Lance Weiler is a storyteller, entrepreneur and thought leader. An alum of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, Lance is recognized as a pioneer because of the way he mixes storytelling and technology. WIRED magazine named him “One of twenty-five people helping to re-invent entertainment.” He has successfully self-distributed his films The Last Broadcast and Head Trauma to more than 20 countries while grossing over 5 million dollars in the process. The Last Broadcast, which he co-wrote and co-directed, became the first film to be distributed digitally to theaters in 1998.
Always interested in experimenting with new ways to tell stories and reach audiences, Lance developed a cinema ARG (augmented reality game) around his second feature Head Trauma. Over 2.5 million people experienced the game via theaters, mobile drive-ins, phones and online. In recognition of these cinematic gaming innovations, BUSINESSWEEK named Lance “One of the 18 Who Changed Hollywood.” Others on the list included Thomas Edison, George Lucas and Steve Jobs.
Lance is the Director of Experiential Learning and Applied Creativity at Columbia University. The appointment is part of a campus wide initiative entitled Learn Do Share an effort to R&D the future of learning and work by harnessing storytelling, game mechanics, design thinking and technology. In addition Lance is a founding member and director of the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab. The lab explores new forms and functions of storytelling. The lab’s first prototype, entitled Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things was developed by Weiler and renowned game designer Nick Fortugno. The project reimagines the work of Arthur C. Doyle as it experiments with authorship and ownership of stories while at the same time examining the ethical and political issues surrounding the Internet of Things. Working with 1,200 collaborators from 60+ countries Weiler lead the creative direction of the world’s largest connected crime scene which kicked off with a special presentation at Lincoln Center during the New York Film Festival. Over 70 events we’re held around the globe and in 2016 the project expands to include AI (Artificial Intelligence) as a collaborative storytelling tool.
Currently, Lance is developing a number of film, TV and gaming projects with his writing partner Chuck Wendig. Lance’s project entitled HiM won the Arte France Cinema award and was selected by the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, marking the first time the lab has supported a feature film/immersive storytelling project. HiM was developed with is Ted Hope (21 Grams) and Anne Carey (The American). HiM is currently being produced by Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry, Carol). On a television front, Lance and Chuck are developing a TV series with Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick. Of this dark episodic tale that is being developed for a major cable outlet, Lance is a creator, co-writer and executive producer.
In 2011, Lance returned to Sundance with a short film in competition and an immersive storytelling project entitled Pandemic, which was an official selection of the New Frontier section of the festival. Gizmodo pointed to Pandemic’s innovative nature: “The most experimental story told at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City wasn’t just on a movie screen. What it all amounts to is something distinctly new.” Told via film, mobile, online, print, real world events, and data visualization, Pandemic had players/viewers working together to stop the spread of a fictional pandemic as it unfolded over a 120-hour period. Lance is now collaborating with a number of prominent scientists to explore ways that future versions of Pandemic can be used to model outbreaks, increase public awareness and provide insight into how things spread socially.
Lance co-founded Connected Sparks a next gen toy and media company in 2013. Their first educational initiative entitled Lyka’s Adventure was awarded the Tribeca Film Institute prestigious New Media Fund, which was established to help support innovative projects that are focused on social good. Mashable named Lyka’s Adventure “One of 5 Social Good Startups You Should Know Right Now.” In 2014, Lance signed an 8 book deal for Lyka’s Adventure with Penguin Books.
In addition to his own projects, Lance often collaborates with others. Most recently, he lead creative direction and experience design around a special David Cronenberg project in conjunction with TIFF and the CFC Media Lab that launched in the fall 2013 and will travel the world for the next four years. The project was recognized for its innovative use of story and code, winning the MUSE Jim Blackaby Ingenuity Award in 2014 and receiving a Webby Honorable Mention in the Games and Augmented Reality category.
At Sundance, Lance co-created the installation and designed the social narrative around Bear71 – utilizing facial recognition, augmented reality and sensor technologies. Bear71 went on to be nominated for seven Webby Awards in 2012.
Lance and Chuck scripted and provided narrative design to Collapsus – an energy risk crisis, an innovative project that mixed fiction, documentary and gaming. Their work on Collapsus went on to receive an International Emmy® nomination for “digital program fiction.”
Since 2011, Lance has sat on two World Economic Forum steering committees, one focused on the Future of Content Creation and the other centered on Digital Governance. Always interested in exploring the role of storytelling and technology, Lance teaches a graduate course entitled Building Storyworlds – the art, craft and business of storytelling in the 21st Century at Columbia University.
Lance often speaks about the changing landscape of entertainment. The focus of these presentations ranges from the evolution of storytelling to changes in media creation, consumption, distribution, and discovery. He has spoken at the The U.S. State Department, World Economic Forum, the Russia Forum, Digimart, Power to the Pixel, MIT, USC, Columbia University, Cannes, and Sundance in addition to speaking at large ad agencies, brands and gaming/media companies.
He is currently working with a number of Fortune 50 companies to lead and shape their media offerings for the 21st Century. In addition to collaborating with studios, networks, NGOs, gaming companies, publishers, and technology companies, Lance has provided creative services for clients such as Twitter, the Chernin Group, Penguin Group, Ubisoft, CAA, Ogilvy, and McCann-Erickson to name a few. From 2013 to 2015 Lance sat on an innovation council for Samsung exploring ways that storytelling can drive innovation within the company.
In 2006, Lance founded the WorkBook Project, an open creative network that has grown to become a thriving international community of filmmakers, musicians, game designers, and software developers. At it’s height it had contributors from 30 countries.
In 2008, Lance started a roving gathering focused on open collaboration, design fiction and social innovation called Learn Do Share. Held in over ten cities each year, Learn Do Share (LDS) is a grassroots innovation engine; a combination of events, labs and peer production. LDS has designed and run events / labs and projects for Columbia University, the City of LA, the UN, Unicef, the U.S. State Department, PBS, Esquire and the Danish Government among others.
From 2009 to 2011, Lance co-created and produced 42 episodes of a stylized doc series entitled RADAR. The series explored storytelling and creativity in the digital age and was nominated for a Streamy Award for best doc series.
Since 2007, Lance has sat on the board of the IFP, a national filmmaking organization. He’s also a regular contributor to Filmmaker Magazine writing extensively on the impact of tech on entertainment. For fun, he runs a discovery blog called Text of Light, where he posts the random things he <3′s.