Mashup Book

A book made out of characters’ lines from two different movies. Their plots should have similar elements. As a result, mixing the two could create a coherent story.

This project is influenced by the idea that narratives are constructed by readers — spectators in a broader sense, not necessarily text readers. This principle has been one of the central concepts explored in the Narrative Strategies class (see final project proposal for this class here). It can be also be interpreted as an example of the psychological phenomena apophenia, the human tendency to see patterns and create connections between apparently random information.

I chose the movies “Her” and “Weird Science” to make this experiment. Though very different in language and target audience, both can be summed up as having the same basic plot. Besides, I think that the contrast between an 80’s teenage movie from John Hughes and a contemporary one by Spike Jonze was interesting.
At last, this relates to the idea of archetypal stories, another concept from narrative studies.
00_weird_science 00_her

I downloaded the subtitles for the movies from Open Subtitles. They come in srt format, which is basically a plain text file in which the subtitles are indexed like this:
00:01:45,294 --> 00:01:47,400
"To my Chris ...

00:01:49,333 --> 00:01:52,078
I've been thinking how to tell
how much you mean to me.

So I parsed each srt line using Processing and mapped the subtitle’s time index to a position. This is the first prototype. You can download the pdf here.
her_weird_science_overlapping-4 her_weird_science_overlapping-5

The lines for each movie are displayed in different colors. Because I was mapping time to position, the subtitles overlap most of the time. Though visual interesting, the result was barely readable. So I made a new version sorting the subtitles based on their time position and then displaying then in sequence. Here is the full pdf.
her_weird_science_too-4 her_weird_science_too-5

The colors helped keep it visually appealing, but they worked against my intention of mashing up the content. So I used black for all text, instead:
her_weird_science_too_black-4 her_weird_science_too_black-5

I generated a pdf document with the result, making a script to paginate the content. Then I finished the book imposition and added some pages in Indesign. The colophon page tells the story of the book’s process in exaggerated detail, as a commentary on the questions about copyright that the project raises:

At last, I printed and binded the book, trying to make it as a “real” book as possible.
01_folios 02_stitching
05_binding06_cover_paiting 08_cover_laser_cutting 09_cover_binding11 1612 1514 13

The result is sometimes pure nonsense and sometimes coincidently coherent. There are a few passages in which the characters seem to be talking about the same subject.
10a_final19 20
18 22 23

The code for all iterations of the project is on Github. It can easily be changed to mix any other two movies.
The full book pdf can be downloaded here.


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