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The following is an original proposal by Mike Lee, 24 Oct 2017. The reading and consideration of this Mike Lee proposal does not convey or imply any rights, permissions or commitment by or from Mike Lee regarding its use. Equally, the reader is under no obligation to enter into any agreement or commitment relating to the proposal, without express and mutual consent. In other words, this is an idea for consideration.
SERIES TITLE ‘We The Real People’
WHAT YOU WILL SEE The unscripted rollercoaster of daily life among a diverse selection of interesting Americans whose individual stories involve unfolding personal dramas that intersect with breaking news and trending issues. We are emotionally drawn into the suspense and personal struggles of people who represent the diversity of America’s economy, culture and politics. We take you to a place mainstream media seldom covers. This is a new way to understand the news.
PROGRAM TYPE ‘Episodic Breaking Doc‘ Daily or weekly behind the scenes video coverage of Americans whose real life dramas connect them, and us, to big issues in the news. Live updates 24/7 as they occur.
WHERE YOU WILL SEE ‘WE THE PEOPLE‘ Online
HERE’S WHAT THE SERIES WILL INCLUDE
Fly-on-the-wall video Each episode will include recorded on-scene video of one or more characters going through a three act day that advances their story.
Remote recorded interviews Each character will be interviewed at least once per day via web video (Skype, Facetime).
Live Remotes Characters will go live, from their mobile devices, to react to breaking news, and to update urgent moments in their own stories.
Analyst Interviews Experts in various fields provide analysis and context concerning our characters’ stories.
Bites from the ‘balcony’ Viewers will be able to react to character updates via their web video contributions. Selected viewer video feedback will be displayed on the website.
Handshakes with social media Our characters, and our platform hosts, use Twitter, FaceBook and other social platforms to drive, pull and grow our audience.
Alerts Subscribers will receive text alerts when their selected character stories and/or news topics are updated.
NEW TWIST TO THE ‘EPISODIC DOCUMENTARY’ GENRE Video on demand is expanding more into episodic fact based programming. For example, Netflix has had success with Last Chance U. Other VOD platforms are also breaking new ground with episodic documentaries. Taking this to a new level, ‘We The People’ offers the unfolding long term storylines of real life characters as often as weekly, even daily, instead of once per year. Each episode provides updates about their stories, played against the hot griddle of daily headlines. And we watch them on a weekly, or daily basis. That frequent and repeated exposure of viewers to our characters, along with the resulting emotional attachments, are potent builders of neural pathways that form strong memory and enhanced concentration. (our strongest memories are usually built upon emotional moments). Our emotional attachment to the characters encourages a deeper understanding of the big issues that affect them, and most Americans. And, of course, the three act play format is embedded in every episode, and within each segment each character’s appearance. We achieve a new way of understanding the news. And we help build an audience through viewers asking friends to share the storytelling experience.
WEBSITE DESIGN Specifics will depend upon the branding of the web platform, but here are some ideas for consideration…
Landing Page This has the look and interface of a dashboard, or a tv control room, or an airline control panel. There are two main side-by-side PLAY windows. One window is for all videos related to our character storylines. The second window will display all current, and continually updated, news stories that relate to our characters. Surrounding the two main PLAY windows are smaller windows and buttons that provide numerous options, including updates, character profiles and updates.
When you arrive at the Landing Page
–The left side PLAY window will automatically display any live feed related to our characters. If there is no live feed related to characters, that window will default to the latest edited episode.
-The right side PLAY window will display a clickable list of current news stories, plus a small window that will carry live news feeds as and when they relate to our character storylines.
All windows are interactive.
Our characters are always linked to the news For example, let’s say there is a breaking news story about racism. Click on that link and the story occupies the entire right side PLAY window. At the top of that story window there will be a link (or links) to how our characters are affected by that story. There might also be a link that invites you to watch one or more of our characters react to that breaking news. If you click on those invite links, video from our characters will appear in the left side main PLAY window. This allows you to display both the story itself and the reactions, without having to shut one down.
REASONS TO RUN THIS SERIES
Public trust You can’t buy it, but you can earn it with the help of concepts like ‘We The People.‘ Phony news is now an everyday tool used by those who stand to gain by eroding public trust in honest journalism. If honest journalism is the good navy, it needs a better defense against the u-boats of fake journalism. Sure, if you are a news platform, you can include a more diverse story selection, fact policing, and more diverse viewpoints by your cadre of pundits. Maybe that helps. But consider this: ‘We The People’ bypasses pundits and goes straight to the coverage of Americans who live at the coalface of the big issues that divide us, threaten us and stampede us into silos of same think. If, as a media company, you can show your audience that people react to events and big issues in different ways not because they are good or evil, but because of their diverse humanity, you will help Americans of all points of view. It will help gain or keep public trust.
Proven success and a promising future Episodic tales are the oldest and most successful form of storytelling, dating back to the traveling talkers who shared the latest on what has happened in other villages. Modern day serials have made many millions of dollars using that age old concept. And now, ‘We The Real People’ adds the urgency and potency of news, along with with real life serial drama. And we wrap it all in the excitement and convenience of high tech live inter-active delivery.
PLATFORMS: Video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, YouTube, Vimeo, etc); Network and other news websites; Social sites such as FaceBook and Twitter. Essentially, any organization that now provides online information or entertainment could benefit from adding ‘We The People’ to their portfolio.
AUDIENCE Those who like real-life drama about struggle and suspense. People who follow the news. Viewers who care for the underdog, the struggler, and the hero.
REASONS TO WATCH
Immediacy. Each episode in this ‘breaking documentary‘ touches on big issues that are trending on a given day, and how they affect our real life characters. Each episode also has a three act story arc, as our characters go through their daily struggles against short and long term challenges. They are also caught up in big issue story arcs that connect them individually to one or more major issues that are unfolding in the news (technology, politics, abortion, race, jobs, crime, immigration, terrorism, etc). Each episode unfolds as a three act play. They start with a re-cap, then we see that days real life drama, conflict and struggle, climax and new status quo. The episode ends with a tease to the suspense of tomorrow. Viewers have compelling reasons to come back for the next episode.
Information with emotional impact Rather than a digesting news and big issues from one-off sound bites, ‘We The People’ provides the time and space for you to become invested with our characters, identify with many of their daily struggles and look forward to their next episode. Thus, when a particular issue spikes in the news, you will be anxious to see and hear how how characters are affected and how they will react.
A different way to consume news You you absorb the headlines alongside their affect upon Americans whose own stories add the potency of relevant real life drama. You process the news in a way that has never been done before on a daily basis.
Edgy Tech ‘We The People’ will use the latest technology to enhance the experience. Live Augmented Reality and infographics will provide ever changing, up to the minute, data on breaking news that relates to our characters. For example, viewer number one might see an episode at 9:12 am, during which our live live infographic adds the latest news relating to our character’s storyline. At 11.21am viewer number 1756 watches the same episode but sees a new and different live infographic that updates the same subject. In other words, although the video episodes are pre-recorded, they are never stale. Viewers will also have the option to receive those live update, via video and/or text, s throughout the 24 hour cycle of a video episode. Thus, once you invest in watching a given episode of ‘We The Real People,’ you are guaranteed the option of staying involved. Obviously each update will include an invite to watch the series.
Extras Subscribers, as opposed to drive-by viewers, will receive additional video elements.
Viewer Mediated Content Each episode will feature some interactive ‘turning points.’ Let’s say, for instance, that one of our characters named Mary reveals she has been experiencing sexual harassment at work. That issue is also frequently in the news. She is in a quandary about what to do. Like many women who experience work place abuse, she is conflicted by her instinct to report the abuser, weighed against her fear she would be blacklisted for advancement. Viewers are invited, in the first instance to vote for whether she should talk first to a lawyer, or to psychologist who specialized in abuse. Mary is not bound by the vote. But if, after reading all the viewer feedback, decides to consult a lawyer first, we arrange a video chat between her and a specialist attorney. The same if she chooses to consult first with a therapist. We would also provide video chats with her second choice as well, if she desires. This plays out over multiple episodes. The same idea applies to any character who has life changes choices to make concerning issues that are also in the news.
WHEN TO PUBLISH This depends upon the needs and desires of the distributing platform. It can range from daily to weekly, even monthly. For purposes here of explaining the concept, and to include a broader range of technical and online options, I have chosen ‘daily’ as the primary example. Specifically, morning. Mornings provide two important advantages: Immediacy and suspense. Here’s how. By early each morning the previous day’s activity will have been edited into a new episode and ready to go, except for one last minute element: The morning ‘top and tease.‘ This is how is it works. Before we post the new episode we record a fast video chat, via Skype or Facetime, with one or more of our characters. They give us their personal look forward to the day’s event and their own challenges for the day. Those bites are edited onto the top of the episode. Then it is posted. This not only provides immediacy, it keeps us wondering throughout the day what will happen next. The end of each episode will include a tease forward to tomorrow.
SYNOPSIS In “Our Town.’ USA, we follow the lives of individual Americans. They are from diverse backgrounds. Let’s call each family, or group, a character pod. How many character pods should there be in a series? I suggest a minimum of two and maximum of six. It will depend upon platform needs and resources. For this synopsis, I’ll use six pods. Pods can change periodically, but very broadly speaking let’s start with…
Pod 1. White
Pod 2 Black
Pod 3 Hispanic
Pod 4 LGBT
Pod 5 Middle Class
Pod 6 (wild card)
Episode 1 Meet ‘We The People.‘
We reveal our pods of characters. Their circumstances are typical of what we generally assume to be their demographic. But, of course, stereotypes will not always be accurate, or apply. For the sake of discussing this pilot, Pod 1, a white working class family, supports Donald Trump. Pod 2, a poor black family, is anti-Trump. Pod 3, the hispanic characters, hate Trump. Members of Pod 4, LGBT, are afraid of Trump. Pod 5, the middle class group, is mixed in terms of political choices. Pod 6, the wild card group, will be selected on the basis of what is needed to balance out the card.
We begin with rapid fire clips from all the groups, then introduce each Pod. We learn about the big issues that are intersecting with their individual lives, and the dramas that are unfolding in each life. Finally, we tease forward to the next episode. For example if we publish in the mornings, we can hear from each Pod that same morning about what they are facing ‘today.’ That give us a sense of being on top of news in their lives. (I explain more about that morning update below).
All future episodes We see our characters reacting to the big stories that have been cycling for the past 24 hours. We remind you of who our people are and what issues they are facing (this is a recurring technique, almost a template). You see highlights of their dramas since episode one. This is storytelling in a continuous cycle of suspense and news.
REASONS TO COMMISSION A PILOT OR DEMO
Low financial risk Mike Lee can produce a pilot or demo episode for a fraction of what it would cost to hire an production company.
Exclusive development lockout You will be entitled to an agreed period of exclusivity in the development of this project.
This is an original proposal by Mike Lee