Friday, September 24, 1999

The Cyber Scene in Portland ~ by Mike Kingsella

Building Characters Online

In last weeks report you read what happened at the stellar Portland Creative Conference. Creative individuals from the movie, music, advertising, cartooning, and interactive industries all took part in this incredible event. And as you read last week, everyone was talking about interactive. I had the opportunity to meet Alexandra Rose, the producer behind such films as "Norma Rae", "Quigley Down Under", and "Frankie and Johnny". She also wrote "The Other Sister" in addition to producing the film.

Since Alexandra has worked for many years in the traditional entertainment industry she is able to provide fresh insight into interactive storytelling. In Alexandra's speech at the Creative Conference, she discussed the art of creating characters, in all sorts of mediums. When she mentioned the Internet as a character-creating medium I, of course, was intrigued.

According to Alexandra, there haven't been any really compelling characters developed for the web as of yet. What she finds is that there have been attempts, such as "The Spot", but they have unsuccessfully been trying to "drag old systems to new parameters." For online character building to be successful, someone will need to come up with an entirely new way of looking at things.
Alexandra finds the web as a way to garnish support for new films, for sales, marketing, and promotions. According to Rose, characters are essential to building strong brand identities. She uses the example of the Marlboro Man. A very strong character was built to position Marlboro as the manly cigarette. Similar techniques can be applied to the web, but the interactive nature can be leveraged for infinite possibilities.

So what does this have to do with the Portland industry? Believe it or not, a heck of a lot! Firms all over town such as Second Story, ZCom, and Paris France are all doing lots of work with flash entertainment on the web, actually working on online character development to an extent.

In addition to the interactive agencies around town, traditional broadcasters are jumping onto the convergence bandwagon. I had a chance to speak with Larry McDaniel, director of marketing & creative services at KOIN-TV, which is the local Portland CBS affiliate. Apparently, KOIN is doing lots of interesting things with digital television. While Larry could not fill me in on any specifics there is apparently lots of initiatives in the works at KOIN.

In addition to all of this, the music industry and the new media industry are converging at ultra warp speeds in Portland this weekend. The annual NXNW, ( music and new media conference is being held this Thursday, September 30th - Saturday October 2nd. This intrepid reporter will be hitting all the parties and panels to bring the hottest information to you, the faithful weekly reader.

So keep your eye on the digital forest for more convergence news in the next coming weeks, and keep an eye peeled for next weeks NXNW special and NXNW Shakers & Stirrers.