By Lance Weiler, April 20th, 2010

I find myself baffled at times by the lack of willingness to experiment. Where is the innovation? We find ourselves at an amazing time, one in which storytelling has vast possibilities thanks in part to advancements in technology. Yet many confuse this opportunity with what they literally see others doing or what bubbles up in various press coverage. Social media hype clouds the true creative potential. In fact in many ways the types of transmedia I find myself drawn to are all about story and have little to do with promotion and marketing. Now some of that becomes a natural byproduct but it isn’t what’s driving the story I’m telling. If I can build an audience along the way – why wouldn’t I? In fact they’re more than an audience to me they’re collaborators. Of course some will be passive viewers but others will be active participants.

The technology that we use to design, delivery and tell engaging stories with; is more than just a twitter, blog or facebook account for a character. It isn’t just about documenting the behind the scenes of a film or TV project that we’re making. Not that there’s anything wrong with documentation of a process in many ways that’s what makes the WorkBook Project possible. But for me It’s about creative choices that effect a vast world where the characters and stories we tell live. Where a scene can play through time and space. It can resolve itself on a mobile device, in a dark theater or in someone’s living room. The technology that we use is merely another creative tool no different than a lens or a camera.

we feel fine

There are some amazing projects that embrace technology and data sets. Data is something that touches all of our lives and it is a language that we all will find ourselves learning whether we like it or not. In many ways data is boring but it can also become a beautiful moving piece of art. For instance We Feel Fine jumps to mind. The project is emotional and tells a collective story that connects people all over the world. I could argue that it is as beautiful as some of the foreign films I love. It is an amazing piece of art yet informative and touching all at the same time.

Now Transmedia isn’t for all stories. In fact for some it could be considered a distraction especially if you try to shoehorn it into a project. But that’s because the language for telling stories across multiple devices and screens is relatively a new form. Like writing a good script it takes time to develop a rich storyworld one where you feel a connection to the characters, engage in the story and escape into the world that surrounds you.

One area that I’ve been focusing over the last year is within the mobile app space. The following column from Filmmaker Mag explains some of the reasons why.

It’s a known fact that the film industry has no shortage of middlemen. The path between filmmaker and audience is littered with them – some good, some bad. But the promise of a direct connection to an audience has become the currency of the future. These days it seems as if everyone is trying to find a way to capitalize on fostering stronger relationships with audiences. Much of these efforts are focused after the film is finished when it comes time to promote and market the work. Although some filmmakers are including audience development in their initial business plans, many are still only working to build awareness around traditional elements such as theatrical, DVD and VOD.

Are we missing a window of opportunity by limiting ourselves to formats, running times and traditional markets?

Consider the Following:

* To date, Apple has shipped more than 70 million iPhone and iPod Touch devices and it’s projected that within the next two years they’ll have more than 200 million in the market.

* More than 140,000 applications have been created for the iPhone and iPod.

* Each day, 60,000 Android devices ship.

* The fledging Android Market has more than 10,000 apps.

These stats are just one part of a growing mobile device market, which is currently expanding due to a new generation of tablets. Apple’s iPad and a slew of other computer and handset manufacturers have tablets entering the market over the next few months. Larger screens, faster processors, wireless connectivity and the ability to run various browser and mobile-based applications will all be here soon. We don’t know yet if this generation of tablets will resonate with consumers but, as we have seen in the past, devices do have the ability to influence user behavior and consumption. The iPod revitalized the value of a music track and now the publishing industry is hoping the iPad can do the same for books and zines.

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Posted in audience-building community cross-media crowdsourcing experimental gaming social media storytelling transmedia

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

  • I'm not sure it is a lack of willingness in the film community to experiment as much as a lack of knowledge of where to start. It hasn't been that long really for filmmakers to have the opportunity (because of technology) to get experience making traditional films. This might be a good thing as understanding how to tell a story is the most important part of the process. As a whole, with obvious exceptions, I am not sure the film community is that tech savvy. As the tech, film scenes and younger filmmakers (storytellers) merge no doubt some amazing transmedia storytelling will emerge.

    On the marketing side I agree there does seem to be a bit of resistance among some traditional filmmakers towards creating content as marketing. Developing entertaining content, whether it's through mobile apps, youtube videos or games to help market films is one of the best ways the DIY filmmaker has to connect with and build an audience. Successful marketing is about storytelling.

    Wow, congrats on 20,000 downloads for an app with no promotion. I have apps on the iphone and I know how hard it is to get that download... in some ways it's harder then getting people to see your film!

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