The Making of
Time Traveler Tours:
BURIED ALIVE: THE SECRET MICHELANGELO TOOK TO HIS GRAVE
by Sarah Towle
I published a story this month. Not just any story. It's a true tale narrated by Michelangelo wrapped around a walking tour of Florence all packaged inside an app so it's always with you – on your phone or tablet. There's nothing else like it. Elizabeth, who acted as Art Designer on the project, asked me to share how it came to be…
The seed was planted in April 2014. My friend Mary Hoffman, an author with a love of Italy, pitched me an idea for an interactive storyapp following the format I'd pioneered in 2011 with Beware Madame La Guillotine, a mobile story and tour of the French Revolution brought to life by Charlotte Corday. It was a critical success, but a commercial flop. So while I was thrilled at the prospect of producing a second Time Traveler Tour, I was daunted by the mundane and unavoidable question of finance.
Cash now in hand, the pressure was really on. While Mary got to work on her manuscript, I focused on how we were going to make this app. Beware Madame la Guillotine failed commercially because of a rookie error: I built one app to tell one story. I should have developed an app publishing engine to produce myriad stories. And while $41,500 was a major Kickstarter windfall, it was not even close to what I needed to create software.
In the waning days of 2015, Mary delivered her story treatment, then called In the Footsteps of Giants. Now came the task of transforming her tale into a Time Traveler Tour: a story that transports you to another place and time, and makes both narrative as well as logistical sense. In February 2016, I landed in Florence to figure out how best to weave Mary’s treatment into the city as it was 486 years ago, in 1530.
That’s when we moved into production mode. We returned to the crowd to source our vocal talent. A reward for $100+ backers was the right to audition for the lead role. We got lucky: our Michelangelo is both voice actor and audio engineer. We added a photo editor to the team; drilled down on the user experience (UX) design; then brought Elizabeth in to wire everything together with the gorgeous user interface (UI, i.e. graphic design) that you can hold in your hand today.
While there, if you have an idea for a Time Traveler Tour, we are actively seeking submissions. Click here to view our guidelines. I hope, too, you’ll give it an app store review.
Now, unless you have a full-time cook, nanny, and dog walker, can function on a few hours of sleep many nights on end, and don’t mind riding an emotional roller-coaster, I'd avoid crowd-sourcing your financing. But if you really want to try it, FYI, I run a crowd-funding consultancy that helps keep the lights turned on at my now independent app-publishing house: Time Traveler Tours. Feel free to reach out!