By Lance Weiler, November 13th, 2008

Nick Braccia reportsI’m new to the WBP crew and wanted to kick-off my involvement with a brief and practical outline of introductory steps to help you make the transition from mono-media storyteller (in this case, film) to transmedia storyteller. In time, this evolution will help you to grow (and strengthen) your audience.

Like many contemporary transmedia story architects, I was first exposed to this expansive medium back in 2001, when I googled “Jeanine Salla: Sentient Machine Therapist”, a cryptic title strategically added to the poster for Spielberg’s A.I. This clue was one of three entry points to a transmedia experience—in this case, an Alternate Reality Game. Since that day, I haven’t thought about stories in the same way. However, picking up the vernacular, and diving deeper into these experiences (and the culture around their design) took time. I was so used to developing linear narratives, that understanding these experiences—fractured narratives with plot points scattered across media, space and time—proved imposing. What follows are three very basic steps to introduce you to this landscape.

1) Let Go

If you’re on WBP, chances are you’re a filmmaker, and probably strongly identify with that title. You’ve spent years mastering the incredibly involved set of skills filmmaking requires.. But, for the purposes of expanding your audience and taking advantage of the opportunities in the transmedia space (as nicely outlined in David Beard’s last post) let’s forgo such a craft-specific title. Why? Our primary concern is your self-identification as a storyteller—one willing to employ a vast and disparate set of tools,not just those from the filmmaker’s kit, in order to expose the world to the potency of your narrative. As Yoda said, “you must unlearn what you have learned.” But don’t worry, I promise you’ll get to re-learn it later. ?

2) Read Up

There are several books that can help shift your approach to content creation, media culture and the power of audience involvement. Over the last couple years, a few key texts have eschewed pedantic language and theoretical discourse to convey wonderfully clear insights and advice. You’ll identify with these texts rather than feel alienated by them. Trust me, they helped ease me (a slightly techno-phobic copywriter) into the cross media space with more direction and confidence than I, otherwise, would have had.

The books:

Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (Henry Jenkins)

Fans, Blogger and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture (also Henry Jenkins)

This is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming (Dave Szulborski)

I’m sure there are lots of other helpful introductory texts, and I invite any readers to add them to the comments section. Of course, there are lots of blogs (such as this one) dedicated to the topic, but I found it incredibly helpful to digest the tenets of new media thinking in an old media format. Also, Szulborski’s book provides an appendix with a sample ARG (alternate reality game), one type of transmedia experience, for readers to walk through at their chosen pace. This type of tutorial is rare in transmedia culture. Additionally, several popular transmedia experiences are outlined on wikipedia (and, if you’d like to dig deeper, on sites like ARGN.com and Unfiction).

Check out the follow wikis for experiences breakdowns:

I love bees
The Art of the Heist
Year Zero

These three examples all outline ARGs. Keep in mind that they’re just one subgenre within transmedia. In coming posts, I’ll further distinguish these subgenres. Because ARGs were the earliest and most popular, they’re a good place to start.

3) Just Dip Your Toe

Nobody expects you to dive right in, spewing techno-jargon and prepared to architect an entire transmedia narrative. This would be way too daunting and time consuming. I first got my bearings by offering up my established skill set (writing) to an ARG development team (Szulborski’s, in fact). As the Puppetmaster (an ARG director/conductor) Dave had to be aware of all aspects of his transmedia narratives, but I was lucky in that I only needed complete understanding of the content I was writing. In time, I came to understand what other team members were doing and how it related in theme and continuity, to the writing I was doing.

In subsequent posts, I’ll dig into specifics regarding transmedia work I’ve done. But to kick things off, I thought it important to communicate how I stumbled into this fabulous world and to share some of the resources that helped to get me acclimated.

Nick Braccia is a Creative Director at Deep Focus in New York City and Los Angeles. Prior to joining Deep Focus in 2007, he spent 7 years developing concepts for Masterfoods and P&G clients as part of G2 Interactive. Since 2001, he’s explored his passion for immersive narrative experiences and contributed to the ARGs “Catching the Wish” and “Unnatural Selection” under the direction of author and guru, Dave Szulborski. Recently, Nick directed “No Known Survivors” to support EA’s horror survival title Dead Space and “Vroengard Academy”, promoting the Random House title, Brisingr.

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Lance Weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects.

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COMMENTS

  • Hello Hank. Thanks for the comment. :)

    I love ARGs too! And I agree, Year Zero was so well done.

  • hank

    Great article. I've been a fan of ARGs for the last few years. I love the concept of cross-media projects. The NIN Year Zero project was an excellent experience. And I'm looking forward to the newest addition of perplex city.

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