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Cross/Transmedia Story Design
 

Cross/Transmedia Story Design

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An extended narrated version of a presentation I gave at The Pixel Lab, UK, July 2010 - http://www.powertothepixel.com/events-and-training/pttp-events/pixel-lab.

An extended narrated version of a presentation I gave at The Pixel Lab, UK, July 2010 - http://www.powertothepixel.com/events-and-training/pttp-events/pixel-lab.

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Cross/Transmedia Story Design Cross/Transmedia Story Design Presentation Transcript

  • Cross/Transmedia Story Design Christy Dena Universe Creation 101 Pixel Lab, UK, July 2010 Extended: Text-Narrated Version!
    • … The transmedia phenomenon is not just happening with multi-million dollar projects, and it isn’t just happening with pervasive gaming…it is happening worldwide, in corporate Hollywood boardrooms and the forests of Sweden…
  • http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/writersguide/quick_links/new_writing_universe_interactive
    • … But I’ve seen four key approaches emerge across the board…
  • … So what are the implications of these approaches?... Four Approaches to Transmedia...
  •  
  • Implications of Transmedia Approaches
    • … You can have transmedia “franchises” (as they were known) that involve a book, film, and console game that are designed to be transmedia from the beginning, or are extended after the first mono-medium product is created…
    • …An example of a transmedia franchise is The Matrix …
  • Implications of Transmedia Approaches
    • … You can also have transmedia projects that are a single story or game that is spread across media (websites, live events & billboards for instance). They are always designed to be transmedia from the beginning, but can also be used to extend an existing property…
    • … An example is a two-screen entertainment project that was designed to augment The Sopranos…
  • By area-code
    • … Another example is an alternate reality game (ARG) that was created to be transmedia from the beginning (but which is designed to be branded entertainment) is Audi’s Art of the Heist…
    • … here is a bit of what the launch looked like…
  • Art of the H3ist Rabbit Hole Hardcore ARG players Blogs: Kuro5hin , MetaFilter , GearLive , Museum of Hoaxes PortaGame hughhewitt.com , dailykos, lockergnome, The New Yorker Times... Print Ads in: Wired , Esquire , Robb Report , USA Today , The New Yorker … NYC International AutoShow Atom Films, iFilm Pivot Point 51% AudiUSA.com microsite Stolen A3 Blog Nisha Roberts movie
    • … And there are also transmedia projects that are inventing their own world (not extending an existing one)…such as Jan Libby’s ‘Sammeeeees’ and Awkward Hug’s ‘Must Love Robots’…
    • … These have implications in production processes and writing…
    • … But first, a bit about how I stumbled on this area…
  • The Villager Girl & the Teenbot
    • … As writers, you do use the techniques you already know (you’re not reinventing the wheel), but some changes are needed (the wheel is different)…
    • … as a jump point then, let’s start with a screenwriting bible and see how it changes in the transmedia context…
  •  
  • Cross/Transmedia Well, a short talk about it at least…
    • … In his Screenwriter’s Bible, David Trottier talks about the importance of titles…
  • “Titillating Title”
    • “Ideally, it conveys something about the concept or theme…must stop the reader”
        • Spy Kids
        • Scream
        • The Sixth Sense
        • Honey, I shrunk the Kids
        • I Fucking Hate You
  • … But, title of which project on what medium?...
  • This is where the art (and business) of ‘titles’ meets experience design…
    • … How does experience design work here? Let’s look at a universal principle of design developed for real world orientation…
  • Wayfinding
    • Orientation: determining one’s location relative to nearby objects
    • Route decision: choosing a route to a destination
    • Route monitoring: checking if the route chosen is leading to the desired destination
    • Destination recognition: confirmed you’ve reached the desired destination
    Kevin Lynch in the Image of the City (1960) Roger Down and David Stea in ‘Cognitive Maps and Spatial Behaviour’ (1973)
    • … How does your audience find out that there are other elements in other media?...
  • Schematic Instructions for navigation through the entire The Matrix website [Online] Available at: http://whatisthematrix.warnerbros.com/rl_cmp/rl_instructions.html.
    • … What are some creative ways people have used titles to orientate?...
  • 10 Canoes / feature film “ Many, many canoes”: 11 Canoes / Mini-Documentaries Training 12 Canoes / Broadband Website 13 Canoes / Gallery Exhibition 14 Canoes / Photo Publishing Project 15 Canoes / Music Preservation Project 16 Canoes / Closed-Circuit Television Station 17 Canoes / Cultural Exchange Program 18 Canoes / Making Of Documentary Rolf De Heer: http://www.vertigoproductions.com.au/10canoes.htm Movie: http://www.tencanoes.com.au/
    • Remember, the first website/name is usually the one the audience/players associate with the experience…it is the one most people stay with, and come back to…
    • … therefore, choose your entry experience carefully…
    • … this is particularly relevant for real-time experiences that are distributed across the web (and live events)…
    • … Here are some examples of ‘hubs’ created as a main point of entry for people…
  • Screenshot of 'Stolen A3' blog , 2005 [no-longer online]
    • … including these two projects I worked on in their early designs…
  • http://www.abc.net.au/innovation/bluebird/
  • http://www.conspiracyforgood.com/
    • … Now, how do concepts change when you think transmedia?...
  • Concepts
    • … This is what David Trottier talks about, based on the way Hollywood develops ideas…
  • Concepts
    • “ Easily understood by an eighth-grader
    • Can be encapsulated in a sentence or two
    • Provocative and big
    • Character plus conflict plus hook
    • Sounds like an “event” movie with sequel potential
    • It has legs—it can stand on its own without stars
    • It will attract a big star
    • A fresh and highly marketable idea
    • Unique with familiar elements”
    • David Trottier
    • … and here is what the website Jinni found when they analysed keywords in 30,000 titles…
  • “Blockbuster Genes”
    • Special Effects, 3D and CGI
    • All-Star Cast
    • Twists and Turns
    • Based on Comics [familiar]
    • Violence
    http://blog.jinni.com/2010/05/what-makes-a-blockbuster/
    • … Here is what was apparently the “least desirable” = LOL…
    • Least Desirable:
    • Foreign and Indie
    • Slow
    • Human Nature
    • Sincere
    • Infidelity
    • But “creative originality”
    • = independent movement…
    • … But let’s get back to the point, how do concepts change when we think across media?...
    • … Here is what John Caldwell (a media studies academic who has been researching the industry for years) has found…
  • Multi-Medium Concepts
    • “ [A] t the pitch and script stages, story ideas will be developed as diversified entertainment properties that can be:
    • seen (as cinema, television, and pay per view),
    • heard (as soundtracks, CDs, and downloads),
    • played (as videogames),
    • interacted with (as linked online sites),
    • ridden (theme park attractions),
    • touched (cell phones/pod casting),
    • and worn (as merchandize).
    • Nothing gets “green-lighted” unless there are compelling prospects for financial success in several of these (now integrated) market areas. […] In a sense, the company or network that analyzes and revises pitch and story ideas weaves the “imagined narrative world” of the screenwriter as author together with an “imagined financial world” of the screenwriter as entrepreneur.”
    • John Caldwell
    http://www.tft.ucla.edu/faculty/john-caldwell/
    • … But what we’re seeing is these same principles being applied to projects of any budget…
  • Franchise Thinking 4 Independents
    • “ Screenwriter as entrepreneur” = includes selection of media that can be a revenue source
    • “ diversified entertainment properties” = think about concepts that can be experienced in different media platforms (can be low-fi, cheaply accessible)
    • … Franchise creator Flint Dille has spoken about the various affordances of each medium too (according to his experience)…
  • Concepts/Multi-Medium
    • “ Toys: 5 Heroes, 5 Villains, Two Vehicles and a Play set
    • Comics: A hero, a problem, a villain and a visually exciting world complete with a ‘villain engine’
    • Movie: Heroes and Villains in conflict in a visually interesting world
    • Games: A ‘World’ (that lends itself to shooting, navigation and lots of gun fodder!)
    • Books: A world of both inner and outer conflict
    • TV: A ‘family’ of characters we care about”
    • Flint Dille
    http://www.filmandgames.com/
    • … There are many things to consider when it comes to medium choice (including cost!). But let’s look at a phenomenon that has happened at the same time as the rise of transmedia…
    • “ Alternate Reality Aesthetics”
    • and
    • Meaning
    • … The rise of ‘alternate reality aesthetics’ (all things are instory or ingame) and transmedia at the same time is no coincidence…
    • … Oftentimes when one spreads a (metaphorical) canvas across media, the artist thinks of reasons for the inclusion of each media. That is, just as props, lighting and gesture has meaning within a film, so too do books & console games have a meaning around a film…
  •  
    • … What is often the result is a decision to set everything within the storyworld, and to include the player’s world in the storyworld. So, in many transmedia projects, media are chosen because they are things both characters and the players use…
  • Character World Player World
  •  
    • … Another technique employed by writers is to consciously include the player’s world in the fiction. For instance, the fantastical world of I Love Bees involved a ship that crashed on planet Earth; and the world of Perplex City involved a cube that is buried on planet Earth. In both cases, the current world of the player is brought into the fiction…
  • I Love Bees, 42 Entertainment, 2004 Perplex City, Mind Candy Design, 2005-7
    • … the other complication of multi-medium concepts…
  • Narrative and Game
    • … They are two pretty distinct creative paradigms that require different skills and production processes…they are different creative cultures if you like…
  • Marie Denward’s Comparison of ‘Broadcast and Role-Playing Production’
    • “ the process of making a good film are not the same process as making a good game, and the elements that make a film good may not translate well into game form”
    • Trevor Elkington
    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/trevor-elkington/1/145/645
    • … A couple of examples projects that weren’t designed to be transmedia from the beginning and the problems they had trying to shoe-horn game interactivity into a closed narrative…
  •  
  • The Beast Microsoft Game Studio, 2001
    • “ According to Stewart, the central creative problem Microsoft Games Studio (MGS) faced in developing the A.I. license was the film’s apocalyptic ending, which did not intuitively suggest any possibility for future play. The MGS team was concerned that the dark plot and sombre tone of the film would not put viewers in a ludic mindset.”
    • (McGonigal, 2006, 268)
  • Brief:
    • ‘ to create an interactive media space in which a licensed apocalyptic fiction would generate the desire to play games—specifically, console videogames’
    • (McGonigal, 2006, 270)
    • … But you can design your transmedia property to encompass both narrative and gaming elements from the beginning…Here are some tips…
  • Transmodal (Narrative & Game) Concepts
    • Setting
    • Character
    • Problem
  • Transmodal Concepts
    • Setting –
      • can it be depicted in both games & narratives? (medium constraints)
      • Is it a place/world where players would want to spend forty, sixty, or hundreds of hours in?
      • Is it vast enough to be explored?
  • Transmodal Concepts
    • Events & Problems
      • Create a problem/s that can be intellectualised in the passive experience and actualized in the player experience
  • Transmodal Concepts
    • Characters & Character Classes
      • Can the characters be watched & played?
      • Are they scalable?
    • … And, many writers know about the
    • Hero’s Journey…
  • Joseph Campbell, 1949
    • … But when you’re writing for interactivity, you’re also thinking about the player’s journey…
  • http://www.slideshare.net/sjsivak/players-journey
  • http://www.slideshare.net/sjsivak/players-journey
    • … Here is a low-fi example of including the audience in the storyworld…
  • Tilt: The Town http://tiltthemovie.wordpress.com/tilt-the-town/
  • http://tiltthemovie.wordpress.com/tilt-the-town/
    • … Here is a good
    • book on
    • writing for player-
    • characters and
    • Interactivity…
    • … Now, what about extending a project that already exists?...These are some of the things I analyze…
  • Property Expansion Analysis
    • Essence of the Property (& Compare with Brand if applicable)
      • Core message/emotion/meaning
    • Property Traits – visual style, genre, mood…
    • Target Market(s) – age groups, niche interests, skills, interests
    • Budget – what can and cannot be done (millions or no budget?)
    • Skills – what are the skills of the team? What are the skills of the audience?
    • Goals – to increase awareness, increase/introduce revenue stream(s), create buzz, artistic experiment, broaden audience, deepen audience relationship…
    • Story & Game –What is the entire history of the characters and settings as presented already? What is essential and what is secondary? What hasn’t been explored yet? What are fans interested in and doing already?
  • Crucial Strategies to Address
    • Pre-Experience
    • During Experience
      • DVD
      • Theatre
      • Broadcast
      • Book, CD…
    • Post-Experience
  • Why Post-Experience?
    • They engage longer with your story and your brand;
    • They are more likely then to spend on a DVD and any further products;
    • They are more likely to evangelise your film, extending the reach of your film;
    • You’re giving them more to do in your world…something that they obviously want to do!
    • It opens up the possibility of other projects by having an active audience (which you can quote to potential funders/sponsors etc);
    • You develop a relationship with your fans that will help develop the property you’ve created and your own creativity;
    • You make it possible for people to become fans not just of this project, but of any other projects you’re release…
    • … An example…
  •  
    • … For this movie, I split the recommendations up into pre-, during and post-film experiences…but also according to content and activities directly related to each character…
  •  
    • … What can you do with content?...Anything you can do already within a story (or across episodes), can be done across media…
  • General story strategies
    • Continue the story
    • Prequel
    • Sequel
    • Different point of view
    • Elaboration
    • Reversal
    • New character
    • Adaptation…
    • … some examples…
  •  
  • Artistic Rendition (new POV from alternate takes etc): Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love and Blossoms & Blood DVD extra
  • “ Taking something like Brothers in Arms and making it into a historically accurate documentary, is awesome. We made two hour and a half shows in three and a half months, with gameplay and cinematics together. We took these games and made them into a property in line with the main message.” Gregg Backer, President Foglight Entertainment, Hollywood and Games Summit [ G ]
  •  
  • POV: Brad Bird’s The Incredibles & Jack-Jack Attacks Feature Film DVD Extra
  • Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity
    • … but simply continuing a story across media is complicated by the fact that people may not experience it in order…
    • … Traditional media writers are used to working with a fixed linear narrative…
  • Christopher Vogler, 1992
    • … but when publishing across platforms, your audience can experience it out of order…
    • … this is exactly the same problem early electronic literature writers faced…
  • Scan of ‘The Complete Graph’ (p.247) in Marie-Laure Ryan (2001) 'Can Coherence be Saved?' Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media . M.-L. Ryan (Ed.). Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press : 242-270.
    • … so what is an example of the order of entry causing problems?...
    • … In the feature film My Super Ex-Girlfriend, a character, Professor Bedlam, refers to his website, ProfessorBedlam.com…
  • Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend
  •  
    • … But the Professor Bedlam website is also referred to in the main movie marketing site…
  •  
    • … The problem is the Professor Bedlam website is set before the events of the film. On his site he hates G-Girl. But at the end of the film (spoiler), they end up together…
    • … So there are two points of entry into a narrative that is specific to a certain point in time…
  •  
    • … this is where distribution becomes a storytelling issue…
    • … you need skills in the choreography of the rollout…
  • Choreography of the Rollout
    • Manage Coherence
    • Pacing of your franchise…
    • Appropriate Strategies according to your audience
    • recapitulations (recaps)
    • elaborating on a story event rather than continuing it
    • exploring a subplot or sub-character
    • diff POV
    • restricting or controlling access to the content
    • creating artefacts that have no role in the plot (e.g. a website for a fictional corporation)
    How to Manage Coherence Across Media Platforms?
  • Medium Pacing
    • “ Feed you Franchise like a fire”
    • The comic keeps the monthly beat. Hot coals.
    • A movie causes a sharp flurry of awareness. (High Risk/High Return) Is a steady burn.
    • DVD is a sharp start, long burn.
    • Web with daily refreshing gets things going.
    • Novels are around forever.
    • Merchandising is a free advertisement. T-Shirts. Figures. Hats. Costumes. Bumper-stickers, etc.
    • Flint Dille
    • … and some problems of medium order I’ve seen…
  •  
    • … The Fountain graphic novel was based on an early version of the script. Aronofsky released it before the film because, well, most people know the graphic novel before the film…
    • … But I saw in a few forums, fans holding off on buying the graphic novel. They wanted to see Aronofsky’s story in his primary storytelling medium first…
    • … You could say the same for James Cameron’s Avatar…
  •  
    • … But I find a greater issue with the release of the game before the film. I find it is more effective to start with a strong narrative medium to define the story world rules, characters, events, etc. Build up the desire the enter the world and participate, and then give audiences the opportunity to do so…
    • … It is better to prime an audience to want to jump in and interact with your world, then start with great interaction and then take it away…
    • … Another skill that writers and producers need in this space is ‘Traversal Design’. This means thinking about how you will inform and guide your audience across media platforms…
    Traversal Design
    • … An example of this not being utilised is The Matrix franchise. There were so many important narrative elements distributed across media in this property…
  • The Matrix , Wachowski Brothers Time Medium
    • … But how did the film audiences find out about these other crucial parts of this universe? At the end of one film I found this…
    • www.whatismatrix.com
    • password:steak
    • … Not much information about the important narrative elements available elsewhere, eh?...So what is need is a strong call-to-action…including three elements in what I call the Call-to-Action Cycle…
  • Call-to-Action Cycle
    • Primer
    • Referral
    • Reward
    • 1. Primer : prepare and motivate the audience to act
    • 2. Referral : provide the means and instructions on how and when to act
    • 3. Reward : acknowledge and recompense their action
    • … the most common way to do this is with a website address. A URL can be ‘instory’ or not…
  •  
    • … But remember, any mention or sighting of a website, company name, phone number and email is for most audiences a strong call-to-action…
  • Heroes 360 Experience
  • Prison Break
  • Source: http://www.iad-ordnonstop.net/ Criminal Minds
    • … Another method is to use ‘modelling’. What that means is your characters do what you want your audience to do, so they model their actions…
    • … As an example, see these scenes from the film Godsend, where a character searches on the web for a website (which is actually online)…
  • Nick Hamm’s Godsend
  •  
  •  
    • … But the website in the film and the site that is online are actually different. Another lesson in the importance in planning these traversals during the concept development and production stages…
    • … Another lesson learned the hard way by many creators, is referring to a website that they haven’t created. Audiences then go to it and often find it is now a porn site. Or, sometimes fans create the fictional site to complete the traversal they expect…
    • … Like the website Jason Bourne searched for in The Bourne Ultimatum: Sewell and Marbury. A fan created it and thousands have visited it expecting it to be there too…
  • http://www.sewellmarbury.com/2007/09/sewell-and-marbury.html
    • … There are so many techniques that the writer and producer of this new medium-cluster need to know and utilise. For those inspired, it is a beautiful challenge that draws on what you know and stretches you beyond…
  • Cross/Transmedia Well, a short talk about it at least…
    • …a couple of other resources…
    • My PhD on Transmedia Practice > http://www.christydena.com/academic-2/phd/
    • A new site to talk transparently about transmedia design >
    • http://www.YouSuckAtTransmedia.com
    • Feel free to contact me:
    • Christy Dena
    • Universe Creation 101
    • [email_address]
    • www.UniverseCreation101.com
    • www.twitter.com/christydena
    • www.facebook.com/christydena
    • au.linkedin.com/in/christydena
  • Over to you! Time to rock at cross/transmedia! 