Byron’s not too sure about all this attention

Byron has posted about fame and his discomfort with it. It’s an interesting read, as a filmmaker documenting his story, I’m obviously complicit in contributing to his fame/infamy. In the media we like to think we’re just observing/reporting on events but if you think about it at all it become quite obvious that just the fact of reporting affects the situation and the people involved in it. Something to always keep in mind.

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All you need is love!

I had a meeting this week with R., a big shot local director.  We each drank our own volume in coffee and talked for three hours about Byron, the film, storytelling…

It was really encouraging, invigorating. Except maybe for the part where he basically told me that I should move to the states where they value youth and freshness, rather than stay here where it’s all about age and experience. But anyways…

R. had heard about Byron a little and I filled him in on the rest. He’s of the opinion that it’s a fantastic story. Which it is. I’ve had a few meetings with producers before, where we chatted about story telling but I felt like R. really got it, really understood what this story is about. Which made it a little scary when he suggested a tack that is pretty much diametrically opposed to what I had been thinking. Worse, I completely agreed with his reasoning!

The idea is that for an audience to engage with your story, they have to fall in love with the characters. This is a true fact! Think of your favorite tv shows. You LOVE Picard, you LOVE Starbuck, you LOVE LOVE LOVE the entire cast of Firefly.

Love is the key to everything. This isn’t some hippy-dippy Lennon induced craziness. If you didn’t love these people then you would go have tea with your mom instead of spending hours with them! I don’t need audiences to love Byron the way I love Kaylee, but I do need them to love him a little. Love is what keeps people in their seats and paying attention.

Byron is a very likeable guy, I’m confident that he’s charismatic enough to carry a film, but R. is of the opinion that I need to spend a good chunk of the beginning of the film establishing what a great guy he is, before I get into what a weird/geeky/shit-disturbing guy he his.

My plan was to get right into the meat of the story. I’ve got this great dramatic arc all planned out in my mind, it’s dynamic and exciting and it really, really doesn’t start with 15 minutes about how Byron is really tidy, and does a lot of volunteering and loves kittens. (All true!)

But fundamentally, I agree with R. I’m going to have to make people fall in love with Byron first if they’re going to care about what’s happened to him.

Shaken by this knowledge, and by particularly low levels of blood in my caffeine, I explained to R. how I planned to tell Byron’s story. I was worried that he was right and I was going to have to throw it all out and start over from scratch. But you know, he liked it! He agreed with all my ideas on how to tell this story!

So. Now we’re in agreement on two contradictory ways of approaching the story, but I think it’s going to be ok. I might have to squeeze in a scene about kittens, but I think I can find some middle ground and keep the story exciting and dynamic while making sure there’s still enough room to fall in love.

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Ok. New Plan.

Alright, I think that from here on in there will be two kinds of posts on here.

Type 1) What’s going on NOW with the documentary.

Type 2) Interesting things did I not blog about that I probably should have but better late than never.


Coming very very soon: A type 1 post.

Why I’ve been awol…

Wow. Clearly I have been neglecting this blog.

I haven’t given up on it, but things have been crazy lately and while I’ve been working on the documentary a lot most of what I’ve been doing has been relevant to the traditional-format documentary, not the webdoc.

If you are reading this then I’m sure you already know that Byron has been acquitted. Which is huge news! The crown has until the 15th of June to appeal, if they don’t then that’s it – the case is over forever. And in the meantime, Byron is free for the first time in two years!

Speaking of which, his freedom includes the freedom to use the internet again. So I highly recommend following him: or @torontogoat on twitter.

Also, I’ve been busy wrapping up my contract with the NFB, where I’ve been writing/directing/shooting some short documentaries about health issues. They’re all in french, but if you’re interested you can check them out here:

Now that I’m done at the NFB I’m going to turn my attention to this project full time. Which should mean that I’ll be posting here a lot more.

I’m thinking of creating a new blog, or just re-vamping this one, to talk about my entire experience in  documenting Bryon’s story, rather than just the webdoc specific stuff. Would anyone read that?

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This is not what I had expected to post. I had something completely different all written up, but as I was elbow-deep in dishes from last night’s dinner I had a flash of insight:

This webdoc should have real interactivity! Users should be able to affect the content and really decide what it is they want to see.

The post that you are never going to read now had a lot to say about “real” interactivity. How a webdoc shouldn’t just be a choose-your-own-adventure novel, statically offering a choice between A and B, and frustrating the hell out of you because after choosing B you have to figure out how to get back to A, since really everyone wants to see all the content…

I had been thinking of ways to give users meaningful decisions about what they wanted to see and the impression that they were in control of their own investigation of the subject matter.

I’d been envisioning an open-ended universe (or one big enough to feel like it), where you can make discoveries, choose which avenues to explore (think Skyrim). But it hit me this morning, why not offer actually real choices, actually real control?

This isn’t Skyrim, I don’t have to build every element ahead of time. The story is a real one and the elements of it exist already, out there in the world.

I’m going to give users the option to decide what they want to see, for real.

I haven’t figured out exactly how yet. It will probably work something like OpenFile. (Who have excellent coverage of Byron’s case.) I will give users the option to vote on what they want to see, and to suggest avenues that interest them. Eg: Should I interview Byron’s Mom? What should I ask her about? Should I post the trial transcripts? Or just Chris Olah’s notes?(which, btw, are a great resource).

Obviously, I will build a site with some starter content, to get the ball rolling. But I’ll be able to get it up and going quicker, without getting bogged down in the endless details of the case. And once I start delving deeper into the story, I know people will be getting exactly what interests them most.

It’s just an idea at the moment. But I think it’s a pretty good one.

I wonder if anyone has done this before? If you know of anything like this, let me know?

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So I’m blogging now.

Byron Sonne was arrested just before the Toronto G20, for allegedly planning to bomb the summit. His story is wild and hard to believe and important to tell. So I’m telling it.

I’m a filmmaker, so of course I’m making a documentary film about Byron, but I’m also working on a documentary website – a webdoc.

The webdoc is a very new and experimental medium, it remains to be seen what it will become – if anything. People are only just figuring out what can and should be done. I have a lot of theories on that and I’m looking forward to testing them!

This blog will be a record of my thoughts, efforts, experiments in figuring out how to make a webdoc that is fun, engaging and really utilises the potential of the medium.

I keep saying “I” here, but this is really a team effort. I couldn’t do it alone. My next post will be about who is on my team and why exactly they’re so effing important.