Reflections on transmedia – Nordic Panorama edition

I’ve spent this weekend up in Oulu to attend the Nordic Panorama festival for documentaries and short films, and more precisely to act as a consultant at the Transmedia Hackathon that Laura Marie Kiralfy put on there via her Encounters project. The company I work for, MediaCity Finland, also played host to the 2nd Nordic Transmedia Meetup on Saturday evening, getting a lot of decisionmakers around some glasses of wine to talk definitions, strategies, projects and challenges. Tomorrow I’ll be moderating a session with Soren Fleng, the producer assigned with managing the television adaptation of Angry Birds. All in all, an eventful weekend.

Talking about what I do during the weekends is not the main topic of this post, however. I thought I’d share some of my reflections from the past couple of days, things that hit me while talking to documentary filmmakers from around Europe as well as with aspiring transmedia startups from different fields:

  • Not many people get transmedia. That is understandable. But not that many people – not even those working in media – have even taken the time to reflect on how people actually are using media nowadays and how that can, and must, influence how they develop, produce and distribute content.
  • Many people would want to get transmedia. This is the first time that I’ve seriously felt the lack of a definite definition as a hindrance; usually it is possible to explain the term, even if it takes some time,  but it becomes more difficult when people really want to understand on a very deep level, comparing “transmedia” to “cross media”, “multiplatform” and other terms. Vagueness and generalizations just won’t work in that case.
  • When working with a transmedia project, one of the most important things to learn (and this is something that can only be achieved through making stuff and drawing conclusions) is that it’s immensly important to know how to limit oneself and ones project; there is never time to do everything that would be possible, and if there was, one would most likely be lacking funds or skills instead. The key is to use ones own experience – or someone elses, if ones own doesn’t cut it – to know which parts are actually essential for the project to achieve the desired goal, and which are not.
  • In that context, one must strive to use the media platforms and the storytelling methods that make sense. Don’t ever go for preferred ways of doing things, just because they are preferred ways. And there is no need to be lured by the latest technology or the newest possibilities; just because you can make an app, for instance, there is nothing that says you should. Again, this is where experience and knowledge – ones own or someone elses – comes into play.
  • Any creator of something so complex as a transmedia project (reflecting on the documentary projects I’ve consulted on here) shouldn’t do the mistake of thinking that (s)he does things better on their own. Always collaborate if possible; if it’s with hackers or storytellers or photographers or business gurus, that doesn’t matter, just find the best ones possible and collaborate.
  • Always scout for other, already existing projects, that tie into the project. If they agree to, collaborate! They probably already have an audience and experience to draw on so not only are you giving these projects a new breath of fresh air, or perhaps access to a new audience or possibilities for new revenue streams, you’re also tapping into an existing audience that can help boost your project.

So, some brief thoughts. More later, as I’ve had time to reflect fully on this weekend!

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