Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

This Is Transmedia; or, We Went to the SXSW Transmedia Panels So You Didn't Have To

"Transmedia" has had a difficult birth as a buzzword of academic-conference panelists and digital-era visionaries. But in the last few years, it's become a staple of film industry jargon and even popular culture. It describes the way that creative content -- from the mythology of Star Wars to the life's work of Justin Bieber -- circulates among multiple platforms: movie theaters, social-media websites, television and even (yes) books.
0
This Is Transmedia; or, We Went to the SXSW Transmedia Panels So You Didn't Have To
In a SXSW venue over the weekend. Photo by Brian Brooks.

"Transmedia" has had a difficult birth as a buzzword of academic-conference panelists and digital-era visionaries. But in the last few years, it's become a staple of film industry jargon and even popular culture. It describes the way that creative content -- from the mythology of Star Wars to the life's work of Justin Bieber -- circulates among multiple platforms: movie theaters, social-media websites, television and even (yes) books.

This year's SXSW Festival offered a number of overlapping Film and Interactive panels that explicitly addressed transmedia. While each of the speakers had a unique set of concerns and critical vocabulary, several issues resurfaced across the panels and provided 2011's Film-Interactive nexus with a few unofficial themes.

Reverse-Engineered Versus Homegrown Transmedia

Cross-platform franchises have been Hollywood staples since the classical era, when movies were regularly turned into radio programs. This tradition has only accelerated in the last few decades of blockbuster tie-ins and straight-to-video sequels. But as the once-dominant term "ancillary media" implies, things like novelizations and television spin-offs were often creative afterthoughts and cynical attempts to exploit a creative success for no other reason than profit.

At the panel "Can Transmedia Save the Entertainment Industry?," Walt Disney creative exec Louis Provost explained that the studio approached "Tron" in a different manner. Before the film was released to theaters this past December, the screenwriters mapped out a mega-storyline much more comprehensive than the film's screenplay, a "canonical" mythology that would inform the entire franchise going forward. In the past, studios typically licensed property rights to other companies and these secondary storylines often contradicted the original or failed to match it in quality. But from its inception, the "Tron" story was planned as a transmedia world. That may not guarantee quality storytelling (especially if the tentpole film itself is dramatically weak), but it does show that studios are shifting priorities and adopting new workflows as they adapt to the digital age.

Proprietary Control versus Viral Spreadability

Inspired by cult favorite website Homestar Runner, Beni and Rafi Fine of Fine Brothers Prods. registered a few URLs, contracted with white-label web platforms and created their very own, fully customized flash-animation websites. What they soon learned: If you build it, they will (sort of) come. But put that same material on YouTube and it can reach an audience one, two and even three orders of magnitude larger.

As the brothers explained at the panel "Decision Trees: YouTube's New Breed of Interactive Storytellers," distributing videos on YouTube has meant creative control limited by the YouTube user interface. They've found clever ways around the site's technical constraints, including hacking YouTube's annotation system (the red, text-box pop-ups that link to other videos) to create elaborately structured Choose Your Own Adventure storylines. These networked narratives often involve dozens of videos and the brothers have been able to get over 100 million views for their work. But the ability to scale up had come at a cost (literally) as they've had difficulty monetizing their vast YouTube viewership. Their advice: "Keep one foot in traditional media" and you'll have an easier time translating viral success into material profit.

Passive vs. Interactive Media

Panelists on "The Last Broadcast: Entertainment is Social – What’s Next?" grappled with the future of television as the age of network broadcasting comes to a close. In one small but memorable moment, Intel Corp. futurist Brian David Johnson referred to "television," cut himself off and said, "We should really find a new term." It spoke to the difficulty of discussing a technology-specific mode of production when the technologies themselves are in rapid flux.

Johnson's prediction for the future of television (and yes, "futurist" is his official title): It will evolve into a mix of video, games and social networking; users will transition from passive viewers of content into active participants in interactive media environments, for example co-viewing and live-commenting with friends. "We've been co-viewing for years," he said. "We just haven't been in same room."

Panelist Gary Wheelhouse, head of social media at Harvey Norman (Australia's largest retail chain), related an anecdote about his young child poking at the family television as if it were a touch screen. "Passive" video displays, Wheelhouse explained, will soon be a thing of the past.

Early adopters at SxSW enthusiastically agree.

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More