoven into the script in a not-inelegant way. This reminded me a lot of my own concept of integrating club culture into my immersion, and it’s success was encouraging. I suspect that the venue will come up with similar themes after this run ends to add another dimension to its existing offering (Great Gatsby dinner, Scarface night etc).

 

 

 

Development of Concept / What Does Success Look Like?

What does success look like? This is the question I am naturally pondering after finishing the book mentioned in the last post, which I think has led to a breakthrough in my project.

I read this case study:

https://search-proquest-com.arts.idm.oclc.org/docview/919686328/fulltextPDF/9C46FD9F009F4A18PQ/1?accountid=10342

In which immersive actors were inserted into an existing club night in Glasgow to study audience. The author speaks about Jill Dolan‘s idea of ‘Utopia in Theatre, and Ben Malbon’s description of ‘Oceanic Experiences’ in clubbing, and how the 2 are similar.

This made me think about how immersive theatre currently ‘rewards’ the enthusiastic / curious / brave participants because they are more likely to have unique experiences (such as discovering secret rooms, one-on ones with actors etc). Why is this the case? Clearly it’s because there are limits to the resources on a given night, and essentially these things arrive to the audience on a first-come-first-serve basis.

There a methods in night life and theatre that lower the inhibitions of the audience, such as fancy dress, face paint, masks etc (which increase the likelihood of an ‘oceanic experience).

So what if I were to engineer scenarios in which audience did things that would likely lower inhibitions, and if they chose not to do them (free will being a central tenet of immersive theatre), they were ‘rewarded’ by an interaction.

This could potentially be a central change from immersive theatre. By having ‘participation moments’ we are dividing the audience into the enthusiastic / unenthusiastic. The unenthusiastic will then be selected for a deeper immersive experience.  So unlike existing immersive theatre & theatre theory, the event is creating a ‘funnel’ to raise the overall levels of participation / enthusiasm, rather than a better experience for those who work harder for it.

I will follow with an example of what I mean with the updated script.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Methodology

 

I have found a book on immersive design, which is essentially a Masters thesis. This is really useful as a guide with which to look at process when doing my first intervention.

The book acknowledges that the process of creating the event is itself part of the research (as is the case with my intervention), and breaks down an immersive space into the following categories:

  1. Audience Journey
  2. Lighting
  3. Sound
  4. Visual Media
  5. Actors & Props

Here’s a brief summary of where I am with each section, all to be improved after expert / stakeholder feedback.

 

  1. Audience Journey: There will be a distinct change in the night. From 8pm-11.30pm (approximately), whilst there will be constant music, the event will be narrative-heavy, with lots of interaction. This will feel more like a Punchdrunk or Secret Cinema production than a club at this point. At the ‘peak’ time from 11.30, there will be far more emphasis on the event feeling like a club night, with dancing and music emphasis. Details on this in the script, but feel like this is the part that requires far more planning / detail than I currently have.
  2. Lighting. This is a strength of the concept. Club lighting is far more advanced than theatre lighting in terms of it’s initial wow factor (but not in subtlety). The most important point from the book was that lighting needs to be congruent with the premise of the event. Sci-fi and lasers / smoke are a nice fit, so I feel there’s good opportunities to make the event make sense using lighting. I have set up a meeting with Middlesex Sound & Light to discuss specifics.
  3. Sound – this is the whole concept – music. The issues with this are again – congruence – will it seem natural in the imagined world having music on? All future stories / imagined worlds will need to have a natural reason for music to be playing. I feel for this first story that is the case. The sound effects, such as alarms will need to be further worked out. Also, the above book mentions the power of silence in loud environments – something which will be an especially powerful tool in a music-based environment (and will be the apex moment prior to the final filmed scene).
  4. Visual Media. The centrepiece of the main room will be a large screen showing space, with the cockpit in the bottom corner.  The cockpit will go fill screen for the filmed scenes. There is lots of super hi-res footage of space available from NASA’s website for this. I am unsure as to how to dress the second room yet, this may require more visual media.
  5. Actors & Props. Budget dependent, but ideally should be heavy on actors. For budget reasons these will be ‘extras’ rather than playing a major role in the narrative (which will come from the screen). Props will be used to bridge the gap between the musical scene in play, and the imagined world. Audience will be given ’emergency lights’, which are glow sticks (Nu Rave pastiches early 90s rave club culture, with glow sticks, neon and smiley faces etc). I feel I should come up with more of these ideas.

 

First Draft Script

Below is the first draft of my ‘script’ for the intervention, to be sent to various directors for feedback.

ESCAPE TO ATLANTIS TO INTERZONE

An Immersive Evening Of Nu Rave & Elon Musk

By

Andy Peyton

CHARACTERS

 

CAPTAIN PAUL DUGDALE: A CONFIDENT, SLIGHTLY COCKY, HANDSOME ALPHA-MALE. CARES ABOUT HIS SELF IMAGE AND CAREER.

CO-PILOT ELLA LOVEDAY: A STRONG AND SERIOUS WOMAN, WHO TAKES HER JOB AND MISSION SERIOUSLY, AND CARES FOR THE WELL BEING OF THE PASSENGERS.

CHIEF ENGINEER TIM BETHAL: A WISE, EXPERIENCED OLDER MAN. SELF ASSURED, SPEAKS LITTLE AND CAREFULLY.

SETTING

ONBOARD BFR MARS 72, ONE OF THE FIRST 1000 SPACE X ROCKETS SET TO COLONISE MARS.

TIME

SHORTLY AFTER TAKE OFF. 5 HOURS BEFORE BEING PUT INTO DEEP SLEEP FOR THE JOURNEY, A PARTY IS ORGANISED FOR THE PASSENGERS.

Before arriving at the event the premise of the play is established with the audience; that they are one of the first of 1000 of Elon Musk’s Space X rockets to colonise Mars. After take off there will be a 5 hour period safety period as they pass the moon, before they are put into stasis for the long journey to Mars. Passengers on this particular ship has chosen music from 2005-2008 as the backdrop to their ‘leaving earth party.’

All audience members told to download ‘Artivive’ app before the show. This allows one to point the phone camera at fixed images to make a video play in the app. Google cardboard headsets are randomly distributed as audience arrives.

Each audience member is given a glow stick on arrive and told it is their emergency lighting, and only to be used in emergencies.

The narrative is punctuated by a series of video addresses to the audience from ‘The Cockpit’, containing our three main characters. Multiple immersive scenes and tools will change the mood and propel the narrative in the gaps between each video address.

VIDEO ADDRESS 1

9.30PM

*INDIE MUSIC OF LIBERTINES ERA PLAYING AT THIS STAGE*

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Space X BFR 75 to Mars. We are cruising currently at 330,000 feet leaving the earth’s atmosphere, and anti-gravity is fully engaged. We have about 240 minutes until we pass the moon, upon which all passengers will be put into stasis. Until then I hope you have a great party onboard. I’d like to introduce my co-pilot Captain Loveday, and chief engineer Bethel.

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

Good evening everyone. I’d like to apologise that your requested music isn’t playing right now, we are hoping Space Command can fix the bug soon.

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

They might be a little busy sending civilians to Mars

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

We could always reboot the system and-

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Yep we could always reboot a 200 million dollar spaceship to fix the jukebox huh! What do you think Bethal, want to become the first unemployed people on Mars?

(BETHAL smiles politely, Loveday frowns)

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Seriously folks, the whole ship is being run by mission control. We’re just here for redundancy in absolute emergencies. The moon base is for exceptional circumstances only. So have a great time and enjoy the party.

Video Address 1 Ends

Aims VA1 to VA2:

Increased tension as more things on the ship are going wrong, increased pressure to reboot the system / land on the moon.

Ways to Achieve these aims:

  • Audience taken in small groups (pairs?) to the backstage green room. Told to look though VR lenses at signs, which show Zuckerberg is hacking the ship, plans to stop anyone reaching Mars. The reveal is interrupted by ‘security’ who go crazy and scream at the audience members, making them leave the area – the person revealing it is knocked to the floor / dragged away.

Poster in toilet to work for Elon Musk when you arrive on Mars. It has been graffitied with the slogan “Musk is a fraud”.

 

  • Actors say to audience “Have you heard the rumours? Some of the ships haven’t made it. There’s a problem and no one is telling us what’s really going on”.
  • Bar staff give back change to people when buying drinks and whisper “Don’t trust Dugdale.” Then go back to work.

VIDEO ADDRESS 2

10PM

*STILL LIBERTINES ERA INDIE PLAYING*

Chief Engineer Tim Bethel waits for captain to fall asleep and Co-Pilot Loveday to leave the room – he then turns on video.

CHIEF ENGINEER BETHAL:

You must not let them reset the system and go to the moon. No matter what happens do not let that happen  – trust no one!

Video Address 2 Ends

Aims VA2 to VA3:

Increased tension as more things on the ship are going wrong, increased pressure to reboot the system / land on the moon.

  • Audience taken in small groups (pairs?) to the backstage green room. Told to look though VR lenses at signs, which show Zuckerberg is hacking the ship, plans to stop anyone reaching Mars. The reveal is interrupted by ‘security’ who go crazy and scream at the audience members, making them leave the area – the person revealing it is knocked to the floor / dragged away.
  • Actors say to audience “Have you heard the rumours? Some of the ships haven’t made it. There’s a problem and no one is telling us what’s really going on”.
  • Bar staff give back change to people when buying drinks and whisper “Don’t trust Dugdale.” Then go back to work.

 

  • Audience is instructed to aim google cardboard headsets (with Artivive app open) at a poster inside the toilets. It is actually a poster from Mark Zuckerberg. It says “Space X will never make it to Mars”.
  • More posters around the venue show subliminal messages predicting chaos / anti-Musk propaganda.

 

 

VIDEO ADDRESS 3

10.45PM

*STILL LIBERTINES-ERA MUSIC BEING PLAYED*

CREW IS ARGUING AS SCREEN GETS BIG. CAUGHT OFF GUARD, THEY ATTEMPT TO LOOK COMPOSED, WITH FORCED SMILES.

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Good Evening ladies and gentlemen, apologies for the interruption. I’d just like to address the rumours that certain ships didn’t make it into orbit, or that we are under attack from hackers. Rest assured these are just rumours, and the technical blips we are experiencing are nothing to worry about.

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

*GASPS AT SCREEN* Oh my god

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

What is it?

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

Two ships have been lost. All passengers dead.

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

*stares at screen*

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s always dangers in space travel, our systems are all fine, there’s no reason to worry.

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

We must reboot the fucking system!

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

No! We follow procedure or our careers are toast

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

Screw your career this is our lives. This has to go to a vote.

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

I vote we stay the course

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

And I vote that this is an emergency – we have to reboot and head to the moonbase

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Engineer Bethal, what do you say?

CHIEF ENGINEER BETHAL:

*LONG SIGH* Our vital systems are working. I say we let space command fly and trust the guys on the ground.

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

This is bullshit

CAPTAIN DUGDALE SWITCHES OFF THE SOUND AND MINIMISES THE SCREEN WHILST DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE

END OF VIDEO ADDRESS 3

Aims VA3 to VA4:

Increased tension as more things on the ship are going wrong, increased pressure to reboot the system / land on the moon.Feeling of total chaos / end of the road.

  • Actor runs through crowd saying “We’ve been hacked! The whole thing is a plot. Dugdale is in on it! Don’t listen to them!” Is chased by armed security.
  • 2 Actors working on a piece of equipment fall out and start to have a big fight. Stand-off amongst the crew. Major scene for everyone to see. Shouts of “It’s a plot. It’s Zuckerberg”.
  • Music cuts out. Red circular flashing lights turn on after momentary darkness. Heavy use of smoke. Computer voice says ‘Emergency. Navigation failure’, repeatedly. Ends after 15-30 seconds. Screen comes on with fraught looking crew looking on.

VIDEO ADDRESS 4

11.30PM

*STILL LIBERTINES-ERA INDIE BEING PLAYED

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Ladies & gentlemen. We have veered off course significantly, but not fatally. Unfortunately other ships have veered too far and been lost in space. It appears all navigation systems have failed as part of a wider bug, which also explains the music and everything else. I feel we have no choice but to reboot and divert to Moonbase if we’re going to save ourselves.

CHIEF ENGINEER BETHAL:

We need to trust the system! Don’t do this!

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

I hereby vote to reset. Folks, you should know that if we do this there will be blackout, so you should utilise your emergency lights now. If it works you’re going to get your music after all. And if it doesn’t well, then I guess it’s curtains.

CHIEF ENGINEER BETHAL:

I vote we don’t reset! This is not what was intended for us!

CO-PILOT LOVEDAY:

Well I vote we reboot. Let’s get the fuck down to moonbase.

CAPTAIN DUGDALE:

Then it’s decided. (Stands up). Hold on to your hats folks.

CHIEF ENGINEER BETHAL GETS UP AS CAPTAIN IS TALKING, AND HITS HIM OVER THE HEAD WITH A METAL BAR.

CHIEF ENGINEER BETHAL:

I told you not to meddle! Space X won’t be the first to get there! Mars isn’t his to colonise!

HE GOES TO HIT THE CAPTAIN AGAIN, THEN A THIRD TIME. CO-PILOT LOVEDAY STRUGGLES WITH HIM, AS THEY FIGHT THEY TRY TO HIT THE RESET COMMAND, WHILST SHOUTING AND STRUGGLING.

SUDDENLY THE SCREEN GOES TO STATIC, AND ALL SOUND CUTS OUT. 30 SECONDS OF PITCH BLACK IN THE VENUE, EXCEPT FOR THE EMERGENCY GLOW STICKS.

KLAXONS – ATLANTIS TO INTERZONE STARTS. SCREEN COMES BACK ON, CO-PILOT AND CAPTAIN CHEERING / CELEBRATING. ALL CAST CELEBRATING. CONFETTI CANNONS, DISCO LIGHTS ETC ALL GO OFF.

THIS ‘PEAK’ MOMENT IN THE NARRATIVE WILL OCCUR APPROXIMATELY 11.30PM, AT WHICH POINT IT WILL BE VERY MUCH A PARTY, WITH 2 HOURS OF NEW-RAVE AS THE SCREEN SHOWS SPACE, APPROACHING THE MOON VERY SLOWLY. WITH 1 HOUR TO GO WE ‘LAND’ ON THE MOON, WITH HUGE AMOUNTS OF SMOKE AND ALARMS GOING OFF.

 

ALL CAST THEN ENTER AS ALIENS, AS THE PRODIGY – OUT OF SPACE IS DROPPED, AND THE PARTY TURNS TO A (RATHER DAFT) FINALE WITH DANCE CLASSICS PLAYING, AND ELROW-TYPE PRODUCTION.

 

First Intervention

 

My first intervention will be an event at The Garage in Highbury & Islington. This will be for 750 people in 3 rooms, entitled ‘Escape To Atlantis To Interzone.’ It will be a combination of immersive play (situated onboard an Elon Musk rocket ship headed for Mars), and musical tribute night (of the ‘Nu Rave Scene’ from 2005-2008).

 

The stakeholders will be the audience of the event itself – fans of the musical genre and fans of existing immersive events (Secret Cinema, Punchdrunk, Dream Think Speak etc). Additionally the venue and it’s staff will be stakeholders, as well as the cast of the production.

 

Both the event itself and the process of creating and putting on the event will be part of the intervention. I will be able to gain new knowledge from this intervention in several ways:

 

1) From the moment I begin advertising it (using facebook adverts), I will be able to measure the reaction of my target audience to the concept of merging these two genres of event. This can in fact be measured by the ‘cost per click’ (CPC) of the facebook adverts, which give a good indication of people’s reaction (roughly speaking this number will be between 20p and £1.50 per click).

 

2) The script itself will be sent to directors and screenwriters for feedback / reaction. This will include Grammy nominated and UKMVA winning directors. It will also be sent to members of the CSM drama course teaching staff for feedback / iteration.

 

3) The attendees of the event. Their reaction will be gauged by A) Observation on the night B) Online reaction after the event C) Audience survey after the event

 

Key questions to be answered:

 

– Does it work to tell a narrative whilst having music constantly playing?

– In what ways does it work? In what ways does it not work?

– Is it possible to have rewards for high participation whilst enjoyable for those with low enthousiasm involvement?

– In narrative theory there should be a hero. Is the hero part of the story, or is the audience the hero?

– How can I incorporate technology into immersive / music events?

Here is the website