Headbin is a new kind of superhero universe that spans live events, traditional screen production and social media.
Episodic drama content unfolds the story of a teenage girl in the near future whose avatar enables her to become a superhero online. In the story, set in the near future, the development of virtual worlds is accelerating at the expense of the real world.
Can a superhero be a teenage girl?
Can her universe span cinema, live events, a television series and the online community?
Can her audience join with her in telling her stories?
Can they make their stories her stories and her stories theirs?
Yes...if she uses all the tools now at her disposal...
Wired Magazine described the project as the "world's first massively multiplayer movie". Electronic Arts described the project as a search for the "Holy Grail of interactive entertainment - selling interactive products to people who do not play video games". The interactive screenplay was considered by DC Comics as a virtual reality Batman title. The as-yet unfinished pilot Sanctuary was cited in the inaugural Sydney Film Festival Innovation Award, won by Headbin creator, Michela Ledwidge in 2009. The Headbin interactive cinema event concept was runner-up in the MIPTV 2010 Content 360 Next Generation Audience Engagement competition.
Image: Still from Sanctuary - the Headbin origin story pilot (work-in-progress)
The drama series requires no interactivity to be enjoyed on its own but the show is produced to allow target audiences to get creative and mess with it if they want to. Or to check out what others have done with it. Each episode has a parallel 'interactive cinema' event showcasing the mash-up aesthetic of the show, and online resources related to each episode for further reversioning and customisation as remixes and video game mods. Creative Commons licensing and Open Source video game and app software makes this possible.
Using techniques pioneered by multi-player online games and Alternative Reality Games (ARGs), community hosts work closely with the producers to facilitate a two-way relationship with audience members and give examples of how audiences can engage with open media and open source software projects, using released episodic material from the show's bible, to showcase their creativity.
Image: Remixable media player providing online access to user-generated film mods
The target audience is young people, 14-24 year olds with an interest in sci-fi/fantasy who use the Internet as a "second screen" to augment their experience of linear media. The online tools are targeted at young people learning about media and software remixing as a form of personal expression. Like the show's lead character, they 'get' the remix paradigm and just want material to play with. The show gives them high quality material in a fun context.
Each episode is designed to be 'played like a musical instrument' using DJ/VJ tools, ripped apart, sampled and re-used. Live events and media installations develop this theme. Each feature-length live event starts as a cinematic experience (Presentation). Then as the credits roll, guest remix artists take the stage, remixing material from the show (Performance) which shows "how you do it" and opens things up for audience participation ("now you mess with it").
A simpler version of this experience can be deployed as a stand-alone media installation without the performances. The Headbin origin story (10 minutes) is written as a loop to support audience members trying their hand at remixing. The producers will work with remix artists and competition winners for sequels.
Broadcast TV series
The linear narrative can be enjoyed on its own but timed release of content, apps and live events augment the experience. Broadcasters can acquire the rights to the series in a territory and release their own additional branded content in time with episodes.
Remixable media and open source software
The show's source material - remix tools and terabytes of open licensed media assets, will be distributed along with the show. The show and the live events create a context for hands-on learning and exploration using assets to create and reversion the interactive hook for each episode (e.g. a web/iPhone easter egg, an open source music rhythm game played on Facebook, a DJ/VJ tool for YouTube).
Image: Screenshot of the online production platform circa 2006
Distribution and Marketing Plan
The primary distribution channel is live events but the producers will ensure that part (or all) of the media produced is licensed in a way that supports legal re-use for marketing and education. The show will leverage peer-to-peer technology and processes to encourage audience re-distribution of materials. This will not preclude commercial exploitation of show material but all distribution arrangements will need to take on board the core audience of remixers. The show needs to be seen as going with the flow of sampling/remix culture rather than fighting it. All production assets in the Headbin origin story pilot were cleared for Creative Commons re-use (e.g. all artwork, VFX assets) - a world first for a 35mm film production with professional cast and crew.
Interactive distribution and marketing will rely heavily on syndication through social networks (e.g. broadcasters, Facebook, Google and Apple platforms). Behind the scenes, the producers maintain an extensive online production platform used to development and manage the story world through its entire lifecycle).
The show's authenticity stems from its use of remix cultural paradigms and open source software influences. Nonetheless the cutting edge narrative context of the show provides branded content opportunities for emerging technology products and arts/entertainment services.
Project Finance Plan
- Angel & crowdsourced funding for completion of Sanctuary (Headbin origin story pilot)
- Live event funding - co-production Mod Productions & festival/event partners
- Series development and production funding - Major Broadcaster / Network
- Series marketing - Branded content sponsors
Partnerships in place
- Hokus Bogus (UK) - post production / facilities support
- Live event and exhibition partners
- Drama producer partner
- Principal broadcast/network partner
- Sponsors for branded content and live events
Sanctuary 'the origin story' video
Director's blog (1997 to present)
Origin Story Storyboards
About Mod Productions
Mod Productions creates media magic for events and entertainment. Founders Michela and Mish deliver multi-platform media productions that make audiences go wow. Mod Productions acquired all rights to the Headbin story universe from UK company (MOD Films).
Post production on the Sanctuary origin story pilot is on hold awaiting completion and deployment funding.
A stand-alone arts installation Ten Years In the Headbin documenting the turbulent real-world history of the project is under development.
The "interactive cinema" event format is in active development with Mod Productions.
The online platform tools required to manage Headbin are in active development as a commercial cloud service for media productions, Rack&Pin.
The story began life as an interactive story treatment sold to Brilliant Digital Entertainment in 1997 and developed into a feature-length title for their interactive 3D format b3d. Michela regained the rights to the property in the mid-00s and redeveloped the project as a “remixable film” after being inspired by the video games mod paradigm. In 2004 this work won her an Invention and Innovation award from NESTA - the UK's National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts with which she founded MOD Films. Michela defensively published technical specifications to prevent patents blocking open development of the idea.
In 2005 Sanctuary, the Headbin origin story was shot as a 10-minute short 35mm film in Sydney, Australia. Setting a global precedent for the use of Creative Commons licensing on professional productions, the production ran into difficulties when the Australian Media Entertainment Arts Alliance attempted an industry-wide boycott. The dispute which involved last-minute cancellation of the origin shoot and subsequent re-staging with support from the Australian Film Corporation resulted in budget overruns and resulted in failure to secure completion funding for post production.
Students from Swedish and Australian colleges and online community volunteers worldwide, worked on Sanctuary post-production in subsequent years. A 3-minute work-in-progress teaser was released in 2010 for a round of demos culminating with an interactive cinema performance by Michela at the MIPTV 360 competition 2010 in Cannes for "Next Generation Audience Engagement".
Over 200 people have directly contributed to the project to-date. MOD Films Pty Ltd was dissolved in 2010. The modfilms.com website remains archived by the National Library of Australia as a national heritage site.
Headbin in the press
(CC) Mod Productions 2012. Some Rights Reserved
A creative collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, ACO Virtual is a world-first interactive video experience.View project >
UTS Future of Storytelling Symposium
A participatory lab experience in the UTS Data Arena - a 360-degree immersive interactive display facility.View project >