Starting out in transmedia – 5 points of advice

I was approached the other day by someonelooking for a bit of advice on transmedia. Her situation is one that I believeis similar to a lot of people’s. With the growing acknowledgement of transmediastorytelling as a possible way to tell stories and engage audiences, drivebrands, foster interaction and generate revenue, many have started to look atincorporating these methods in their own work.
This is all well and fine if you work at acompany (although this has its’ own challenges, what with tearing down silosetc) or if you have a proven track record as a producer, designer, writer ordeveloper, a record and a network of contacts that will enable you to gettraction for your idea from the start.
But what if you don’t have a company? What ifyou don’t have a track record or a network of contacts? What if what you haveis a brilliant idea for a transmedia project, and nowhere to turn? Thesituation differs, naturally, depending on where in the world you are situated.Here though, some points that can help a bourgeoning transmedia storyteller onthe way:

Write down your idea in as muchdetail as possible. Include everything, from story to characters to story worldto technical specs to possible revenue models to… well, everything you’vedeveloped so far. Also use this to work on a 30 second pitch (the so called”elevator pitch”), as this will help you hone your idea considerably. If youcan’t explain your idea in a sellable manner in 30 seconds, it’s probably toocomplex. You can, if you want, take a look at Screen Australia’s templatefor a Transmedia Production Bible – if nothing else, it will give you somepointers on the areas people will have questions about. 

Do some research (which is a pointthat has been mentioned before) on what else has been made that is similar toyour project. Whatever it is that you’ve come up with, chances are someone,somewhere has done something vaguely similar. Study and learn as much as youcan from these examples and tweak your idea accordingly, to simply work better.There is also quite a few case studies that can give valuable information – takea look at the Game of Thrones case studyor … well, just doa Google search and pick the ones suitable for you! 

Look at entry points forcollaborators from the outset. If you’re creating something where a novel or agraphic novel (physical or online) is a major part of the property, perhapsapproach a publisher or someone connected to a publisher? If a game is anintegral part, look at how a game developer could come into your team, andwhich developer that would be. If it’s an online treasure hunt (as at least 60%of transmedia ideas are wont to be (don’t quote me on that, it’s just a feelingI have J )) then a web agency or suchlike might be the right one to approach.Try to think of the project from their point of view – how can they apply whatthey know and get the most possible out of it? (This is me guessing you do nothave the funding to hire them outright; if you do, call me 😉 

Build your network. It can be slowgoing, finding the right people, getting to talk to them, getting theminterested… It’s also hard to get past the initial adversity you mightencounter as someone who approaches out of the blue, barging in with a totallynew idea that they then have to try to relate to in some way. As everywhereelse, personal connections count for a lot. Just to be able to tweet someone toask for a good sound engineer in the area they live in can save you a lot oftime and effort; it’s well worth putting time in to get to know people. In thefield of transmedia you could apply for different courses and classes, nationaland international, where you can not only hone your idea but connect withmentors and likeminded people from all over the place. (There are quite a few, The Pixel Lab for instance, or different training courses). Some might be fairlycostly, but applying is usually free and once accepted it’s possible to applyfor different kinds of funding and grants. This is one of the upsides of”transmedia” being a bit of a buzzword at the moment; it is (at leastsometimes) easier to convince funders to invest in something that is so clearlypointing to the future, even though not all financial support mechanisms are inplace yet. Also, don’t ignore the value of online activity. Most transmediapeople are more or less active on social networks and blogs; connect, makecontact, offer your thoughts, discuss and share. Just like anywhere else. 

It is quite possible, perhaps evenlikely, that you still will have no traction for your idea after having honedit, worked on it, done your research and built a network. I’d suggest you makesomething as proof of concept. This proof will a) show a lot more than merewords can say about the essence of your project. It will also b) give you achance to build a following for whatever you are offering – a following thatwill give you more leverage when approaching possible sponsors orcollaborators. One advice is to look at current trends and try to find somethat sync with your idea on some level. Use that trend to get your content,your idea, in front of people, and be prepared to harness those people (in amutually satisfactory way, naturally) when they decide to invest time in whatyou have to offer.

I won’t lie, for the most part it’s an uphillstruggle. On the other hand, if this is something you want to do and feelstrongly about, and if you believe your idea will have legs just as long as youcan get it done, then by all means go for it. A very miniscule percentage ofcreators / ideas are picked up and launched into the proverbial orbit out ofthe blue; most demand time, dedication, hard work and patience.  And luck. So – best of luck!

2 thoughts on “Starting out in transmedia – 5 points of advice

  1. Simon,I want to add another point, which could easily be added to one or two of those you list: invert!When seeking potential collaborators, financiers, contributors (or perhaps even earlier, when brainstorming the idea) consider why somebody would want to get involved with the project. Financial upside? An opportunity to meet new people and expand a network? Pure creative thrill?This is, in my view, something that people don't do nearly enough. I see a lot of pitches and potential partnership opportunities and more often than not, people are looking for help, access, assistance without looking at it from my perspective. Always put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to decipher their strategic goals. That's the best way to find a mutually beneficial, "win-win" relationship.

  2. Absolutely! We do quite a bit of consultancy re: formats, which nowadays more often than not have a multiplatform aspect. But yes, try to look at it from the angle of potential partners is necessary; not only that, but it will also help you look at your project from another angle. Most likely, it'll give you food for thought re: how to engage an audience, i.e. what's in it for them? Thanks Simon, for adding that.

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