Ferdinand Englander, producer of Animator Island, interviewed me on camera at FMX in Stuttgart, Germany this past April, and I think he did a good job with it. He cut out the long-winded parts, which is always a good idea when I am interviewed. He asked smart questions, and I was relaxed, it being toward the end of the FMX. It's a feel-good kind of thing, and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks, Ferdinand!

"Ready for TV in 6-Second Doses?"

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO, in a recent keynote speech at the MIPCOM event in Cannes said he had offered the producers of Breaking Bad US$75 million to produce three additional episodes of the hit program, packaged as six-minute downloadable segments. They declined, but Mr. Katzenberg's idea will sooner or later come to fruition with some other show.. Had he managed to own a shoe-box full of 6-minute Breaking Bad segments, he would have charged 99 cents per view, downloadable from an iTunes-style platform. Every customer would pay $30+ to see all three of the additional episodes this way.

In his comments, Katzenberg advised MIPCOM attendees to embrace the quickening pace of daily life rather than bemoaning it.  There are big opportunities, he explained, in producing product that can fill the consumer's in-between moments, like for instance the five or 10 minutes she waits in line at the supermarket checkout counter. Doesn't the idea send the imagination spinning? Waterproof mini-movies, preferably musicals, for the shower; waiting rooms of all kinds - doctor, dentist, shrink, lawyer, dept. of motor vehicles, car washes. How about mini-movies that can be sleep-triggered in between REM cycles? Surely, I am making jest, right? Sleep movies, "ha ha ha!" Maybe it is a little premature, but only because of technical hurdles. We have arrived at a point were entertainment industry leaders are talking out loud and in public about the practicality and potential profitability of producing 6-minute TV shows. All bets are off.



December 3-5, Paris, France, Game Connection Europe. I will present a masterclass and also give a talk on the topic of "Using all seven emotions in games".


Craft Notes

Breaking Bad: Shamanism in Disguise

Shamans these days do not always announce their arrival in advance. As was the case with Breaking Bad, they even occasionally show up in disguise. According to the Hollywood Reporter, 10+ million people watched the final episode in which Walter White got what was coming to him, and 1.25 million tweets indicate that a lot of them were thinking about and debating the parameters of ethics and morality in 21st century United States. That is the kind of debate a shaman strives to inspire.

Breaking Bad delivered a uniquely American kind of shamanism because the protagonist’s misadventures in the drug trade only become debatable in a “free” society like ours. On one level, Mr. White was merely responding to market demand, and what could be more "right" than that? If nobody wanted to buy his Blue Sky meth, he would have gone out of business before the third episode, and those 10+ million viewers would maybe have watched Big Bang Theory or Dancing with the Stars instead, programs that are maybe not quite as identifiably shamanistic. Walter White was free to make his own choices, to live his life the way he wanted to, and he alone was responsible for the results of those choices. In a cockeyed way, he represented the best in our country when he began cooking up his lovely blue crystals. Yes, I am being facetious, but not by much. Suppose you were in his place and learned that you were terminally ill? What would you do about caring for your family posthumously?

Something to think about, with Breaking Bad now in the rear view mirror: Was Walter White evil? What exactly is “evil”, anyway? One man’s evil can be another man’s mission from God. Are ethics situational? Every human is the hero in his or her own life. Each of us is making life-choices all the time, and we can’t possibly all be right. Hitler had a dream. He didn't get up every morning and think about how much evil he could do that day. He was wrong, but the important point from an artist's perspective is that he thought he was right. This is not a defense of tyrants, simply a philosophical musing. Do you figure it is true that God blesses America, like the song says? Are you absolutely certain that there is a God at all? Requires an essay answer of course, but whatever happened to all those hundreds of Greek and Roman Gods?

Television is a woefully weak vehicle for shamanism, being oriented as it is to the selling of stuff to good-humored consumers. Walking Dead gets more viewers than Breaking Bad did, and if the shamans are hiding in there someplace, they need to hold a flag up because I don't see them. Professional baseball and football draw the highest TV ratings of all, and you have to dig deep to find anything shamanistic to consider about the Chicago Bears.

Humans 6,000 years ago were largely terrified, which is why they kept their shamans close by. They didn't know where the sun went at night and thought the earth was flat. A summer thunderstorm, from their perspective, was probably caused by a weather god in a bad mood. It might be more constructive if the 2013 tribe was a bit more terrified and a bit less bewildered by the quickening world. This is why I like Breaking Bad so much. In the disguise of entertainment, the shaman sneaked up on us.

CAT: Where are you going?

ALICE: Which way should I go?

CAT: That depends on where you are going.

ALICE: I don’t know.

Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

—Alice in Wonderland

Until next month ...

Be safe!“

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