Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Transmedia Translator

A brief post from Helsinki Airport, as I’m off for six days of the craziness that is MIPCube, MIPFormats and MIPTV. As I look at the people and companies congregating on the Cote d’Azur, I’m once again struck by how difficult many of these will have when it comes to not only talking to each other, but actually understanding each other.

I’m not talking about a language barrier either, but rather a barrier that arises from context. This is all perfectly natural, as tv producers will talk another language than for instance 2nd screen app providers, in much the same way as someone working in publishing would have a hard time grasping the fine details of a corn farmers professional life and vice versa.

The difference there is that the publisher and the farmer seldom would have anything to do with each other. In a transmedia world, everyone have to collaborate with each other, to a certain degree at least. And just as the farmer would have needed a person who understands both farming and publishing in order to explain publishing to him, and understand which questions he is asking and why he is asking them, in the same way transmedia projects need someone who understands it all, at least up to a certain level, and is able to facilitate discussions and collaborations by greasing the wheels of conversation and information exchange.

Christy Dena touches upon this issue in her post ”Do You Go Both Ways”. People want to excel in one area and leave the rest to others (some practicioners apart, who enjoy leaping over the boundaries). And, precisely because of this, I feel the Transmedia Producer end title, or Transmedia Director or whatever, should be accompanies by one more – Transmedia Translator, responsible for getting everyone to talk to each other and UNDERSTAND each other.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Five transmedia projects to follow - spring 2012

I’ll be heading to the frenzy that is MIPTV (and MIPCube and MIPFormats) in a couple of days, so whatever reports there will be will probably be centered around those events. MIPCube in particular is looking tasty, with some people present there who are doing some really interesting stuff. If you feel like it, you are more than welcome to keep your fingers crossed on Saturday – I’m up against four others in the final of the MIPFormats Pitch Competition with our cross media game show ”Which One Out”.

In the meanwhile I thought I’d write a brief post to highlight five transmedia projects that I believe might rock 2012 quite splendidly, in slightly different ways. I will admit I’m into some of these because I’m invested in one way or another, but on the other hand I would not invest unless I saw something interesting in them. In no particular order, and without snubbing any other projects out there that I’m either ignorant of or have simply forgotten due to mushy-brain-syndrome; here are five projects you might do well to put in your bookmarks:

Clockwork Watch is a steampunk adventure crossing over two graphic novels, interactive promenade theatre, live action role-play, online adventures, an interactive book and a feature film, all over the course of three years. The first novel – “The Arrival” – is out any minute now and looking good. Yomi and the Clockwork crew are doing an impressive and dedicated job of bringing this to life, steaming and billowing. Definitely one to keep an eye on – participate in the live event in London in May if you get the chance!  And yes, for full disclosure, I backed this on IndieGoGo.

The Karada is a project by some really creative people, James Martin, Tom Liljeholm and Carrie Cuthforth-Young, amongst others. ” A young woman struggles to save the multiverse as realities collapse around her.” as the tagline reads.
I really like the tone of the project, and spanning over televison and graphic novels and live interaction, it promises to be great fun. Development phase one was reportedly wrapped up just some days ago, and it all looks pretty fab. Keep an eye out for this one!

Balance of Powers is a project I backed on Kickstarter the second I laid eyes on it. The people behind it virtually guarantee it must be something good, as Andrea Phillips, Adrian Hon, David Varela and Naomi Alderman are all involved and have been for some time. An alternate history tale set in the Cold War, Balance of Powers will be a free-to-read online episodic story with lots of special content for subscribers, where you receive letters from the characters, take part in live story events online, and even get newspapers from the world through the post! Looking forward to seeing this one run!

Miracle Mile Paradox is brought to you, me and everyone else through the Transmedia LA meetup group and April Arrglington. An ARG, playable live IRL and online later this year. Help the hero, Rex, to solve a paradox and save the world from evildoers. Pretty straightforward, pretty interesting… but that which struck me was a sentence on the first page: ”…we are doing this in hopes to be educational for the local and global Transmedia community. We plan to document the progress of the project in our main site and have the free game up and running and available to all this summer.”
Yup, it’s only by doing you learn, and if there is one sphere that could use more teaching material, it’s transmedia.

We Dream Of Nothing – full disclosure; I’m consulting on this project – comes at it from a slightly other angle. As Paul Burke, the main creator behind the project, writes: ”We Dream of Nothing is an original, science fiction fantasy story that connects two characters at opposite ends of the universe. The story is hidden inside the female lead’s dream research website. From there the Audience can explore the story through 28 episodes – combinations of video, comics, audio, collaboration, data swapping, and, well… all sorts of other fun things to see and do.”
I can tell you, it’s shaping up to  be pretty darn interesting, and well worth to keep informed about.

There are, of course, a lot of other projects as well.  For instance; from the humongous and commercial side, I’m very curious on what the teams behind Game of Thrones, Hunger Games and Prometheus might cook up for us, while I am quite convinced there will be a number of other transmedia projects I've never heard about that will blow me off my feet.

A honorable mention too, to Andrea Phillips' project Felicity, something that was an abandoned 20.000 word novel but now is re-emerging as a transmedia project. Generously enough, Andrea has decided to share development process and decisions in a series of blog posts. For me as a developer, this is simply great. Thanks!

To sum it all up, there are plenty of things to look ahead to and get excited about. And the more successful transmedia there is, the easier everyone else has when it comes to getting new transmedia projects commissioned. Here's to creating more and better!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ten Transmedia People - Spring 2012 Edition

Transmedia is a fascinating genre, as the imagination to quite an extent is the limit of how far you can go, how far you want to reach (well, imagination… and funds… and deadlines… and manpower…  and other annoying variables).

This in turn means that new examples of transmedia rise to the surface all the time. Reactions and comments, analysis and case studies abound, from a great number of creative and intelligent people. Next to creating, developing and producing myself – i.e. learning by doing – this is where I find I learn the most about transmedia; from brilliant people all around the world.

For anyone starting out in transmedia, I thought I’d compile a small list. Here are ten people you could do worse than following on Twitter, on blogs and anywhere you can find them, to be inspired and awed and kept abreast on what transmedia is and where it’s heading. These ten people don't necessarily overlap that much and would therefore be a good combined starting point for anyone looking to learn more about transmedia. The descriptions are purely from my own point of view, so I hope no one is offended.         

In no particular order, here they are, ten transmedia people, spring 2012 edition :) :

Christy Dena should be a household name for anyone in transmedia. Her transmedia PhD gives her quite a lot of cred in the area, cred that she manages very well. You can have the fortune of catching one of her talks at some point, you can get up-to-date stuff on Twitter, or read one of her insightsful posts somewhere. She’s also working on some interesting stuff, so you should definitely keep tabs on her.        

Brian Clark is a bit of an enigma, and offers a slightly different point of view on what transmedia is and what transmedia could and should be. We agree quite a lot when it comes to transmedia and finances, and you should definitely read a) his series over at Henry Jenkins’ blog on financing transmedia and b) this thread on Facebook; ”Reclaiming Transmedia Storyteller.” (not to mention his new one - "Transmedia is a lie")

Lina Srivastava is for me the person personifying Transmedia Activism. She’s worked with a host of companies, projects and people, from UNESCO to ”18 Days in Egypt”. To keep tabs on that which not necessarily touches on Hollywood, fiction, ARGs and so on, but rather social change through transmedia, Lina is the person I turn to.

Jeff Gomez can, like no one else, enthuse a whole room full of people with the possibilities transmedia storytelling can offer you. If you have the chance to hear him talk, I’d very much suggest you do that. Not only that, but his company Starlightrunner Entertainment is also one to keep your eyes on if you’re starting out in this field.

Simon Pulman has a great analytical mind, which he puts to very good use for the transmedia community over at Transmythology. He is good at keeping up-to-date on major and minor industry currents, especially in the US, and mirror them against the transmedia movement to see what implications they might have. Essential reading.

James Carter hails from the theatre world of New York, but brings this highly interesting world in touch with the world of transmedia over at his blog. Many interesting posts, especially for someone like me – I know television, I know web, I know print, I know mobile, I know radio… I do not, however, know theatre. As another platform for transmedia, I think I would have to know that area as well.

Rob Pratten has recently moved back to London to continue working on their flagship transmedia storytelling engine-of-sorts, Conducttr. Not only do they have a highly interesting product, Rob also frequently shares his slides and talks on everything transmedia, most with the – for me very important – sound financial foundation.

Andrea Phillips is a constant source of inspiration; she’s been involved in a lot of transmedia projects, and she’s obviously quite successful at it as well. The inspiration comes from her posts over at Deus Ex Machinatio, written from a ”been there and done that” POV, and in the near future from her upcoming book on developing and producing transmedia. She also holds good talks, so if you have the chance, go see her.

Scott Walker for me epitomes crowdsourcing content, building storyworld together with the audience, respecting your audience and communicate all these principles to practicioners in the field. He writes good stuff over at MetaScott, founded the site ”Shared Story Worlds”, co-founded Transmedia LA etc and so on. He’s also amazing at connecting people with each other. 

April Arrglington hosts the blog ”The Arrglington Jump”, and quite correctly describes herself as ”a Transmedia enthusiast” on her Twitter page. She is quite probably one of  the most energetic persons in the transmedia field when it comes to informing, reaching out and communicating. She’s also very much involved in the Transmedia LA meetup, so if you want to get info about transmedia, April would be one to keep tabs on.

There are, naturally, qute a few other people you would do well in following in one way or another – Mike Monello, Nicoletta Iacobacci, Karine Halpern, Tom Liljeholm, Paul Burke, Steve Peters, Sparrow Hall, Lucas J.W. Johnson, Ian Ginn, Jay Bushman, Lance Weiler, Jim Babb, Siobhan O'Flynn, Gary P Hayes, Nedra Weinreich, Nick DeMartino, Carrie Cuthforth-YoungAlison Norrington … they, and many others I've now forgotten to mention, all contribute a lot to the transmedia community. Look around, find the ones that talk to you the best, and start your search from there. Best of luck J

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Planning for success in transmedia

A short post on a matter I feel is not taken into consideration enough when drawing up a transmedia project (a failure I’ve been guilty of as well); the challenge to not only dream of success, but actually also plan for it and execute said plans.

When a transmedia project is devised, the plans often stretch as far as a successful rollout and perhaps the distribution of a full season (or episodes or [insert proper term here]). There have, hopefully, been thoughts about continuing the project for more episodes or seasons. There might even have been thoughts on how to use transmedia methods to span the gap between seasons and episodes. What seldom is thought, however, of is how to actually cope with success. Dreaming of success is all good and well, but harnessing success is hard work. Here are three points I feel are valid to take into consideration:


If people like your content, they will want more of it. This could mean not only one season but several, perhaps even many. Your storyline and storyarch will come under scrutiny, your story world should be able to withstand this added toll on its resources and you yourself should be prepared to buckle up and stay in the game for the long run. This could also mean that the value of your content rises considerably, which in turn means added pressure on your legal resources (due to more collaborations, more distribution and production deals, more revenue to consider, more business propositions to address). As success does not turn into money immediately, a contingency plan needs to be made for this aspect as well; line up possible partners well ahead of time, so you don’t have to climb into bed with the first suitor who turns up.

Great numbers

If people like your content, you could possibly have a lot of people suddenly liking your content. This in turn means that you will need to plan for devoting time and resources to community management and social media presence, for answering emails and tweets and for keeping everything coherent and logically connected.  A great number of people engaged will also solve your riddles and ARGs quicker, which might result in added pressure on your development team (or you yourself, if you are that development team). This then not to mention the stress a really great number of people will put on your technical resources – servers, connections and so on. Plan for small numbers, but have a contingency plan in hand if the numbers suddenly turn big.

Mad Men - a great example of unharnessed fan engagement

Open up for audience participation

If your content is a storming success people will want to engage more in it.  This is where you should be able to offer up sandboxes to create in, or whole vistas if you’re so inclined; invite fan fiction if that suits the bill or why not encourage your audience to create own fan-based social media characters รก la Mad Men, if that’s what they fancy (or just about anything else you can think of that fits your project). Or simply add a PayPal button to let them show how much they care by contributing. The point: if people want to engage and create since they like your content so much, you really really should let them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

How to get your transmedia project in front of people

This is a short post about one thing I’ve thought a lot about in the past, which also is an issue I believe many – especially smaller, indie-type – producers of transmedia are confronted with when trying to launch a project: the art of getting your content in front of people.

This, I’ve found, is quite naturally key to many things regarding a successful project. You might have beautiful and compelling and immersive and interactive content, but unless you can get someone to take note of it, you’ll never capitalize on its potential. You need to place your content in front of 100 people in order to get 10 to act on it and one to become an evangelist; this means you need to reach the 100 people first. If you do, you’ll have an easier time convincing partners, distributors, commissioners, sponsors… How to do this differs from case to case, but here are three general guidelines I think feel right to point out (and this is assuming you’ve created content that is great, that is accessible, that opens up for interaction and that people basically will like or even love):

Game of Thrones - you don't need HBO's budget to get your stuff in front of people 

Make use of trends

Whatever it is you are creating, there is some trend going on that you can attach your content to (or more than one, preferrably). Without compromising your story or the integrity of your content, you should be able to enter into discussions and point to relevant aspects of what you’ve created. You might also find inspiration to develop your content further in accordance with certain trends.This, providing the content is good, will lead to your content being immersed in conversations about something bigger and greater, leading to an often much needed boost.
Conclusion: if the discussion is already ongoing, take part of it. This must be done on an honest and suitable level, of course (i.e., NOT marketing)

Identify beacons and approach them

You’re probably already familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s book ”The Tipping Point”, where he talks about Connectors, Mavens, Salesmen and other types of people with greater influence on others than regular people. For whatever you’re doing, you need to do your research and find the people that a) might be interested in your content and b) have a reach and a credibility that will further your cause. A great example is the campaign for ”Game of Thrones” and the sending out of the boxes of materials and smells from the world of Westeros. This generated quite a buzz, along with all other activities pre-launch.
Admittedly, few of us have the financial muscle of HBO. This is not to say you shouldn’t try; again – honesty and great content will pave the way. (For examples of how NOT to drag people into rabbit holes, just google ”failed transmedia marketing campaings” (or read a Wired article on the subject here) J )
Conclusion: If you can get other people to do your work for you, you should. Again, your content and your approach should provide these people with enough incentive to do that work.

 Market your content

Transmedia is not a question of ”build it and they will come”. HBO built ”Game of Thrones”, a way bigger building than any of us will be able to accomplish, and still found it crucial to market their content heavily. The same goes for your project, be it small or big or something in between. You will want to market it, in order to get as much exposure as possible before an eventual launch. Your budget should have a marketing post in it, and your research prior to development should include market research, so as to target your marketing as adequatly as possible. One strength you do have as a transmedia producer, is the possibility to think outside the box. Take the prelude to your content or story and play it out as a marketing campaign, for instance. Use the powers of transmedia storytelling methods to further your cause as much as possible. But market your content; build it, yes, but also tell people about it and preferrably offer them free rides to what you’ve just built.
Conclusion: don’t sniff at marketing; just use it in a way that suits your project.