Director of narrative, commercial, and virtual reality

Film Portfolio

Project Greenlight finalist | Short about sex, death, existence, time

Lily in the Grinder

Shabbat Dinner

Comedy short about coming out | Featured in 55+ festivals

Search is Back

Featured on TechCrunch | 7k users per day

Global event handing out nametags on first Sat in June

Nametag Day

Uber Forecast

Tracking Uber's surge pricing to guess what the weather might be

Archive for May, 2011

A math puzzle for you

If you’ve lived in New York City, you have probably thought about the most optimal way to get from one place to another on a grid. But it’s so much more subtle and complicated…

Imagine that you are on one corner of a 10×10 street grid and trying to get to the other corner. The streets are of equal size and the lights turn from red to green every 1 minute. Each light is random, so you don’t know what it will be until you hit it. BUT, when you hit the intersection you know how many seconds until the light turns.

Experienced New Yorkers know that the most efficient way to move on a grid is not to wait for lights – walk on the x axis until you hit a light, then walk on the y axis, and keep repeating. If you think about it, that means that in our 10×10 grid example, you can avoid hitting lights until you hit the side of the grid. Once you have gone as far as you can in the y direction, you have to travel completely in the x direction and are forced to wait for any lights you encounter.

So considering the above, you are least likely to hit the edge of the grid if you travel in as close to a diagonal as possible. A diagonal keeps you as far away from the edges as can be.

So, there are some moments when simply following the lights is not optimal and it’s worth it to wait a few seconds to keep your path close to the diagonal.

The challenge: present a formula that answers the decision of whether to wait or continue, based on location in the grid and seconds left in your current light cycle.

Remember: calculating the expected wait time for a single light is easy, but for multiple lights it is difficult because you will be using your strategy. So it’s recursive, and it probably has some game theory in it.

Any ideas?

The Refugee – newsletter from Dadaab

The Refugee newsletter

The Refugee newsletter

The folk at FilmAid in Dadaab have made two issues of The Refugee newsletter recently. It’s amazing to read the stories of what people go through day in and day out in their own words. This is what we try to do with film, but with the slow speed of the internet text comes even faster.

Very worth a read. Take a look here.

The question is central in non-linear drama

I was speaking to a friend yesterday about a web concept he had that was going to consist of video and other multimedia. It had a main character and a number of concepts and ideas.

I started to think: in a usual narrative, the drama comes from the interaction between goal and obstacle – what a character wants and what they must overcome to attain it. In addition to an overarching and central goal/obstacle for a film, every scene is composed of many as well. A man is searching for love but is awkward. He tries to walk across a room but is drunk. Most goal/obstacle pairs conclude, and the way they conclude is usually the point of the piece. To use the two previous examples: 1) he learns that he is valued and that true love is waiting around the corner, and 2) he falls over and does not complete the task. Both of these things constitute the overarching statement an author is making about a goal/obstacle pair.

But in online media, there is often no resolution, because there is no end to the piece. Something that can be explored non-linearly can’t follow a dramatic arc in the same way. So what moves the drama forward?

A question. It can be a very subtle, very thematic question that never needs to be explicitly stated (what is this person like? is something wrong with this relationship?) to a more explicit question (what happened in this crime scene? what are the signs of chlamydia?)

The less linear a piece, the more you will have to rely on a question structure. Of course, you can maintain some aspect of linearity (individual videos or sub-stories) so the exact mix will be your decision. (Also note that video games fall on this same spectrum. Some are very linear, with a defined goal, even if there are multiple ways of getting there (Mario, for example.) Others are more about individual experiences, and others lie in between.

So how do you make something like this interesting when there’s no “what happens next?”

FilmAid trailer

New FilmAid trailer directed by yours truly. What an experience. Thanks to everyone involved, especially Jessica Brunetto, Mandi Corso, Wendy Finster, Kevin Hyman, Ryan Jones, Liz Manne, Mary Soan, and Anthony Weintraub.