An R'n'D lab for Story Innovation
A research and development agency for making innovative stories across film, broadcast, online, theatre and games. An organisation that equips the next generation of creative talent to make stories in collaboration with the audiences of the future and which will take a research-led approach to testing key concepts in story innovation.
The UK's potential to lead the way at the cutting edge of storytelling is limited by the lack of infrastructure to develop talent established in 'traditional' media silos into true story innovators: those who understand how to leverage multiple platforms and story forms and an active audience. Stellar Network will fill this gap; developing research, projects and partnerships that have the potential to substantially raise standards. Our participants will carry the latest knowledge on key creation issues, and will pollinate that knowledge across different sectors. Ultimately Stellar's core business is to develop and share knowledge and talent where story and technology meet, so is ideally suited to benefiting the wider community. As in any innovative creative scene, there is a lack of real-world experience, data and hard knowledge surrounding innovative and technologically enabled storytelling. Expertise is very niche (eg. a company has a particular strength in pervasive street games) or behind closed doors (many projects that have been properly monitored and evaluated have been in the commercial advertising sector). Stellar Network seeks to change this by attaching research partnerships to all of its project creation activities and then making that research openly available to the wider creative ecosystem: everyone from television companies to pervasive theatre companies to games studios to individual freelancers and students will benefit.
ICT is at the heart of the work that Stellar Network will be set up to develop in its Research and Development lab (R'n'D labs). The current explosion in work that plays with the boundaries between audience and story, between fiction and reality, is only possible because of pervasive technologies, physical computing, new online delivery platforms and so on. We are giving professionals such as theatre directors the chance to work with creative coders/programmers, or filmmakers the chance to work with game designers. The collaborations we set up will explore the crossroads of story and technology. Stellar Network's Project Hub is an online component that we are looking for investment for. The Project Hub is a network of virtual projects, individuals, resources and distribution outlets. Much like a dating-site engine it uses algorithms to recommend creatives to projects, funders to projects, outlets to projects and highlight projects which could benefit by merging. An online community such as this allows content creators to step out of the silos of their particular sectors and formats and generate new projects with collaborators they would rarely get the chance to collaborate with. We see this as an online version of the main work we are doing with the R'n'D labs.
Key creatives at the heart of theatre, film, television, games and creative technology. We particularly target directors, writers, producers, games designers and creative technologists. During the recruitment process for our 2013 pilot training programme we have been talking to a wide range, often people who fall between definitions or meld different interests. For example: - A game designer who collaborates with theatre makers to make real-world experiences - A programmer and screenwriter who has built websites for collaborative digital writing projects. - A filmmaker who has made an alternate reality game for Penguin and now wants to meld film and ARGs in his future work - A filmmaker who also makes interactive theatre and wants to deliver a story across both - An theatre director who has just started making immersive work and wants to understand game design theory better in order to do so. It could be said that our second target group is the creative industries in general. The ecosystem does not have a method to source great storytellers and innovators from the masses of freelance creators. An organisation is needed to filter the rising talent, to develop their skills and projects, and to ensure a continuous source of people and projects towards the ever increasing plethora of distributors and producers. I think that Stellar Network can be that organisation.
In Spring 2013 I built a website and won a funding award of £15K from the AHRC to run a pilot training programme this coming Autumn. Running this programme allows me to get to know my target group better, to test out some R'n'D methods, and to capitalise on our existing network of experts and resources. This programme ends in December, at the end of which I will know a lot more about what works and what doesn't. I would like to run a training programme each year in order to continue to build new participants for the R'n'D lab. Over and above the training programme, the core business for Stellar Network will be the Research and Development lab. The next step is to hold a round of meetings with partners in different sectors (advertising, higher education, content producers in a variety of audiovisual sectors) to establish the types of partnerships that would bring revenue streams (see Sustainability answer below). During the course of marketing the pilot training programme I have been approached by Harper Collins, among others, for a possible partnership. These types of approaches now need to be 'parked' for when I have found the funding or investment for the R'n'D lab!
The organisation will be an innovative mix of public and private revenue streams. The training programme can be sustained by public funds such as AHRC or EU Media funding. The research and development lab will fulfil different types of partnership to secure a variety of revenue streams. There is further research to be done on the following possible revenue streams: - Stellar Network delivers R'n'D activities 'in-house' at universities, utilising their underused resources and providing industry expertise to their student. I have had a meeting with Central St Martins who has shown interest in this. - Stellar Network partners with a distribution platform to run a competition in which Stellar acts as a talent network and quality control/filter in fulfilling the platform's brief for new content. - Stellar Network attracts private investment to incubate and then produce its own projects. - Stellar Network looks to established producers/distribution platforms to sponsor incubation activities in exchange for first-look deals. Ultimately Stellar Network will contract for a percentage of the Intellectual Property of every project it incubates.