Game of Phones: 5 Game-Changers for Short-Form Mobile Video

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In my nearly two decades in the entertainment industry, primarily as a Hollywood agent, I have seen many artists struggle to produce what it costs to make the majority of the content in Hollywood today, thus severely limiting their opportunities. However, mobile-first content not only provides a high level of entertainment and emotional engagement, it is shorter in length and faster and cheaper to produce than a typical TV show or film, providing an ideal platform for artists to tell their stories. That’s one of the reasons I was driven to start my own company, to help level the playing field for artists in the entertainment industry.

Yet, currently, the content being watched on phones is not optimized for mobile platforms and that can mean a clunky viewing experience. Content really needs to be built from the ground up for smartphones. So what should artists keep in mind when creating content for mobile? Below is a list of best practices to consider:

  • Rethink a story with 3- to 12-minute episodes. Thinking through how a story would be formatted for a 5 minute episode (rather than a 30 minute TV show or feature film) takes a different mindset. Here’s how to rethink the flow:
  • Get to the meat quicker. With only 5 minutes to capture your viewer’s attention, you need to give an intimate look at the characters fairly quickly, but also hint that there’s more to uncover, along with more characters that will be introduced along the way. Think of a trailer you might see for a feature film—setting the scene and revealing some of the major moments right up front to hook your viewer.
  • Consider a cliff hanger. Leaving your viewers wanting more is essential, so ending the first and even second episodes with a cliff hanger assures that the viewer will remain intrigued and keep watching.
  • Think of three acts. The three act structure is something that is important in feature films and remains important for mobile content. Consider where the natural breaks for each act fall in each episode. This creates a seamless way to set up the story and hook the viewer, creating tension and ultimately resolving that tension while ensuring the viewer remains engaged.
  • Incorporate engagement. To get up close and personal with characters, incorporate interactive narrative tools in a natural way. Keep this in mind while creating content to leverage opportunities for engagement throughout the episodes. For example, texts can be used to drive the narrative. Interactive decision making such as viewer polls can fuel engagement. Geo-tracking, AR, VR, and other tools available on your phone can be used to make more immersive and entertaining content.
  • Adopt the multi-season mindset. Every creator should come up with more than one season at the outset to plan how the content could continue. Think about how you are going to map out your story over the course of five or more seasons to ensure you’re considering the potential of your story beyond just one season.
  • Trim the fat. Time is valuable, and a viewer’s attention span is much shorter on mobile, so cut out superfluous details. Even offering the viewer a chance to fast forward to an action scene rather than getting to know more about a character is something to consider. Think about what you are trying to achieve in each episode, then cut it down. This ensures you have only the story essentials and the plot is always moving forward.
  • Think vertically. Viewing content vertical on your mobile phone dramatically speeds up your viewing experience. There are more close-up shots that enable viewers to get up close and personal with characters quickly. Putting more of an emphasis on character intimacy and action is important. For content creators building from scratch, this means changing the way you think about the story.

Keeping these tips in mind is key for creating short form, snackable, addictive content for mobile. Ultimately, the opportunity to stream content on mobile is removing the exorbitant cost it takes to make content in Hollywood today and could level the playing field for thousands of artists—opening up innumerable opportunities, something that has been sorely lacking in previous decades.

[Editor's Note: This is a contributed article from Fiction Riot. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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