Transmedia Storytelling Should Make Us Cry

It’s all in the delivery.    Or is it?

Seems there are two camps emerging in the midst of a burgeoning ‘Transmedia Spring’; those immersive experience creators pushing the story as the primary experience engine, and those with focus on the technical aspects of the experience via platforms, apps, etc. Interestingly, media columnist Nick Demartino noted this while attending Story World last month;

“Story World was filled with platitudes about the primacy of the story from many speakers, but the overall feel of the crowd was very nerdy and techno-centric, not at like what you get at a film festival or a writer’s conference.”

Apparently, the gap is widening between storytellers and the tech-centric crowd. Though transmedia projects require cross-platform participation from the audience, hopping from medium to medium to engage in the experience design, story is still the central ‘pull’.

Nick Demartino notes a growing reliance on technical whiz-bangery over story and narrative to spark audience engagement in ‘story universes’. From a Tower of Pizza perspective, focus leans to the ‘how’ and less toward the ‘why.’

Swing by The Fiction Engine, where Edwin McRae drops some thoughts on Writing Transmedia Games. Enlightening, educational (and maybe even) paradigm shifting stuff.

Pitching in my two cents, I don’t think this is a transmedia-centric problem.

I’ve found filmmaking (and other digital story methods) are experiencing a similar focus shift. While Transmedia creators and programmers alike work out the idiosyncrasies of multi-platform delivery modes utilizing a plethora of fancy pants equipment, Filmmakers too are awash in technically amazing gear to create great visuals. But, pushing the point; great visuals don’t necessarily make for a great story & engaging characters.  In my humble opinion, technology can easily get in the way of an immersive, engaging experience. I know, I know, this is a huge point of contention, but hear me out…

Those with the tools making the rules?

I’ve been a gear head for most of my career. Tools for every possible need (and want– mostly want) was available as I worked in various studios, often borrowing said gear, after hours, in-house. Halcyon days, those were. I was enthralled with the possibilities various gizmos presented to make films; from simple tools and techniques to computer-run motion-control systems. Myself and co-conspirators fell in love with the sheer potential of the stuff in hand. With all these crazy cool materials, tools and techniques to play with, we sometimes lost the trail of the purpose for the gear, the very core of our efforts.

Sometimes, we lost The Story.

With all the possibilities for making cool engagement aspects in transmedia projects — it’s easy for creators to wander off the path into the fields and forest.

Who was Martino speaking of at Story World?  In Mr. Martino’s observation, the crowd appeared keenly interested in the technical aspects of creating engagement media. I can relate to both sides of Nick Martino’s observation, but I wonder, are folks losing the story as a result of tackling the humongous job of creating a Transmedia Experience?

Enter, The Matrix

It’s a maze. Assembling the resources necessary to get a mutli-platform experience off the ground and ready to release to the world is a huge endeavor, rife with twists and turns.  Despite the Herculean efforts necessary to get an immersive experience up and running,  the story is the core, shaping the experience.  Note Producer Tavin Marin Titus’ success in attracting, retaining and entertaining the audience with transmedia web series, RCVR.   Story is key.

Transmedia experiences should make people cry.

Nick Demartino says: “I go to the movies for a sustained emotional experience; I read novels to inhabit the detailed interior worlds of characters; I listen to music for joy and for tears. Transmedia experiences must find ways to do this, too.”

Jeff Gomez, Transmedia expert at Starlight Runner has this to say about instilling emotional sincerity, and telling your story over multiple platforms:  “Write yourself into the story world and infuse it with your soul. What’s missing is the pain — not yearning, but true loss. Audiences must know you really mean it or they will leave you.”

Themes, characters and actors will help generate engaging content, thus creating and fostering enduring audience engagement. But it’s got to be real, sincere narrative. Suprisingly, even MTV got this worked out with their lurch into transmedia via Valemont.

Jeff Gomez has a few other things to share about Storytelling in Transmedia- click the pic below for the video.

Gasses to Solids,  it’s Transmedia Alchemy

It takes a massive effort, a lot of passion and tons of commitment to see a story-world and it’s narrative thru from concept to delivery, gas to solid. Transmedia is a hungry beast, eating money, time and resources by the bucketful. Then again, it’s similar to a lot of artistic endeavours in that way. Wanna make a film?  It’s a lot to handle, but worth doing if done well. Does the story engage the audience? Portray the director’s vision? Can it pull you in to the world inhabited by the characters?

Good news is, new tools and techniques are surfacing everyday to help grease the wheels of transmedia creation. These tools and techniques aid in bridging the gaping abyss between conception and finished form. From writing, storyboarding and narrative structure aids to new production tools, platforms and transmedia production bibles, there’s much more available to help get things running now than a few years ago. Money not being one of them, of course.

Build a team with a shared vision for the story.

Need help? Gather a team of tech-savvy folks. Stay on track with the story; don’t let tech drive the bus. Keep in mind; you’ll do well to pitch the story, not the platform. For starters, a handy transmedia project primer via Zen Films is online, so get yourself some know-how before setting pen to paper.

For a great primer on the infrastructure pushing a transmedia project, Mike Jones (Head of Development, Portal Ent., UK) generously shares a wonderful Series Bible to help folks navigate the idiosyncracies of story world creation.  Natch!

Mike Jones describes his Series Bible ; “A document package that details the scope, rules, concepts, themes, characters and parameters of the Story-World in which the series plays out in.” To mess with the Series Bible and get the most of it, you’ll need to download a free multi-media production app called Celtx. Mike has been working with the brainiacs behind Celtx for a long time and it shows. One of my fav applications, Celtx is Great Stuff and handy if you’re working on a transmedia project of any scope. Have at it!

In addition to this heap of helpfulness, Mike also graciously hosts instructional vids for using Celtx. Maximize the app for your projects with some of his generous offerings of How To info (Mike has long been involved with the development of Celtx over the years. Mike Jones Really, Really Knows This Stuff). Watch the Celtx vids here.

Any thoughts on Transmedia you wanna share?  Drop ’em below!

Cheers, M

9 thoughts on “Transmedia Storytelling Should Make Us Cry

  1. Great article, Marc. You make some excellent points. Hopefully, the emergence of simpler tools will shift the focus back to the storyline. I’m a stronger believer in technology facilitating communication, not dictating it!

    Thanks again.


  2. Hi Marc,

    Great article, thank you.

    As a traditional storyteller, or writer, I’ve often railed against the idea that ‘A good book should make you cry.’ I’d like to revise that with ‘A good book should make you CARE’. The audience/reader/listener needs to care about the characters and what happens to them. Crying is optional. This stance comes from having written a comedy series completely dismissed by the literati, but which was a HarperCollins best seller. No crying in sight.

    I’d also like to share with you a project I have been working on which I call ‘Transmedia for the Little Guy’. No big budget, high tech bells and whistles. A simple writer using transmedia to tell a young adult story called Kiss Kill. Kiss Kill is a story driven text, told with multiple text-types and using multiple platforms. It is being published by a new digital publisher, Really Blue Books, on an extremely limited budget. For a traditional writer it is pioneering. I’m so excited by the new direction of telling stories, and so grateful to the transmedia community for their vision, passion and invincability. Thank you, again.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s