Thank you, Dana Stevens, for coining the term "Artisanal Horror"

Here's Dana from her article in Slate In Praise of Artisanal Horror:

The term caught on only in my own brain, where it’s become a handy taxonomic classification for a subgenre that seems here to stay, even in the age of the big-budget, special-effects-laden franchise. The horror genre has always welcomed tinkerers—inventive filmmakers who are interested in taking genre’s conventions apart and fitting them back together in novel ways. If the desired effect of maximum audience creep-out has to be achieved on a minimal budget, so much the better. Artisanal horror directors place a high value on cheapskate ingenuity, the trick of scaring the audience pantsless with the simplest possible effect: an unexpected camera movement, a barely glimpsed shadow, a hand reaching for a doorknob

I'd like to think I got my start in the world of Artisanal Horror though Dana might think differently of the direct-to-video screamers I had the pleasure of working on during the 90s such as Return of the Living Dead III, Necronomicon, Pumpkinhead II, and Leprechaun III. And what I loved about working on them is exactly what she describes here--the need for "cheapskate ingenuity".

Sure we worked hellishly long hours, in pretty inhumane conditions, and yup, we did it with very small budgets, and very little pay, but there was nothing more fulfilling, and exciting for me than showing up for work, and instantly diving into the job of creating something cool, creepy, bloody, or bizarre, with the limited resources I had to work with. I've always believed there's nothing better for sharpening creativity than limits.

Sure, what we created didn't look polished, or even real (case in point, the not quite decapitated head above) but that was the charm of it for me--that cheapskate ingenuity, and the visual style that comes from it. I've always loved that about horror films. From Frankenstein to From Beyond. How a filmmaker can create a whole new world, populated with nightmares, just using light, latex, paint, plywood, and shadows. It sends chills up my spine.

returnofthelivingdead3

And, yes, I've had my fling with digital effects as well--working as a broadcast designer for clients like Lucasfilm--but the slick digital, hyper realistic effects never had the same charm for me as the rubber puppet monsters of The Thing, or Reanimator. And those same digital effects made some of my first loves--Star Wars--unwatchable (but that's a rant for another day.)

You never forget your first love. When I was a little kid, my father introduced me to horror through the original black and white King Kong, and I fell in love. Sure, you could see Harryhausen's fingerprints all over the fur of King Kong, but that didn't take away from how terrifying he was, for me it somehow added to it.

So when I decided to write, and produce my own movies, well, I couldn't help but want to reanimate that feeling of falling in love. That's why I wrote, produced, and acted in movies like Blood Junkies, and The Ghost Club - Spirits Never Die, and why I'm working on  Cryptids, and PDA--feature films that definitely fall squarely on the artisanal horror film spectrum.

I'm just psyched to finally have something to call myself, and what I create.

Blood Junkies Teaser from Small Media Extra Large on Vimeo.

Why I stopped calling myself a storyteller

Even though that's exactly what I am...

The word "story" is pretty close to losing its meaning when applied to interactive design. It's about to go the way of other buzzword dodos like "convergence"--the first word I remember becoming absolutely meaningless as more and more consultants, and executives spouted it in meetings in an attempt to sound smart. Right now, story is everywhere. Brands tell their stories on social networks. User experience designers talk about the power of story. Everybody and everyone has a story to tell, and everyone and everybody is some kind of storyteller--UX designers, copywriters, and strategists.

The heartbreak with "story", and it's kissing cousin "storyteller" jumping the shark (to mix all kinds of metaphors in this blog post) is that various forms of storytelling are actually particularly powerful tools for creating great interactive experiences. Clearly written, concise, and easy to understand user stories are an essential scoping tool for developers who follow an Agile software development process. Detailed, researched, and compelling user personas, and scenarios help designers, and their clients undertand the people they design for--their "users" (another word that flirts with buzzword dodoism)--by telling their stories. Stories that help communicate what's been learned about those users, what they want, and the context in which they will try to meet their needs. Beyond that, good, basic storytelling is useful any time a designer communicates with their clients, users, developers, and each other. Stories help organize information, and put it into context. They're fun.

So what's a poor storyteller to do--someone like me who actually writes stories in the form of screenplays, teleplays, and novels? Who writes user scenarios, and user stories as part of my design process?  Who thinks in 3-act structure, and applies that structure to make documentaries, and textbooks more interesting, and fun? Who is addicted to exploring all the emerging new ways we tell stories, from transmedia to alternate reality gaming, and beyond?

What do I call myself so I don't get lost in the crowd? How do I communicate what it is I do, and how I do it?

For now I'm going back to calling myself a writer and UX strategist. A little dry, but it is what I do.

Anyone have any better suggestions than that?

Lost the plot?

I can find it. I am a writer, designer, interactive strategist, user experience guru, and performer who uses story as a tool to design interactive experiences and create engaging entertainment.

For 20 years I’ve worked in diverse creative and leadership roles on cutting edge projects for companies such as ABC News, The BBC, Coca-Cola, ESPN, Reuters, Viacom and Vogue, helping them to define narratives for compelling customer experiences.

My success in helping companies achieve their unique goals comes from my underlying passion for creating wicked cool entertainment, from some of the best direct-to-video horror films to come out of the 1990s to award-winning commercial campaigns for ILM commercial productions and EIDOS, from webisodes such as Teen Nick’s "Exit Strategy" to the recent feature films "Ghost Club", "Blood Junkies" and "Resurrection Men".

I co-founded Small Media Extra Large, a hybrid agency with interactive, social media, and video production capabilities that creates captivating websites, mobile apps, games, web series and advertising.