Forward/Story: The pirates of future storytelling plot and explore their craft

Fellow Pervasive Media Studio resident and Splash & Ripple’s Creative in Chief Rosie Poebright has just returned from Forward/Story; a place in Costa Rica where the pirates of future storytelling gather to plot and explore their craft… She has kindly allowed us to repost a blog about her experiences there:

I’ve been wondering how to write about what I know will become a profound marker in my creative life. What just happened? What was it? What was the outcome?

I’ll start at the end.  Something lovely just happened to me. I tweeted about getting a mention in The Observer’s Tech Monthly magazine. Within 10 seconds – faster than I was able to log into the Splash & Ripple twitter to unashamedly retweet myself – it was favourited. by a well respected Hollywood executive (champion of Buffy, Battlestar and the X-files no less), who I now consider to be my friend. This man, with his radically different background from mine, has got my back because he’s now part of my crew.

That’s what has happened – I’ve found my crew.

As I travelled to Costa Rica, to a three day lab for 20 writers and designers hosted by the wonderful Lance Weiler and Christy Dena, I was full of typically British apprehension about whether I would belong.  Instead I found I myself amidst the biggest band of story-pirates I’ve ever met.  A talented and cacophonous bunch with wildly varying interests and experience who are out on the front line, hacking, repurposing and reinventing how stories are told.

I’m using the term pirate consciously because of three ideas associated with this trope:

1. Kidnap: across the lab I realised that we all occupy ourselves with kidnapping the traditional forms (Theatre, TV, Film, print, audio) and splicing them with emerging theories and technologies (AR, VR, gaming, social media etc.) to make new and wonderful experiences for people.

2. Libertatia: this is messy and difficult work, which means there’s an underlying sort of utopian mania which drives us as storytellers.  We believe we can change the world for the better with this work.  We are all, particularly the academic types, engaged with trying to understand, define and spread the ideals of our brave new world of story.

This was the first time I’ve come across people who not only understand, but actively use the concept of Empathy in making their work. AFFIRMATION OF THE LAST 18 MONTHS! I can’t tell you how happy it made me.

3. A Crew of Outsiders: making art that is as yet undefined or widely understood immediately ostracises you from the traditional centre.  We’re cool with this, but trying to explain what you do for a living, what this new project is, for the nth time can be, frankly, wearing.  “Oh, yeah, I’m quietly simultaneously reinventing theatre, gaming and mobile technology experience design with my new project… how about you?” might normally be met with polite blankness. Instead I got approving whoops and applause from the group. A group that covered the disparate worlds of academia, Hollywood, Disney, documentary, public sector, heritage, theatre, TV, online… but they got it with an affirmation – like a HELL YEAH affirmation – which has become a profound marker on my treasure map.

I’ve found my crew. We are a crew of story pirates united under a banner of reimagining narrative, and we are out to disrupt, inspire and reinvent the world.