Johanna Blakley

Media | Entertainment | Fashion

Archive for transmedia

My Transmedia Summer

A video that captures the creative possibilities of multi-platform storytelling

It’s been an incredibly busy summer, what with the launch of the Media Impact Project, and a particularly rewarding one, as well. A good chunk of my time this summer was devoted to teaching my class on transmedia storytelling in the Master in Professional Writing Program at USC. I’d taught a mini version of this course once before but this time I scaled it up to a full three-credit course, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

My goal was to create a course that would help prepare professional writers for the challenges and opportunities that new media offers. We reviewed a wide variety of experiments in transmedia narrative and examined some of the more popular tools that writers can use to extend their work across platforms, including blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Spotify and Instagram. By the end of the course, students forged a “story bible,” a detailed plan to turn one of their existing writing projects into an interactive transmedia narrative.

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Tribeca Film Festival: The Art of Networking

Ironically, these pencils were a big hit at the Tribeca Film Institute's super-high-tech Interactive fest.

Film festivals are tricky events to navigate. Of course they’re about art and commerce and, for some reason, all too many filmmakers are uncomfortable with that combination. Despite the entertainment industry’s craven reputation, there are plenty of people in it – not just indie movie types – who long for something pure: complex aesthetic objects that will transport people to new places and new ways of understanding this world and the many alternate realities we’ve crafted for ourselves. That idealism, and the understandable longing for money and attention to achieve that dream, is prominently on display at fests like Tribeca. And yes, a lot of it is about glad-handing and hitting as many cocktail parties as possible (as well as standing next to the right person at the red carpet premieres), but more and more these days, it’s also about figuring out how to make movies do that the networking for you. Filmmakers who’ve managed to crack the social media code have, indeed, mastered the twenty-first century art of networking.

I thought it was terrific that Tribeca devoted an entire day of the Fest to a conference on interactive media. The event was held in Frank Gehry’s gleaming IAC building, in front of an impossibly long wall of screens. The shallow wide room was packed from start to finish with a mix of digerati (I was thrilled to meet Christina Warren the entertainment editor for Mashable) and people who’ve been toiling in the traditional media trenches all their lives. The implicit goal was to figure out how to make sure that filmmakers learn how to adapt to an increasingly interactive media space – something more easily said than done. These days, film projects of all sizes are expected to have some sort of online presence, not only for the purpose of promotion but for something far more ephemeral: audience engagement. There are generally no accepted standards to measure the latter, but it usually means that you’ve managed to convince passive potential audience members to take an active role in promoting, extending, or even reimagining the film itself or its subject.

For all too many filmmakers, a transmedia campaign includes a basic formula: a Web site, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page and the coup de grace, an iPhone app. Much to the consternation of app developers like Michelle Byrd from Games for Change, creatives working in traditional media industries often assume that audience engagement just happens on these platforms: as long as you build it, someone will come. But take a quick look at all the apps you’ve installed and don’t use on your phone, and you’ll recognize that even scoring an install doesn’t necessarily lead to one iota of “engagement.”

Learning how to port linear, narrative art forms over to interactive platforms is a tremendous creative and technical challenge. Read the rest of this entry »