I just had the feeling I was back in, say, 2010 or 2012 or thereabouts. No, this has nothing to do with the current state of the world and any correlations to the Mayan calendar-scare (remember that one?) or any disaster movies that were blockbusters back then.
Those were the days when I was writing – on a number of blogs, in a number of places – about the possibilities and challenges offered by transmedia storytelling and the adaptation of those principles into the creative, production, marketing and distribution phases of media content.
Those were also the years when I most frequently attended the MIPs – MIPTV in the spring, MIPCOM in the fall, the world’s foremost markets for TV content – doing my very best to spread the gospel of how TV companies should start to embrace transmedia storytelling as a way to engage more deeply with audiences, fostering loyalty and finally getting the magic “UGC” term to become something meaningful (UGC stands for User Generated Content, a great buzzword back in the days. UGC is something that works really well if you have the confidence to let the audience actually create meaningful stuff connected to your narratives. Not so much if you only give them miniature-size sandboxes to play in, severely limiting creativity and lessening engagement).
Looking at some of my MIP Blogs from back then, I talked about great transmedia examples, how the TV format business could benefit from transmedia methods and how to actually get a transmedia project off the ground in the TV business (complete with a very appropriate image from Game of Thrones).
That’s why I had a flashback when I was notified of the write-up (by the extremely talented and brilliant Angela) of a talk held at this year’s MIPCOM+ Online. The talk was by Alexandre Amancio from Reflector Entertainment and of Assassins Creed: Revelations and AC: Unity fame, and centered around – yeah, transmedia. According to Amancio:
Transmedia has three crucial ingredients: A distinctive, coherent universe, with many compelling moving parts that can stand alone even if the main character is not involved. ““One could very easily imagine having a film set in the John Wick universe without the title character,” as opposed to Die Hard, which revolves around John McClane, Amancio pointed out.
The second is complementary storytelling. “That means that the story that you tell in one medium isn’t adapted from another medium. You’re not adapting a film from a book or a book from a video game. You’re creating content specific for this tailored medium using its strengths and avoiding its weaknesses,” said Amancio.
Rule No. 3: Fanbase, or community reciprocity. “A lot of these huge universes have a strong active fanbase and cult following… but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the creators actually developing, into their strategy, means with which the fans can interact and almost be part of the universes.”
Firstly, I’d like to say that I am happy this is again being brought up on a stage I believe could and must try to benefit from these methods, in order to stay relevant. The generations content with being passive audiences are soon no longer with us, and the broadcasters that are intent on remaining push-media will not face a rosy future.
Secondly, I’d like to add to Amancio’s points above that I feel he does not go far enough with his assessments – the story world is obviously the foundation everything stands on, and the stories told should naturally be told on the media platforms best suited for them. But fans should not “almost” feel a part of the story universe – they should not only BE a part of the universe (if they want to), they should be allowed to expand upon that universe, in tiny fractions or larger swaths, and create their own parts of the story universe.
This is difficult for media houses to accept; just look at all the cease and desist letters sent to fanfic authors, to producers and creators invested in different story worlds and narratives. It shouldn’t be though, and it points to a divide that needs to be bridged – what actually constitutes worth when talking about media content? Is it just money and funds, or is it something else? What about engagement? Loyalty? The investing of oneself? Fandom?
Fostering and encouraging these things – and others like them – first and foremost, will guaranteed see a rise in the money coming in as well.