Another entry by guest blogger, Meredith Levine. Meredith Levine is a second year MA student of Cinema and Media Studies in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television. At Transmedia Hollywood 2: Visual Culture and Design she interviewed Tracey Robertson of Hoodlum, a transmedia production company located in Australia. Tracey Robertson is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Hoodlum. She might be most recognizable in the United States for working with ABC Marketing and program producers to create a multiplatform campaign to run between seasons 4 and 5 of ABC’s hit series “Lost” called “Dharma Wants You”. The project ran over 8 months and earned Hoodlum, ABC marketing and the producers of the show a Primetime Creative Arts Emmy®. Robertson and her team were also responsible for the popular multiplatform campaign “Find815” created for the launch of season 4 of “Lost,” which earned Hoodlum a Prime Time Creative Arts Emmy® nomination in 2008.
ML: Can to talk a bit about working on LOST and your relationship with the writers?
TR: We got involved with LOST because I have a television background. For us we try to always work with the creatives and understand with the televisual needs are. When we do our own IP, everything is in the writing room with a multi-platform space. We try as much as possible to get to the creatives and have development go hand in hand. When working on the projects for LOST there was the writers strike and so we had to do the writing for our multi-platform work on our own. Ideally we do work closely with the writers in order to maintain authenticity.
ML: Why is television still, most frequently, the mothership text when it is the most expensive to produce and in a transmedia story there are other options? What does the future of transmedia storytelling look like?
TR: Television is a very structured environment. We have created models that fit precisely with television. We believe that multi-platform should be natural rather than an add on or marketing. Start with a world, then a story, then choose platforms and tie them all back to the story. In the same way that there is a set up and payoff in TV it is the same over multiple platforms that send you all to other TV programs to platforms. They are all intertwined. A holistic approach.
The reality is television is still the mothership because TV gets the widest audience but the trick is letting other platforms play into the story. It is important to have all the same cast and quality on all of the platforms for continuity. The other platforms must seamlessly blend in with the mothership.
Moving forward into the future it has to have that kind of structure [linear] in it. That comes down to producing the content and it comes down to the audience. We are dealing directly with our audience through social networks of directly and if we are trying to tell a linear story we make sure it is delivered in that way. As a company we created our own technology that manages how audiences receive information. The tech allows for linear. If we need to solve a puzzle and you have video to game to e-mail and if information isn’t in that order then the story doesn’t make sense.
ML: If you had a pet project, what would it be and how would it get made?
TR: We have just done our pet project. Slide was a huge production with a big budget seeded with high production value television and Conspiracy 365 is big if not bigger. It is vital that you are really pushing that you have to do this stuff [storytelling on other platforms with the same writers and cast] from the outset. Everyone knows that it is important and expensive. It is important to always try to start from scratch with all platforms designed and written with understanding of the other. A good transmedia story is built with all platforms in mind, not with other platforms as an afterthought. A great example of starting from the ground up is our new project with television , and ten separate digital venues, Conspiracy 356. For this project the initial budget accounted for all of the platforms and a cast that crosses platforms.
ML: There has been lots of debate in the US over what stories on digital platforms are in the US. The writers strike had a lot to do with that. Is it different in Australia? How has original IP gone for you?
TR: The stuff that is multi-platform from the outset [that hoodlum has done as original IP] have been in Australia. It is a legal challenge because no one wants to pay for it and everyone wants to make money from it. There is a bigger license fee upfront. Cast gets larger fees for additional material. We go into negotiations around returns. Everyone has an opportunity to make money for it.
ML: It seems like everyone wants this sort of transmedia story because it brings in the fans. Is that all there is to it, or is it something to get beyond?
TR: Convincing people of value beyond “fan value” is necessary. The audience in our properties has doubled because of what happened the online work. Fan reaction and audiences is more important now because you can see audience reactions because of twitter. There was no facebook or twitter in the beginning. The dialogue is important, but not just for us. You must give people reasons to have a dialogue amongst themselves. Set up questions. Give people the opportunity to talk.
ML: So then do you provide spaces for this conversation or is it important to converse with the audience on their own ground?
TR: Always push for a provided space. You can move the comments to other places, but it is important to provide an in-brand experience where people can talk. When the network hasn’t provided a space then fans go and build a space and take both their content and ours to that space
End of Interview.