Extend your story beyond its original screen

If you saw the film Gravity, you’ll love this short film that depicts the complete conversation between Aningaaq, a polar fisherman, and Ryan, the astronaut stranded 200 miles above him.

In the actual film, we see Ryan speaking to Aningaaq, but because Aningaaq doesn’t speak English and subtitles are not provided, we don’t get a complete picture of what is being said, and we never see him.

I think film and television should do more of this. That’s easy for me to say, of course, since I’m not footing the bill for any of these extras. “Aningaaq” cost almost $100,000, and I can’t imagine that the producers will ever recoup that cost.

Still, extending your story beyond the confines of its original screen is a great way to keep it alive in the viewers mind.

The occasionally brilliant, oftentimes annoyingly stupid How I Met Your Mother has done this exceptionally well over the years. The producers have created dozens of fake websites mentioned by the characters on the show, and Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Barney Stinson, even wrote a book (that my wife and I purchased in audio form).

They also extend the show using video. In one of the best examples, it’s revealed in an episode that Cobie Smulder’s character, Robin, is a former teen music star from Canada. Her video is briefly revealed on the show but the full video, plus another, can be found on YouTube.  

It’s one of the best sitcom episodes that I’ve ever seen, partly because of the way the show extended the story into the real world.

Sadly, the subsequent episode was utter banality.