For the past year and a half, I've been strongly advocating for what I have been calling cross-platform outreach for documentaries: a way to disseminate the information that filmmakers do not or cannot incorporate into a documentary film; to encourage a grass roots movement of participation and conversation; to explore the often fine line between subject matter and audience; to crowd source stories and footage as a means to expanding the conversation or to cast your film; or to simply let loose some cool ideas that do not fit into a linear narrative.
It’s not that I haven’t come across the term transmedia before today, but I never actually stopped to do some digging into the matter and until now I've used the term cross-platform and transmedia interchangeably. When I saw that DCTV offered a workshop with the title “Transmedia: cross-platform storytelling” I jumped. Perfect!
I walked away from the workshop with a list of cool transmedia samples, a more structured understanding of transmedia genres and ways to set up workflow. Mike Knowlton of StoryCode, a pioneer in the Transmedia world, did a thorough job covering all bases (but one, more on that later).
In budgeting for transmedia I had always struggled with, what I know now is called sunsetting a project. When does the transmedia experience end? When you produce a documentary and it’s going through the distribution windows there comes a moment – even when you self-distribute – where you are ‘done’ and you move on to better (we hope) and next (we hope) projects.
Transmedia projects can and mostly do life on forever – who pays for upkeep and say, server storage? How do you budget for ongoing expenses and how do you cover them, when is a project “done” and how do you archive it?
Journalist and filmmaker Amanda Lin Costa takes that topic up in her PBS blog where she talks with Elaine McMillion who created the transmedia experience Holllow. Hollow currently has a monthly storage habit of over $7,000.
Here some of the transmedia experiences we discussed in class:
- Wilderness Downtown: enter your address and the music video plays on several pop up screens including a google street view of the address you entered (presumably your home address).
- Journal of Insomnia; by appointment only: if you’re up for a sleepless night, make your appointment now – I’m going to pass on that experience.
- Drones – beautiful (if harrowing) data visualization of drone killings in Pakistan.
- Aatsinki Season: the website is the “learning” element to accompany the doc about the Reindeer Herders.
- Tell Me What You Really Want: partially crowd sourced music video.
- The Johnny Cash Project: crowd sourced super coolness.
As much as I still believe in the power of a well told linear story the transmedia element gives us options to layer an experience beyond the traditional story line and allows for a richer, deeper and more immersive experience. It takes into account the need for a dialogue with the end user and takes advantage of crowd sourced information and materials.
Where an end user might want or need your information, but cannot, or will not dedicate 90 minutes to watch an entire film or many hours more to read a book, he or she will spend 5 minutes to watch a video segment, give feedback, or read a few pages (average is 1.5 pages per visit). The transmedia producer’s job is to create an experience the end user will come back to time and again or will move cross-platform to the next experience: i.e. the entire film, book, album, etc. or, if you are monetizing: buy (what a concept!).
Monetizing transmedia experiences was interestingly enough not part of the work shop and will be the next step in my ‘digging deeper’.
Mike recommended the following resources for further study:
- The Art of Immersion, Frank Rose
- Spreadable Media, Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green
- A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, Andrea Phillips
Let me know if you read any of them what you think. And please share any cool transmedia experiences!