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Blogging the MOOC - The Future of Storytelling with Iversity - Part II and Part III

Continuing to blog on the Massive Open Online Course, my notes and impressions....


Lecturer:  Christina M. Schollerer MA

With inputs from:  Des Doyle (Irish Filmmaker)  and Rebeccaa Ahlen, TV Serial Coordinator on German Television


Serial Storytelling vs. One-Offs.  Serial storytelling on tv has reached new heights in audience reach and critical attentions.  We can learn a lot from tv series from how to tell stories through other media.  Weekly and daily dramas proliferate.  In serials, no beginning, middle and end formula, it goes on for a long time, never ending.

Input from Des Doyle, stressing the one-off nature of novels and movies as opposed to the more extended reach of serials.

Core question:  Unlike serial formats, many novels, films/movies or even a lot of video games consist of a clear beginning, a middle and an end.  To a certain extent, they can be considered to be one-offs.

UNIT 2.1 - Weekly formats in serial TV

Core question:  A so-called "case-of-the-week" is usually presented in 'procedurals' as opposed to actual 'serials'.

Unit 2.2 - Weekly Formats in Serial TV

Episodic story arcs vs. ongoing story arcs.

Core question:  Considering how serial formats are often consumed nowadays, with many viewers buying DVD editions and "binge-watching", Rebecca Ahlen sees a recent trand towards art-driven, horizontal storytelling.

UNIT 3 - Weeklies vs. Dailies

Core question:  What is one major difference between daily soaps and telenovelas?  Telenovelas (popular in South American TV) usually have a difinite ending, whereas daily soaps just keep on going.

UNIT 4.1 - Production Process - Input by Des Doyle

Core Question - In the United States, for what is the "showrunner" responsible?  Answer: He/she is responsible for the creation of a series in regard to the creative process and in regard to the logistics process.

UNIT 4.2  Production Process - Input by Rebecca Ahlen

Core question:  In regards to the production process of daily drama series, the term "futuring" refers to deciding on the story arc for the next few months.

UNIT 5 - Biggest challenges in creating a TV series and Creative Task of the Week.

Core Question:  According to Des Doyle and Rebecca Ahlen, the major challenges when creating a successful TV series are getting people's attention and getting the audience to 'lean into the screen'.  The series also needs emotional connect.


Build a character profile of a character from a TV series you know.

Character Name:  Anandi, main character of Indian TV series, BALIKA VADHU (Meaning 'Child Bride')

Physical Description:  Medium height.

Gender:  Female
Age:  Mid-twenties
Personality/Nature:  Co-operative and adjusting
Ambitions/Desires:  To remove child marriage from Indian rural society.  Having suffered personally from it.
Is mostly seen as:  Capable
Sees herself as:  Willing to do something for the good of society.
Loves:  Second husband family, in-laws from first and second marriages.
Believes in:  The right of children to a childhood and education.
Trusts:  Her elders
Fears most:  Negative tradition
Fights for:  Children's rights and against superstition and regressive tradition
Hates:  Keeping girls backward without education
Most Important event in life up to date:  Her first marriage at age 8.
Most influenced by:  First husband's grandmother, a strong woman.
Best friend:  A childhood friend, a widow and single mother.
Worst enemies:  People who lose out because of her social activities
Family status:  Wife/daughter-in-law
Social/ethnic background:  Rajasthani villager (India)
Occupation:  Housewife, social worker
Education:  Graduate
Hobbies:  Usual pastimes of Indian housewife, dance, music etc.
Special skills/talents:  Communications expert
Flaws:  Mindset influenced by early marriage
Disabilities:  No
Special Behaviourisms/quirks:   None noticeable
Dress:  Traditional Indian dress.

Name:  Anandi Singh

TV Serial:  Balika Vadhu (Colors TV, India)
The main character appeared in this series when she was married as a child of eight years.  The serial has followed her progress and that of her childhood husband, Jagdish.  It shows how Jagdish grew away from Anandi as he got older and the anguish she suffered on being abandoned by him for another woman.  It also shows how she struggled to get her education completed and how she remarried and found happiness with another partner.  The series gives a strong message against negative social traditions in traditional societies.


Rebecca Ahlen and Des Doyle share their advice for people wishing to write for TV series.  The message coming through is that writer's need to remember that they're not writing for themselves but for others. Rebecca reminds that writing for television is often teamwork.  Des adds that writers need to continually freshen their approach and get out there and have a lot of life experiences to draw on.


Lecturer:  Christina M. Schollerer MA

With inputs from:  Prof. Dr. Jan Distelmeyer, Professor of History and Theory of Technical Media, University of Potsdam, Rebecca Ahlen, TV Serial Project manager.

UNIT 1 - Audiovisual Series On The Web
Input from Prof. Distelmeyer.

Web series is emerging.  What is a web series? A series designed for a web platform.  It has usually been characterized by very short episodes and cheap locations.  Cost effectiveness was a huge feature of the web series at the beginning, because unlike TV, the internet didn't have commercial sponsorship, access to customer money like pay channels nor public money.  Web series 'webisodes ' are often very short because of short attention spans of people nowadays. Prof. Distelmeyer mentions this.

Core Question:  What are the episodes of a web series usually called?  Webisodes.

UNIT 2 - How To Deal With Shorter Attention Spans
Input from Rebecca Ahlen and Professor Jan Distelmeyer

Hook, hold and payoff principle still there, but a diffferent dosage, swift and time effiicient.  One must take into considerations different circumstances and viewing conditions. It must be short.  The same concept applies to the MOOC.

Core Question:  According to Rebecca Ahlen, creating a web series for Youtube is different from creating one for Netflix and you have to be more emotional in regard to the hook for Youtube and Vimeo web series.

UNIT 3 - Between Web Therapy and House of Cards

WEB THERAPY is a web series which is now on TV.  The form has changed, extra scenes were added for TV.   The current Netlix series were made for the web but are similar to TV Series.  So are TV series and web series indistuingishable now?  Does the platform matter?

Core Question:  Netflix' HOUSE OF CARDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK have narrative structures and production values similar to a traditional TV Series.

UNIT 4 - Financing And Its Impact On Storytelling:  Branded Entertainment, Product Placement and More.
Input from Rebecca Ahlen

Financing has always had a huge influence on storytelling.  Many TV series assembled around the commercial breaks.Advertising affects the structure of the story, cliffhangers before commercial breaks a deliberate ploy.  What is product placement and branded entertainment?  Web spin-offs are a sponsors' delight.  More experimental freedom on the web. Spin-offs are based on a previous or existing product.

Core Question:  The TV series ANGEL is an example of  spin-off series.

UNIT 5 - Web Series and Beyond - And CREATIVE TASK OF THE WEEK.
Input from Rebecca Ahlen

Is web series a new genre in itself or a series of niches? Transmedia storytelling.  Blogging, social networking.....

Core question:  According to Rebecca Ahlen, the TV and internet will get closer together and merge over time.


Create a fictional character and give them an online home.

Name:  Kiya Inyotef

This person is a character in a novel I'm writing.  Tried to create an online presence, but fear the site thought I was spamming. So here is the character in any case.  If I find an online home for her, I'll try to reinform about it.

Physical Description:  Medium height.
Gender:  Female
Age:  Mid-twenties
Personality/Nature:  Kind hearted and generally eager to help.
Ambitions/Desires: To move to a place where she is free to live the life of her choice and to marry the person she loves.
Is mostly seen as:  Capable
Sees herself as:  A victim of her circumstances
Loves:  A man named Abram, already married.
Believes in:  God
Trusts:  Very few others
Fears most:  Losing the man she likes forever.
Fights for:  What she perceives as her rights.
Hates:  Being kept in the control of others.
Most Important event in life up to date:  Exiled from her country by her father as a gift to someone he had offended.
Most influenced by:  The woman who raised her, an Iraqi woman named Mesha.
Best friend:  The wife of the man she thinks she loves.
Worst enemies:  Her stepmother and people jealous of her social status (she was born a princess).
Family status:  Live-in domestic assistant.
Social/ethnic background:  Egyptian
Occupation:  Domestic assistant, weaver.
Education:  Homeschooled, fluent in several languages.
Hobbies:  Interested in fashion and jewellery
Special skills/talents:  Fluent in several languages.
Flaws:  Limited exposure to outside world, rather narrow minded.
Disabilities:  No
Special Behaviourisms/quirks:   Talks to herself when perturbed.
Dress:  Traditional middle eastern dress.


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