Anita Ondine took some time out of her busy schedule to share some thoughts around how Transmedia can be a vehicle for social change and its role on the world stage.
What opportunities do you see for those wanting to build international transmedia properties?
Anita Ondine: There are so many opportunities for those wanting to build international transmedia properties, in fact, transmedia lends itself to internationalization perhaps better than any other media. The key opportunity is our ability to design transmedia concepts that can be adapted to different territories in a culturally and commercially meaningful way. In my view, one of the essential elements of transmedia is enabling audience participation and to maximize impact with a local audience, it helps to make it linguistically and culturally adapted to that market. Transmedia allows you to do that. In this way, we can think about transmedia from the perspective of a franchise or a format, similar to how television formats are internationalized to bring them to new markets. With transmedia, we have more options. For example, we can deploy country-specific instances of a transmedia property or we can link them in a global matrix of related transmedia stories within a single, unified storyworld. The latter example is the approach Lance Weiler and I are using to develop and deploy the ‘Pandemic’ property that complements Lance’s next feature film ‘HiM’.
Similarly, a transmedia property can be tailored to the specific commercial contexts of different countries by adapting the business models (both funding models and revenue streams) to reflect behavioral patterns of consumers and appetites of local investors. In short, by going international on transmedia, you gain both economies of scale and economies of scope, as well as opening up new creative horizons in transmedia storytelling. To sum up, I’d say think global, act local to build international transmedia properties.
How is transmedia considered by funding bodies in Europe and how are they adjusting to the changes in the digital landscape.
AO: There is public funding available in Europe for supporting the development of transmedia. For example, the EU MEDIA Programme provides funding via its ‘Interactive Projects’ funding stream. You can find more information about that program via the MEDIA website: http://www.mediadeskuk.eu/funding/_2,24,151/ This funding is only open to European companies and your project must be tied to a feature length film property. There are also funding programs at the national level in most of the EU Member States.
The major issue surrounding the funding of transmedia is that most funding bodies in Europe (indeed, around the world) still tie transmedia and new media funding to the existence of a traditional media property. Usually this means a feature length film intended for theatrical release, or it could be a television property that has to be pre-sold to a broadcaster. In my view, this is a serious impediment to the development of transmedia. The effect is that producers are shoehorning their projects into the format required by the funding guidelines, instead of being free to be truly creative in designing transmedia properties that are born “native” to the transmedia space, rather than being conceived as an add-on (and therefore somehow subservient) to traditional media.
I’d love to see more representatives from funding bodies attending Transmedia Next so we have a common understanding and common vocabulary to facilitate an open dialogue about these issues and work together to find a solution that will help to build a sustainable industry going forward.
Thankfully there are some visionary funders, mostly at the regional level, like the Rotterdam Media Commission (http://www.rmcrotterdam.nl/index.php?lang=en) who “get” transemdia and are willing to support projects that are not tied to traditional formats. This approach is similar to the Canadian system, where you can apply for transmedia funding through the Canada Media Fund’s “Experimental” funding stream without the need for feature film attachment. More information on the CMF’s Experimental program is available here: http://www.cmf-fmc.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=110&page_mode=create&Itemid=110
Other forms of pre-financing, like brand involvement, are still very nascent in Europe, but definitely growing. Consumers are interested, therefore brands are increasingly willing to explore this space. Now is the time for brand and advertising agencies to step up to respond to that need. International scale transmedia properties will be particularly interesting for global brands.
Do you have any words of advice for a producer who is considering packaging an international transmedia property?
AO: I’d say two of the most important factors to consider when packaging an international transmedia property are:
(1) whether it is scalable (both conceptually and technologically); and
(2) whether it is an idea that “travels” well internationally. That could mean either it is a universally recognized archetype (for example, a fantasy world like Lord of the Rings) or that it is suitable to cultural adaption.
A project that is ideally scalable will work well both at the local/regional/country level as a self contained experience, and will be augmented by the addition of international elements. The key to architecting an international transmedia property is to ensure the creatives and producers work in parallel so that the creative choices support the business imperatives and the business choices don’t adversely affect the design of the creative experience. In this way, the “shape” or “voyage” of the story from country to country can have meaning within the storyworld as well as performing the function of distribution in each territory.
Another point to remember when going global is risk management. Once your base level of development is complete (you have a storyworld bible and technology prototypes in hand), I would recommend assessing entry into each new market on a case by case basis. The decision to green light a new territory should be supported by positive revenue opportunities at the local level or because deployment of the transmedia property in that territory performs an ancillary function, like supporting the release of a related feature film in that territory.
Producers are also advised to undertake a similar analysis for the addition of each new platform to their transmedia architecture. Ideally, you will want each platform to stand on its own in terms of ROI, but we also need to take a step back and see transmedia as a holistic program of activities where revenue streams from some platforms can be used to subsidize less profitable platforms where those platforms perform other valuable functions like increased reach, press hooks and buzz in the social media space.
What excites you about storytelling in 21c?
AO: I’m excited by the potential for storytelling to create positive social change and encourage participation in our communities, both directly within our own communities and collaboratively around the world.
I’ve always enjoyed art, and storytelling in particular, for that reason. Because through art and creativity we are able to see possibilities of a new future, a new way of thinking. Transmedia builds on that premise and presents us with the opportunity, through audience participation, to inspire participants to both think and act in new and different ways that are positive and enduring. In this way, I believe transmedia represents the evolution of storytelling.
In addition to that, being a geek, I can’t help getting excited about the explosion of technology that is enabling stories to be told in so many new and exciting ways. Technology is impacting the entire process of story creation (through collaborative and open source tools), through production (for example, lower cost, higher quality cameras) and delivery to the audience across a plethora of devices that are changing the way the audience interacts with stories and takes part in the storytelling process. This includes mobile/geo-locational technology, personal viewing devices and many more.
How do you see Transmedia Next evolving and what do you feel currently sets it apart?
AO: I see Transmedia Next evolving in response to the needs of the industry. At the moment, there are many experienced media professionals, including creatives, producers, brand agencies, content commissioners and game developers, who are interested in and experimenting with transmedia. What we lack are industry standards, even a common language, to enable greater inter-diciplinary collaboration.
What we are seeing at the moment are some fairly elaborate examples of transmedia at the studio level, for example District 9’s transmedia elements (check them out here: http://www.agencymagma.com/coolmoviemarketing.html) or the ‘Why So Serious’ campaign (http://www.whysoserious.com/) that Warner Brothers ran in support of The Dark Knight release. Then at the other extreme, we are seeing the emergence of beautiful, highly innovative, smaller scale works that are mostly reaching much smaller audiences. There are also a growing number of branded content campaigns, like the ‘New Old Spice Guy’ (http://mashable.com/2010/07/15/old-spice-social-media-campaign/), however there is still a wide open space in the mid-field. There are major opportunities in that middle ground, in the space between studio fare, pure branded content and hand-made auteur-driven works.
My hope is that Transmedia Next plays a role in bringing experienced media professionals together and gives them a common set of tools and techniques to collaborate on projects in a industry leading way.
Transmedia Next 2010 Alumni discuss their transmedia projects
What currently sets Transmedia Next apart is that its faculty includes industry leaders like Lance Weiler and that it mixes theory and practice in a very hands-on way. So participants leave understanding the full cycle of development, writing, production and distribution of transmedia. The whole event is run as a transmedia experience too. So participants get to see, hear, taste an do transmedia. I don’t believe there are any other transemdia courses that offer such an immersive experience.
We’ve also received much praise for the diversity of attendees, both in terms of skill sets and nationalities represented. Transmedia next is a truly international event. Participants leave with the contacts – as well as the confidence – to make their international transmedia properties come alive.
For more on Transmedia Next
Anita Ondine is a creative transmedia producer, co-Founder of Transmedia Next and worked for over a decade as an intellectual property/technology lawyer and was a Senior Vice President at a major investment bank.
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