Here is my interview with Scott Kirsner, who is the author of Friend, Fans & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age. Scott spoke on various panels at SXSW.
What did you take away from SXSW this year?
SXSW is always great. I tell filmmakers that it’s the best annual event for figuring out how film and technology work together, and how new online dynamics are changing the way people will consume video. As far as what I took away, I did sessions at SXSW with the videoblogger/Internet artist Ze Frank and Gary Hustwit, who makes documentaries like “Helvetica” and “Objectified.” Both of them really underscored for me that if you do something you’re interested in (or even obsessed about), do it well, and let people get involved (giving them ways to participate and support you), there really is a viable way to be an independent artist in these digital times…without being a shameless self-promoter.
How should film schools adapt to a new media landscape?
I think they ought to be encouraging students to think about making new forms of content that take advantage of technological possibilities: short-form stuff that’s linked in new ways, that connects to location, that engages the viewer in different ways than feature-length, cinematically-exhibited films do. What can you make that lives in Facebook, that spreads via Twitter? Does there need to be a boundary between film and games? I’d like to see more film schools encouraging students to ask those kinds of questions.
When you wrote Fans, Friends And Followers what information did you find surprising?
Mostly, how experimental you have to be to figure out a strategy that works for you to build an audience. A remix contest may work for someone, but not someone else. You need to let a thousand flowers bloom.
Will creators have to spend more money on marketing as the web becomes crowded with new entertainment?
Well, spending lots of money on marketing, whether it’s billboards along every major highway or a Super Bowl ad, is a pretty time-tested way to get people to be aware of your product. But I actually think the online world gives creators more opportunities to organically build word-of-mouth about what they’re doing, rather than buying awareness. And when you do buy stuff, like ads on Facebook or Google, you can do it in a targeted, inexpensive way, without needing to hire an ad agency. That’s really revolutionary for individual creators.
How can artists do more to recognize fans who actually buy their content?
Well, crediting or thanking them is one way. Integrating them into the content somehow is another. M dot Strange incorporated images of some of his fans into his debut feature, “We Are the Strange,” and Jill Sobule sings about some of the donors who made her 2009 album “California Years” possible.
Is content still king or have aggregators taken its crown?
I am a believer in democracy, not monarchy. I think great work will always be recognized, will always find an audience, and that there will be ways for its creators to earn a living. People vote with their dollars, and they are still purchasing books, CDs, movie tickets, movie downloads, videogames, etc. And I’m hopeful that content and aggregators can coexist peacefully.
If you were going to be a financier in the entertainment industry what would be the best investment and why?
Well, I’m really interested in companies like JibJab Media or Next New Networks that have been trying to create new kinds of studio models… What would the next Disney or Paramount look like? What would the production costs be? What kinds of stories would you be telling, and how can the audience be involved in new ways? That said, there have been some failures already in that arena— but I also believe we’ll eventually see some successes.
Posted in audience-building blogs community cross-media crowdsourcing marketing movies social media storytelling
Update: There has been a bit of a scuffle over whether the transmedia producer credit includes creators of original IP, but PGA Director of Communications Chris Green assures us that it will (via NewTeeVee).
Also, Andrea Phillips takes the long view on what this will mean for transmedia artists.
Also, an interesting quote from NewTeeVee’s coverage – ” [Steve] Peters hinted at the fact that a new guild might be necessary for the transmedia world, “another organization that would be focused on Transmedia from its inception.”
Nikki Finke of Deadline reported yesterday that the Producers Guild of America voted, for the first time in the guild’s history, to add a new credit – “Transmedia Producer” – allowing artists who create expanded narratives for franchises to be credited alongside other producers on those projects.
Here’s how the new credit will be defined.
A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms: Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.
A Transmedia Producer credit is given to the person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms. Transmedia producers also create and implement interactive endeavors to unite the audience of the property with the canonical narrative and this element should be considered as valid qualification for credit as long as they are related directly to the narrative presentation of a project.
Transmedia Producers may originate with a project or be brought in at any time during the long-term rollout of a project in order to analyze, create or facilitate the life of that project and may be responsible for all or only part of the content of the project. Transmedia Producers may also be hired by or partner with companies or entities, which develop software and other technologies and who wish to showcase these inventions with compelling, immersive, multi-platform content.
To qualify for this credit, a Transmedia Producer may or may not be publicly credited as part of a larger institution or company, but a titled employee of said institution must be able to confirm that the individual was an integral part of the production team for the project.
In short, game and interaction designers can get Transmedia Producer credit, they can be brought in at any point in development and they can be working as individual artists. This is definitely in line with the kind of flexibility inherent to working in new forms of storytelling.
Finke said the adoption of the credit was shepherded by Starlight Runner CEO Jeff Gomez, among others. Reaction to the decision has been overwhelmingly celebratory in transmedia circles, but that hasn’t dissuaded analysts from taking a deeper look at the credit’s definition.
Christy Dena wrote an excellent breakdown of the credit, highlighting the three medium requirement as too limiting.
I know Jeff Gomez has been pushing for the 3 media-platform rule for a few years now. But that was because it was an effective pedagogical device to get new practitioners to understand the need to think expansively. Making this official is a mistake.
Dena said she hopes the three-medium rule won’t be strictly enforced in practice, and the credit will remain open to more forms of transmedia creation while dodging traditional franchise expansions that technically meet the requirements.
Posted in cross-media movies television transmedia
These predictions are based on my experience at SXSW:
1.The film and music industry will create casual games for Facebook. It will be an effective way to organize fan communities, sell them digital goods, merchandise, tickets to new media events, and introduce them to similar films and music they might like.
2.Apple, Amazon, and Netflix will compete against each other as film buyers to have exclusive rights to hot titles at the Sundance Film Festival.
3.Tastemakers who curate music and film content will actually get paid for their service.
4.Film studios will do more to reach out to Silicon Valley and fund/acquire their own web startups.
5.More entertainment created specifically for the web will be optioned to become TV shows or films.
6.Most film schools will teach 3D film production.
7.With a growing audience excited to watch everything in 3D, including ads, more TV shows are going be produced.
8.Major corporations will create platforms that support entertainment and finance the creation of content. They can own their TV network online versus paying for ads to place on another network.
9.Film studios will hire community managers and some will volunteer to manage fan communities for a movie even after a flick has left theaters.
Posted in Uncategorized audience-building cross-media marketing movies social media transmedia video
Multiplatform Storytelling: A Master Class with Tim Kring at SXSW brought a rock star–sized following of fans and some press excited to see the architect behind Heroes. Brian Seth Hurst moderated it. Their discussion started with them revealing how George Lucas invented transmedia storytelling. Prepare to be shocked-it all started November 17, 1978 with The Star Wars Holiday Special. A mysterious new character appeared on this show. His name was Bobba Fett. Before long Bobba Fett could also be purchased as a limited edition action figure in toy stores. Fans were confused and excited about this bounty hunter who came out of nowhere. About a year later when The Empire Strike Back was released Bobba Fett showed up again. Many fans were already aware of him. It was the first time a character originated on one platform then moved to the “mother ship of the property”.
Next Tim talked about his experience in the TV biz, then and now. When he started out a viewer had limited options: passively watch a show, at a certain time, via their TV. Now technology has offered new ways to distribute content at anytime to viewers e.g. smart phones and computers. It’s a double-edged sword; this has also brought about new competitors-including social networks and casual games that can steal eyeballs from a TV show.
How things have changed:
Casual game FarmVille surpasses 80 million users http://mashable.com/2010/02/20/farmville-80-million-users/
Nielsen data shows that U.S. Facebook users now spend an average of seven hours per month on the site.
Apple announced that more than three billion apps have been downloaded from its App Store by iPhone and iPod touch users worldwide.
Some people have looked at transmedia storytelling like a novelty; Tim knew it was a necessity. So for Heroes his strategy was to “fish where the fish are”. He created Heroes Evolution, which expanded his stories beyond a TV screen with weekly web graphic novels connected to the show, interactive puzzles that engage fans with text messages and phone apps, among many other techniques to reach an elusive audience who have migrated all over the place. Tim’s closing remarks were he recommended that young producers should prepare to pitch TV executives their shows with a transmedia strategy. For future projects Tim is considering making his story the mother ship where everything is connected vs having his TV show at the hub.
Posted in audience-building cross-media marketing transmedia