About Tomorrow Night…

“Audience expectation is limited by what they believe is possible: it is our responsibility, as Creators of Experience, to take them where they do not expect to go…”

– KO

So, here they come; the Closing Ceremonies for London 2012. What are we going to see? We know we’ll have the “legendary” Spice Girls reunion on the field; what that will look like or how it will play is anyone’s guess.

Going in, here’s what I’ll be seeking. Irrespective of the subjectivity of the Creative (on which, I’m sure, y’all and I will have myriad and disparate opinions – all to be shared and debated, post-show), the execution of the narrative and ceremonial aspects of the event / show / experience will be my primary focus.

Does it make sense?

If there’s a narrative, a storyline, an arc to the Experience; does it unfold with logic, invite suspension of disbelief, engage the audience in a way that it can be experienced, intimately and personally, at the same time as it is shared by the thousands? That, to me, is the key to truly Compelling Experience. It can be done for groups of 2 to 200,000 or more.

Is the Experience seamless?

Do components flow from one into the other without explanation? Does it engage the audience?

Are the best seats in the House in the House?

I believe that live, stadium or destination-specific spectacle is designed and created for the audience that is present. For full integrity, it is the audience on-site that should reap the potential rewards of a well-conceived and executed, emotionally connective, immersive Experience.

Is the storytelling dependent on media, screens…?

I have yet to see this done in a way that doesn’t distract. Remote welcomes, preliminary announcements, introductory video (and, in the case of Opening, Royal Entrances) aside, peripherally-projected video rarely fails to distract from a story. (This, versus video that is woven into the storytelling and located within the physical space of the story.

It is literally impossible (and, by that, I mean literally impossible) to recreate the full experience of a live spectacle with any camera. Ergo, no matter what, the “audience at home” is only going to glean a sense of that which is taking place, live. They are compelled to use both sides of their brains in order to appreciate what is being shared: they can only appreciate, they cannot experience.

Therefore, any attempts to bring the remote audience into the Experience run the risk of obstructing or distracting from the experience and all will fall short of the implied goal. All one can do with cameras is offer glimpses of what is happening and to elicit feelings of  “wow, I sure wish I could be there…”

This, the onus is on the producer to shoot the experience from the point of view of sharing what can be shared rather than to attempt to do the impossible; the attempting of which degrades the experience of those present.

Like the wedding photographer backing himself up the aisle in front of the bride and barely avoiding bumping up against the wedding party to the gnat-like profusion of close-up cameras on a performing field during so many televised spectacle experiences; such efforts are distracting and fruitless.

For my money, and especially with the quality and power of photographic equipment (not to mention the astonishing dexterity of microtechnology for such purpose), there is never an excuse to have anything (i.e. Photographers / Videographers) on the field or stage during a performance. Place cameras overhead; rigged, locked-down, whatever, to capture the spectacle – not break it down into micro-components.

Am I ranting?

A few years ago, I had an experience that truly catalyzed, exemplified what I am talking about, here.

Chicago, 2006 Gay Games Opening Ceremonies. The 11,000 athletes had just left the field, after having taken the Oath of the Athletes and created the spectacular, full-field lighting stunt that is pictured at the top of this page.

Now, it was time for the Oath to the Officials. In stark contrast to the field full of athletes, the vision was for Billy Bean, the Presenter of the Oath, to walk from one end of the field to meet soccer star Saskia Webber, Oath Proxy, in the exact center of the stadium. This stark contrast to the field full of athletes of the expansive, empty field of play, of “battle,” with the two standing in the center for the Oath Taking was to be breathtaking and awesome.

And, it would have been.

Except for one, infuriatingly self-absorbed photographer who wanted to get “the shot.” Midway through the 90-second oath, he leapt over the wall on the sidelines of the field, ran to the center of the field, crouched behind Saskia and began taking shots from every angle behind and around the two principals. He was a disorienting distraction to the two on the field; but more than that, what he managed to do was distract the 50,000 people in the stadium and become the show.

He took excellent pictures of something that no one else experienced. He shot two people on the field; what everyone saw was three people. What was to have been formal and ceremonial became humorous and annoying, and what was remembered was the photographer (who, by the way, was ejected from the stadium and could not understand why…) rather than these two sporting icons and their roles.

I have excellent video of this moment, which I shall insert when this is published as an iBook, shortly.

The main thing, my own primary objective when creating spectacle, theatre or any Experience, is the dousing of the left brain – the thinking part – and the stimulation and engagement of the right brain – the imagination part. Making the audience think to make sense of an Experience pulls them immediately from that Experience.

When one wonders anything from “how are they doing that” to “where is that happening” (in the case of activity on the field that is projected onto supporting screens), s/he is pulled from emotional and psychological immersion into the evaluative.

Not cool.

Thus, tomorrow night, I’ll be looking to see how what is offered is executed. I’ll not be able to help appreciating and evaluating the Creative – and will share impressions on that, as well – but some “rules” are sacrosanct, irrespective of the story being told.

We shall see.


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