Transmedia, Time and Context

I’ve been totally bogged down with work the past few weeks. Sat in front of Final Cut Pro for most of the time, alternating with meetings and social media strategy planning… I can now confidently say that you can NEVER be too prepared to launch a new project. You can also NEVER be too ready to adapt to things that happen around you, that will influence the story you’re trying to tell. We’re up now, though, here, with the first installment. Working on the rest as we speak.

This in turn has led to me not being able to keep up with all the excellent posts on Twitter, all the new projects and seminars and meetups etc springing up all over the world. Will now try to make amends, not guaranteeing anything though!

Still, a couple of posts got my mind working overtime these past couple of days. Andrea Phillips wrote an excellent post on Time and Transmedia, highlighting the challenges facing anyone working in different time periods within a story, in a real world where viewers can start experiencing that story from just about any point possible. In the comments, Scott Walker pointed me to a post of his that I’d missed last year, on the challenges and possibilities of collaborative transmedia storytelling. Many good points, and with so many people moving into the field of transmedia from numerous different angles, these posts are simply required reading.

My point of view on these matters come from the field of creating a transmedia experience from scratch, without any previous brand or franchise to fall back on. It is an experience that is unfolding in real time, which at the same time will live and prosper drawing on the power of the long tail. In this context, context is, as we have found, crucial. There will be many people entering the story from many different angles, and the story might have unfolded to just about any point. As I see it, there are some points that need to be taken into consideration:

The foundation needs to be solid. In order to attain this, you must have a grasp of the time line of the project, and a general notion of the story archs and the schedules involved. At the same time, you cannot lock everything into place (at least not with a project like ours, that is expected to run and run) or you will be stifled.

– The foundation needs to be communicated clearly and without any discrepancies. This goes for communicating outside the team producing the content as well as within the team. In this matter, the task of simplifying is crucial. Test and try and test again; if the story world and the basis for the stories you are about to create and tell people is blurry, press the ”sharpen” button immediately. This is not to say that everything needs to be told from the start – quite the contrary – but everyone involved, be it a viewer, a user, a programmer, a writer… everyone needs to see the same thing when they look at your story world and your story.

– Once this is achieved, you need to drop the reins, but give some clear options on how to interact, how to create within your world etc. This goes when it comes to letting an audience interact and create, but also when it comes to not locking down people on the project, but instead give them the right tools and the motivation to, themselves, create and interact within your project. It is nigh impossible to put all this on one person’s shoulders – much better (and much more true!) to give key people the mandate to interact with each other and with the audience, within the context of your story and story world. You’d be amazed at what springs up.

– Finally – don’t panic! With most projects you’ll be involved in that are of a more documentary type – like ours – there will be humans involved. Everyone will also know that there are humans involved. Everyone also knows that humans make mistakes. Mistakes can even be beneficial, as long as you handle them in a way that makes sense within the context of your story and your story world. In a life-affirming, warm story and world, you laugh it off and the audience laughs with you. In a dark and brooding and violent story arc, you behead someone on the team with a vicious snarl towards the audience, and the audience winces in terror but nods knowingly (and this is purely fictional then, of course. If you really behead someone on your team and refers to this post in your defense, I will not be held responsible).

All in all, there are soooo many aspects to think about. I won’t even go into the challenges of interacting with different brands and companies, all with their own strategies, or interacting with collaborators, also with their own strategies, as such instances are merely on a case-by-case basis. I will, however, report on findings along the way. And, yeah – comments are open.

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