Wednesday, July 30, 2008 is already taken?!

At the start of my domain name exploration, I checked with just to make sure my favorite domain was still available. I had used the name to everybody I talked to about the idea, and apparently one of them listened rather well, because in that first year someone registered the domain. I was astounded. The site wasn’t being developed, just parked (and still is), but when I got a message to the nameless owner and asked what the website was going to be about, the response was clear: it was going to be about casting current movie stars in books. I felt committed to the website - I had already spoken to a few web-savvy relatives about coming in with me on the idea - and so I started to try other alternatives. I registered both CastTheStory and VirtualCastingDirector, but I was also looking at the idea of “story casting”. A key discovery for me was that, although the domain name was being used by Scott Smith for his blog about books and writers, it was semi-inactive. Also, I was looking at branding, and no one had registered the trademark or service mark of “storycasting” with the Patent Office (USPTO). Google searches of this and many other potential names had turned up the excellent teen filmmaker program at the University of New Mexico, but they had not registered the name either, and I didn’t really see any overlap – they didn’t have a website about books, and I didn’t have any young adults with cameras.

I had also noticed that, as a term, there was the feeling that "storycasting" was somewhat tied to the broadcasting function of “podcasting”. There was some question in my mind whether I could overcome the (limited) current usage to make the term mean what I wanted it to mean – using a website to create and post a fantasy cast. I decided that, with the right kind of promotion, I could turn the sense of the term my way. Soon, Storycasting came to be the thing that fit the best in my head, and so I wrote to Scott about perhaps obtaining the rights to the domain. We reached an agreement on price (which was also a kind of turning-point commitment for me), and I was suddenly the proud owner of as the core of a new kind of web-based hobby.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It all started with Harry Bosch

In 2004-2005, I was reading the Michael Connelly stories about Harry Bosch. It was enjoyable, because Harry and I seemed to be about the same age, and had connections to Los Angeles and the military. I was an L.A. "ex-pat" by then, living in Arizona, so it was fun to read the stories that used the city as an integral part of the story and not just a backdrop. As happens when I enjoy a character, I started to get a clearer picture of Harry as a person - not just his house in the Hollywood hills or his love of jazz, but his loneliness, bitterness, and his constant surprise at his own vulnerability. He was always getting smacked in the face by other people's choices, because he put himself out there, felt things, and tried to protect people. I started to see him driving and smoking, watching his conversations, and seeing the expressions of delight or dismay on his world-weary face. Entertaining literature seems to do that for many people - you start to re-read passages, sometimes out loud, getting more and more of the feel of the moment, and replaying the movie in your mind that stories make. And I thought, as many have, about how great it would be to see Harry on screen. I wanted to watch some sensitive and gritty actor clearly portray this bitter loner as he staggered from heartbreak to heartbreak, trying to do right in a world no longer worth his efforts.

That's where Storycasting started, a simple desire to discuss who would play Harry, and how to get him up on the screen. I'd mentioned to probably two dozen people that someone ought to make a website just to let folks like me cast the book. I found out that this activity was generally referred to as a "fantasy cast" or "dream cast". I told several of people that, if I found such a website, I was going to join it and finally have my say about who I saw in the role of Harry Bosch (and other characters). I never found any such website. I did read over the posts on the Michael Connelly official site, but it was just a static text display. I was hoping for some kind of real actor-selection process, with a list of books and their characters, and some kind of visual “Players Directory” where I could see and choose who was closest to what I saw in my head. Nothing, nada, zip – it just didn’t exist. So, by the Spring of 2007, I started to explore what it would take to actually create such a thing.

Next post: The stolen domain name?