Storyworld and the Real World – Five Thoughts

So, an almost overwhelming week at Storyworldin San Francisco is over, jet lag is slowly fading, the heaps of work await andit’s time to take stock of what was learned during the conference. From my POV,as a creator and developer of tv formats – multiplatform, cross media,transmedia ones – here are a couple of points:

The transmedia crowd is a fine one
I’ve been involved in enough startups ofdifferent kinds to know what it’s like; the feeling of unity, the stage that Michel Reilhac called the ”Rebel Stage” of ”Us vs Them” (that in all fairness is now givingway to the Pioneering Stage where we’ll see more acceptance of the movement,best practices being carved out, and a route set to finally enter the BusinessStage). It’s a good stage to be in, no matter that everyone’s definition of”transmedia” differs somewhat from everyone else’s. What I like the most,however, is that most people involved in transmedia readily acknowledge thatwe’re better off thinking about ”Us AND Them” from the outset, a realizationthat can take other types of movement ages to achieve. Not to mention the factthat all the people I met at Storyworld were quite brilliant in their own wayand a genuine pleasure to meet and talk to.

 Non-fiction transmedia is on fewradars
Most of the examples and most of the talks atthe conference centered around transmedia based in fiction. Of the examplesthat were presented during the speed pitches at lunch on Monday and Tuesday,only Storm Surfers could be described as non-fiction – OTOH, the backgroundstory on that show was more fleshed out that most of the fictional ones. Now,don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good fiction as much as anyone, both when it comesto creating and to consuming or experiencing. Still, I would have liked somemore talks on and examples of non-fiction transmedia; documentaries, televisionformats, non-fiction art etc. Creating transmedia formats for television, forinstance, is a process that brings with it a bunch of demands not encounteredwhen dealing with transmedia fiction; the need to be able to repeat for season uponseason, the need for financial sustainability, the need to find a backgroundstory to hook the transmediated content on…. Perhaps at SWC12?

 Howzabout the audience?

I was extremely thankful to many of the peopleon different panels – Liz Rosenthal for instance – for insisting that we do notforget the audience at any time. I totally agree; having worked in traditionalmedia for 10-odd years, in radio for many of them and developing 50-odd showsduring those years; keeping close tabs on your audience and involving them asoften as possible is very much key. Acknowledging this, I would have thoughtit’d be interesting to invite someone representing the audience, or someone doingaudience / UX research to the conference? Again, perhaps next year we’ll see apanel of two-three avid ARG-players/ transmedia audience members paired withone or two researchers in the field, that could talk on transmedia from ”theother side”? As I stated above, the transmedia crowd is a fabulous one, but wemight be a bit environmentally damaged…

The art of getting lawyered up
The collective gloom that set in during thepanel on the importance of getting lawyers in would have been funny if it hadn’tbeen such a serious subject. Now, the panel members might have been bangingtheir own drum – I’ll not get into that debate – but the truth is, you can’tcover all your bases while producing and distributing transmedia contentwithout legal advice. Still, there is absolutely no need to pay thousands ofdollars to an established Hollywood lawyer, unless that is exactly what youneed. I would argue that anyone doing transmedia projects – or any kind ofcreative work – would be better off starting out with a project that is not ofuttermost importance to them, i.e. not the work of their lives, the one projectthat they burn utterly for. With a less important project, it is possible tomake all the mistakes, take note of them and make a better effort the secondtime around. Simon Pulman wrote a good post on this matter, from a USpoint-of-view, but most of the points are viable for transmedia people in otherterritories as well.

 Network of networks
The meetup of meetups was interesting, asthere are quite a few meetups happening in the name of transmedia around theworld. I know there are a lot of efforts being made at the moment to get allthese in touch – which many of them already are – and create new ones wherethere is a void to be filled. For my own part I’d be looking to help create aTransmedia Nordic meetup, as we have quite a few practicioners, researchers andstudents active in the field. On another level, I’d be looking to see if aTransmedia Europe meetup could be organized, perhaps as a annual event. And,naturally, people from other territories would be more than welcome. Perhaps inthe context of some other happening, such as the Pixel Market orTedxTransmedia? Let’s talk, Liz, Nicoletta, Karine and everyone else who’s interested!
All other thoughts I had, regardingdevelopment, distribution, partnerships etc, are things I’ll write about a bitlater as I force my mind to put them into the right context. Will keep you allposted!
Thank you all who were involved. It was anabsolute pleasure to meet you all. Looking forward to next year already! And,yes, thanks Alison, for pulling all of this together! Brilliant!

3 thoughts on “Storyworld and the Real World – Five Thoughts

  1. Great stuff as usual, Simon. However, I kind of disagree on not working on your best idea or one you are not as passionate about when worried about rights. I guess I follow too much the old Preston Sturgess motto in which he sincerely believed which ever idea he was currently working on was his best idea yet. Even if you lose out on the rights scenario, throwing passion into your work in the very least has the benefit of elevating your craft, and potentially your street cred (as long as you stay out of scenarios where you cannot talk about your work). I hate the idea of people getting stuck into a level of passionless mediocrity because they are afraid that someone might pull the rug out from under them somehow, rather than push their craft to a level where it needs to be in order to be good enough to build a fan base upon.

  2. thanks for the good thoughts Simon!I'm likely catching your first point out of context so I'd love to know more about Michel Reilhac's Rebel Stage. My sense from working with many traditional content producers is that there is a danger to an Us/Them binary as it has the potential to reinforce anxieties that many trad creators feel in the digital space. And I've been hearing that anxiety for the last decade. I would rather work with a model that looks ahead to 2015 when transmedia has become integrated as a strategy & practice for productions where fitting. And work with a model that recognizes how the skills & expertise of trad content creators translate into transmedia work. I'm all for bridges rather than barriers!

  3. Hi, thanks for taking the time to read and to comment! Carrie, I absolutely hear you, and I'm in no way advocating that one should start off doing a couple of projects that don't mean anything to oneself. Ideally a budding transmedia creator would be an intern on a couple of projects and learn how to do it from the inside there. If not, strike out on his/her own; my point being that if you have a project you've dreamt of doing for aeons and that would totally shatter you should something go awry, I'd totally suggest you'd either read up on all possible pitfalls or try a couple of other projcts first, to iron out all possible wrinkles.Siobhan, Michel was talking about there being three stages that everything goes through; the Rebel stage, i.e. Us vs Them, the Pioneer stage with budding storytelling models, growing acceptance, best practices etc and finally the Business phase, where one can start to see revenue as an accepted part of the marketplace.

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