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The 15 Things I’ve Learned about Transmedia Storytelling

The 15 Things I've Learned about Transmedia Storytelling

Ingrid Kopp

Daniel Bergeron

Ingrid Kopp, the Tribeca Film Institute’s Director of Digital Initiatives, recently shared her wisdom garnered over the year’s she has spent in the transmedia world in a presentation for the X Media Lab conference in Switzerland.  While her initial presentation (available via SlideShare at the bottom of this post) had ten lessons learned, she’s expanded on the original list with five additional dollops of wisdom.  Take a look! Would you add anything?  

1. Stories are important

I constantly come back to Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk about the dangers of a single story. Stories are powerful, use them well.

2. Technology has always changed how we see and talk about the world

We needed space rockets and cameras to see the world like this from space and it changed our perspective on our tiny little planet. We are in a period of exponential change but technology’s impact on how we tell stories is not new. Think about the invention of writing, of the printing press, of still cameras, movie cameras and then sync sound and lightweight cameras. I love showing this video of the Go-Pro on an eagle and thinking about how technology extends our vision and our perceptions.

Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor use GoPros to stunning effect in Leviathan too.

3. Collaboration is hard

We are having to collaborate across industries and across disciplines now to make interactive work. This is not easy and requires a lot of translating, patience and new skills. Many of us are on a steep learning curve. We use different words, we attend different conferences and, often, we have different goals. All of this can be fodder for creativity and new ways of working but it requires willingness and effort and initiatives to bring different groups of people together.

4. The audience are makers and the audience has an audience

I love Kevin Slavin’s and Kenyatta Cheese’s video on this for the Future of Storytelling Summit.

Audience behavior has changed and continues to change. We need to think about the audience as makers and doers and potential collaborators.

5. Authorship vs Openness is a challenge

This is hard! There is often a tension between our need for creative control and the desire to create a feedback loop with the audience, or to allow them to be shared authors of a project. 

6. Fail Fast Forward

We are learning a lot of lessons from the tech community. One of them is to learn how to fail well, iterate, and improve as you go. This is where our Tribeca Hacks series plays a part – hackathons are great spaces to experiment, try new things and learn how to fail. As Samuel Beckett said: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

7. Transmedia can amplify local voices

I’ve been very influenced by Ethan Zuckerman’s work on this. We think a great deal about digital access but also about how we can really use the multiple entry points of interactive, transmedia storytelling to challenge prevailing narratives and amplify local voice. The world is not flat, it’s lumpy, and we can design work that acknowledges that. 

8. User Experience Design is now part of what we do as storytellers

Jason Brush gave a talk at SXSW this year called “Filmmaking as User Experience Design.” I’ve been thinking

about what this means for the work that we fund and support ever since. How can you design good stories and story experiences?

Alma: A Tale of Violence” and “Hollow” come to mind as good examples of what’s been done so far.

9. Stories can be both software and hardware

Lance Weiler’s “Lyka’s Adventure” project got me thinking about how, once you start thinking about stories beyond the screen, they can be reimagined in so many ways. What do stories that use connected devices look like? What kind of documentary would a tiny robot make? We explored this with Robots in Residence at the Tribeca Film Festival this year

10. We need to show interactive work, not just talk about it

This is why I was so delighted to be asked to program Storyscapes at the Tribeca Film Festival this year and it is why other initiatives like IDFA DocLab and New Frontier at Sundance are so important. Transmedia and interactive storytelling should not be relegated to endless panels!

After I came up with these 10 points I immediately thought of lots more. Here are a few of the most important ones.

11. Learn to listen. Storytelling is as much about listening as telling

12. Make the interaction the story. For example the border in Gaza/Sderot.

13. Be clear about your indicators for success. If you don’t know what success means for your project, you may lose your way.

14. Sometimes you should just delight your audience. Give them things to do that make them feel wonderful. 

15. You may need an exit strategy.

It’s sometimes easier to start a transmedia project than to end one, especially if you get your audience involved and create meaningful partnerships. Many of these projects are “living” on the web and across multiple platforms so what do you do when you want to move on to your next project? No right answer here but it’s something you should consider from the beginning and ask yourself as you develop and design your project.

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