It’s clear from recent attacks and revelations that the infamous USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (who knew it’s an acronym?) is destined to lose influence until it’s entirely reconsidered by a new administration. But will we ever really know the extent of the act’s impact on regular Americans during the peak of its power and the ways it continues to affect the people it purportedly protects?
The year is 2012. A hacker who accesses the databases of the now-defunct Department of Homeland Security discovers thousands of hours of footage from 2008 revealing rampant surveillance of ordinary citizens. Prompted by disdain for the Patriot Act era and concern about 2008’s troubled society, he releases some of the footage online with his own narration.
12 degrees is a new web video series from Neovids.tv that builds this eerie narrative through an intriguing blend of meticulously planned, collaborative, interactive storytelling.
The result is a futurist retrospective of a 2008 that’s ripe for commentary. It’s a gripping concept on its own, but the series will take things a step further by drawing its ‘footage’ from volunteers at monthly meetups in 12 different US cities over the next year. The cast and crew for each shoot will be organized via the series’ Meetup group, and they will use an outline provided by Neovids to create their retroscripted, improvised interpretations of each episode. ###
Participants can shoot multiple versions, but videos will likely be limited to palatable, 2-minute installments. Each city’s submissions will be uploaded to the series’ website and opened up for public voting to determine a winner. Before the next month’s meetup, Neovids will continue the story by adding narration from the hacker-cum-video-populist to the winning video. Finally, after all 12 shoots/months, Neovids will edit the winning entries into a final 12 minute episode that tells the whole story.
“We’ve always tried to treat the web as an emerging form of storytelling where the audience can get involved, but [12 degrees] is certainly less controlled by us than previous projects. We’re developing several new shows that will move in similar directions that will rely on involvement from the audience,”
Neovids founder Matt Feldman told me by email.
This isn’t Neovids’ first foray into collaborative storytelling. The wry Slikstr (previous Tilzy coverage) called on viewers to participate in the first ever “user created, user controlled” company and featured a "ground-breaking" wiki-created business plan.
Whether it’s web 2.0 mania or Big Brother government, the brilliance of shows like this is encouraging people to better understand and comment on significant current events by imagining themselves as players in them.
The openness of 12 degrees has great potential for entertainment value and freshness, but it will also present unique challenges. Despite Neovids’ intelligent efforts to build structure by posting outlines for shoots and adding the unitive narrator, the unpredictability of the content could require quick creative adjustments. And building an online network for offline events built around a tight production schedule isn’t easy, especially when it relies on people with specific skills and resources.
The parallels with Rootclip (previous Tilzy coverage) are clear, and 12 degrees would be particularly wise to learn from Rootclip’s struggles with voting system scammers. But the show seems to have some built-in advantages over Rootclip, especially that story doesn’t require cohesive costumes, characters, sets, etc. Also, the ‘found footage’ conceit gives creators greater flexibility while making it easier to integrate new installments into the arc of the series (after all, isn’t government surveillance just UGC before UGC was hip and monetizable?).
12 degrees is the first to launch through a new Neovids site that will feature exclusive and premium content, including online releases for films like OM and RxCannabis and where Neovids also recently began selling the most recent episode of HolyLandTV for $0.99, one month before distributing it on a wider basis for free. The site is intended to engage users early and transparently in all new Neovids projects while retaining more control than is possible on YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere.
And if you want to get involved in 12 degrees, be sure to join the show’s meetup group and keep tabs on its website, where the participants and cities for future meetups will be determined. The first shoot is taking place this Friday, 6/6, appropriately falling during NYC’s Internet Week, and the second will be in LA in early July. 12 degrees is also looking for sponsors. Interested parties should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s to innovation in the field of collaborative, interactive filmmaking with a point of view!