Waiting for the dinosaurs to die…

Have you ever been a pajama panellist?

I have.

I made my Hollywood ‘debut‘ in my pajamas!

At 4am this morning I was ‘Skyped’ in as a panellist at Digital LA’s Storytelling: Social Media & Transmedia panel at the WGA and it was fabulous.  Of course, being a ‘talking head’ on a laptop felt a little strange, as ‘I’ had to be turned to face the audience and then the panellists but the conversation was so good that I soon forgot that:-

a) it was 4am,

b) I’d thrown a warm hoodie on over my pj’s and

c) I was a ‘talking’ head on a table!

The line-up spoke for itself:-

– Juan Devis, PBS, Director of New Media – KCETDepartures@jdevis

– Nina Bargiel, Disney Television Writer, Lizzie McGuire; MTV’s Streamy-award winning Valemont experience and Savage County @slackmistress

– Jay Bushman, Loose-Fish project. Alternative Reality Game creator @jaybushman

– Nathan Mayfield, Hoodlum, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer.  Hoodlum created transmedia campaigns for Sony Pictures’ SALT, ABC’s LOST and Flash Forward and won the Emmy for Primeval Evolved for ITV in the UK @hoodlumactive

– Annie Lukowski, Working Bug. Director of Road to the Altar, web series starring Jaleel White which used social media to extend the story engage fans between episodes – @workingbug

– John David Heinsen, Producer’s Guild of America, Co-Chair of Mobile New Media Council – @bunnygraph

The conversation rocked – these guys really know the transmedia business and aren’t wasting time heralding their projects AS transmedia, they’re just getting on with creating great content, compelling characters and storyworlds whilst keeping an eye on how their audience not only react, but ARE reacting (even going so far as to tweet in character in ‘real time’ to subtley ‘encourage’ discovery of storythreads or entry points that aren’t being picked up).  Nina was fabulous – a true transmedia writer – who spoke at length about creating spaces for users to create their own content or to discuss/interact with the storyworld or characters and about the delicate craft of writing-in those subtle prompts and entrypoint leads.

There was more light debate over the term ‘transmedia’ and Jay Bushman mentioned that he uses (amongst other terms) platform-agnostic storytelling.  I mentioned my recent blog post about Transmedia Transmafia, hype & hyperbole or buzz & b******t where ‘immersive storytelling’ has been suggested by blog commenters as a refined term. (further comments welcome!)

I particularly liked how Jay Bushman explained his early forays into transmedia – coming from a theatre background, he explained how he’d considered how to merge the two, stating that making a script available online, ‘uploading’ a script only makes the instructions available and not the experience.  He then went on to explain how he turned this into ‘transmedia’ by figuring how he might write that script as an ARG – I recognised that as a ‘eureka’ moment and think it’s a great way to approach fragmenting a storyworld.

John D Heinsen spoke about the importance of acknowledging the reach and spread of transmedia at concept & pre-production phases, urging for allocation in R&D-type budgets rather than after-thoughts on marketing budgets.

Elayne Zalis is another PhD who has been speaking to me on Facebook about her transmedia characters and asked the valid question, “where do you see print in transmedia” to which there were a few shaking heads in the room.  It was suggested that one point of view might be to simply ‘wait for the dinosaurs to die’, causing a small ripple of laughter, but was then backed up on a serious note with comments reinforcing that publishing remains (and continues to be) a gatekeeper of fabulous story and ‘when the publishing world realise their business model outside of ebooks is dead… transmedia is here waiting for them with open arms.” Sounds like an invitation, right?  But publishing?  Transmedia WANTS to play!!!  This is a shout-out!

Writer-to-writer,  I asked Elayne on her thoughts of the panel from a publishing perspective and she said, “as a writer, I feel excited about the creative possibilities that the latest new media open up, although I can’t say that the panellists shaped my opinion about the future of print. I’m part of the baby boomer generation, so thoughts of “waiting for dinosaurs to die” alienate me. I understand the sentiment, but I don’t endorse it, and I hope I’m not considered a dinosaur. I liked the creative energy that the panellists exuded. That’s what I look for now — innovation, wherever it might be.”

And it’s that creative energy, that innovation, that determines fabulous immersive storyworlds and storytelling experiences, not whether they come primarily from film or publishing, ARG or theatre…

I loved DigitalLA.

It kept me awake without a second thought, from 4am-6am and not one second of it was boring!  I have made some great new connections which I hope will be the start of many new, fresh ideas and conversation.

But now I really must get some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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7 thoughts on “Waiting for the dinosaurs to die…

  1. Excellent account, Alison. I am certainly not “waiting for the dinosaurs to die” — transmedia storytelling is simply an emerging technique to express ourselves through an array of beautiful instruments, new and old…

    Jeff

    • Hey Jeff
      Thanks for the comment and to-the-point mention that transmedia really is an emerging technique of expression ;). There’ll always be dinosaurs but more excitingly this was a shout out to publishing – transmedia producers want to play! See you in Geneva! x

  2. Thanks for the great article. Would love to have talked more afterwards too.

    And to be fair, the dinosaurs I was referring to are the gatekeepers who still look down on transmedia and internet-flavored storytelling as gimmicky or only for marketing purposes. At some point, there will be more of us than them, and then we won’t have to have discussions about “what is transmedia” anymore — it’ll just be obvious. 🙂

    • Jay – I knew you were being ‘tongue-in-cheek’ about the dinosaurs but still you had a point – publishers have a history & legacy of gatekeeping ace stories and are increasingly interested in transmedia storytelling, which is great, right?
      I saw your comments on Facebook too about the murkiness about the term ‘transmedia’ and I think you’re right – when there are more fab and commercial ‘experiences’ it won’t matter so much ‘what’ it is – just THAT it is.

      • I made an observation yesterday that the term “transmedia” reminds me a lot of the term “electronica.” A lot of musicians, artists and creative people were making amazing new kinds of electronic music. The music industry required a term to lump them under so they knew where to file them in the record shops, so they developed (imposed?) the term electronica, which most of the artists loathed.

        It is important that we have some kind of label to describe what we are doing (and what we are not). In some sense, it doesn’t even matter what that label is – it will solidify into a term that is divorced from the word’s actual meaning. After all, the words “movies,” “film” and “television” only partially describe the technical qualities of their media, yet they carry implicit meanings that everybody understands. The transmedia world will get there too — we just have to keep making more and more projects.

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