Fårö, Gotland, Sweden: Working on a small island with Pure Fiction. June '14.

Working with several repeat clients in one: Film i Skåne, BoostHbg, Film Stockholm on the beautiful, far away island of Fårö, sitting pretty off the north coast of Gotland; Sweden. 

Amanda Kernell,Therese Ahlbeck, Maria Eriksson, Emelie Lindblom, Jonna Nilsson, Lovisa Sirén and Fanni Metelius. 

La Rochelle, France: Out in the open market with Sunny Side of the Doc. June '14

Sitting pretty out in the open, a first for Handling Ideas as we set up 'shop' in the corner of a media market. Sunny Side of the Doc invited HI down to work with a six documentaries to help them map out their interactive offerings.


Øverbygd, Norway: Sticking LEGO where the sun always shines with Sources2. June '14

Back with Sources2 for the fourth time, this time well above the artic circle to their annual retreat at Filmcamp to work on their script development workshop. Thirteen projects in two days provided a variety of themes, topics, characters and challenges.


Copenhagen, Denmark: Handling a session for team developing content authoring tool. June '14. 

Got to work with the talented and visionary Bjarke Myrthu and his team on their latest project 'Blindspot', here in Copenhagen. Fascinating project that's targeting the needs and expectations of users currently let down by what’s possible around content authoring, curation and sharing on the web.


Rhonda, Spain: helping to accelerate the careers of film and TV producers. June '14

Not a bad place to be working. Invited down to the beautiful Andalusian town of Rhonda to work with the prestigious Media Business School on their Mega Plus programme.

"mega plus is a nine month, project-based master’s programme that provides specialised training in audiovisual company management and content production. It’s geared to young producers, recent film school or university graduates who wish to accelerate their careers, and to film executives who want to update their skills to face the radical changes that are taking place in the audiovisual business."


Stockholm, Sweden: Going back to the core with the Swedish Film Institute. June '14

The set-up to a three hour session involving fourteen representatives of the Swedish Film Institute (SFI). The objective was to map out the activites and stakeholders of the SFI in order to explore ways to support new forms of content through the Film agreement. Those present, included:

Anders Wilhelmsson, Andra Lasmanis, Andreas Fock, Annelie Juliusson, Antonio Russo Merenda, Baker Karim, Hjalmar Palmgren, Josefina Mothander, Magdalena Jangard, Pia Lundberg, Ramon Reismüller, Susanne Tiger & Theo Tsappos.


Vilnius, Lithuania: Presentation for Cross Media Zen plus workshops. May '14.

The plane from Copenhagen doesn't turn when it flies the straight line out across the Baltic. Invited over by Ruta Boguzaite, MEDIA Desk Lithuania to speak at the 4th annual Cross Media Zen, "an interactive conference and workshop dedicated to cross-platform storytelling", with a "special attention will be given to audience engagement and interactive storytelling, illustrated with leading case studies from across the world as well as Lithuania." Day 2, and the LEGO was out as we worked through five projects that had been selected for development.

Photos by Kristina Sereikaite, commisisoned by CROSS MEDIA ZEN 2014

Projects and their owners were:

“The Neighborhood” from Lukas Trimonis & Gailė Garnelytė at iNSCRiPT
“Milk Bar” from Agnė Adomėnė & Urtė Budinaitė at Art Shot
“Blured Border” from Andrius Lekavičius and Gabrielė Vaičiūnaitė at Prime Field
“Perfect Match Architects” from Jurga Zabukaitė at Trumas
“Face of the Sun” from Ieva Bužinskaitė at Apricot Films

Stockholm, Sweden: Mapping for Filmregion Stockholm-Mälardalen Debut. May '14

Two days up at Filmstaden Råsunda, Stockholm, working across seven projects to help map out their stories and in some instances, their outreach through cross media.  Both fiction and documentary, we dealt with themes and topis from conflicts of love, trolls, detention centers, Swedish trailer parks, Iraqi refugees and what happens when we want to find work.

Photos by Claudia Fried


Copenhagen, Denmark: Handling a session for leading communication agency, Advice A/S. May '14. 

Ran a session for Advice A/S. Focused in on one key project, centering around a fairly meaty client. With three of the project team members around the table and around twenty or so Advice folks watching, it made for a great session - with the following reactions:

"What you did in the session, conveying the essence of the project. others struggle to do with a 300 page strategy report. It forced people to make decisions - that's what makes it so powerful."          Ralf Lodberg, Executive Director and Partner


"By seeing everything out on the table, it meant for the first time I could see the narrative unfold."          Nino Dedenroth, Senior Concept Developer.


"Companies need tools to translate strategy into something meaningful - your tool does exactly that."          Pernille Ernstved Rype, Senior Advisor.

Innovation happens when you bring critical & creative thinking into the same space.

Bringing critical and creative thinking into the same space reveals our justifications and shortcuts the one thing we’re always lacking when we innovate – time.

There’s so much talk of holistic solutions and co-creation within the product, service and media industry, yet such talk is hot air if we ignore the weak links within the concept development chain. I believe that it all comes down to our inability to deal with large amounts of information within the creative space and hidden motives. We’re throwing away the very thing that makes us creative, context.

The Handling Ideas method solves this by creating a single place for critical and creative thinking to come together. By visualising, mapping and prototyping we’re able to handle much larger amounts of input and see the rational for our innovation, and this is the why and how.

A right Royal Affair

In 1999, Peter Mechels, a man ahead of his time, said ‘if content is King, then context is his mistress’. Maintaining the monarch’s role appeased the content makers and yet a nod to the royal lover revealed where the real influence was growing. Forward wind fifteen years and understanding context has shown itself to be vital if storytellers, content makers, designers, communicators and marketers are to gain attention around their content and stay relevant.

It’s all around you

Critical thinking gives us context, by breaking down what’s happening in the world around us: how do audiences respond to a theme, how do travellers move through an airport, when do shoppers switch from high street to online. Irrespective of whether you’re an artist, designer, developer, commissioner, financier, communicator or marketer you explore the situations that both reinforce old needs and generate new ones. You take the trends, patterns, cultural shifts and social norms that arise from the adoption of new technologies, policies and practices and turn them into strategies. Such strategies in turn give creative thinkers a direction to generate content: the stories, concepts, projects, products, campaigns and services, that want to make an impact.

So where’s the problem?

Teams often struggle to handle the insight that is gathered around audience behaviours, attitudes, motives, goals etc. within the creative space. Documents are great containers for such data. They’re light and travel quickly and easily, but all too often, the stuff they contain, is ignored. Rather than incorporate this rich source of inspiration, it remains buried within the written summaries and conclusions. There doesn’t appear to be a natural fit within the more open and creative blank canvas of the creative thinking stage. So how can we create a single space in which critical thinking and creative thinking can come together so that the things we create are shaped by the insight we’ve gained? How can content be created as a response to context? How can we expose and manage the variety of motives for how a concept is developed? The answer? We visualise, map and prototype everything in one single space.

Horse and the cart

Let’s start moments after we’ve had an idea or received a brief. If we start with critical thinking rather than simply building on the idea, we can explore and map context. Here we can capture our assumptions e.g. how we imagine someone might interact with an existing service, say an ATM machine or an audio-visual historical guide to a museum. We can map out where they’ve come from, their goal, and their motive for that goal, their expectations, desired outcome, the way they navigate the existing service and their exit route. At any stage, we can replace our assumptions with genuine insight, modifying our map as we research and tighten the journey. We might even map in the competitors, their products and alternative services etc. The journey becomes a frame, containing both hypotheses and real data. It reveals context. We can also map in the little that we know of our new service. Even if it’s not yet formed, we can still represent us, the owner of the service, our goals, motives, stakeholder needs, desired outcomes etc. Our concept starts to form alongside the insight, exploiting various touch points between the behaviour and actions of the user and our new service; our content is forming alongside context.

Shortcut to the gold

But what makes the Handling Ideas approach so special is that when we choose one object from amongst hundreds of other objects to map, we expose the justification for each choice, thereby revealing our rationale at that point within the development. Understanding rationale is gold dust because it speeds things up by getting to the essence of the work.

It doesn’t have to be complicated

By mapping and justifying each of the elements that make up the concept, including tangible ones (user, product, output etc.) and intangible ones, (motive, conflict, goal etc.) we ensure that everyone understands what lies behind the work and can retain much more information as they co-create. If someone says “I’m going to represent the user with this small dog because it reminds me that the user is very dependent at this stage”, people will both remember that it’s there to represent the user and that the person choosing the object believes that one key aspect of that user is that they are dependent. Suddenly critical and creative thinking combines, as everyone is able to express, hold and understand a greater amount of information. It’s that simple. 


Copenhagen, Denmark: Script checking for Eurovision Song Content. May '14.

Not a piece of LEGO in sight, but still a chance to bring out my BBC producer's 'paranoid eye'. Worked with the hosts during rehearsals and the scriptwriter to ensure that the scripts made good English sense. It really only came down to subtle tweaking, sometimes challenging my own understanding of the nuances of the English language, but hopefully made a difference and boosted confidence all round.


Copenhagen, Denmark: Working with directors at the Danish Film School. May '14. 

It was the directors turn to work through the projects to be shot as part of their fourth and final year at the Danish Film School. Working with their accompanying producer and occassional writer, the directors set out their ambitions whilst witnessing the underlying themes and character constellations mapped out onto the table.


London, UK: Seven projects in a day for Sheffield Docs' digital development workshop. May '14.

The focus of this workshop was to visualise and map out the projects from the users' perspective. This revealed that most projects are made up of differing parts, each with a particular value to a particular sub-group. By separating out the experiences, it was then possible to consider how each project could create multiple 'front doors' to such sub-groups. Activity of one group could then be used to advocate pick-up by another. This didn't relegate the holistic approach, but simply encouraged a more strategic approach to delivery and roll-out.


Aarhus, Denmark: SPOT INTERACTIVE - Designing and developing interactive media experiences. May '14.

With the overall header "How do you design and develop interactive media experiences that reach new audiences and create new branding opportunities with new ways of earning money in mind?" I was asked in to moderate the day's conference. With an international and local line of speakers, covering a range of creative businesses, the audience went away with more than a brainfull of insight. 

See the days's schedule for more. For a capture of the day, see my Jysk Bank TV's interview.

On Friday, joined forces with Creuna's Simon Kibsgård to drive a three hour workshop "CREATING A MEANINGFUL USER JOURNEY" where we attempted to bring our methodologies together to introduce the participants to a 'new type of journey mapping and its potential for describing the complexity of rational and emotional values in user/customer experience.'




Bagsværd, Denmark: Demonstrating the value of visualisation and mapping to marketing group. April '14.

I was invited up to Bagsværd by Martin Bille-Hansen to present to 'Marketing Netværk under Huset Markedsføring'. Here I demonstrated the power of getting our thoughts out onto the table to a group of marketeers who regularly meet to share wisdom. After a twenty minute explanation of the approach we set about by taking one case study, where Tina Andersen, Global Marketing Manager, Orafol set about explaning how their company was increasing distribution of their products within the far east. Mapping helped reveal the dependencies within the system and gave the group 'food for thought'.



Copenhagen, Denmark: Unfolding the events of 1989 for documentary maker's outreach plan. April '14.

No plane needed as I cycled over to SOHO in Kødbyen to run a session for the folks at Magic Hour Films. A three hour session to map out the vital elements that give direction to their outreach plan for the launch of their 1989 project later this year.

Present: Cecilia Valsted, Lars Frederiksen, Kristian Mosvold (Substans Film AS), Martin Ericsson & Tishna Molla.


Copenhagen, Denmark: Pitch training for Producers course at Danish Film School. April '14. 

I grabbed this quote from last year's Nordic Talents. It reminds us that when pitching a project, your job is to evoke and engage others to such an extent it demands to be 'switched on'. Always lovely working with the Film School and with such promising students who truly care for what they create.


Copenhagen, Denmark: Working into the night with Hopelessness, disappearing dads and forbidden balloons. April '14. 

Got to work again with participants of the Danish Film Institutes Film's Filmværkstedet (Film Workshop) programme as we tackled two documentaries and a short fiction. Attendees were Esben Blaakilde, Sander Schwartz, Sissel Morell Dargis, Laura Lindegaard and Maria H. Guggenheim.

Filmværkstedet supports both large and small film production, with the objective of promoting experimental cinema and talent. Primarily they provide support in terms of access to professional production equipment, subsidies for basic production and consultancy. Secondarily, they provide support for talent development through seminars, workshops and counseling.

Filmværkstedet is mainly aimed at young people who have the potential to establish a professional film career. They have a large network and can provide inspiration and guidance that can help them get an education or employment in the film industry.

Filmværkstedet supports annually approx 50 productions - both documentaries, fiction, short stories and in rare cases also feature films. Four times a year applicants can seek support by submitting an application.



Helsingborg, Sweden: Dog gives a Boost in Sweden as we map out three projects. April '14.

Why does having a dog around add to the atmosphere of a creative environment? Years ago I found myself working at the animation house, Protozoa in San Francisco and recognizing the west coast easy attitude towards pets at work. It was more than simply convenience, it was a recognition that having a (safe) pouch in the house settles people as they work. Almost twenty years on and I find myself in west coast Sweden, working with BoostHbg, enjoying the same benefits as we plough our way through three projects, two of which are selected for the SWIM program. Runners, the road to New York and Passionaire.


9 days with 3 TV stations gives a glimpse of the huge opportunities for domestic format development in China. March ’14.

Handling Ideas was asked by Beijing based Turn East Media to go out and share its entertainment format development tools to Hunan TV (ranked no.1 in China) in Changsha, Zhejiang TV (3) in Hangzhou and Anhui TV (4) in Hefei. Whilst it was there, it picked up on some of the opportunities that might attract western interest.


The 90’s saw Chinese shows centering around national celebrities, with everything focusing on the performance. When audiences wanted more, they shifted to the person on the street with exceptional abilities. However, both talent types failed to give up anything more than their craft, perhaps a cultural anomaly reminding us of the tentativeness towards outward forms of self-expression and comment. As audiences become more sophisticated, the search was on to provide the right balance between glitz and substance. Something that wouldn’t alienate those folks coming back from working long hard days and yet would give more than simple ‘TV candy’.

To copy or not to copy?

China was used to ripping-off other country's formats, but then they saw the value in acquiring formats and the accompanying know-how (bibles, fly-in producers etc.). Now they want to develop their own formats for both domestic markets and to license abroad. This creates fewer opportunities for the big foreign indies who want to license into China but opens up huge potential for individual foreign consultants supporting format development and smaller indies who want to pursue co-ventures with rights splits. China may struggle to develop from the blank page, but they can beat anyone when it comes to getting something out the door. And they have funds and massive audiences.

Who pulls the strings?

Format development has to consider the needs of the government’s cultural agency. Most ideas, themes, topics seem to trickle down from up high. Policy sometimes trails behind, catching up sometimes to apply the brakes when there’s a potential conflict of interest, for instance the only audience that can vote on today’s talent shows is now strictly limited to the studio, making shows like X-Factor somewhat less ‘armchair’ friendly.

At the end of the day.

Although under huge pressure to innovate, Chinese TV stations have preferred to swim in the bloodied competitive waters of a red ocean than to have created a blue ocean strategy. As China is so big, there were large enough audiences to make derivative shows work. It’s questionable as to what Chinese people really want from their television and whether they really want to explore more complex emotional journeys when they come home from a twelve hour day or a six day week. A show hasn’t had to be hugely thought provoking in order to have been successful. Any talk of exploring a contestant’s conflict through how they compete seems sometimes buried if not alien. Western formats have been hugely successful, but potentially due to their ability to create solid frames from which to showcase talent rather than anything that might explore contestant motive and conflict; good-looking celebrity hosts and guests with a level of talent seem to be the foundation stone of most formats as well as the explanation for ratings. But if probed, one gets the feeling that production teams see the looming bottom of the talent barrel. China might be huge, but they claim it’s getting harder to find talented newcomers. Perhaps their ability to saturate the market with copycat formats in an incredibly short space of time has resulted in depleted stocks of talent and that’s why there’s an urgency to innovate.

Food for thought.

The recent popularity of western storylines such as the political drama series House of Cards, demonstrates a clear appetite for something more than simple titillation so perhaps the time is ripe for entertainment formats that aim for the head as well as the belly and the heart. What was fundamentally clear from the heads of departments and execs I met is that there’s a strong demand for development that’s fresh, entertaining, engaging and definitely ‘Made in China’.