Lilja: Please tell me about Campfire, the company that created the site DarkScoreStories.com.
Steve Coulson: Campfire is a marketing company in New York City that works with a variety of clients and brands, to connect them with fans and audiences using storytelling techniques. Two of our founders were part of the group that made The Blair Witch Project, and some of the lessons learnt then about engaging and exciting fans to drive brand success permeates all our work.
Lilja’s Library featured on DarkScoreStories.com
Lilja: Tell me about Dark Score Stories. How did it happen and who came up with the idea.
Steve Coulson: It's sometimes hard to pin down the exact moment that an idea comes into being, especially when you're creating something with multiple layers for multiple audiences like Dark Score Stories. Some of the elements evolved slowly during our initial ideation process.
But there were definitely two things that provided a springboard. One was the A&E Marketing team who very early on said that it would be interesting to explore the history of Dark Score Lake through interviews with its residents. And that idea is the underpinning of everything.
The other was Matt Venne's script for Bag of Bones, which we read before shooting. And without giving away any secrets (and to be honest I can't be sure if the final cut is the same as the script), Matt's original draft had several specific references to the Stephen King universe that only dedicated fans would notice, as "Easter Eggs". And that got us thinking that an interactive experience could dive even deeper into that territory.
Lilja: What was your part in all this?
Steve Coulson: My job as Creative Director of the transmedia tune-in piece is to make sure we're staying completely true to both Mick Garris' and Stephen King's vision of Dark Score Lake, while telling a story that's unique to the mediums we use. It has to intrigue very casual fans and induce them to watch the show without being too complex, yet satisfy the legion of Stephen King fans who actively want it to be layered and explorable. Luckily, I am a HUGE Stephen King fan myself (as you can probably tell from the site), so in many ways this was my dream assignment. We felt a lot of pressure to do Mr King's work and fans justice, and the reaction on sites like yours has been very gratifying.
Some props waiting to be placed on set. Not sure if the paper ream ever made it into shot.
Lilja: The site if full of Stephen King references, how did you came up with all of them?
Steve Coulson: We worked alongside one of our favorite collaborators, the author J.C. Hutchins, who, too is a big King fan (he's the one wearing the Dr. Love T shirt in the bookstore). Between us we scoured the novels and short stories and made lists of hundreds of potential items to include. Our aim was to make sure each work was referenced at least once, and I think we did that (at least, every book, if not every short story)
We also relied on a few King Encyclopedias and, of course, lots of googling :)
Setting up the bookshelf for the shoot. You probably can't read it but one of them is "All Work & No Play: Memoir of a family tragedy" by Wendy Torrance.
Lilja: It must have taken forever to get all those references right? How many people where involved in creating these photos?
Steve Coulson: It was actually a three step process. First we defined all the unusual objects that we thought we needed to buy and put on set, and then scoured junk shops and online stores to get them over a 2-3 week period.
The second step was to create printed material that we felt we needed to have on set to place in scene. That would include things like all the covers for the books that were wrapped and placed in the book store, the posters on the wall of the music store.
Finally after the shoot, a lot of things were retouched into the scenes. i would say perhaps 40-50% of the things you see never actually existed physically, like the record covers and a lot of the props in the junk store.
It’s a very small team that worked very long hours :-)
Lilja: Tell me a bit about the photo shoots themselves.
Steve Coulson: After a lot of searching and looking at portfolios, we were lucky enough to secure Joachim Ladefoged, an amazing photojournalist from Europe, who flew over to join our team on set in Nova Scotia for the shoot. The animated gifs are created by shooting High Definition video which is then manipulated in post production, so the key images were very controlled. But after that, Joachim was able to take a more photojournalistic approach and shoot scenes as they were improvised by actors. We took thousands of photographs across the seven stories, and then selected the best 70 or so for the site.
The other thing we did was work with the actors to record the audio tracks on set. We had working scripts but then all the actors improvised around the scene and gave us some wonderful material.
Lilja: Some of the people there I recognize but not all. Are they from the series or handpicked for the photos?
Lighting tests for the Lake House animated gif.
Steve Coulson: Obviously we wanted to feature as many of the cast as we could, but that still left some holes in our story. Clearly we couldn't feature Sara Tidwell directly, so we invented the character of the Music Store owner to tell a little more of her backstory.
And the Junk Store owner is another invention purely for the site. He serves the dual purpose of allowing us to include a LOT of Stephen King Universe artifacts in his store, while at the same time hinting of the community's dark past - Dark Score Lake is a place where a lot of children's toys seem to wind up unplayed with. And fans of other Stephen King novels and short stories might find something vaguely recognizable in Gerald Lean.
Lilja: There is also a book with all the photos in it. Will this one be sold in stores or how can fans get it? Is it very limited?
Steve Coulson: The book was printed in a very limited quantity, and mostly shipped out to journalists and bloggers. There were a few left over for fan sites to give away as prizes, but apart from that, they're unavailable anywhere. So if you get your hands on one, it's a collectors item :)
Here's the palette of books the day they arrived in our office.
Lilja: Is there anything else hidden away on the site?
Steve Coulson: Oh yes, I don't think anyone has found everything yet. There are seven hidden video sequences and Get Glue badges, and at least three ghosts haunt the photos - if you can find them :)
Lilja: Anything else you'd like to add?
Steve Coulson: We're really glad that fans loved the prequel story of Dark Score Lake, but remember, that's just the appetizer. The main course, as served up by Master Chef Mick Garris, comes to the table on December 11th, so make sure you tune in for Bag of Bones. It's going to be amazing.
Lilja: I’m sure everyone will be watching. Thanks for talking to me.