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Is Collaborative Storytelling a Viable Technique? (Part I)

Beyond the Still Pt.I: The Cabbie

In a series of blog posts, I’m going to try and develop a theory of collaborative writing—which will include thoughts on famous examples, writing techniques, and advanced tools like Google Wave.

The whole series so far:
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I would like to start with a living and breathing example, i.e., something that’s being publicly collaboratively written right now (but isn’t fan fiction which rather limits the range of available choices). So I will resort to an ongoing film project (first chapter embedded below); but it will do nicely since it’s the underlying scripts that matter.

This is a promotional project by Canon for collaborative script writing and filming, it’s been named Beyond the Still, and it is itself a collaborative project with Vimeo and Grey New York and “Interpretive Work By Photographer Vincent Laforet”:

The contest […] invites participants to use the HD video capability of their camera to create short, two to four minute videos that tell a story based on the final still frame from Laforet’s piece, and then from each successive winning “chapter.” Videos can be submitted to and viewed on a dedicated site within the Vimeo online community before they are judged.

The “Story Beyond the Still” contest provides filmmakers with a unique opportunity to showcase their storytelling abilities in a new style of filmmaking utilizing an HD-capable camera to capture moving images while also demonstrating the social appeal of collaborative storytelling. To kick off the contest, Laforet collaborated with Grey New York to bring his interpretation of a still image to life in a short film entitled “The Cabbie,” which serves as the first installment of a seven chapter collaborative work in which each participant will be asked to interpret the previous winning photographer/filmmaker’s final still image to start their vision for the subsequent chapter.

From the perspective of collaborative storytelling, I find it also interesting that both “serial” and “parallel” collaboration is involved:

Six winners will be chosen (one for each chapter) based on their submissions and will join Laforet on location to collaboratively film the final chapter of the film.

And, not to forget, whoever sits in the “jury” that will choose the winning entries, this is also a collaborative procedure, irrespective of whether its members confer with each other or not.

Now. Here’s the first still, the first chapter developed from it, and the second still, by Vincent Laforet:

The Story Beyond The Still, Chapter One—“The Cabbie”

I’m really looking forward to analyzing each subsequent chapter’s script with reference to its predecessor(s), the coherence of the final chapter, and the full story when it’s finally done, in the hope that this project will make a contribution to answering the question if and how collaborative storytelling is a viable technique.

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  1. Is Collaborative Storytelling a Viable Technique? (Part IV) | between drafts
  2. between drafts | Is Collaborative Storytelling a Viable Technique? (Part II)
  3. between drafts | Is Collaborative Storytelling a Viable Technique? (Part III)