Transmedia storytelling is future of biz

No, the quote isn’t from me: it’s from an article by Peter Caranicas in the 26 June edition of the famous Variety magazine!

 Peter Caranicas explains: “Now that the franchise has replaced the blockbuster as Hollywood’s holy grail, a new tool has emerged to help those who want to extend film and TV properties across multiple platforms.[…] Transmedia takes the concept of the bible – a document containing backstory information that film and TV writers rely on for building plots and characters – to an extensive new level.” He goes on to cite Georges Lucas as one of the pioneers of transmedia with Star Wars.

 Jesse Alexander, a co-executive producer of Lost and Heroes who grew up on Star Wars, recounts how this transmedia approach “helped build a loyal fan base, connect with them beyond primetime and reach them in other parts of their lives,” on or even before the show’s debut. “It helps to build out the franchise at launch.”

Jeff Gomez, co-founder of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a company that specializes in applying the transmedia approach to studio productions, points out that «Starlight Runner typically got involved with projects toward the end of their development, but more recently has been jumping aboard at an earlier stage. And producers are building the costs of creating a transmedia plan into the production budget rather than leaving it as an afterthought paid for by the marketing division. We’re now working with writers, producers and directors who are devising these worlds from scratch […].” The company “goes beyond your typical bible”, creating “megabibles and mythologies” that make it possible to “bring these characters to life in a way that’s true to the original platform.”

Danny Bilson, who creates vidgames simultaneously launched on film and on the Internet “that can be supported by the original version”, underscores these efforts to “pay close attention to the mythology and make sure it sticks to the original thrust of the story” so as not to disappoint the fans. For Jeff Gomez, the Terminator and Batman franchises would have been more successful if they had remained truer to the original vision. “Without a central clearing house for the intellectual property, you had different groups pursuing different visions.”

Jesse Alexander concludes: “Revenue generation is a goal of all these initiatives.[…] We’re all challenged to find new ways to make money. A cross-platform approach to narrative exploitation is a great opportunity for those who know how to do it right.”

A highly pragmatic conclusion to an article that we also appreciated for its insistence on incorporating transmedia from the development stage and preserving the original property’s integrity to build a successful universe for consumers.

But the consumers seem to have been given short shrift in their capacity as “participants”, when in fact by helping spread the buzz about a story across all the platforms, enriching it with their comments, they are vital to audience growth and multiple-screen circulation.

P.S John Tranoff promptly responded to the Variety article in his 30 June post, opining that Variety is missing “the key point of Transmedia: interactivity”.

He cites the example of the online series Purefold, inspired by Blade Runner, whose content is being generated by Ridley and Tony Scott “in collaboration with users on an open source ‘Commons’ license” . The comments following the blog post are also well worth reading.

We can bet that this debate over what is “really” transmedia is not over yet, and let’s be glad as long as it benefits the consumer by spawning new forms of content creation!

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