StoryCode is an open-source, global community for emerging and established cross-platform and immersive storytellers.
Case Studies Jay Ferguson / Guidestones
Can a mysterious monument hold the key to humanity’s future? Two journalism students, investigating an unsolved murder, uncover a global conspiracy centered around the mystery of The Georgia GUIDESTONES, an enigmatic monument nestled in a farmer’s field in rural Georgia, and inscribed with directions for rebuilding civilization after the apocalypse.Guidestones Trailer
Guidestones in New York City
GUIDESTONES uses elements of transmedia and ARG storytelling to take viewers on a thrilling chase that crosses two continents and three countries in search of the truth. Although constructed as a linear story, GUIDESTONES is presented in a new and highly original format designed specifically for online audiences.
Jay Ferguson, the writer/director of this project is an award-winning ﬁlmmaker who has contributed as a writer, director, producer and cinematographer to over 15 feature ﬁlms. His work with institutions such as The National Film Board of Canada has garnered him several awards, including the top cinematography award at the Atlantic Film Festival (Animals, 2005). He is the President of 3'oclock.tv, an entertainment production company that focuses on original, high quality, serialized content for distribution via the Internet and mobile devices.
GUIDESTONES uses a hybrid mix of traditional narrative and formal and non-formal documentary styles. Shot vérité style in Canada, the USA and India, the series moves seamlessly between the real world and the ﬁctional account of how a young woman named Sandy stumbled upon a murder mystery.
The creators each had a traditional film background but wanted to reach audiences directly. Through research and experimentation, they developed a unique model:
Tell stories that guide the audience:
One of their goals was to have audiences copy the actions of a character in the story to invoke a “treasure hunt” element and actually get a step ahead of the characters. For example, an audience member could Shazaam a song heard in an episode, and find a band name with a link to a MySpace page. A logo click would then lead to an email prompt. The email arrives with a link to a company page and phone number. Calling will give the address of where to go next . . .
Keep the content free by embrace branding partners and alternate revenue streams
The filmmakers carefully integrated brand partners like Carbon Clothing and MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays into the story. In particular, Samsung products became a key window into the world of the characters.
The project also received major marketing and support from Canadian pizza chain Pizza Pizza. The chain was excited to be a part of the story, but their bright orange company colors proved problematic to integrate. Ultimately, seven incidences of the code “PP2012Z” were hidden throughout the story. An internet search for the code unlocked hidden Pizza Pizza-style content and rewards. Pizza Pizza marketed The GUIDESTONES heavily, playing the trailer every fifteen minutes in their stores and giving away pizza prizes targeted to their Facebook community.
As an alternate revenue stream, the producers offered songs and ringtones for sale.
Ensure that the audience keeps coming back
Creators focused on maximizing audience retention by building a cliffhanger ending into every episode. Additionally, they worked to diversify delivery experiences.
Their initial push system was email-based: Go to the website and register an email address. An email link to a new episode is delivered in real time with the action of the story. This version of the story takes about a month and is evergreen and constantly premiering for new users. However, they found that their younger demographic loved the experience but was not as active on email. This lead to a second, Facebook-based, push system.
Finally, they created a linear version of the project, not reliant on push prompts, which could be experienced on Hulu and iTunes.
Blend fact and fiction to create a realistic experience
The producers were careful to layer the audience’s real-world experiences to expand the story. For example, a search for an architect mentioned will show house plans. This house, which actually exists and could be visited, is owned by one of the character in the story.
A second season of GUIDESTONES is coming soon, as well as other stories based on similar models.