Make it a story.
Make it a narrative experience, across different forms of media, to attract and engage a global audience.
Implementing the theory of transmedia storytelling that we learned from CMGT550 – Hollywood 3.0 classes into building an IP (Intellectual Property) campaign was not easy at all, and we knew this from the very first moment when Professor Craig introduced the course.
Oh no, we didn’t learn the theory from the start...we learned the theory as we progressed through the project. To be honest, we had absolutely no clue what exactly “transmedia storytelling” was and how we would apply this concept to the project we were going to work on for the following three months.
We kick-started with the only thing we knew at the time – “leverage different media platforms to advocate for a cause that you care about" - and we chose Alzheimer's disease. Was that our IP? Hmmm. We didn’t solidify our IP, the core value of the project, until much later.
And that was only the beginning of the mess…
We came across the film, Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, that tells an emotional story exploring music’s capacity to provoke memory that is lost in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. As optimistic as we could be at the infant stage of the project, we reached out to their production team with a mere description of our project saying something like:
“We are USC graduates who are currently doing a transmedia project…We would like to share with you how we as young people can contribute to raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease…”
Luckily enough, their production team showed interest in our project saying that they would like to know more about it.
Perfecto. We then thought, perhaps we can invite them to talk to USC students? Did we also want to show the film and have an interview with the director and producers afterwards? What else did we need to organize?
At that moment, we didn’t even have our campaign name! We simply let the ideas flow - what else, other than the film presentation, could we produce to let the world know we care about Alzheimer's disease...?
Oh, what about a black and white time-lapse video? One that explores how AD people react over time, with close-ups of micro facial expressions? When the impulsive excitement slipped away, we googled Alzheimer’s care homes in Los Angeles County, started to reach out to them, and waited, with the hope that at least one of them would get back to us.
Just as you think you’re reading this like a myriad of free-flowing mad ideas, this is exactly how we jumped right in, without giving it too much thought.
With endless phone calls, e-mails aplenty, and a 15,000-word thesis due in the week after the project was due, we tried to manage our time as best we could.
1. Organize the film session
2. Share the activity on social media platforms
3. Contact care homes and get permission to do a video shoot
4. Create a website that will host everything
5. Create a coffee book that publishes the still images we’ll be taking during the video shoot
We had it all planned out, or at least, we thought we did. We were so excited but we forgot a few vital things...
Who exactly are we targeting?
College students? Why should they care?
If we could get the video and photo shoot, then what?
“Why should college students care about Alzheimer’s?” was not only a question that Professor Craig asked us countless times in those two months, but one that continued to puzzle us during that entire time.
Unfortunately, good news was not on its way before more bad news was.
1. Uncompromised schedule with the production team of Alive Inside – no film session
2. No response from the care homes – no video or photo shoot
Fine. We didn't let disappointment stop us.
We started to ask our friends:
“Do you care about Alzheimer’s Disease?” – “Not really.”
“Why not?” – “…well, because I myself am not personally affected, so I’m not sure. I care about it sort of…in a way… you know.”
Then we knew - no one would give a damn unless it was a personal experience. If we could make it a personal story that the younger generation could relate to, then perhaps we could change their perception of this degenerative problem they have been ignorant about.
Team, we need to rework our strategy.
How do we raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease in the younger generations that may not be aware of the disease? There's our IP! (Gosh, it’s not too late to realise that.)
To tell the long story short, this is how our Remember2Remember project (what an easy name to remember) was born:
1. @GrandparentsofLA Instagram
2. Remember That She Loved You Animation Video
3. Remember To Forget Film Treatment and Trailer
4. Walk Me Home Game Mock-Up
5. Remember2Remember Website
Instagram moved on from being a mere instrument, which we used to simply share activity information, to become a core part of our campaign. Drawing inspiration from Humans of New York, we created a page - “Grandparents of LA” - on Instagram, inviting college students to tag us in a photo telling us about their most unforgettable memories spent with their grandparents suffering from Alzheimer’s. We believed that digital technology could serve as a time capsule with the capacity to freeze a moment and make it last.
While one of our teammates, Karim Diané, was the expert on social media and helped us on managing the Instagram content, the rest of us would devote ourselves to executing the other core part of the campaign – the animation video. It would be a story about a girl in our generation who spent so much time with friends and on digital technologies, that she didn't give enough time to her loving mother. She then would regret taking her mother's love for granted when it was too late and she lost her.
So, we drew sketches overnight on a Friday and scrolled down our phone contact lists on that Saturday to find the best talent who could help us produce the animation, in two short weeks.
In the end, Ye Li & Ruikai Li from Mainland China were willing to help. In just seven days (minus the time difference between US and China), with multiple rounds of sketching and editing, and the clashing of differing work schedules in different countries, we came up with the 6th version of the animation video (nobody says it was easy!)
“How could we leverage digital technology to show we can store memory and moments on the digital space? What if…”
It wasn’t until Professor Craig asked us this question that we created the final version of the animation video we were all so satisfied with. Feel it – the “what if” - for yourself HERE. (Pay attention to the hourglass – it plays an important role, too. If you missed it, watch it again from the beginning!)
Executed almost simultaneously with the animation video, a film treatment was co-written by Iliana Zuluaga Vega and Andrea Arellano. Remember To Forget is a story about a father (played by Liam Neeson), the first man on earth to recover from Alzheimer’s disease, and with the help of his daughter (played by Scarlett Johansson), remembered that he used to be an extraordinary assassin. It was his daughter’s idea that he underwent the recovery process because she wanted him back to kill.
Pretty awesome, huh? Wait til you watch this. Because we even made a trailer, remixing and pulling extracts from Lost in Translation, Match Point, Taken, Third Person, Still Alice, Lucy, Run All Night, and Liam Neeson’s 60-minute interview...
Just few days before the project was due, we started to work on the game proposal. With the help from Arlo Krämer from Germany (Yes, time zone difference didn’t stop us and Skype calls did help a lot), we were able to propose a digital gaming experience called Walk Me Home that allows the user to navigate his way home. Inspired by Arcade Fire's "Wilderness Downtown" experience, we added real-life elements like cityscapes and buildings, but in blurred visuals, to imitate the spatial disorientation like how an Alzheimer’s patient would experience, and memory loss as the main component of the game.
What hosted all of the fun things that we produced, was our website. On our page, you’d find everything that we talked about earlier, including Instagram feeds of #GrandparentsofLA, the Remember That She Loved You animation video, a trailer of Remember To Forget, and the Walk Me Home game.
The Remember2Remember Project was never really just a class assignment. It explores how technology can bring people together to advocate for a global cause. It’s awesome to think that technology today sheds light on making everyone’s story a lasting one!
Big thank you to the Remember2Remember Project team for writing this blog post from all over the world! - Stephanie from Hong Kong, Karim from LA, Andrea from Mexico City, and David from China, got back in touch via Facebook and Wechat.