Monday, November 07, 2011

Storyworld and the Real World - Five Thoughts

So, an almost overwhelming week at Storyworld in San Francisco is over, jet lag is slowly fading, the heaps of work await and it’s time to take stock of what was learned during the conference. From my POV, as a creator and developer of tv formats – multiplatform, cross media, transmedia ones – here are a couple of points:

The transmedia crowd is a fine one

I’ve been involved in enough startups of different kinds to know what it’s like; the feeling of unity, the stage that Michel Reilhac called the ”Rebel Stage” of ”Us vs Them” (that in all fairness is now giving way to the Pioneering Stage where we’ll see more acceptance of the movement, best practices being carved out, and a route set to finally enter the Business Stage). It’s a good stage to be in, no matter that everyone’s definition of ”transmedia” differs somewhat from everyone else’s. What I like the most, however, is that most people involved in transmedia readily acknowledge that we’re better off thinking about ”Us AND Them” from the outset, a realization that can take other types of movement ages to achieve. Not to mention the fact that all the people I met at Storyworld were quite brilliant in their own way and a genuine pleasure to meet and talk to.

 Non-fiction transmedia is on few radars

Most of the examples and most of the talks at the conference centered around transmedia based in fiction. Of the examples that were presented during the speed pitches at lunch on Monday and Tuesday, only Storm Surfers could be described as non-fiction – OTOH, the background story on that show was more fleshed out that most of the fictional ones. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good fiction as much as anyone, both when it comes to creating and to consuming or experiencing. Still, I would have liked some more talks on and examples of non-fiction transmedia; documentaries, television formats, non-fiction art etc. Creating transmedia formats for television, for instance, is a process that brings with it a bunch of demands not encountered when dealing with transmedia fiction; the need to be able to repeat for season upon season, the need for financial sustainability, the need to find a background story to hook the transmediated content on…. Perhaps at SWC12?

 Howzabout the audience?

I was extremely thankful to many of the people on different panels – Liz Rosenthal for instance – for insisting that we do not forget the audience at any time. I totally agree; having worked in traditional media for 10-odd years, in radio for many of them and developing 50-odd shows during those years; keeping close tabs on your audience and involving them as often as possible is very much key. Acknowledging this, I would have thought it’d be interesting to invite someone representing the audience, or someone doing audience / UX research to the conference? Again, perhaps next year we’ll see a panel of two-three avid ARG-players/ transmedia audience members paired with one or two researchers in the field, that could talk on transmedia from ”the other side”? As I stated above, the transmedia crowd is a fabulous one, but we might be a bit environmentally damaged…

The art of getting lawyered up

The collective gloom that set in during the panel on the importance of getting lawyers in would have been funny if it hadn’t been such a serious subject. Now, the panel members might have been banging their own drum – I’ll not get into that debate – but the truth is, you can’t cover all your bases while producing and distributing transmedia content without legal advice. Still, there is absolutely no need to pay thousands of dollars to an established Hollywood lawyer, unless that is exactly what you need. I would argue that anyone doing transmedia projects – or any kind of creative work – would be better off starting out with a project that is not of uttermost importance to them, i.e. not the work of their lives, the one project that they burn utterly for. With a less important project, it is possible to make all the mistakes, take note of them and make a better effort the second time around. Simon Pulman wrote a good post on this matter, from a US point-of-view, but most of the points are viable for transmedia people in other territories as well.

 Network of networks

The meetup of meetups was interesting, as there are quite a few meetups happening in the name of transmedia around the world. I know there are a lot of efforts being made at the moment to get all these in touch – which many of them already are – and create new ones where there is a void to be filled. For my own part I’d be looking to help create a Transmedia Nordic meetup, as we have quite a few practicioners, researchers and students active in the field. On another level, I’d be looking to see if a Transmedia Europe meetup could be organized, perhaps as a annual event. And, naturally, people from other territories would be more than welcome. Perhaps in the context of some other happening, such as the Pixel Market or TedxTransmedia? Let’s talk, Liz, Nicoletta, Karine and everyone else who's interested!

All other thoughts I had, regarding development, distribution, partnerships etc, are things I’ll write about a bit later as I force my mind to put them into the right context. Will keep you all posted!

Thank you all who were involved. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you all. Looking forward to next year already! And, yes, thanks Alison, for pulling all of this together! Brilliant!


carrie said...

Great stuff as usual, Simon. However, I kind of disagree on not working on your best idea or one you are not as passionate about when worried about rights. I guess I follow too much the old Preston Sturgess motto in which he sincerely believed which ever idea he was currently working on was his best idea yet. Even if you lose out on the rights scenario, throwing passion into your work in the very least has the benefit of elevating your craft, and potentially your street cred (as long as you stay out of scenarios where you cannot talk about your work). I hate the idea of people getting stuck into a level of passionless mediocrity because they are afraid that someone might pull the rug out from under them somehow, rather than push their craft to a level where it needs to be in order to be good enough to build a fan base upon.

siobhan said...

thanks for the good thoughts Simon!

I'm likely catching your first point out of context so I'd love to know more about Michel Reilhac's Rebel Stage. My sense from working with many traditional content producers is that there is a danger to an Us/Them binary as it has the potential to reinforce anxieties that many trad creators feel in the digital space. And I've been hearing that anxiety for the last decade. I would rather work with a model that looks ahead to 2015 when transmedia has become integrated as a strategy & practice for productions where fitting. And work with a model that recognizes how the skills & expertise of trad content creators translate into transmedia work. I'm all for bridges rather than barriers!

Simon said...

Hi, thanks for taking the time to read and to comment!

Carrie, I absolutely hear you, and I'm in no way advocating that one should start off doing a couple of projects that don't mean anything to oneself. Ideally a budding transmedia creator would be an intern on a couple of projects and learn how to do it from the inside there. If not, strike out on his/her own; my point being that if you have a project you've dreamt of doing for aeons and that would totally shatter you should something go awry, I'd totally suggest you'd either read up on all possible pitfalls or try a couple of other projcts first, to iron out all possible wrinkles.

Siobhan, Michel was talking about there being three stages that everything goes through; the Rebel stage, i.e. Us vs Them, the Pioneer stage with budding storytelling models, growing acceptance, best practices etc and finally the Business phase, where one can start to see revenue as an accepted part of the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a
good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a
lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

Also visit my blog instant cash advance