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).