Insist on strong character
No matter what the technological bells and whistles, what draws people in is a good story, with characters they can relate to. Narrative arc (inciting incident, rising action, climax, denoument) has compelled us since the days of sitting around the campfire telling stories after an exciting wooly mammoth hunt. Narrative arc is part of us, it’s in every cycle of in and out breath we take, so why fix what ain’t broke? This is the groundwork of every project, regardless of medium. Don’t think you can skip it because, for instance, you are using Occulus Rift goggles to create a virtual reality. Nobody will care if the story isn’t interesting. Period. Part of the writer’s job is to never let anyone forget this simple fact.
The protagonist in this project is an omniscient dead mother bear. She offers a first-person (ok ‘first-bear’) description of what habitat encroachment and constant surveillance feels like. Director Leanne Allison brought the NFB amazing visual assets in the form of trail-cam images taken in Banff National Park documenting the behavior of animals over time – and underscoring the fact that most ‘wilderness’ is now under surveillance of one form or another. But the project did not really come to life until it was decided to focus on a central character. Author JB McKinnon was hired to write story from the point of view of the bear. He created a remarkable character who becomes a relatable entry point to a vast landscape & rich data environment. Her story represents something heartfelt and emotional in an otherwise fairly cold digital environment. The character is a way to move people and connect them to the story. You literally walk a mile in the bear’s shoes.