SXSW Day Three Round-Up

So, Sunday, and a bunch of geeks – actually a pretty huge bunch of geeks – were grumbling about hangovers and daylight saving time. But, alas, there was nothing more to it but up and into the fray again (and yeah, SXSW gets a bit funnier if you participate in the #SXStarWars game as well – look the hashtag up, some real gems in there. Unless you’re a Trekkie of course…).

Today there were going to be a number of transmedia panels which I was looking forward to as our fully packed shuttle bus was hurtling down the Interstate 35 towards downtown. I’m not sure but I think there were even more people at the ACC today than yesterday; the badges are really taking over town (or at least a couple of blocks).

Creative leadership – pretty handy

No transmedia in the morning though, so Sarah B Nelsons talk on Creative Leadership was the first panel to go to. That ballroom – C, as it happens – was also packed. Guess everyone needs to know either how to be a good leader or how to know if their leader is not a good creative one.

Sarah had some really good points throughout her talk. I really like when people are talking about stuff they know, when they know it from experience from having been there, done that and gotten the t-shirt. Nothing like banging your heads against walls in order to gain some real knowledge about what works and what not, and how to deal with the stuff that doesn’t work. Sarah was also good at explaining this process and her experiences, which made this a good talk. For example, one of the hardest things about being a creative leader is setting the team off in the right direction from the beginning. To do that, one needs to kick off by asking people what they want to do within the project, not just about schedules, workflows and suchlike. Do that by goign through everyone’s goals, everyone’s fears and everyone’s expectations with regards to the project. And what every creative leader apparently should do, is get familiar with facilitation training. There was a lot more, slides are up at http://bit.ly/fRDExS so please go and have a look if creative leadership interests you. You could also look up the #creativeminds hashtag, there are bound to be some tweets still on that feed.

Transmedia in the house

Andrea Phillips held a good talk on Hoax or Transmedia, talking about something that we (and many others I’m sure) are wrestling with when developing transmedia content – to hoax or not to hoax? And if hoaxing, how? What pitfalls are there? There are better ways of doing it – LonelyGirl15 was first a public figure on YouTube and only afterwards a one-to-one phenomenon – and worse ways of doing it – Martin Agget was one-on-one to begin with, which made revealing the hoax to be much more negatively received.

Rabbit holes are also dangerous things. It’s very OK to send a scent box signed by HBO to get key people to talk about the upcoming (yay!) series Game of Thrones. It’s something completely different to send people anonymous, vaguely threatening letters as part of a stirring-up-some-interest campaign. That’s what not-so-nice people do, and you don’t want to be associated with them!

On Twitter we were simultaneously discussing possible Rules of Transmedia Engagement. I think the bottom rule should be “Don’t Be Mean”, or something along that line, or perhaps “Do Unto Others…”. Also, as Andrea pointed out, one must always take into account the Risk of Harm with a project – if I design it like THIS, how will it affect the people playing or watching, bystanders, bypassers and so on? Also – do not mistake “realistic” for “authentic”. A world can be authentic, well made and compelling, and making people want to join that world, without it being at all realistic (probably “Pandora” as an example?).

The checklist Andrea came up with was pretty straightforward. 1) is this so realistic that people will be fooled? 2) what about people who see only one piece? 3) what potential ham could it cause and 4) can it get me sued? I will be sure to follow that list in the future.

Examples of storytelling

Moving forward, the Unexpected Non-Fiction Storytelling session featured @zefrank, Tommy Pallotta, Hugues Sweney and Caspar Sonnen. It was actually all about showcasing. Pallottas project Collapsus is quite intricate. He also showcased (premiered, actually) unSpeak, which is basically tackling hard questions through voice over and footage taken from YouTube. UnSpeak is opening up to the public in the near future, aiming at letting them mix stuff up as well and tell the stories of UnSpeak in their own way.

National Film Board of Canada showed their stuff, like the Pine Point documentary which is simply a beautiful piece of art. The prize of the bunch though goes to @zefrank, for several innovative ideas that he presented, like http://youknowI.ly and http://star.me , all craving user interaction. The difference between @zefrank and the others at the panel were, IMHO; that the others made content for the audience, whereas Ze Frank made content with the audience. Great quote to close that session, from Le Frank: If people would just pay attention to the narrative of their possible funding, they’d be a lot more successful.

#tmtm (or, can you make money from transmedia)

Alex Chapman and James Kay, coming from the legal angle, held a talk on Transmedia Transmonetisation. Can you make money out of it, basically. Ideas have value, but not until we have something produced can we lock down elements and key points and minimize the risk of someone else stealing it. There were a number of comments on Twitter on some of the issues. @Fflic ‘s summed up a lot of it: #tmtm session at #SXSW. Lawyers always assume that rights = cash and control. Sorry, Context is king. (to which I added “Content” – great content and great context belong together and feed off each other.)

The TAG Team

Finally, at the Transmedia Artists Guild session, everyone got together in a heap in the middle of the room (or at least moved themselves and/or their chair a bit closer). @vpisteve and @jaybushman did the most of the talking to begin with. The guild will not compete with unions – it wants to talk about transmedia, perhaps do some lobbying for the new forms of media and so on.
To begin with there were obviously many different opinions and suggestions and questions, which is understandable. TAG has put up a website, where you can register and go to the forum’s to discuss transmedia and what it actually is and/or look for a job or post a project of your own. It’s accessible at http://www.transmediaartists.com. There was even, after a while, some love for TAG from a union official in attendance.

Now, much of the talk was almost US only, but the challenges of developing and producing transmedia are universal. I sincerely hope TAG will succeed, because like Steve said: “A success for one of us is a success for all of us, as it helps establish working practices and genre”. Looking forward to linking up the transmedia that is being done in Europe with TAG at some point in time.

That long day was then continued within the framework of transmedia at the Driskill. Now, some parties later and a blog post later, I am seriously ready to hit the sack (and yes, I’ll sort out the links tomorrow for the post; do not have the energy right now).

Some extras

PS. Heard a lot of good stuff about Barbara Vance’s talk and Frank Rose’s Tron session – unfortunately they were overlapping. A Wired article by Frank on Tron is up here and a VERY comprehensive post about Vance’s talk is up here.

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