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Important Note to the Reader This is a free sample of the very first practical “survival guide� about web-documentaries. We still need your support ;) If you like this initiative, do not hesitate to offer a hard copy of this book to your friends or colleagues. This will help us producing the follow-up version with updated content in one of the hottest debate regarding documentary film production! Your help is very much appreciated. Hard copies can be found in just a few clicks here: Register to our newsletter for updates: For discussion, comments, networking: Facebook Twitter Thank you for your understanding, fasten you seat belt and enjoy the re@ding! ;)

Table of Contents Table of Contents > 6 Preface > Peter Wintonick 9 Introduction > 12 Who participated to this book?


PART 1: A survival guide Where Are We Going to?


The Age of Connected TV_


Ten key tips for your webdoc_


Interactive Storytelling


Building your audience


Webdocs - Case 1 >

POV: James McQuivey (Forrester) POV : Tom Koch (PBS) POV: Alexander Knetig (ARTE)

Webdocs - Case 2 >

Storytelling Tips - Caspar Sonnen Webdocs - Case 3 > Webdocs - Case 4 > Transmedia Storytelling - Caitlin Burns Interaction Design - Vinay Venkatraman Webdocs - Case 5 > Tips from the Game Industry - Marc Meurisse

Webdocs - Case 6 > Webdocs - Case 7 > Using social media - Sheri Candler Webdocs - Case 8 > Think Outside the Box Office - Jon Reiss Webdocs - Case 9 >


Webdocs - A Survival Guide


31 34 35


45 49 52 54 58 60 61

67 71 72 75 78 81

Funding your webdoc


Pitching Your Webdoc


Commissioning Editors’ POV


Webdocs - Case 10 Webdocs - Case 11 Be successful on IndieGoGo - Danae Ringelmann

Webdocs - Case 12 Webdocs - Case 13 How to Pitch your Webdoc? - Anne Vierhout

POV: Tom Koch (PBS) Webdocs - Case 14 POV: Alexander Knetig (ARTE) POV : Mark Atkin (formerly SBS) Webdocs - Case 15 POV: Andrew DeVigal (New York Times)

Starting Your Own Webdoc Company FWA webTV - Rob Ford

85 88 89

95 98 99

103 105 106 107 109 111

115 118

PART 2: Webdocs in Depth Prison Valley (Alexandre Brachet) Out My Window (Katerina Cizek) Collapsus (Femke Wolting) Montréal en 12 Lieux (Nicolas Saint-Cyr) Gaza Sderot (Arik Bernstein) From Zero (Stefano Strocchi)

123 132 140 144 148 156

Useful Websites >


Table of Contents


Introduction > Matthieu Lietaert, producer/director @ Not So Crazy! Productions

Dear guerilla webdocker ;) If you also believe that the 21st century is the century of audiovisual interactivity and that we have definitely moved away from a world of pure audiovisual passivity, this book is for you. Today, with the technologies which are out there, one can literally shoot messages to a responding audience and our cross-media projects can trigger a debate in society as never before!

There are indeed moments in history where everything seems quiet or boring, as if nothing is happening. Then there are times when history is shaken up by one great revolution. In this case, what is amazing is that we are all in the middle of a double revolution! This is just unprecedented: on the one hand, there was the digital revolution that affected the way we could collect, store and process data, and on the other hand, there is the internet revolution that is influencing the way we broadcast the content, network with each other, and now increasingly how we fund our projects. These two revolutions have had immediate implications on the speed and the scale of production. When we think about it, people started to use e-mails only 15 years ago and today 170 million e-mails are sent... every minute! Mobile phones became popular in the late 90s. Rare are those who, today, can work without one... The first digital camera for professional photographers was released in 1991 by Nikon, equipped by Kodak with a 1.3 megapixel sensor... in 2008, the Canon 5D made a revolution with its full-frame sensor. In 2005, the advent of Youtube made it clear that there was a huge audience consuming media online and, only three years later, millions of video are uploaded and watched on a daily basis!


Webdocs - A Survival Guide

Then came the idea of social networks and the concept of sharing in real time over the internet. Blogger was launched in 1999 by the person who 7 years later would go on to create Twitter. Today, 100.000 tweets are posted per minute! Facebook was launched in 2004 and in 2011 about 10% of the world’s population is using it. Its Chinese counterpart Weibo is even growing faster! On the funding side, crowdfunding platforms started to emerge in 2008, like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, with amazing results for successful campaigns. Finally, connected TV is increasingly out there and this will change many habits. So, yes, all this is creating profound changes in the relationship between filmmakers, their projects and their audience. It is then kind of normal that an increasing number of people want to develop the potentiality behind web documentaries. I am not a big fan of definitions (webdocs, crossmedia, transmedia, etc.) but what is sure is that things are moving: workshops and pitchings are being organised in most of the documentary film festivals. While developing The Brussels Business and We R Democracy, two sides of our new cross-media project, I needed to find the answers to some of my questions and I thought that a book could be useful for anyone who is producing their first webdoc!

What is fascinating is that our audience can interact with our content and with one another creating communities or even social movements. The tools are there, so let’s see what we can produce to make social change happen! Based on interviews with some of the key players who kindly shared their knowledge about webdocs and related fields, this book is designed as a tool box or a « survival guide » in the big online jungle. I hope that you will find relevant ideas and practical advice from webdoc authors, producers, from social media analysts, or commissioning editors. Let us know when your own webdoc is out, send us feedback or questions, and register to our newsletter to get free updates of this book! >> Now, lay back, fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the reading! Hope this book will be of relevance to you as much as it was to me!



2> The Age of Connected TV_ In this second chapter, we start with an interview on the ‘connected TV’ phenomenon which is rapidly reaching homes. I thought it was necessary to get some clearer ideas about what tomorrow’s TV will be like. In fact, whereas people have been watching TV in a more or less similar way for the past 60 years, things are now changing fast, and interactivity among viewers as well as with the content itself is becoming a key element that webdoc makers should be aware of. This interview is then followed by the points of view of Tom Koch (PBS) and Alexander Knetig (ARTE).

POV: James McQuivey (Forrester) (James McQuivey, Vice-President @ Forrester Research) What are the core changes that connected TV brings? Once the video gets up to a high enough quality, people very quickly get used to the idea that they can be in control of what they watch and when they watch it. This is very different from the traditional world of TV that dictated to you what you can watch and when you can watch it. What the internet does not do is to put the content in the place where you want to watch it. People still prefer to watch video content on a TV set, this is why they buy a large TV screen, and arrange the rest of the room around it. That’s where connected TV comes in. Connected TV uses the internet to provide exactly the right show at exactly the right time on exactly the right device. This is very challenging to the traditional TV model. For documentary films, this creates opportunities that were not there before. For instance, a broadcaster can only buy a few of the documentaries that are on the

Chapter 2 : The Age of Connected TV


market because they have limited budget and time slots: they do not really have the tools to let the viewers know that there are many other documentaries out there that could be of interest to them. Connected TV can use the tools of the internet such as social recommendation, and algorithm discovery engines such as those used by retail websites like Amazon, so the viewers can find the documentaries that are of interest for them and the producer can find their audience. I won’t say that we have reached the full potential of connected TV, but there is a huge potential there for documentary film makers.

How are broadcasters adapting to this? Or how should they adapt to these changes? One of the rare exceptions is the BBC, which has very actively made its content available through all kinds of connected TV. Of course the BBC is unique as it does not have to worry about the the loss of advertising that occurs when programs are watched via connected TV rather than the traditional TV screen. Most other broadcasters around the world do care about that. In the long run however, they cannot pretend that the customers will continue to be happy with the traditional way of accessing their content. They won’t be. The internet is too powerful! As it has done with music, newspapers and other forms of media, it is now doing the same thing to video, which is forcing the broadcasters to rethink their entire strategy for reaching consumers.


Webdocs - A Survival Guide

5> Building your audience Chapter five is about what I consider to be the most fundamental element of a webdoc. In my view, what is amazing about the internet is that it brings the filmmaker much closer to his audience. And what is crucial to understand is that on the net, your audience is in fact much more significant than it used to be with TV. Your audience is probably one of the most valuable resources you have in terms of feedback, in terms of distribution strategy, and even in terms of funding strategy. The dictatorship of the audience is not just a faraway idea... my point is that if a filmmaker learns to establish a two-way communication with their audience, it opens up possibilities never thought of before! Think about it, your audience is just there, ready to know more about you and your projects...

Focus on the timing and the public’s POV Classic marketing strategy is a basis that we still use. But the emphasis now is on choosing projects and positioning them in relation to public dialogue. For example, we had a project about suicide, and we decided to release it on a day dedicated to raising public awareness about this issue in order to contribute to the dialogue. The notion of timing is very important, both in the editorial process and for the film’s release. The second thing is that we try to start from the public’s point of view, not our point of view. Interactive projects are viewed and played mostly by people in their 20s and 30s, because they are much more connected, often through social media, and they are more willing to engage in dialogue around a project. Then we try to carry on with this audience to our next project, instead of starting again from scratch with each new project. This way you build a relationship with your audience for the long-term. (Hugues Sweeney, Web Producer @ NFB)

Chapter 5 : Building Your Audience


Do not protect your stuff online We are going through an absolutely epic revolution in this area right now. We recently redesigned our website, and a lot of that was about allowing people to embed our projects.

So we decided to give it away for free. It’s now branding Mediastorm, and it pays off because it is driving serious promotion. It’s been a great success for us. Then of course, the spreading of viral information through Twitter and Facebook has been nothing short of phenomenal for us. It’s not just that we are reaching a lot more people, but the right people. It’s terrific to see that happen. (Brian Storm, Founder & Executive Producer @ MediaStorm )

Know your audience! A Webdoc creator is also a designer of an interactive experience, and should understand how people are going to behave once they get to the website. You definitely should know who your audience will be! Otherwise, how on earth are you going to design something for them and let them know that you have done so? You then have to make sure that once they are there, they will not quickly leave and go somewhere else. If you don’t understand that, what you are going to do will most probably fail, no matter how good it is. At Crossover, we focus a lot on designing the user experience and putting the user at the centre of everything. (Mark Atkin, Head @ Doc Campus Masterschool )


Webdocs - A Survival Guide

Prison Valley (Alexandre Brachet) * Alexandre Brachet is e-producer and CEO @ Upian, one of the world’s major players in the area of webdocs. They have produced projects such as, , GazaSderot, and Prison Valley. Http:// What does it take to make a good webdoc? Firstly you have to be able to define what a good subject is. This is far from easy. There are two elements which are difficult to separate but each is extremely important: on the one hand, the relationship between the producer and the subject, and on the other hand, the ability of the subject itself to be a suitable subject for the webdoc. What makes a good web topic? I do not have precise criteria; it has a lot to do with intuition. Does the subject meet the expectations of the internet users and my own expectations?

Webdocs in Depth : Prison Valley


What will be decisive at an early stage is the team’s ability to involve themselves in the interactivity of the project, to understand that the subject is good and that the treatment by the producer will make it suitable for the internet. One of the best examples of this is Gaza Sderot. The web designer considered the idea of synchronicity for a few minutes and, all of a sudden, the project made sense. We must also realize that not all subjects lend themselves to involvement. Sometimes a subject will inspire rather more passive contemplation and therefore it is more suitable for TV. It’s an extremely delicate balance. A good topic also results from a good writer and a good team. For a good webdoc, it is as much the team as it is the subject which makes it come alive. In addition, there is no doubt that the more these people understand how the internet works, the more they will be successful. Finally, there is the ability of a subject to affect both producers and broadcasters. As a producer, what really called out to me in Prison Valley is the way in which it addresses the issue of an ultra-violent capitalism that makes profit through the exploitation of prisoners.


Webdocs - A Survival Guide

It was not so easy to convince the broadcasters at first! They were questioning whether such a topic could succeed in capturing European internet users, besides the fact that there are already many productions out there about prisons. For me, there are certain subjects that must be regularly dealt with on TV and on the internet. The aggressiveness of capitalism is one of them. What can you do with interactivity that can not be done via other means? It is crucial to know what space will be given to the internet user and how we are going to allow them to experience the interaction. For the moment I work a lot on the notion of ‘feeling’.

The interaction is not just going «click click click» on a mouse; it can be very much a sensory and emotional experience. What will really count in the end is the story we will tell and how we are going to tell it. It is a false idea to think that all projects must be frantic with interactivity. In Gaza Sderot, the user creates their own path and the ‘click’ is a very soft one, actually sometimes it’s just the movement of the mouse. This is a new sensation. What makes a good web format? In Thanatorama, we explored an arborescent system with several options to choose from. What worked very well was that there was no hero, or rather it was the user themselves who was exploring the idea of their own death. With Gaza Sderot, we developed another format based on a series of short programs that make up a long story, and it was shot and uploaded almost in real time. Finally, with Prison Valley, we explored a longer, very linear program. These are three examples showing that there is definitely room for experimentation when it comes to formats, but in any case, this is a feature that you must work on from the outset.

Webdocs in Depth : Prison Valley



Webdocs - A Survival Guide

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