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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Value Add in BSG: La tua ragazza è un tostapane

Our world is a complex place, full of little details that might not register consciously, but complete our picture.  When something's missing or off-key, our limbic system sounds off that something is not quite right.  This is particularly true in created experiences, like movies and TV.  When you can tell an actor is saying lines rather than living in a moment, or a set looks like props rather than a real environment, viewers can be pulled right out of the experience.  When they're not emotionally invested, they don't believe and if they don't believe, they don't care.  That's not how you keep audiences.

Which is why good filmmakers try so hard to deliver honest performances, stories, characters, settings and narrative arcs for their audiences.  The end goal isn't to make bucks, because if they stop there, they're missing out on the opportunity to foster an ongoing relationship - the kind that can only be built on trust and appreciation.  Audiences feel comfortable with a Steven Spielberg film, a Joss Whedon story or a Hans Zimmer score because they know they're in good hands.  Good story tellers are like teachers, mentors or doctors - you allow yourself to be a little vulnerable to them and will follow wherever they lead you.
The really good story tellers don't just create realistic worlds - they add value.  People love pop culture references, where appropriate; they want the extra texture that gives them a little rush, makes them feel loved and trusted themselves to get and appreciate the subtleties.
Which is why I love Bear McReary's tune Battlestar Operatica from the hit show Battlestar Galatica.  In a show that constantly added dimension, this was a brilliant little touch - Gaius Baltar, a genius whose egoism has led him to pursue choices with negative consequences for both himself and all of humanity is stressing out in his lab alone, listening to opera to sooth his nerves.  The composer could easily have cribbed any opera just to fill in the sound landscape, but he didn't - instead, he created an operatic song that reflects the threats looming over the character, reinforcing the fact that he cannot escape.
The song is in Italian - without looking further, most audiences would have missed it.  But McReary counted on his audience to be looking for those extra pieces and provided them, further cementing the relationship between viewer and show.  LOST was another show that did a wonderful job creating a sense of community between viewer, program and show-makers.
Now, skip realms a little bit - there is a growing malaise and cynicism regarding politics.  The performances we're getting aren't authentic; the focus of political players seems to be withholding information rather than adding value.  It's clear that many politicians don't trust their audiences - and as such, voters aren't trusting them back.

Smart political operatives are talking today about the need to reclaim values and use repetition as a way to win back audiences.  They're probably right.  To me, though, one of those values that needs to be rekindled is trust.  Trust involves providing more, not less, but providing it within a clear narrative arc (as The Just Society was, and as The Conscious Society could be).
Part of adding value to the discourse, of course, is value add.  The best part is, smart political operatives are kind of playing in this space already; campaigns, for instance, are designed around platforms with weekly plank-rollouts to build a narrative.  There's no fun in the current format, though - the story-tellers seek to manipulate their audience, not collaborate with them. 

With one exception, that is.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty brought value add to his last campaign with a brilliant Bollywood-styled rally that delivered on his themes of diversity, strength and moving forward together while also wooing target audiences and creating a memorable experience for the province.
This is the model to follow - and I predict incredible success for those who figure out how to channel it.

ADDITIONAL - An amazing Lego version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer.  Seriously, when you can make an easier pile of money mining people's Social Media data and selling it to companies, it's not money alone that motivates this degree of care.  It's something else.
Cylon Evolution - from toaster to Model Six

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