Meeting Audiences Where They Are: The Evolutions of Scripted Work
It feels like the way we experience television, film, music, sports, and special events changed a long time ago, when it’s actually only been a few years since binge-watching entered the lexicon monopolizing entire weekends, and since live-tweeting made awards shows (sometimes) worth enduring.
With this, we’ve seen how form, function, and time shape the relationships between content creators—artists, production studios, brands—and their audiences. And it’s paramount for that relationship to not be clumsy or intrusive.
Sometimes, the timing lines up and indelible moments are shared (often living on as memes) and other times the brand fumbles and you have Red Lobster’s recent response to Beyoncé name-dropping them in “Formation.”
Whether entirely changing the way we experience a classic medium like a song or album release, or using new media to tell their stories, content creators continuously look to meet audiences where they are. This provides unique opportunities for scripted television, film and digital work.
Original scripted programming on Instagram is a natural fit—it’s something we use effortlessly, daily, and constantly. Our attention is already there.
At the start of February, Instagram announced “Shield 5” (instagram.com/shieldfive), a mystery thriller series from Lorton Entertainment in London, with one 15-second clip posted each day of February to tell a complete story. With each daily clip is a still image to provide clues to viewers along the way.
It’s no surprise Instagram would launch a mystery thriller series. Telling a story 15 seconds at a time can build suspense, perfectly fitted to the genre.
But it’ll also be interesting to see what other genres and formats may work to build a series, using the inherent time restrictions to an advantage. Comedian and actor Will Sasso was an early favorite on Vine for his 6-second sketches, and the list of Vine and Instagram users who have not only entertained, but, like Kayla Newman, have shaped culture, will continually grow.
These social outlets lend themselves to more experimental material. A series or film might resemble something closer to a collection of teasers for Nine Inch Nails projects over the years; or call to mind Christopher Nolan’s “Memento,” a film whose tone was established through its intricate narrative structure and uses of color. Similarly, early press for Steven Soderbergh’s new HBO project “Mosaic” suggests something like a choose-your-own-adventure series.
There are certainly ideas for scripted work which tell full stories more suited to short clips than to the length of a traditional scripted episode or a short film—think of the different ways poems work compared to memoirs or most novels—and programming might reflect that in storyline and theme.
For all of the inherent constraints in producing content for Instagram, Vine, VSCO, Snapchat, or even VR, daring creators will find a natural way to use the form and function to create something compelling, whether through series or in completely standalone clips.
This all brings to mind the increasing focus on VR in entertainment; but that is another conversation for another day… Regardless, it will be fascinating to see the evolutions, and who’s making them.