Another edition of MIPCOM has come and gone and having successfully slept off my jet lag, it’s now time to sift through notes, recordings and accumulated wisdom to gauge the temperature of the event. The official word from Reed MIDEM had the MIPCOM 2010 head count at 12,400, up from last year’s 12,000, with a 4% increase in the number of buyers at 4,200. “Optimism” was a definite buzz word as the realscreen team moved from stand to stand, taking readings of the current climate from buyers and sellers. Obviously, it will take months to see if that optimism is translating into deals, but generally the mood at MIPCOM seemed to match the seasonably warm and sunny weather greeting the delegates (save for the Monday when winds were so high that beachfront restaurants were taking in water from a choppy Mediterranean).
But even though I’ve seemed to snap back into harmony with my time zone, there’s still one aspect of the market that I can’t quite shake. It’s a series of words that’s repeated at each and every edition of the MIPs, and undoubtedly at other events such as NATPE, any film fest you care to name and of course, our own Realscreen Summit. It’s a phrase that’s been repeated to the point where it should have its own acronym: “It’s all about storytelling” (or IAAS. If you’re feeling particularly cheeky, you can change it to “It’s about storytelling, stupid,” or IASS.)
That television entertainment, be it scripted or unscripted, is all about storytelling should not be, and most definitely is not, news. And I will spring for a lovely bottle of rosé for the person who’s able to successfully put that point across in a panel WITHOUT USING THOSE FOUR WORDS. But what is newsworthy in 2010 is the ever-growing number of ways in which stories can be told.
Like millions of others around the planet, I’ve been absolutely riveted by the live coverage of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners over the past couple of days (indeed, I clocked in a meager 4.5 hours of sleep Wednesday morning because of it). I’ve been watching the live feed via CNN.com, with my trusty social networking windows (Facebook, Twitter) open, in case I feel the need to somehow put into a status update or 140 characters the jumble of emotions that the event and its coverage have provoked within me (fear, joy, thankfulness for my comparatively cushy situation, etc.). However, I haven’t posted any pithy tweets regarding the rescue as of yet, because it’s still happening and I feel I owe it to the miners and those bringing them up and out of the earth to not jinx the proceedings. The “story” is real – as many of the most engrossing stories are – and as a result, it’s still unfolding and can take any number of twists and turns. True, it’s a story that’s already the subject of at least one fast turnaround doc. But it’s the shared experience of seeing via TV and the Web that first miner (Florencio Avalos) emerge from his underground prison – as it happened - that has burned this event into the global consciousness.
A Toronto author, Stephen Marche, is incorporating that element of unpredictability in a bold new experiment, currently unspooling online via Canadian magazine The Walrus (think Harper’s, only with more content about Stephen Harper). Lucy Hardin’s Missing Period takes the interactive capabilities of the Web and blends them into an ever-unfolding narrative with potentially dozens if not hundreds of storylines and outcomes. As The Walrus states in its introductory blurb for the experiment, “Lucy’s fate, like our own, is up in the air, open to negotiation and sudden change.”
Reality, as we see in our everyday lives and in the extraordinary events that are beamed to us by television and now via the web, can indeed by a wild rollercoaster ride that throws us into new directions thanks to such sudden change. And sometimes it can be a pleasant drive down the motorway in which nothing much happens at all for a spell. The technology, as we’re seeing in everything from Ondi Timoner’s We Live in Public to Channel 4’s new series from Studio Lambert, 7 Days is there to “show and tell” and, in effect, share the real stories that can impact us more than any number of scripted or constructed storylines can. I’ll be interested to see how those in the non-fiction entertainment industry harness this new capability, and how it will evolve to the point where captivating programming will no longer be merely about storytelling, but also about experiencing the story, and sharing the universal truths within it.
And then we’ll need a new acronym.