Saturday, February 05, 2011

On funding transmedia, part two

Yesterday I read a post by David Wilson over at Transmediator, which raised a number of legitimate concerns with regards to how everything is becoming content creation, commodifying storytelling and wrapping everything in a thick layer of ”how-can-we-make-money-out-of-this-then”. To quote:
Finance is terribly fragmented. Independent producers get money any which way they can: sales agents, brand owners, vanity angels, arms dealers… and they often have to give any equity away to get the thing made.

[…] Independent producers must now present business plans, franchise opportunities, enterprise investment schemes, marketing plans… no wonder everything has turned into ‘content creation’. We are forced to juggle lots of pieces and do this predominantly on our own and without any money in our pockets. And this is damaging to the end product, because too much time is spent fundraising and not enough on development.

As anyone who has had a great idea but no means to get adequate funding to get that idea developed and into production can testify, it’s not a good position to be in. On the other hand, there is the question of marking your idea to market; if you can’t get anyone to cough up the dough to make it, perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to start with? Then we could go into the debate about how to pitch your project, how to meet the right people and so on… But that is sort of a different ballpark.

I a couple of previous posts I’ve been banging on about the need for transmedia projects to have a sound financial footing. I have a hard time believing that all the creative people into transmedia storytelling at the moment will have the energy to keep creating content if there is no financial windfalls at any point. That’s why I think – contrary to David’s post – this dilemma should be viewed as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

See, if you work together with people who can get you sponsors, who can get you funding, who can sell your project, AND you can integrate that which they bring to you into your story world, making it a natural part of the mythology you are building, you will at the same time create a stronger story world that will be more attractive for future sponsors to hook into – especially as they can compare your world with the values they themselves stand for, and see that they match. (And if they don’t match, you might want to look for another sponsor ☺ ).

No, there are no clear-cut models yet, and I do not believe there will be a one-approach-fixes-all-solution to the problem. For instance, getting modern-day companies to sponsor your medieval history drama and make them fit naturally into the story world might be a bit difficult. But get a brewery in and you might come up with a solution. Ultimately, it is down to the content you create, the story world and mythology you build. As I said, if it is truly impossible to fund, perhaps it needs a bit of re-working?

David starts his post with the legendary quote: “Build it and they will come”. Thing is, they’re already there. We just need to build it. For that, we need funding, and for that, we need to look at how we develop and produce transmedia.

2 comments:

Valerie Meachum said...

"Build it and they will come" only works if you're Ray Kinsella. The rest of us have to tell them it's there and why it should matter to them.

Would be nice if that didn't take money, but that's not the world we live in. :-) New media forms provide lots of opportunity to reinvent the entertainment business model, but we still gotta have one. Frustrating sometimes, but true.

Simon said...

Quite so. I mean, there will always be - and there has to be - projects done for the sake of art, for the sake of experimentation, for the sake of expressing oneself and so on. I don't mind that at all, I'm doing stuff like that myself. But to be able to make more, to get a continuity going, we need business models.

Good thing with transmedia storytelling in that sense, is that it is conceivably easier to fit funding/sponsors into a story and a story world, the better that story and that world is built. It SHOULD be easier to approach suitable sponsors and tell them "hey, this is the story, this is the world, and it resonates with your message 100%".

I think the business models will vary wildly, especially now in the beginning, but we've got to start somewhere, right?