It’s a brave new world and in it are brave people constantly challenging the status quo and declaring their individuality. The vortex of homogeneity constantly presents itself as a threat and avoiding it forces people into creative portals out of which emerges some interesting stories.
Out of one such portal steps Tony Knight, the suave, dapper, Government Asset, a cross between Bond and Hitman, 007 and 47 respectively. In a new book, On the Edge of Knight, Knight is our protagonist, the first black James Bond in a sense, but according to his creator, designer and writer Anthony Phills, “a more intellectual version.”
Released only three weeks ago the narrative is rendered over multiple platforms. In a sense, this is what Multi Platform Interactive (MPI) storytelling is about, the telling of one narrative through different digital technologies.
The story moves from text to audio to video so as to give readers a different reading experience. In the digital age it is a welcome experiment, particularly since the text has been written for an 18-plus audience. But what is also particularly important to our story is that both writer and music producer are Trinidadians.
Anthony Phills, a software designer and visual storyteller, was born in Trinidad, has lived in Canada and Europe and is now based in Los Angeles. He has provided ideas that inspired branding in the film, Million Dollar Arm, application solutions for Hilton Worldwide Honors Android App with over one million downloads and a design book/iBook, Designing For The Home Run King. He now brings his storytelling to the world of fiction.
“Borracho (Drunk in Spanish) was written since 2009 and renamed On The Edge of Knight,” he tells Sunday Newsday, “but I was told that it was too dark. But, since (US President Donald) Trump came into power, I dusted it off and started working on it.”
The arrival of the Twitter president marks a change in politics in the US and Knight’s darkness now gains relevance in this age. Creatives like Phills too gather momentum with ideas that traverse multiple platforms. The darkness descends and Knight now finds a place in a modern world where cyber warfare is a reality.
In 2015 for instance, Phills created a mobile storytelling engine app, which he now uses to deliver Knight off the Grid mini episodes in hour intervals to the reader.
It sends the reader to the part of the story where Knight hacks into North Korea to get the cyber bomb. But “people didn’t get it,” Phills says. One assumes that now, they will. If storytellers are seers, then this is just one example of that power for those abreast with the news know that this narrative can easily step out of the fictional world, into the real.
The story, season one is told as a trilogy, which is, as we would have realised by now, is not entirely textual but interactive on multiple platforms. This is why advertisers should buy into this, because it engages with readers/user on different platforms in a non intrusive way to expose their brand.
The first case, Showdown in the City, takes approximately an hour to get through. As the reader reads, she comes upon a mobile app (Knight Off The Grid). The second case Knight In The Jungle. There we encounter Agent Tony Knight who gets hit by a poisoned dart. This leads the reader to a podcast (The Blackouts) where we witness his dreams as he lies there unconscious. After the podcast is done we are back into the text where we get to the third case Discovering the Deep State, which takes us to where Knight finds out he is part of the US Government Deep State. In this case we are taken to a web app where we are now privy to an assassination attempt. This is done via stunning National Geographic type imagery with short captions to tell the story of 24 Hours Of Knight.
“We had to work on a small budget so we were not able to film the parts that were done in video, although that would be something I would like to do for the second season of Knight. The second season, Knight comes to Los Angeles so here we’ll be closer to the actors and actresses I signed on.”
The project is a large one, but as a testament to Phills’ drive, it took ten months to complete. Different components of the reading experience are: eight blogs, one mobile app, 30 minute podcasts, a web app, three hours of mix tapes, radio station, and a store coming soon. Short audio tweets feature Tony Knight reaching out to different celebrities like Jay-Z, Samuel L Jackson and Idris Elba.
“Are they all African-American celebrities?” Sunday Newsday asks?
“Yes, coming to think of it,” Phills replied.
But the move seemed entirely subconscious. This isn’t surprising given that in the age of Trump, affirmation of heroes from other racial backgrounds becomes important. And the music provides us with a sense of this.
Navid Lancaster of Lancast Ltd, based in Trinidad, worked on the theme music and soundtrack for the books. He was also the audio and SFX producer for all the ads and podcasts. His projects have included, composer of soundtrack for Buck: The Man Spirit (2012), winner of the TT Film Festival People’s Choice Award, and Sound Mixer/Music editor for the full length documentary Re-percussions: Pan- Our African Odyssey, winner of Best Documentary at the TT Film Festival 2015.
One of the positive attributes of the Internet is that it allows for people to work together across different time zones. And it helps when the two take the time to understand what the other wants. Describing the process, Lancaster says.
“I usually grill the director to get a sense of what he wants the audience to feel. In this case also given that this is an experience, the music needed to express the world of Tony Knight.”
Asked if the music is a reflection of the story’s African-American base, he responds, “I suppose, in a sense it does. Anthony for instance wanted that heavy kick so there’s this urban hip-hop idiom and then there’s a string section that gives you classy mixed with urban. So yes there are various elements that come together in the music.”
Along with Lancaster, there are DJs from Israel and Morocco who worked on the hour-long mix tapes, three, one for each of the stories that are featured on KAAOS radio, a radio station created specifically for the book. In the promo video for Knight we also hear the voice of DJ Black orchid, another creation of Phills’ played by an English actress.
Binge Publishing was created because of the book.
“The beauty of this project,” Phills says, “is that the author is in control. And the process can apply to any author really. We want to see Knight on the big screen, so now that Binge Publishing is trademarked; we will be presenting to investors our vision for book publishing. We see it as a real game changer.”
The different elements of season one of Knight’s Experience is available on https://knighttrilogy.com and you can download the book today from Amazon Kindle and Apple iBook.