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Here Are the 5 Things That Make a Good Transmedia Project

Here Are the 5 Things That Make a Good Transmedia Project

Now that the National Film Board of Canada is not the only big player in the game of transmedia storytelling (outside of the branding world, of course), the Tribeca Film Institute, Mozilla and more are eager to put their money and support behind transmedia storytelling. Jeff Gomez, of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a transmedia storytelling firm, has worked on the transmedia storytelling of “Avatar,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”  Gomez is on the jury for the Bombay Sapphire Award for Transmedia at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

As someone who has hung
in there and advocated the use of transmedia techniques to tell compelling
stories in the age of pervasive media, I’m thrilled that it seems
we’ve gone beyond arguing about the meaning of the word and started
celebrating works of transmedia storytelling.

At this year’s Tribeca
Film Festival, for example, we have seen the creation of the Bombay
Sapphire Award for Transmedia, to be given to an artist or team of creators
who have developed and produced a story that actually requires audience
members to access their narratives in different ways across different
media platforms.

As a judge for the award,
here are five elements that I’ll be looking for in these works, each
of which in their own way are turning out to be beautiful, immersive
and compelling applications of the form.

  1. Does
    it have something to say?

not enough that you’ve got an idea that can be bounced around between
Facebook, an app, and a short film. Like any artistic endeavor, the
work has to communicate something potent and human, and it needs to
do so with a degree of originality that thrives upon the use of different
media rather than sublimating itself to them. 

  1. Comedy
    is fine, but a joke is not worth chasing.

If you’re
creating a transmedia narrative that is simply an elaborate maze to
get to a punch line, forget it. Projects of this nature require work
on the part of the audience. The process of traversing one media platform
to the next is an interactive one, so you’d better make this worthwhile
for me.

  1. Characters
    need to be compelling.

bells and whistles can be amusing, but good stories are marked by characters
that yearn, struggle, triumph or face defeat. Transmedia stories are
stories first. For some strange reason an inordinate amount of native
transmedia narratives that have hit the public eye in the past year
have been about douchebags: murders, amoral slackers, and (weirdly)
anti-technologists! Hook me with a good character that I actually like
or at least identify with, and I’ll follow her anywhere. 

  1. Story
    elements that are self-contained but additive.

One of the
reasons transmedia is so remarkable is because it facilitates a type
of cubism, allowing for different perspectives on a narrative even while
the narrative is unfolding. The protagonist of the story does not have
to be the star of each piece of it on each medium. So you can examine
the story world through the eyes of different characters, or get the
omniscient perspective, and as a result everything can change about
how you perceive what is happening.

The most
brilliantly executed transmedia stories are also ones in which you can
enter the narrative from any of the media the piece was designed to
include. So if I’m introduced to your story through a comic book,
I’ll get a fairly complete experience, but then I’m led to an app
that shows me a different aspect of the story that is in itself complete,
but also significantly increases my appreciation for the narrative and
the overall story world. Then, maybe, I’m led to a short film that
actually shifts my perspective or interpretation of some of the characters
or the entire work. 

  1. The
    work leverages the strengths of each medium it uses.

If you’re
just putting video on the web, that’s not very exciting. The web is
there to foster dialog, participation, it’s not television or a movie
theater. If you’re going to use a mobile phone as one of your storytelling
platforms, why not emphasize the user’s intimacy with the device.
Smart phones have become intensely personal items.

In short,
transmedia creators and producers would do well not to simply scatter
their stories across different media. They have to carefully consider
the features and strengths of the platform, and design the expression
of that aspect of the narrative to take best advantage of them. 

It’s also
important for creators to place within each expression of the story
a marker of some sort that will lead the audience to the next medium.
This can be done subtly, within the context of the story, but some aspect
of the interface will also need to more overtly tell us how to get to
the rest of the presentation. Fail to do that well, and you’re audience
(or as I prefer to call them, participants) won’t be able to enjoy
the complete work.

Well, I never said this
would be easy! But what is so brilliant is that there are creators and
producers (and creators who are also producers!) who are already accomplishing
all this and more. To me this means that a new art form is now on its
way to coming into maturity.

Jeff Gomez <@Jeff_Gomez> is the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment.
He is one of the world’s leading experts at transmedia storytelling,
and is also a member of the Producers Guild of America.

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