I’ve just return from Hot Docs where I participated in a panel of judges for the newly formed Convergence Lab. Created by DocAgora, the lab focuses on a number of projects. The lab brings together producers, filmmakers and interactive designers in an effort to develop cross-media strategies for their projects.
Cross-media (the telling of stories across multiple mediums, devices and platforms) is a topic that we discuss often – an exciting and mind-boggling concept that opens a digital Pandora’s box. It challenges the concepts of linear structure. Sure there are numerous cross-media plays that just re-package traditional media or the new media plays that just emulate traditional media practices in a digital space. But cross-media storytelling offers new ways to build audiences and with some work could lead to new forms of project financing.
What I’ve come to learn is that it starts by listening to the audience. Everyone is their own media company these days as they publish, life stream, upload and throw their media into an every growing collective of bits and bytes.
The writing is on the wall. We were in a similar situation a decade ago when we made THE LAST BROADCAST one of the first desktop digital features and beamed it into theaters across the country. At that time it was the digital vs. film argument. Now it feels as if we’re reaching a tipping point. The days of the creation of just a feature film are gone. It’s not enough to just make a film anymore.
So how do you shake the shackles of the traditional and move into the next phase of what could prove to be a digital storytelling renaissance? There will be those who say I can’t be bothered and by all means I’m not saying that the story shouldn’t be the focus. It is all about story. I’m merely suggesting that you consider the new tools and outlets that are emerging. These developments allow you to tell your stories in new ways, larger ways, and in many cases more challenging ways.
One thing that I was asked numerous times at the Lab was where do I start? The following is a list of things to consider before you start a cross-media push.
1. Start by looking at the way your audience consume their media
2. Script it out – you wrote a script, storyboarded or created a shot list now its time to look at where people will enter your “world” and how they move through it
3. It’s a conversation. Nobody enjoys a one sided conversation so build in elements that allow your audience to interact with your content. Give them a sense of ownership through remixes, forums, fan art etc.
4. Be prepared for the audience to take control of certain aspects and know how and when to let go.
5. Listen to what the audience tells you even when they are not talking directly to you. Their actions and discussions with other audience members are a good indication of what’s working and what’s not.
6. Be prepared to move in radical directions. The best laid plans are meant to change and some times a new direction can result in larger audiences
7. Remember that there are no rules every cross-media project is different
8. Most importantly have fun since cross-media is a new way of telling stories it is a great way to experiment.
So if you’re looking to promote a project, build social awareness around a cause, or just want to have a larger audience for your work then cross-media storytelling might be for you. I’d love to hear about your projects so please send links and descriptions our way.
Lance Weiler is a filmmaker and a self distribution pioneer. His films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA are distributed in the United States and in over 20 countries around the world. Lance often lectures on filmmaking, technology, media consumption and distribution. He’s spoken at the Sundance, Berlin and Cannes Film Festivals in addition to numerous Universities and film societies. Lance is currently working on a number of new film, tv and cross-media projects. He is also working on a book entitled “Putting the Mass Back in Media” which will be released in 2008. He currently sits on the board of the IFP, is the founder of the Workbook an “open source social project” for content creators and a co-founder of the discovery and distribution festival FROM HERE TO AWESOME. For more on Lance visit www.lanceweiler.com
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