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Participation should be the heart of transmedia storytelling

robert | February 5, 2012  ‐  6 Comments

There have been a couple of recent posts from others on transmedia and on participation. For me, participation is where the audience “does something” – however small that “do” might be. Those other posts argue that participation is co-creation… but we already have a word for that, it’s called co-creation. For me, participation is also voting for a poster design or gathering in a park to role-play or sharing a link.

To me, participation is a spectrum of activity that starts with doing something with your limbs (fingers included) and not just your eyes or ears.

I stayed away from the big 2011 debate of “franchise” vs “portmanteau”  because I don’t think forming factions is helpful. However, to me it’s quite clear that even a franchise needs to find a way to enable participation.

The presentation below I presented last week to producers attending CineMart, part of the Rotterdam International Film Festival. These guys want to make feature films. They don’t want to make ARGs or apps but they do need to raise finance and they do need an audience to see their movies. So you might say this is a “franchise” situation – a fixed media platform (feature film) with no scope for the audience to co-create.

Yet, as I explained, the filmmaker touches the audience with a range of media – flyer, poster, teaser, trailer, website, Facebook page, Twitter, festival screening, theatrical release, download, DVD, merchandise… and maybe more. Why not build participation across these platforms? There’s no prospect of the audience re-writing the feature the film – that’s set in stone, I get that – but with all these opportunities to engage why continue with “push marketing” when you could be using “pull marketing”. Why not leverage what you do best – storytelling – to make the audience a stakeholder? Write a participatory layer around the feature that extends into that other media – using those other platforms as initial entry points to hook the audience into the storyworld (or, after the hook, to retain and reward).

Finally, some producers might argue “this sounds like marketing and I only have a production budget – where’s the money coming from?”. Hmm.. to which I respond, the cast  is one of the first marketing decisions you make and it’s paid for by the production budget.You don’t shoot the movie and then wonder who’s going to headline, right? So you need to think about how you will enable and empower audiences to recommend your movie and write the script for this – and implement it – before production. Why wait until you have a completed movie that nobody knows about before realizing you need to spend money on building the audience? Don’t think of attracting an audience as “marketing” but instead think of it as storytelling on social media and it’ll be more fun and more rewarding (in all ways).

Transmedia for Filmmakers

  • Anonymous

    We could dissect the terminology all day long (and you could make a valid case that if doing so results in clearer, more accurate communication, then it’s worth the effort), but let’s focus on the concept you presented: audiences are able to do more than just passively consume content.

    Indeed, as you point out, it’s in the interest of creatives to encourage them to do far more than just consume, and the spectrum of participation is incredibly broad.

    At the end of the day, any design that yields a more exciting, satisfying, and enjoyable result for audiences is a good thing. While that may be self-evident, what’s often missed is the fact that an audience is not a single demographic. It’s a cross-sampling of people, each with their own individual interests, priorities, and tastes.

    You’re essentially arguing for more audience agency and, more importantly, proposing that creatives should officially recognize that agency by acknowledging the many forms of participation.

    By offering audiences more options and different ways to participate in a property, creatives increase the likelihood that their design will have a more positive impact on audiences than properties with only one “narrative path.” Audiences will have more agency in selecting the kind of experience that resonates with them (e.g., the non-linear quest chain in the Skyrim video game), they can choose what parts of a property they prefer to experience (e.g., any transmedia property), and, if they are allowed, they can contribute canonically to the property (e.g., a shared story world model).

    This is where transmedia and value co-creation perfectly intersect, and for many – but not all! – properties, this will be the ideal approach.

    • http://www.tstoryteller.com Transmedia Storyteller

      Hey Disqus Just a quick update for the end of Feb 2012.– CONGRATULATIONS –Congratulations go out to Doubletake Studios and the amazing success of their educational ARG that wrapped on Friday 24th! Rex and Terri at Doubletake created a first-class pervasive educational “game” in which 600 students across the state of Florida worked to formulate a response to a fictional environmental disaster. The students played the role of C-level execs in a space cargo company responsible for the disaster when one of their rockets crashes into a small town. The whole experience, including student registration, blogging, Facebook status updates and Tweets from fictional activitists and townsfolk, role-specific emails and news reports and video publication was handled by Conducttr  - handling more than 4000 fictional character-to-student interactions.A full case study presentation is to follow!– FASTER — We’re now on the a larger server and we cleaned up a lot of code. You can now see a significant improvement in performance – the UI is much more responsive and faster to access all parts of your project.– NEW WIDGET –The newest feature we’ve added is “Widgets”. This allows you to create a sign-up widget for embedding into your website. It’s fully customizable too – so you decide what information to request and how it’s formatted on the page (needs some CSS knowledge for the formatting).Note that Conducttr handles all the contact detail verifications and there’s option of age-restriction and captcha to stop bots.Note that all widgets also connect to a new widget trigger. The trigger fires on successful sign-up and can be used to activate any part of your story – blog posts, videos, follow-up emails and so on – and of course add the audience member to groups for personalization.– NEW MOVIE –Finally, we’re delighted to announce Conducttr will be integral to a new feature film-centered transmedia project called Mask of the Red Death.Please check out the link for more info on the Facebook page!ps. it’s a leap year this year so that means women (Michelle?) can propose to men on the 29th ;)Robert & AlexeyDon’t forget to check out the latest content at the Community or connect with us on Facebook ;)_________________________________________________________________________________________________________you can click here to unsubscribe

      —scanned by Spamtelligence ref-914504d6a7f15be15048fdb72ddd71a7—

  • Chelsea Fought

    I really like how you discussed the idea of getting an audience engaged and participatory before the main media — in this case the film — is released.  I thought the presentation was pretty straight forward, and actually one of the better ways I’ve seen transmedia presented. 

    I’ve seen it talked about more from a marketing aspect, which is why I liked reading this and seeing a presentation on how it can be used in another way.  Sure, it’s still marketing, but I guess I see it as more of the storytelling aspect, than a marketing ploy.

    I think that this type of model can be used for not only the film industry, but others as well.  I’ve been looking into how transmedia can be used in the publishing industry as a way to sort of revitalize books, or… more specifically to look at another way to present a story.  You talk about using these different platforms to get audiences engaged and co-creating, while also expanding the story in another way.  I think this technique really could work, especially with the online age and how many people are using platforms like facebook, twitter, and youtube.  There’s a lot of opportunity.

    • http://www.tstoryteller.com Transmedia Storyteller

      Absolutely – and could be very powerful in the publishing industry.

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