Working with academia: a neutral ground and continuity

Granny’s Dancing on the Table is a transmedia production that includes a full-length feature film and an on- and offline story world with strong gaming elements.

The project won the prestigious Arte Pixel Pitch Prize in London 2010, and did a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2012. Lead partners in this project are Tangram Film, Good Television, Ozma Games and Medea. The team explores how participants may contribute collaboratively to the production, both creatively and practically.

This post was originally published in the Medea publication Prototyping Futures.

ERLING: What has it meant for you to work with us at Medea?

HELENE: “Security” is the first thing that comes to mind, in that you have been involved in every process related to the Granny’s project. You are, of course, very warm and loving people, but you also have an academic interest in the development of the production: an interest in seeing our reality and joining us in it, to see the opportunities and adversity and to be our support.

BOBBI: You have been a platform for continuity. We’ve had many of our meetings here and I don’t think that’s just because there are rooms available, but because Medea has become our home base for the project.

KARIN: You’ve become neutral ground for us, but also an important source of knowledge. You have given us examples of other projects that are important to learn from.

HANNA: To me, the collaboration with you has meant reflections about the process. A few years ago, I was asked which I thought was most important: the process or the outcome. I used to reply that the outcome is most important. But now I have an understanding of the process and what it means, and now, to me, the process is part of the outcome and must be given equal weight.

HELENE: Because that the process and the reflection have been so central, it has given us the courage to take a step towards risks and being more experimental than we would have been if we had not had the researchers to lean on. When the first feature film Nasty Old People was distributed via the Pirate Bay, it wasn’t just a whim, but was preceded by a process with researchers and students who looked at several alternative ways to reach out with a movie. Besides, you said that if there was a backlash you would be there to answer questions.

HANNA: You’ve also been involved practically. Together with you, we set up the Facebook page where I started to communicate with our fans, and it was you who made the torrent files, you who initially seeded the film. You’ve been at the production development labs as well.

HELENE: May I ask what our collaboration has meant to you at Medea?

ERLING: A whole lot. We’ve often worked co-productively over the years, but these collaborations have often led to design concepts and nothing else. With Nasty Old People and Granny’s Dancing on the Table, the design has become public in a different way. It has also been activist, with a clear political position. We have always wanted to have research that is based in the present rather than the typical “ten years into the future”, with a focus on the future as being here and now.

BOBBI: Medea has also been a strong counterweight to the other systems that we have been fighting. It has been great to work with an organization like Medea that has a different way of thinking.

HELENE: We usually talk about the three dimensions of the Granny economy: economic, social and cultural. The systems we have been fighting have been the economic systems, in which we have found it difficult to fit in. Socially and culturally, we have fit in well at Medea. You may be right in what you say Erling, that we are more at home in the future than in the present, since this is pioneer work we are doing.

ERLING: Yes, but it is rooted in the present. IT and design research often see the new frontier as a blank slate rather than as a mix of the complexities the present consists of. We as researchers think it’s exciting to be mixed up in the “now”. Thus, we have gained many insights into the film industry, both with regards to narratology, as well as financial and cultural structures.

HELENE: We’ve also got a slice of a “researcher’s identity” in us. We’ve become interested in experimenting and doing things in new ways to see what happens to the world when you do.

Helene Granqvist is the CEO of film production company Good Television; Hanna Sköld is a director and runs the independent film company Tangram Film; Bobbi Sand and Karin Ryding runs the game company Ozma Games; Erling Björgvinsson is researcher at Medea.

Read more
Director Hanna Sköld gave a Medea Talk back in 2010, and more posts about the Granny’s project can be browsed through this tag.