Overlap - Investigations in new and forgotten storytelling

The Anti-narrative of Film – Interview with Mark Cousins

Speaking with Mark Cousins during his tour of The Story of Film, the director outlined how he sped up his 900 minute film to turn its flaneur-like walk through a hundred years of movie history into a frantic dance. But since his early television work presenting Moviedrome and Scene by Scene through to more recent directorial work on the films The New Ten Commandments and The First Movie, Cousins’ projects have been characterised by this arm around the waist of a personalised celluloid. And it’s an approach that sees plenty of exposure in Cousins’ most recent project.

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This is your life

When I was a child, I received a bumper-sized colouring book every Christmas. I’d immediately set to work with crayons, filling the pages with a chaotic scrawl that each year got closer to staying inside the thick black lines. Eventually, I outgrew this activity and a different type of book began to appear among my presents. When I was perhaps eight or nine years old, I opened my first diary.

Just like the colouring books, the diary demanded that I filled it in, albeit in a different way. First, I’d dutifully enter forthcoming birthdays and family occasions, the the pages in between would wait to be filled with thoughts and missives from my tiny life. Each day brought its own deadline, demanding that something would happen that was exciting enough to write in the diary. But nothing seemed important enough to be recorded, not even on the cheap ruled paper inside my nylon Filofax wannabe.

As a child, recording my own story was a terrifying responsibility. With new platforms for self expression such as blogging and social media, it’s become a casual habit. But are we also recording our stories in ways that we barely notice?

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Russ Stearman introduces Overlap S0E2:The Secret Agent

Russ Stearman is our guest host for the second episode of Overlap’s pilot season. Here’s his introduction to the event which takes place on 11th October in Sheffield. There’s more info at our announcement for Overlap S0E2.

This Tuesday we’re looking at ‘The Secret Agent’ of stories and videogames. We’ll be exploring the idea of who’s controlling who and to what effect. Based on the title, you might be mistaken for thinking it’s a look at the stories of a certain Mr Bond and his ilk, foiling world terrorism and certain destruction. I’m sure there’s a whole other talk about the portrayal of super spies in games, but my inspiration comes from a different (although equally explosive) source.

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‘Jenga Apocalyptica’ – User Generated Content in Grand Theft Auto

Luridly splashed across the headlines of 14 years,  Grand Theft Auto has evolved from the exploits of a literally faceless psychopath engaged in a ‘race n chase’ for a crime lord to the ambitious tale of a Serbian emigre in New York-alike Liberty City. Mouthy, assured and occasionally inspired, the scripts of the main storylines would brighten the corners of all but the gutsiest of B-movies. But here, in this most influential of videogames, they’re a sideshow. The true Rockstars of Grand Theft Auto are neither the celestially-named producers nor the sidewalking, starry-eyed avatars. They’re the players.

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Overlap Gamesquat Under the Banyan Tree

This Wednesday at 8pm GMT, Matt and myself will be repeatedly falling through an orangery to our doom on Jet Set Willy Online. It’s our first Overlap Gamesquat and we’re dropping in on Ovine‘s multiplayer version of Matthew Smith’s classic for a game and a chat about whatever storytelling subjects are on your minds. You’re invited.

Jet Set Willy‘s plot might be a simple one, but the stories it produced in its players still ring as loud as a miner’s hangover. For a decent proportion of kids growing up in the UK during the eighties the attic bug (which, incredibly, was a result of an in-game arrow which flew beyond the ZX Spectrum’s video memory to smash into game data), code card, POKE’s, April showers and apocryphal yacht trips were their first experience of everything from hacking and user-generated content to story remixing and fan fiction.

Lots to talk about just on JSW, then, but you can think of Willy’s mansion as the setting more than the subject – we’ll be chatting about all sorts and it’s really just a chance to say hi, shoot the breeze about storytelling and struggle to jump over pirouetting kangaroos.

If this sounds like fun, download the client then look for the ‘Overlap’ game on the JSWo homepage from 8pm Wednesday. Feel free to bob us a line in the comments if you’re coming along.

Frank Rose Interview – The Art of Immersion

Frank Rose

Frank Rose’s book The Art of Immersionis ostensibly a field guide to new storytelling across the web, film and TV. Featuring explorations of landmarks from Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City to Mulholland Drive’s ink black asphalt, it’s an attempt to work out where we are and where we might go as storytellers and audiences alike.

All the same, charting this new landscape is a little like mapping sandcastles on a beach. One of the few defining characteristics of new story forms such as ARGs is their mayfly-like lifespan. Happenings such as The Dark Knight’s Why So Serious – which saw players descending on New York bakeries to pick up layer cakes as part of a recruitment drive for the Joker’s gang – are devoured by fans before the icing is even set.  Even the millennia-old granite of Lost’s colossal four-toed statue quickly crumbled upon its discovery by the show’s marrow-sucking audience.

Smartly, The Art of Immersion avoids the need for FIFA or Madden-like iterations by remembering it’s a book. There’s a hero in game designer Will Wright and his brave and foolhardy war cry of ‘support the user’s story’, while Immersion’s narrative line cuts through the Dickenian morass of platforms with airport thriller gleam.

Our interview with Frank, recorded before his keynote at Sheffield Doc/Fest earlier this month, looked at the part he played in the tale as well as offering a chance to discuss games, stories and the places in between.

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Interactive Drama and the Pixel-Perfect Performance

Last month, Rockstar released its gritty detective game LA Noire. Accompanied by an anthology of short stories, the console game sold itself on its use of narrative, 1940s setting and the talent involved in its creation. With a cast including Mad Men’s Aaron Staton, Heroes’ Greg Grunberg and Fringe’s John Noble, many of the game’s 400 actors are recognisable from their television roles in both voice and appearance. However, one of the  game’s largest innovations is its use of “MotionScan”, a new form of facial motion capture. The technology can reproduce nuances in performances that previous systems are unable to – crucial to a game where body language is used to detect the truthfulness of suspects’ testimonies.

LA Noire isn’t new in its attempt to combine traditional performance with gameplay; voice acting has long been ubiquitous in the videogames. There is also a long history of interactive dramas, movies and cut scenes attempting to close the gap between between games and film. Over three decades, this use of performance has influenced opinions on how games fit with more traditional media.

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About us

Overlap is a place for investigation, discussion and events about new and forgotten storytelling. We focus on emerging and undiscovered platforms for stories and narrative – everything from videogames, augmented reality and role-playing games to flash mobs, social media and more.

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