I have emailed Rob Da Bank (Radio 1, Bestival) in order to attempt to collaborate on a Prince-themed event (see previous post re product attributes). I am thinking that this will take place on Valentines Day, given it is Prince and the general wedding theme I am planning for the narrative.
I have written the rough storyline for the next event. Based on the last event, I realised that the solution to wanting people to follow a story, but not wishing to demand their attention (since they should have the option to dance, converse, drink, smoke etc without following), is to have constant ‘rolling news’ on the screens, which are repetitive (just like actual rolling news).
The difficulty I had with the technical work in the last event (syncing sound and film for a 6 hour event, and heavy editing workload) have led me to divide the evening into segments, which I will edit one at a time in the coming weeks.
I just re-read ‘Thinking, Fast & Slow’ by Nobel Prize winning Psychologist Daniel Khaneman – who’s work with Amos Tversky has had enormous impact on behavioural economics, specialising in decision making and judgement, and the instinctual flaws humans have with pure rational behaviour (as traditionally defined by economists).
One heuristic in the book which I fully agreed with from my own experience, is the ‘Peak-end Rule’. This is the idea (shown to be true in many experiments) that we do not remember events in their entirety, but more vividly recount our experiences based on the ‘peak’ moments, and the end of such experience:
“A 1993 study titled “When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End” by Kahneman, Fredrickson, Charles Schreiber, and Donald Redelmeier provided groundbreaking evidence for the peak–end rule. Participants were subjected to two different versions of a single unpleasant experience. The first trial had subjects submerge a hand in 14 °C water for 60 seconds. The second trial had subjects submerge the other hand in 14 °C water for 60 seconds, but then keep their hand submerged for an additional 30 seconds, during which the temperature was raised to 15 °C. Subjects were then offered the option of which trial to repeat. Against the law of temporal monotonicity, subjects were more willing to repeat the second trial, despite a prolonged exposure to uncomfortable temperatures. Kahneman et al. concluded that “subjects chose the long trial simply because they liked the memory of it better than the alternative (or disliked it less).”
Similarly, a 1996 study by Kahneman and Redelmeier assessed patients’ appraisals of uncomfortable colonoscopy or lithotripsy procedures and correlated the remembered experience with real-time findings. They found that patients consistently evaluated the discomfort of the experience based on the intensity of pain at the worst (peak) and final (end) moments. This occurred regardless of length or variation in intensity of pain within the procedure.”
I in the script, I have deliberately included 3 ‘big moments’ during the event, as well as finishing on Kanye’s most popular songs (and integrating these songs fully into the story, using Jay Z & Ksnye’s joint album ‘Watch The Thron). Outline draft 1 below:
The Electoral College Dropout Structure: 8pm-2am. Last Entry 10pm. 8pm-10pm - The Warm Up: B-Sides, smaller fan favourites. 10pm - Opening Show
A short video giving the highlights of the election campaign so far, setting the scene. Mostly stock footage, some from our ‘news anchor’,(who will be 1 of 2 narrators for the event, along with the host).
‘Opening ceremony’. Silence, pitch black. ‘Ultralight Beam’ plays. Then ‘Jesus Walks’, with dancers parading through the venue from the back, towards the stage. They will carry a bust of Kanye’s head, or indoor fireworks. Visuals start for Jesus Walks, and go immediately into ‘Power’. This will be accompanied by dancing on stage, visuals, lighting show.
Host does intro, pro Kanye, says we might be behind in the polls but we can do it, New York and Nevada (Las Vegas) have Kanye neck and neck etc.
An election map is updated with wins from Michelle & Trump, with Michelle pulling ahead. Visuals throughout the night rotate between Kanye music visuals, silent news reports / election maps, tweets, especially from Trump. Trump starting to allude to the idea of postponing the election due to issues in the world. 11pm - New York
Cut to New York. Michelle Obama wins. Our host is sad, especially when Jay Z is celebrating with the Obamas. Host says Kanye and Jay still friends, but still subtly induces the crowd to boo Jay Z. This is a brief interlude.
11.50pm - Vegas
Kanye wins Vegas. Balloon drop, confetti cannons, dancers, our host and the crowd celebrating.
News reports starting to show trouble. Trump saying we need to postpone election now in rant-tweets. News showing Republicans going to Supreme Court to apply for a postponement due to ‘multiple national emergencies’. 12.30am - News Report News report that Supreme Court has ruled that whilst the election cannot be postponed half way through, Michele must win by ‘extraordinary margin’ or it will be held again in one year. Music then goes a bit dark - Yeezus album 12.45am - Agent Taylor Music cuts out. Out come ‘FBI Agents’ They are cancelling the party, as it is electioneering. Whilst Agent Taylor is talking, the host snatches the mic “Taylor, imma let you finish, but this is London! We’re gonna party all night, election or no election. Now get that music back on!” 1am - Finale News report - Breaking News! Michelle Obama appoints Kanye West as vice president to get requisite votes. Deal was brokered by Jay Z. Mass celebrations, cue all of Jay Z & Kanye West collaborative tracks (especially Watch The Throne), with Watch The Throne visuals.
From John Burgess, director of Bugged Out! (http://www.buggedout.net/) and Field Day Festival (http://fielddayfestivals.com/), and founder / director of The Mighty Hoopla Festival(https://www.mightyhoopla.com/):
The two main production people, Mhari and Ignas have sent feedback from the event. Both are Theatre Design students, both worked on the event for the past few weeks and attended as customers.
And maybe audio could include sounds and effects to help build the atmosphere.
Definitely in the future events production will be addressed for earlier in the process, with everything being tested in advance. I plan to run a ‘dress rehearsal’ of the Kanye event in a small space with 20-40 people to gain feedback far enough in advance to be able to make changes.
Adam Alston’s book refer’s to the concept of ‘elegance’, to mean how smooth the imagined world being created in Immersive Theatre transition’s with practical considerations / restrictions (for example wanting to move people from one room to another to continue the story – tell them to move or entice them in a way that is coherently part of the story). I feel that lighting and devices such as sirens / alarms could have definitely improved the elegance of my production.
Thinking more deeply, my research and thinking are increasingly leading me to conclude that the real aim here is to create events with no limit on their upside – that is scaleable concepts, in order to become subject to Pareto’s law. For that to happen the story must be mostly led by pre-filmed content, which can be used again without additional cost. Replacing expensive DJs with expensive sets and actors isn’t a great leap forward. My emphasis for the next event will be on the digital production over everything else.
I have launched the second major intervention. I have created 3 promotional videos:
And set up 12 adverts for these, with various demographic targeting. Press release has been sent out, and there will be a pre-sale next Wednesday (August 1st). This is a better date than previously with a broader musical theme – hopefully this will do better
From actors Miranda & Tim, who just completely a full season of Secret Cinema’s Blade Runner and are experienced immersive actors with Punchdrunk, Secret Cinema and more.
We countered the natural flow of audience going to the toilet at inconvenient times by using the security detail. He would stop them and ask them questions like “do you think it’s your basic right to be able to go to the toilet?” Or “do you have ID?” Or pretending to listen to a walkie talkie. This gives enough time to to be able to send them through where they wouldn’t interfere with the rebel story line. It wasn’t perfect but it was ok.
• The flow of audience to the smoking area is also another pathway to think about and warn your performers next time where. As they are always asked.
• When you are opening up a new space, like the big room we opened at 10: 20pm. it can be useful to use the narrative to help that reveal land in a more exciting way.
• We found with walk about interactions in the big space. it is limited to physical tasks
As it was too loud to deliver much vocal content. This was absolute fine as the videos where doing that at this point. Although they needed a little more tech support to land right. Personally I think they were too quite. Perhaps a siren or a loud sound that snaps the environment for a moment before the videos. A repeated sound motif used through the event like a school bell to teach the audience to pay attention at critical narrative moments. The videos could also use subtitles.
• The same tech support is needed if you are going to have a live scene in a space like that. “Find your light” became a catch phrase, when working on The drowned man with Punchdrunk. Its great to perform in dark space’s, but you need pools of concentrated light to be seen in, if the audience is gonna have any clue of what’s going on.
The event was Saturday. I will go deeper with my assessment as more stakeholders are surveyed, but below are my initial thoughts / learnings.
Overall the event was a commercial failure, a creative success and an amazing learning exercise.
There were just over 300 people through the door, which was more than enough to create a great atmosphere (see video above), but more than half were ‘comped’, so the revenue did not cover costs. There were three reasons for this in my opinion:
1) The date was terrible, June 7 July are the worst possible dates for club events, and the week before payday is especially bad; in addition a hot summer exacerbates this, and it’s the hottest summer in living memory.
2) This is a new and unknown concept, which people found confusing (there were people asking online ‘what is it though?’ throughout the campaign. Partially this is good, in that it indicates that this is an original idea, but perhaps I could have simplified the messaging earlier (after the first few weeks of advertising I switched to emphasising the music).
3) The musical theme is an obscure one – that’s fine as a test event, but by combining a challenging concept with an obscure musical theme the potential audience shrinks dramatically.
No new business can expect to be profitable during it’s first ever trading period, so this isn’t disastrous, and I would much rather learn all the other lessons during a low profile event. I am rereading ‘Smarter, Faster, Better’ by Charles Duhigg, the book where I first read about creativity often being the cross pollination of ideas between domains. In his example which inspired this whole concept, Duhigg talks about A West Side Story, and how it brought together different types of theatre. The first showing was held in Washington “So if it bombed, news might not reach all the way back to Broadway”, which I find comforting when reflecting on this event. The Garage is not a high profile venue, and Nu Rave is not a mainstream musical genre I will need to revisit.
The event itself was one of the most stressful days of my career, starting at 10am in the venue. My production team were there all day creating the centrepiece, which looked amazing and did a magnificent job of making the dance floor less intimidating.
I spent much of the day editing and re-editing the video which contained all the music for the night as well as the visuals and filmed parts. I was using Premiere Pro, a programme I used for the first time on this project, and had spent all week on. At 6pm I was ready to upload it, and the computer said it would take 5 hours to save! Having only used iMovie previously, I had no idea that large films take hours to render – this meant a last minute panic, and having to run the film from within the programme itself. This caused significant anxiety on the night, and the programme froze twice, but it was a minor pause and didn’t affect audience experience.
Audience members on the night arrived and were led into the upstairs room, where there were 9 actors manning tables marked ‘Mars Immigration’. There were told they were not getting full citizenship and given glow sticks and faces painted in neon, as per the script. The ‘secret room’ was used to great effect to recruit ‘rebels’ as per the script also, and the audience were loving the experience. We decided to hold everyone upstairs until 9.30pm building atmosphere and anticipation, and it worked really well. When they went downstairs the dance floor immediately filled up, and the atmosphere was euphoric. The biggest surprise of the night for me was the reaction to the first filled scene. The audience went crazy cheering and celebrating, and booing Elon Musk’s name. It was an amazing moment, and bodes well for the concept in the future.
Several people expressed surprise that there wasn’t a DJ, and in hindsight perhaps I should have had one after the filmed scenes were finished. The pre-programmed music got harder as the night went on, when in actual fact the crowd was thinning, and it should have gone more towards disco than rave in those circumstances. I need to find a way to balance a pre-existing story with the flexibility to react to the night in future.
The actors final dramatic scene which coincided with the final filmed scene had mixed results. Those who saw it loved it, and were cheering the ‘rebels’ enthusiastically, but in a busy, dark, loud club many missed it entirely. The actors felt this could have been overcome using spot lights to focus the crowd on them.
Overall, I am delighted with the experience of putting this on, despite it’s problems. I have never been so nervous before an event, and probably would have cancelled it when the film failed to save were it not part of my Masters – doing something out of one’s comfort zone leads to fast learning, and that has been the story of my summer so far.
Before the next event I am going to research ways to add flexibility to using music and film in a club environment – I think there is a type of CDJ music player which incorporates visuals. I will also make the next event far clearer in it’s explanation from the beginning, and go for a more mainstream music policy. The film / music will be sorted well in advance, and some kind of mini ‘dress rehearsal’ is a must in future. I would like to invest in more actors and more decor / effects on the night, but of course this is budget dependent.
The actors will be sending me detailed feedback this week, as will several promoters I asked to come to the event, and the venue itself. I will send a survey to all ticket holders also.
On Wednesday the second iteration of my concept will be announced – ‘The Electoral College Dropout’, to take place at Electric Brixton on October 5th. I built the website for this today – www.elixarimmersive.com