Hi I’m Michael Kibblewhite, a producer for the Fusion project. We are part of the BBC Academy and support the development of new skills in creativity and technology both within the BBC and for the wider industry.
We recently held an event in London called Future Fiction and I want to share some of the insights from the day here.
Future Fiction posed the question: where next for drama? In recent years there has been a surge in new and disruptive platforms to distribute content. From Netflix’s distribution of House of Cards to Toshiba funding social media-driven films, change is in the air.
We gathered speakers from across the world of digital distribution and drama production. They discussed how the digital revolution is changing not only the way we consume drama but the way it is developed, produced and commissioned.
Watch a clip of writer Luke Hyams at BBC Future Fiction
You can watch them in action on our YouTube channel or I have distilled some of their key points below.
Introducing ‘espresso fiction’
Shot-sized stories are winning, YouTube’s Rosie Alimonos told our audience of writers and digital creatives. Rosie noted the pulling power of online formats such as The Last and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries where the story develops in real time and the main character talks directly to the audience.
“Be a catalyst, pack a punch and leave them wanting more” is Rosie’s mantra for success for original programmes.
For writer Luke Hyams broadcasting original short-form content through YouTube and other online distribution channels is successful because it enables a connection to the audience, instant feedback and therefore more reactive storytelling.
Producers are able to make use of the specific data available to them and can adjust storylines according to audience behavior as in his popular online series KateModern.
Does digital limit storytelling?
“Computers are stupid”. You don’t hear that often, but they remain inferior to writers in the storytelling process technologist Paul Rissen believes. (Best to watch this video of him belowexplaining why.) Essentially, more human touch is the key to development in this space said Nicole Yershon, director of innovative solutions at Ogilvy.
Watch technologist Paul Rissen speaking at Future Fiction
Keynote speech: Q&A with writer Peter Moffat
Box-set culture “is a great moment for television and the opportunities are profound.” Writer Peter Moffat says that video on demand combats audience inattention and lets the writer take more control.
Commending House of Cards and it’s method of distribution, he is still wary of the future for the series. Netflix reputedly used big data to determine the success of the show so he is mindful of the possibility that statistics will shape its future more that the writers.
How can drama production be agile?
We talk of agile development in software teams, but iterative and incremental working can yield results in drama too. ITV’s head of digital soaps Danny Whitfield is an advocate. It’s about “taking away that comfy chair, making the audience share the story, and create familiar frames in different places” to make innovation easier.
Formats for the future of fiction
Author Naomi Alderman wants objects to flow from the story world she creates into the real world of her audience. She’s had great success in turning the average jog into a zombie apocalypse in her app Zombies, Run!
Meanwhile, the case for perceptive media was offered by Ian Forrester from BBC Research and Development. He sees a future with more immersive drama experiences, as the connected experience reacts to body gestures and analyses your data to offer a tailored experience.
The day was supported with workshops, such as lessons on the five-act structure by former BBC Drama Controller John Yorke. He argues that despite recent advances in technology, the fundamentals of storytelling remain the same.
So the future of fiction is not all about reinventing the wheel after all.
What do you want the future of fiction to look like?
Michael Kibblewhite is a producer for BBC Fusion.