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Catapult Coyote

This exercise didn't really work, so if you do give it a whirl - please do let me know where and how it can be proved.

For the third Flying Monkeys event, the theme was 'Migration' and for the table activity I wanted to create something that illustrated how a person's narrative could change dramatically by the process of migrating from their starting point, where their character developed to their end point where they became a fish out of water and all that character work would be tested.

The mechanics were simple; Once upon a time, when I was working on the Multi Platform project Victor, I pitched the idea of 'Angry Mexicans' based on the same game engine as the famous bird based mobile game. The project included tales of real life coyotes, and I thought a fun way to engage with them would be to re skin the mobile game and have them send Mexicans across the border - the concept only ever remained an amusement, until...

I ordered a catapult balsa wood kit and constructed the old siege weapon. I then purchased a big map of the world for the lego figurine proxies to land on.

We didn't have enough time on the evening, but my hope was that with so many storytellers we would have a frenzy of character building, with everyone sharing their techniques on how the built characters and also why those characters would be motivated to migrate.

Instead, I gave everyone an AR colouring template, where they could colour in their characters and concoct a backstory as they did. They would then present those paintings to the catapult, who would bring them to AR life (Ohhh- ahhh) before launching them onto the world map to continue their story.

Too much concept, not enough time. Also, I think the AR Colouring In was too time consuming and also too much of a distraction - more people were amazed with that to actually engage with the narrative exercise.

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Interactive Quilting

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Interactive Quilting

The tradition of stitching together a sandwich of fabric with some wadding in between goes back a long, long time. In fact the term "Quilt" derives from the Latin for 'Stuffed Sack' , illustrating how the adoption of such a simple process to create a comfort blanket existed long before it became a method of familial expression.

That evolution grew from the increased availability of cotton in America's formative years as those on the frontier learnt to farm the resource domestically. From there, patchwork quilting emerged and before long generations were sharing the stories of their families across a tapestry of individual frames stitched together to become a tremendous collaborative narrative.

It is from that principle that this workshop was born.

The materials list is quite simple:

Squares of felt.

Wadding

Sewing Kits

Glue & Glue Gun

Scissors

With the above it is simple work to craft a symbolic representation of a story or event. But for the purposes of this event I included small re-recordable 'Voiceboxes' - the kind you find inside talking teddy bears. I had ordered 100 from a Chinese factory and offered then to the participants to provide an added dimension to their work.

The intention of the workshop was to create something to share with someone who might need comforting both physically and also emotionally and as such the voices recorded within each panel of the quilt should offer a story of hope and/ or happiness.

The process was quick for the participants, from the conception of the narrative through to a symbolic representation on their patch to the recording of the voicebox, sticthing and wadding - we completed a 12 panel quilt in less than an hour.

The results were really quite moving and I am very happy to report that the quilt has since been donated and has raised a little money and hope for those needing comfort.

 

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Finding The Words Game

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Finding The Words Game

Find the Words

A quick and very easy icebreaker.

Ingredients:

Space

Post It Notes (Hundreds)

Sharpie Marker Pens

Bucket

Scenario Cards

So, this game, which was premiered at the last Flying Monkey's event,  is devised to have people learn to express themselves under limited resources.

Often when asked to say something under difficult circumstances, people respond “I cannot Find the Words”. This game is designed to help them find the words.

Begin by handing everyone in your group a pad of Post It notes. 

Give them precisely five minutes to write on each note a separate word; nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions etc etc.

Collect all the Post It Notes in a bucket.

Now ask your group to take a handful / a few handfuls of the Post It notes and distribute them around the room. They can be as visible as people wish, but emphasize that the more precious words should be perhaps hidden as treasure and demand more effort to find.

Reconvene and now present each person in the group with a Scenario card:

A scenario card should demand that each participant “Find The Words” to say something specific.

Examples:

“Find the Words…to leave your lover”

“Find the Words…to say goodbye to your best friend”

“Find the Words…to bring comfort to someone suffering”

“Find the Words…to make a child smile”

Now, each participant will embark on a treasure hunt to make a sentence/ paragraph that will achieve the demands stated on the Scenario Cards.

FM 2nd Event

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Dioramas

Mohammed Qutaish 2016

Mohammed Qutaish 2016

Model making is something I've always enjoyed and was an element of cinematic development that I dearly loved . From the models of Ken Adams to picturing Stanley Kubrick studying his scaled version of the Overlook Hotel and selecting steady cam shots, a diorama is not only a great way to pre-visualize, but can also be a way to observe interaction with your audience:

The above image is the creation of my good friend Mohammed Qutaish who is not only the master of creating paper craft models, but is also the subject of my ongoing project, "Future Aleppo". His models not only provide a preservation of the beautiful city of Aleppo, but also provide testament to the lives that lived there. Furthermore, he supplements the historic with his own imaginative projections of the city he dreams of rebuilding.

It is that level of investment with which I recommend participants build their storyscapes. They have the opportunity to really structure the world to best support the audience's exploration of the narrative and where possible can incorporate interactive elements.

So, following the creation of a map, the natural graduation is to turn elements of your StoryWorld into three dimensional playsets for your characters and audience proxy to explore. I recommend keeping the build as simple as possible using paper craft, plasticine, pens/ paint etc.

Once built, the next step is to find ways to make the diorama interactive. In the past I have used, 'Little Bits', 'NFC Tags' and Bare Conductive, but there are always new toys that can be incorporated and can often breath magic into the model.

The final stage is always to encourage others to play with what you have built. This is the best possible way of examining what your story really means to people and what draws their interest.

 

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Mapping

Finding Abu Rish

Finding Abu Rish

I think my fondness for cartography comes from my dad. A growth spurt at 12 meant I was tall enough to ride shotgun and inevitably be the map reader for long car journeys. I was absolutely useless at first, but after a little planning ahead I could navigate routes at ease.

The breakthrough was my reading of large fantasy novels at the time which would often preface with an idiosyncratic map of the lands that were about to be explored by the characters and could be referred to if the reader became lost. Thus our car journeys became a small fellowship with the destination often being somewhere far more exciting in my imagination than actuality.

I always encourage participants of my workshops to make a map of their Storyworld. It needn't be geographically accurate, but it is worthwhile to observing from distance the journey characters make and more pertinently the route of the audience.

Multi Platform projects can be especially dense and the best piece of advice I was given was to 'Zoom Out' of the project. To literally float above it and watch the cogs moving and where obstructions were blocking the user experience. Additionally, we quickly learn which elements are extraneous and could result in a narrative cul de sac.

Agency within a storyworld often means opening the world up to exploration and affording audience's to interpret and interact as they wish, but a good map can at least provide a guide to both the narrative designer and user.

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Status Game

Tempo - 2015

Tempo - 2015

'Status' is a very english preoccupation. We have a continually shifting class system that is both confusing and often debilitating (at least for me). I talk alot about the rebalance of power between storyteller and audience and I like to use a little game I picked up from my days as a salesman in retail to exemplify.

The game requires a pack of cards, shuffled. You ask each participant to take a card and without looking at its face, place it outward on their forehead - just like the idiot in the picture above.

When the game begins, the group walks around in silence, reacting favorably or otherwise to one another based on the status of their playing card. Those with Royal Cards are smiled at, curtsied to and warmly recieved (in silence). Numbers 7-9 can also expect to receive warm greetings, but perhaps a little more muted. Numbers 4-6, the silent reactions tend to be somewhat nonchalant and indifferent, but those with Aces though to 3, unfortunately are avoided and if eye contact is made it is with some degree of repulsion.

Once the game has played out, I ask the group to (without looking at their cards still) separate into four corners of the space, each defined by their assumed status. If the game has made them feel extraordinary they will head to the Royal corner, if they were made to feel special but perhaps with some reservation, their corner is the 7-9 and so on.

Having been herded according to how they feel they were treated by their silent companions, they are then allowed to take a look at the card to see if they find themselves in the correct corner.

The first time I played this game, I happened to be a King and the sensation of being on the receiving end of so many smiles and flirtations was completely intoxicating. I joked that it was the best day of my life, but actually maybe it was.

This is the lesson. Whether we are about to work in a group or with our audience or with anyone in general, it is always best to do so as Kings and Queens. Their response will always be far more impactful, and if our intention in creating a transmedia project where feedback and dialogue is a key factor, is it not better to treat those we wish to speak with with the respect we would ourselves like to recieve?

 

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Storycubes

Storycubes

Personally, the most exciting part of any workshop is the point at which the storycubes come out. 

I tend to suggest that participants can use their own IP, an existing and familiar storyworld or conjure something up via the dice. When offering the choice, I'll admit that my emphasis is most certainly stressed on the last option.The reason is simple - Storycubes are hugely fun and entertaining. 

The instructions in the box suggest that players should roll all nine dice together and concoct a narrative based on the symbols top side. This is a fine game, but not the one I like to play.

I have collected hundreds of dice over the years. Every generic and limited edition set has been purchased in bulk and dropped into a drawstring bag, meaning that the variety of stories that can be told has become exponentially limitless.

My adapted method is to gather the entire group, or create smaller working groups and have them form a circle/s. We then play the game as the surrealists played 'The Exquisite Corpse', with each participant in turn contributing a part of the narrative.

Unlike the surrealists, the random element doesn't come from hiding our contribution by folding a piece of paper but by the roll of a storycube drawn blind from the drawstring bag.

The first narrator will start the story, "Once upon a time..." roll the die and then kickstart our adventure based on the topside symbol. They can embellish as much or as little as they like before handing the bag on clockwise around the circle. 

I try to wrap the story up once everyone has added something or after the narrative seems to organically reach it's conclusion and then voila, we have a collaborative work that everyone hopefully feels equally invested in. No proprietary feelings, no sense or working on someone else's vision, but a democratically created (albeit often entirely insane) story.

An added benefit, is that you also get to sense the dynamic and personalities of the group. Often you'll find a saboteur lurking in the midst, as well as someone who likes to summarize and keep the story on a conventional track.

The cubes areremendous fun and always provide a fascinating story to base project work from.

Available from Amazon here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=story+cubes&tag=googhydr-21&index=aps&hvadid=25090724046&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=16307973574870183222&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_3ukhhfnao9_b

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Go Hack Yourself!

BDC - 2016

Whenever I've tried to do any kind of programming, it has inevitably left me a quivering wreck. I am 'SlapDash' in almost everything I do in life, so double checking for unplaced semi colons can be exasperating.

That said, I think it is a valuable area to understand a little about, if only to illustrate  how once we know the fundamentals of programming we can start reshaping and twisting them.

I'd be out of depth in seconds if I attempted to talk about code or anything beyond what IFTTT means, so I play a game I adapted from my days as a failed actor:

I start by informing the group of the simple 'Commands' I will be barking at them as they explore the room. The 'commands' are simple and straightforward - "Left" means turn left, "Right" means turn right, "Stop" means stop and "Go" means...you're ahead of me, right?

So after a few minutes of bumping into furniture, I alert them that we have now been "Hacked" and that the commands have now been changed - "Left" means right, "Right" means left, "Stop"-go, "Go"- stop etc. We'll play for a while, adding new commands as we go; "Jump" means squat, "Squat means jump".

It can be quite hysterical, and serves as a great icebreaker and destoryer of inhibition. More importantly, it starts driving that right brain activity, as speech receptors have to be interpreted prior to motor skills kicking in - it takes the group off of auto pilot, whilst also introducing the concept of, "Well, I know this thing can do this, but what if I hacked it and made it do that." in a simple and light manner.

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Mix and Mashup.

Balkan Documentary Center - 2016

This is a much simplified version of a game I'd played at another Bulgarian festival in 2015. The previous iteration exploited the six sides of a dice, and encouraged players to role three times, having allocated a number to a corresponding Subject/Media/Structure etc.ie:

1. Love                          Radio / Podcast                        Linear   

2. Politics                     LARP                                         Episodic

3. Economics               Augmented Reality Game        Branching

4. Nature                     TV/ Film                                     Open World

5. Religion                   TableTop Game                          Fragmented

6. Science                    Web Native                                User Generated

It was complicated and really needed streamlining, but it was a game that I wanted to keep as it helped explore platforms quickly without getting too bogged down in the merits of each media.

Fortunately, whilst working with Hyper Island for the Tempo 48 Hour Hacakthon, we figured on what I think is quite an elegant solution:

Provide each participant with two small stacks of different colored post it notes and allocate 2-5 minutes for them to throw every conceivable platform on one of the pads and every possible subject for a story on the other color.

After the allotted time, have each participant roll their notes into a self sealing cylinder (Think of it as  a rolled cigarette) and place each subject in one bowl and each media in another.

You'll now have two bowls overflowing with multi colored straws. In sweden, we took the bowls to the participants inviting them to lucky dip one note from each bowl and without a second to formulate, pitch an idea based on the provocation of merging the platform and subject ascribed on each note.

In Bulgaria, I invited participants to collect their two notes and pitch at the front of the room - you'll have to read the atmosphere to decide which method is better, but in both cases we rapid fired our way through so many platforms and expunged so many ideas that you could see a million burnt out ideas float away from each participant and give room to freer thinking.

* Additionally, you can use a platform grid to then post each platform note onto as a reference for the participants.

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