The Summer issue of Filmmaker Mag is now on newsstands. For my Culture Hacker column I look at how transmedia can be used for R&D around stories.
It’s tempting to get distracted. It happens to filmmakers all the time. Concern over gear, building audiences, developing social media strategies, new tools, new services. The promise of transmedia (the ability for a story to live beyond a single screen, device or medium) offers such rich storytelling potential. But for some it will become yet another distraction. Case in point: After a recent speaking engagement I was approached by a group of filmmakers. Some were trying to figure out the value of transmedia while others said with a sense of pride that they’d designed the perfect transmedia experience, as if it was something to check off a list. There was the Web component, a mobile series, a game and an app, not to mention an assortment of social media accounts thrown into the mix. It was if by adding more to their project they’d be guaranteed an audience in a media-saturated world.
Now don’t get me a wrong, I’m a strong proponent of filmmakers embracing emerging creative opportunities. But when I posed a simple question asking what the filmmakers with the perfect transmedia strategy were trying to say there was a moment of pause. I wasn’t asking about the plot or characters. I was looking for the passion behind the project. What was it that the filmmakers needed to say? What was their story really about? Interestingly, that simple question became paralyzing.
I’ve been there. I’m guilty of it. After all, most films are underdeveloped. It’s easy to fold to the pressure of what seems like a limited window of opportunity. The gut-wrenching feeling of “it’s either now or never!” But after finishing my last project I made a promise to myself that I would let the next one grow organically. By doing so I discovered that I could use transmedia as a way to develop the stories I wished to tell.
Transmedia is so much more than marketing and promotion. Of course, transmedia can benefit a project during a release or before, when a filmmaker attempts to build an audience. It also has value with regards to how a project can be funded and packaged. But let’s put that aside for a moment and focus on the creative side.