Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ten Advice for Transmedia Storytellers

Disclosure – the following post is based on a brilliant list about creative photography that Chase Jarvis put up in October, which in turn was inspired by a post by Guy Kawasaki entitled ”What I learned from Steve Jobs”. What I’ve done is port the ten points Chase made to the field of transmedia, as I think they are all pretty crucial points for any creative industry – not least transmedia.

Experts aren’t the answer

Well, at least not all of the time. No one will hold you by the hand and guide you to stardom, infusing you with sublime knowledge and making you a shed-hot transmedia creator. By all means, do hear the experts out; many of them have been there and done that. But there’s no need to blindly heed their advice; it’s you who’re creating your stuff, not they. One good example is the row this week over the so-called ”Transmedia Manifest”, a manifesto which IMHO would make for limited transmedia development, if it was a guide that had to be followed.

Clients cannot tell you what they need

This is true in many creative fields; none more so than transmedia. Nevermind that many clients don’t even have viable social media strategies in place yet; dumping transmedia storytelling methods in their lap and expecting them to make the correct calls all through the development and production process is to be inviting a major headache. Your clients hire you to provide them with something. Do listen to them – it’s their money and their property – but in the end, it’s you who have been hired to create kick-ass transmedia content. And if you’re good enough to have been hired, you’re probably good enough to do the job.

Don’t aim for ”better”, aim for ”different”

(here I’ll just quote Chase straight off, as his point is brilliantly made)
"It’s funny how related “better” and “different” are. If you aim for ‘better’ that usually means you’re walking in the footsteps of someone else. There will often be someone better than you, someone making those footsteps you’re following… But if you target being different–thinking in new ways, creating new things–then you are blazing your own trail. And in blazing your own trail, making your own footprints, you are far more likely to find yourself being ‘better’ without even trying. Better becomes easy because it’s really just different. You can’t stand out from the crowd by just being better. You have to be different."

Big challenges create the best work

Strive to get challenges that push you to your limits. That’s the only way to become better at what you are doing. If, for some reason, you don’t get such challenges, the only solution is to give yourself such challenges. Implement new platforms, try out new ways of telling your stories, work on character creation if that’s something you feel you are lacking in, and so on. You want to be on the edge. It's the best place to discover something new.

The aestethics matter

Chase makes his point with regards to photography, but the same goes for transmedia storytelling. You need to work on your understanding of storytelling, of platform implementation, of graphics, of producing video content, of interacting with an audience in a logical and engaging manner, of handling social media challenges, of composing music, basically everything that is needed in the development and production of transmedia content. It is crucial to know why one method or one solution is superior to another; not only to explain to clients, but to yourself and your development and production partners as well.

Strive for simplicity

I touched upon this in a previous post – the NOT of transmedia – and Scott Walker talks about the same thing in a post fromlast year regarding the ”gutter”. It’s as much about what you choose NOT to do as about what you actually DO. Just because you can do something, does not mean you actually should. Simple is beautiful.

Fail fast and learn

There is no point in trying to avoid failure at all cost. If you want to be different, if you want to be great, if you want to push your limits, you will fail from time to time. What matters is that you learn from your mistakes and are able to implement the lessons learned in the future. This goes for design and development of content as well as for business and distribution plans, and so on. If you do something and it works, do more of it. If you do something and it doesn’t work, stop doing it. Re-design. Do something else. To quote Einstein on the definition of ”insanity”: ”to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.”

Know the difference between price and value

You might be tempted to go cheap to get assignments and deals in place. This might get you those assignments, but it’ll be devastating in the long run. You create valuable content, valuable strategies, and you should price yourself accordingly. Also, value comes in many forms – not least in the transmedia field. The value you create will get you the price that you deserve.

If you want to be the best, work with the best

This is simple but true. If you feel you are at the top of your game, you want to partner with people and companies who are top-notch as well. This is of extreme importance when it comes to transmedia, as partnerships are a crucial part of almost any endeavour, to get all parts developed in sync and produced and distributed accordingly. Ideally, to become better at what you are doing, you’d work with people who are better than yourself. Only people who aren’t THAT good seek to work with people less gifted than themselves; in that way they get to shine in comparison. Don’t belong to that group of people.

Create, and create more

It’s all good to sit around and contemplate different projects, ideas, terms and philosophies. But this will get you nowhere if you do not implement this in real projects that have a real, tangible output. Whenever you can create, create. Maybe it won’t be the perfect thing, but it’s the best way to learn and move to new levels of competence. Strive to get your stuff out there.

With that, I will now go create. See you on the battlefield.

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