At AFI Digifest with Programming Manager Karim Ahmad

Posted on November 11, 2009

Last week, on the heels of the announcement about FUTURESTATES, a new online fictional series by ITVS, I had the pleasure of previewing the series and one of its key distribution and promotional tools at this year’s AFI Digifest. This was part of AFI’s Digital Content Lab, an incubation program where content makers and technical innovators collaborate to create new media projects. For ITVS, it was our first-ever iPhone application. This is the third year ITVS has collaborated, and this time, we really sought to break new ground. 

FUTURESTATES is about the future––each episode presents a different filmmaker’s vision of the not-too-distant future, allowing them to use speculative and science fiction to comment on current events. We were determined to match this content with technical innovation in our distribution approach. That’s how we got the idea of the FUTURESTATES iPhone application. To go from the basic concept to the presentation of the prototype took us less than two months, due solely to the talent and resourcefulness of the team AFI put together for us. We worked with iPhone app developers Omnilogic Systems, based out of Saskatoon Saskatchewan (that’s right, Saskatoon) and new media guru Garnet Hertz. We started with the basics––full episodes from the series as well as behind the scenes photos and videos streaming to your iPhone––because after all, the future is content accessible anywhere on-demand.

But that was just the beginning – what we really wanted was a way to use the iPhone to engage audiences––to go beyond the literal content of the episodes and inspire people to talk about the future of this country and the world. We discussed data “visualizers,” wikis, newsfeeds, social apps. Ultimately, we decided to combine all of these into an innovative new game called the Future Feed, an interactive timeline allowing users to see the backstory of each episode of FUTURESTATES (i.e., the filmmakers’ predictions of the future) laid out graphically. Users would be able to make their own predictions and comment on other users’ predictions about the future. 

Armed with a prototype and a video teaser of the series, Matthew Meschery, ITVS’s director of Digital Initiatives, and I headed down to LA to present the project at AFI Digifest. Between presentations of web-based mentoring platforms and augmented reality campaigns, and alongside Digital Content Lab mentors like and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, ITVS unveiled the FUTURESTATES series. Along with with Omnilogic, we conducted a live demo of the app to a packed house and got an overwhelmingly positive response. The attendees were genuinely impressed and refreshed to see that not only does ITVS maintain its commitment to supporting fiction filmmaking, but that even after all our new media forays to date, we continue to make new strides forward into the field of digital distribution and promotion¬¬––this time, on the iPhone. Though personally, for FUTURESTATES season 2, I’m hoping for an app that shoots laser beams. 

-Karim Ahmad, ITVS programming manager


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