Paul Irwin, Steve Ince and Tim Clague joined us to talk about Transmedia and how it’s evolving the choices of writers. Firstly, says Tim, “Transmedia WTF? Right!” and it’s true that a lot of people are still unsure of the differences between transmedia, crossmedia etc.. and the opportunities transmedia offers both for the creators and for the audience reached can often be overlooked. The truth is that story worlds created to be explored in different non-linear ways can reach people on a deeper level and may even be providing platforms for social change.
In a non linear session with questions being thrown in and back out between the speakers and delegates we explored some of the ways transmedia can be utilised. It’s largely about interactivity with an audience and you look to reach them via every avenue of communication. While the writing is one key element having technology available to implement the delivery is another and this can come at varying levels and costs. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Supportive software such as Conducttr (or even conductor) for email management can be set up to offer different tailored responses as people interact with something that’s perhaps othewise quite static, like a website. Software that makes management of a conversation that doesn’t require your manual investment beyond set-up can be a very useful tool to further engage an audience for yourself and to provide a more inclusive immersion for them in your story. Software can also give you the tools to manage an audience as it grows.
Transmedia is pushing new boundaries all the time and there’s an opportunity for writers to become pioneers in the field rather than waiting to get a foot in the door of established routes to delivering their work. Partnering with technical people to support a project can offer all sorts of ways to interact and you can find people who can create tailored programs especially to suit your purposes. Mobile phone apps, radio, mp3’s, email, online video, web design, HTML5, games, audience submitted content, the possibilities are endless.
Paul Irwin spoke about his project TryLife, an interactive online drama aimed at the youth market. It’s a filmed youth drama which at certain points can be paused to allow the viewer to make a choice in how the character reacts to a circumstance. The choices they make determine what they see next. Far from being merely educational it’s an entertaining show that does not urge any particular correct choice but may be helping to reach teens in a way that current education doesn’t and allowing them to learn by watching choice and consequence to the characters who’s story they influence. Research studies are being carried out alongside the drama production to see if Trylife can actually affect change in teen choices within their own lives. It’s an interesting concept, with each episode having multiple endings, 20 for the first episode, 30 for the second, plus multiple and being filmed in different regions of the country with characters from different cities set to overlap during the ongoing narrative.
Production of such complex story began simply with post it notes on Paul’s dad’s kitchen table to work out the threads and was then scripted in Word. “We’re not precious about what we do.” he says pointing out that you don’t need fancy technology or software to begin creating. The TryLife idea was funded via different youth and media based sources, including European money for youth projects, beginning at first with a £5000 local grant and then rising to something much bigger. The Facebook page now has an audience in excess of 120,00 and growing.
What works with traditional drama, those classic storytelling tools, characters and people that interest an audience still applies to transmedia projects. Only the technology has changed and while you can only use techniques from screenwriting that actually fit the media, which sometimes relies on payer/audience choice, the tools screenwriters bring to the process are vital. It’s about depth not breadth of audience investment and every media should be judged on how it’s delivering the story. It’s all about fitting the media.
Transmedia is genre free, comedy, sci-fi, drama, everything can work. Paul is even looking at another project for interactive theatre broadcasts. Story ideas that don’t work in a linear fashion and might previously have been shelved by a writer can now be explored. Where games used to often only be played once through by players, there can be multiple branches and storyline options along the way. What writers bring to transmedia is their knowledge of what is interesting dramatically with story and character. This even applies to companies who are veering from traditional advertising into more story based outreach to their customer base.
There are various ways towards monetising projects being explored too and options for this are also growing. E-learning is earning money at the moment and there is a growing movement of ‘serious games’. If you want to do a story that works in different formats you have to create a rich story world that you can spin off into, then maybe look for partners within the technical field. People who are learning how to develop apps, software etc. Differing platforms will offer differing income opportunities, but if you were about to make a £10K investment in a short film that makes no money, maybe consider investing that money instead in a project that you can sell.
One thing is for sure. Transmedia is a growing field and a growing market for writers and well worth considering knowing more about, and maybe trying out for yourself.
Leilani Holmes from the London Screenwriters’ Festival
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