Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


During the month of June a fake movie trailer promoting a typical zombie film is posted on select horror websites. At the end of the trailer a website for the film is given. After only a week or a month of existence the trailer is taken off of the internet completely.

Those who visit the films website are presented with a fairly simple page. On the site the same trailer which led them to the address is available in addition to a second trailer which features a detective. While the first trailer simply featured some neat shots and scare techniques the second trailer features a little more plot…

In the trailer the detective says something to the extent of “Follow the clues…they are right in front of you. And what ever you do… don’t give up. Always run from the gore.”

The clue is blatantly presented on text on the screen as well stating the films slogan “Always Run from the Gore”. Those who are looking for an ARG will immediately sign up for the sites mailing list at which point they will have been put into the game. The initial email will feature some bogus announcements regarding the fake films production and players will be asked to submit some needed information for the puppet masters including their locations.

Following this step a series of web based puzzles and clues will be presented to the player that will eventually get more and more difficult. Eventually players will be instructed to closely inspect everything that is sent their way. Players who last and play the game into the month of September will eventually be sent a series of junk mail catalogs in which an advertisement for the film will be given. Within the junk mail is an instruction to call the detective featured in the preview at a 1-800 number.

When the players call the number they will be asked to give a password which they have obtained earlier in the game. They will also have to answer a riddle based on some of the internet clues. If they answer correctly they will be asked to submit the location where they will be located in the next five days. They will be instructed to have transportation at hand and be able to accomplish a mission on any given night during the time period between the hours of 11pm to 6am.

When the players are called they will be told that an email has been sent to them with a map they need to follow. Once they get to the destination they will have to find a person whose name they are given.

The name will be that of someone who is deceased and the directions will lead them to cemetery. There, the player who has been instructed to bring a flashlight will have to search for the person’s grave. When the grave is found the player will be pleased to find two movie tickets to the world premier of the movie; one for them and one for a guest of their choice. Guest of the players have now become players themselves.

On the night of the screening the players will be treated with gift bags, good food, and a premier event like atmosphere. When they walk into the theater they will be treated to a film. At some point during the screening the projector will stop and the lights will remain out for a good two minuets. Players will sit in the dark theater in anticipation.

The detective featured in the original trailer found in the early stages of the game will yell to everyone that the theater has been infested with zombies. “We have to get the fuck out of here!”

Players will make a mad dash into the theater lobby where Zombies jump out from all corners and start chasing them. The Zombies will carry red balloons filled with fake blood to smash onto all of the players. All but one door out of the theater will be locked.

Any player that makes it out of the theater and has not been “killed” (no fake blood on them) will be called a winner and either take the entire grand prize or split it with any other players who also survived.
Copyright STEVE BURNS 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Banshee Rocks

The Banshee Rocks
(By Steven Burns)
In Irish legend, a banshee wails around a house if someone in the house is about to die. There are particular families who are believed to have banshees attached to them, and whose cries herald the death of a member of that family. (wikipedia)

For more information on Banshee’s please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banshee
A young, female, music journalist goes to interview rock star Trevor Vice about his critically acclaimed and controversial third album, “DUGGA MARDUK”. The sit down interview (intended for print) is Trevor’s first official interview since the album was released three weeks ago. Even at this point the album is infamous and approaching legendary status. The facts: This is Trevor’s band’s first Gold Album. It was recorded in an isolated castle in Ireland. During the albums production two founding members quit and one studio musician was found dead (the police said it was drug induced, however, they couldn’t explain why the man’s jet black hair was white). In addition, four members of the community, all loosely related to the family which built the castle die within the small rural community. Even more frightening is the fact that since the album has been released it has been linked to an alarming five fan suicides. The strange thing is that the deaths are not only with teens but have occurred with one fan being 43 years old. The album has also been linked to bad moral decisions, and violent behavior.
The sound of the album is haunting. Not as aggressive as their previous works. Going into the recording Trevor publicly stated “I want to make a beautiful, atmospheric, and reflective sound.” After listening to the album one would say that Trevor and his band achieved their goal; this makes its link to horrible violence and decisions even more confusing.
(The story is told in a flashback style. We keep cutting to the interview which is being held in Trevor’s Hollywood mansion between acts.)
We find out that after breaking up with his long term girlfriend, being heavily pressured by his label, struggling with a cocaine addiction, and suffering from horrible writers block, Trevor and co. decide to flee from the US and have some writing/jam sessions abroad. The idea is to get away from all the things that seem to be getting in the way of them making music.
The bands talented agent lines up a recently restored castle dating back to the 16th century located in Ireland. Just as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nine Inch Nails have recorded in the Sharon Tate murder house, the idea behind the castle is to get an outside source of inspiration from the historic surroundings.
When the band arrives at the castle they have fun, get fucked up with the locals at the nearby pub, and continue to experience a creative road block. On the bright side they are at least all showing up to practice and are playing some stuff.
After meeting a local girl who captures his heart and finding some old literature in the attic of the castle, Trevor finds inspiration and begins to pen a few new songs. Things seem to be going well and after a bit of procrastination the band starts to lay out some tracks working in excess of ten hours a day.
One evening the bands lead guitarist seems to be having trouble concentrating. Each and every time he messes up he goes back to his equipment, complaining of hearing a loud, screeching, high pitched noise in his headphones.
The next day a new friend that the band has met during their stay is found dead outside of the local pub. The property manager swings by and interrogates the group asking them if they’ve been hearing anything strange. When the guitarist tells him about the sound he goes into a long “campfire tale” about the family banshee who’s spirit lurks inside the castle.
Trevor and his friends don’t take the man’s tale seriously. Instead, they make a joke of it and draw inspiration from the story. They begin to write songs regarding a banshee.
A week later a small girl, who is also in the family tree, dies while playing in the playground of her school. The lead guitarist becomes spooked and pleads with Trevor to leave saying “We’ve got a good vibe going here. Lets just take it with us before we get blamed for another death!” Trevor says no. That night the guitarist has a haunting vision of a transparent naked woman. She looks as if she has been violated. “the way she looked at me, she stared right through my soul” he claims.
Without any further debate, the lead guitarist abruptly quits the band. A major part of the groups signature sound is gone forever. For the next week the group takes a break from recording. Trevor begins researching the legends behind the banshee of the castle that cost him his musical soul mate.
In the meantime he encourages the rest of the group to take time off and explore the area. They are thrilled to have a break. Trevor, however, decides to stay in the castle and invites his new fling to join him and stay there. The two go on a week long bender full of drugs, sex, and song writing. One day while doing some demos within the castle grounds under the moonlight, Trevor looks up to see his new love standing on the top floor balcony. She asks “Did you hear her?” Trevor does not answer. He just looks at her confused. “You didn’t did you?” she asks. At that point she jumps from where she stands committing suicide before Trevor’s very eyes.
The cycle continues… and throughout the madness more people surrounding Trevor lose their lives including two more towns’ people. Trevor eventually gets to the psychotic state where he believes he can see the banshee. He records with willing members of the band (all of which refuse to stay at the castle with him.
Eventually Trevor completes his album. In one track he claims that the sound he achieved with his voice was not done with a computer or any sound equipment, but with the back up vocals provided by the Banshee herself.
Trevor claims it was the banshee who wanted to extend its song of death beyond the castle walls but never had a medium to do so. Trevor provided just the channel that she needed.
This is the general idea. A vague beginning to a story which would need a lot more development, the idea would be to somehow incorporate a bizarre twist in the end. One that could make peoples hair stand up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IU Memories

IU Memories

The IU memories project would incorporate oral history, still images, text, and video in a web based experience. The project would aim to capture the public and private history of the University, and its surrounding community through the people who have spent time around the school or are currently active in it.

Users would be able to explore a map of the IU campus and Bloomington community in a fashion similar to google earth or the weather channel feature on the nintendo wii (eventually we would expand to Indianapolis, Carmel, South Bend and beyond). Major points of interest such as the Union, Assembly Hall, Memorial Stadium, and the RTV building would be visible from a zoomed out perspective. Smaller and less significant points of interest such as Kilroys and say a specific Frat house would be accesible to the user if they zoomed in closer. Thus, the major landmarks would act as a guide and a good introductory representation. Through searches and exploring users could dig deeper into very specific points of interest right down to someones apartment building or house. Ideally, the map would have a specific look to it that was not 100% realistic but aesthetically uniform and interesting throughout the experience (animation, drawings, fonts).

Once a user selected a specific spot, a pop up player would appear which would begin playing a randomly selected story obtained at that location. Stories could be skipped if the user was not interested. In addition, text would pop up on the screen which would provide factual information (if available) about the point of interest. If the place was very well known a live web cam could also provide a glimpse of the landmark at the current moment. Video could play of the little five when people are looking at the track feild, and a slideshow of photos would also grace the screen. Obviously some points of interest would have much more content than others, but every place could have a lot of potential. Users could upload their photos but moderators could take them down and/or approve them so it doesn't just become another cluttered site like myspace or facebook.

In order to obtain enough content to launch the site, a substantial amount of oral histories, interviews, videos, and photos would have to be obtained by the team and cataloged by the web developers before the site could launch. This would give people a grasps for what the project was all about instead of simply being another upload heavy, network site.

Oral accounts would be collected by students and professionals. Several interview tents would be made available where people could stop in, answer a few questions, and tell their stories. The booths would initially be set up at places like the union, nicks, and outside the tailgaiting area before a football game. Several booths would initially be put around the campus and promototed to gain support, interest, and get the program off to a strong start. Eventually, fewer booths would be needed and would simply show up at places where people would be pleasently suprised to see them. The booths would always be around. Their locations would constantly change but each day new content would be gathered.

Interviewers would be trained to get as much interesting content as they could from each contributor while also keeping the process moving along. The idea would be to get good content and fast. 5-20 interviews should be obtained in a tent during the course of a shift.

After their interview/story the participant would be given an account number and web adress where they could submit pictures or writings (like poems) or scanned programs for the web moderators to check out and see if its worth putting up.

A video and photo team would also be involved during the construction phase, in which professional quality images would be obtained.

Waivers would also have to be made to make it clear that the story they have provided now belongs to the IU memories project.

Steve Burns

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Eulogy for Ted Manthorn

The setting for this short film is a retirement home.

Sunset Drift is a three story structure located in the outskirts of a mid sized city. On an average day the resident occupancy is around 180 people. There are a total of forty employees filling positions like house doctor, event organizers, administration, site manager, nurse, cook and janitor. Four well respected religious leaders who represent different popular area faiths make almost daily visits. Every day there are constant friends and family members of the residents making visits, however, there is a strong essence of vacancy and loneliness that fills the halls.

Each week approximately six residents die, a total which equals the average amount of new residents during the same time period.

Sunset Drift has a blank, sterile look about it. There is not much in terms of decoration in the public areas. Areas of the facility that employees have tried to make homey or warm have been dressed ineffectively, with scenic oil painting wall art that is lack of life and vibrancy. The fake flowers and the faint stench of old people blended with bad potpourri and 409 make for a very unwelcoming aura.

The public activity room at the retirement home is a place that wears many hats. The first floor room acts as a theater for visiting children’s choirs and improve theater groups which frequently visit. On Sunday’s it is the setting for prayer groups. On Wednesday’s it is a bingo hall, and on Thursday and Friday evenings the room fills with hungry senior citizens who feast on sugar cookies and coffee.

At the start of our story the public activity room is serving a different purpose. Today it is a funeral home.

The deceased is Tom Manthorn. At his wishes he has been cremated. A golden urn sits on top of a small table. Next to his ashes is a fairly recent photo of Tom. In the picture he sits alone at a table and is not smiling.

Tom Manthorn was a man that kept mostly to himself during his stay at Sunset Drift. During his 11 month residency he made no effort to socialize with other residents or staff members. He ate alone and he didn’t play dominos or bingo. He watched from a distance.

In front of the public activity there are three rows of five chairs. However, the majority of them are empty. Only four people are present for Tom’s funeral. One is a young nurse who was probably the person he spoke with the most and probably was the most fond of. Today she is not on duty, but felt she should come since she expected to see a poor turnout. Another attendant is an old man who goes to every memorial service that is held at the facility. Paying his respects to those who have died in the building, even if he didn’t know them, somehow makes him feel as if he’ll be more prepared when his day doesn’t come. The third is a man with such dementia that he probably is not even aware that he is attending a funeral.

The forth man present is not a resident of Sunset Drift, although, he looks old enough to be. He is dressed in his Sunday best and has a sense of purpose about him. When he walks up to the podium he introduces himself as Phillip Terveer, a man who was a good friend of the deceased.

He tells the small group that he had previously served with Ted in the army and that Ted was a hero then and was until the moment he died.

Phillip serves as the films narrator and tells a very brief story about Ted saving his platoon from an evil that was not of the human kind. It was an evil that most people couldn’t understand unless they experienced it for themselves. He looks at the man suffering from dementia and says “However, I’m sure there are people here who could relate.” He goes on to tell the attendants that Ted Manthorn was just as big of a hero here right up until the moment he passed.

Through the film we cut back and forth from Ted’s eulogy to flashbacks that show glimpses of Ted’s 11 month stay at Sunset Drift.

We come to find out that Ted willingly admitted himself into the retirement home because he, unlike anyone else in the entire world, sensed the same evil he defeated years ago in the war lurking inside of Sunset Drift.

Without blantly describing exactly what happened Phil will expose through his words (and through scenes with Ted) how he made the staff and other residents think he was more mentally lost than he truly was.

Basically the evil he defeated while he was serving in the army is an evil being that travels from another dimension to feed on human fear. Back in WWII battle grounds were places of great fear. At night the Demon would come to the camps of soldiers, who were already scared and distraught and terrorize them thus growing stronger from their fear and staying alive.

Years later a similar creature found the retirement home. A place where old people are left alone and there memories and thoughts are blended and cluttered. Often at night some of them would experience true terror.

The staff doctors would attribute their night terrors to sickness of the brain and medicate. The residents of Sunset Drift would either not remember the specifics of the terrifying experience with the demon (as many of us don’t remember our dreams) or would be too embarrassed to explain the details and happily take any pill that would help get their mind off of the experience.

Ted, however, realized the demon was present and that it had a feast of fear in front of it at Sunset Drift. So at dinner he would act cold, frail and confused when he really was not. He would watch people and eavesdrop on the conversation they had with the resident doctors, nurses, psychologist and visiting family members.

Like a prisoner he would steal knives and silverware at dinner. At night he would listen through the walls as his fellow residents howled in terror (actually being terrorized). He would act sickly and afraid but would actually be stalking the demon and practicing… waiting for his time to kill.

One night we follow an old man to bed as a nurse tucks him away for the night and locks the door from the outside. The man lies in bed, with his eyes wide open waitng to once again be haunted by the horrible demon. Time passes and he decides to use the restroom. It is there that he is attacked, gagged and bound and left in the bathtub by Tom.

Next we see the demon (we’ll show glimpses of it earlier in the film) as it fades out of the vent. Long fingers, a strangely shaped skull, and abnormal knees which bend backwards. Something that looks like it could come out of “Pans Labyrinth”. It creeps to the old mans bed, pleased to see that the fearful old man already has the covers pulled over its head. The demon wants to show itself to the old man so it can get a big whiff of his fear.

When it pulls off the covers it is surprised to see Tom Manthorn instead of the familiar victim. Tom puts a knife into its stomach. He gets up and the demon and Tom proceed to have a long and very violent fight.

Tom bashes the demons skull into the porcilin sink. He beats the demon to a pulp as its blood splatters across his face. The whole time Tom looks cold and unemotional.

The demon disappears or something… whatever the case there is no evidence of the struggle. Tom unties the man and puts him back in his bed. The man seems lost and very confused… he needs his pills.

Tom returns to his room as the victor. He has once again defeated a demon that no one else has had the courage to even look at. That night he has a heart attack and dies happy and fulfilled.

Phillip’s final offering in the eulogy is that Tom got to do what few of us are lucky enough to. “He got to die doing what he loved… being a hero.”

The whole eulogy and narration would be offered in a way that would make Phillip seem sane and believable. He would never go into description. This is were the script would gain some sophistication. With a sort of outrageous plot and action sequence the demon would have to look very unique. I see glitter falling from the ceiling every time it appears to feast on the fear of old people.

The script and overall theme would aim to ultimately make those who are old and made to feel they are losing their minds with age gain a sense of empowerment. That and be very strange and scary and funny and interesting.

I hope to develop this further.

Copyright Steve Burns 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lawn Jockey: A Suburban Nightmare

If you are not familiar with what a lawn jockey is check out this article from Wikipedia.


"Lawn Jockey: A Suburban Nightmare" would be a one player experience that would be released online in segments.

The first installment would introduce our setting and the title character, the Lawn Jockey.

Setting: Anywhere Suburban White America. (think "desperate housewives", "the burbs" etc...) The environment would be one street that has relativly new houses surrounding a man made lake. The inhabitants of the houses are upper middle class.

The story would be introduced using a voice over as we hear the title characters creepy thoughts. Actors would be used in front of green screens and the suburban environment would be added using photographs and digital techniques. The look is not realistic. Ideally this world would have the same asethetic value as the famous coca-cola santa paintings


only with a more surreal approach.


A short, shy, unpopular, high school sophomore gets off by painting his face white and dressing up like a lawn jockey. At night he sneaks out of his parents house and positions himself in front of a real lawn jocky yard orniment which is located in the front yard of a beatiful girls home. The placement of the lawn jockey allows our character to peer into her bedroom window and go unnoticed as a peeping tom.

GAME: The first challenge would be sneaking through the neighborhood shadows avoiding streetlights and barking dogs and placeing one's self blatantly in the front yard where the similar looking statue typically stands.

Once in position the player would be rewarded by being presented with an animation sequence and voice over which describes the twisted young mans mind set as a peeping tom. The challenge would be to hold a key combination to simulate the effort it would take to stand completly still and not be noticed.

Next a sense of voyourism would be achieved as the gamer watches the beatiful young woman get ready for bed in the mirror. She does things like comb her hair and type on her computer and maybe even does something like dance seductivly for her webcam (meanwhile the VO continues). The internal dialoug of the lawn jockey would comment on how people are just throwing their lives out for free on the web and its ironic how he would be viewed as a freak if he were to get caught.

If the player gets too interested in the story and say takes his fingers off of the keyboard to take a drink, the lawn jockey character would cough or move causing him to get noticed by a car passing by, or some people walking the dog. Perhaps he would even be discovered by the girl herself and it would be game over.

However, if the player succeded in the challenge (which maybe wouldnt be blatanlty described in the directions) he would be rewarded by progressing further in the story. Just as the girl is about to derobe or give the audience some form of a reward something happens...

Perhaps two men in ski masks barge into the room and abduct the girl. Something to that nature.

The idea would be for the player to feel creepy and wrong in what he was doing but to get some satisfaction out of it like someone does when they steal a car or kill someone in "grand theft auto". However, one would know it was wrong. The abrupt apperance of men and violence would be shocking to the player who hopefully would already be uncomfortable in regards to the content.

When the men come in the lawn jockey witnesses a horrible crime while commiting a crime himself. Therefore, he can not go to the police but also has emotional investment in the girl so he will want to save her life and maybe win her over in doing so.

From here players can solve the mystery of what happend to the girl by day by searching for clues and speaking with other characters as the shy high school student (maybe he's a drama stage hand in high school) and also take action by night by taking on the persona of the lawn jockey. In this form the jockey could steal keys or hide in cars to collect information. or do things like break into houses to take journals or get on people's personal computers.

Each installment would present more mystery and viewable content while also presenting the player with a challenge. the look of the game could change with each episode. One challenge could be to search through a house "myst" style. while another takes on a primitive game experience by running from dogs like the in the game "paper boy". There could be puzzles and riddles etc... and a lot of stealth gameplay were one could hide or quick assume the lawn jockey pose in order to not get noticed.

The style of the story would unfold kind of like a classic detective story but the hero would be a very grey character who eventually finds redemption in saving the girl he once violated by spying on. There would be themes of voyerism and an underlining moral commentary that would suggest that we should be careful what we put on the internet.

The dangers in the game could be from the bad guys the lawn jockey is trying to catch and from the surrounding cast of characters who begin to notice that a creep is wondering through their neighborhood at night dressed as a statue.
The game would be very dramatic with many story sequences... everything would be over the top and the action between the playable Jockey and the criminals would be very graphic. 
Its vague... but could be a lot of fun by incorporating a mystery with classic gaming formats of the past in a installment like fashion that could make light of suburban life and also pay tribute to the many types of games people love.

copyright sb