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This is a presentation I gave on May 4, 2011 as part of the Digital Hollywood content summit day on "transmedia storytelling." I attempt to grapple with the definition issue, give some historical precursors, and outline breakthroughs and resources

This is a presentation I gave on May 4, 2011 as part of the Digital Hollywood content summit day on "transmedia storytelling." I attempt to grapple with the definition issue, give some historical precursors, and outline breakthroughs and resources


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  1. 1. Digital Hollywood – Spring 2011<br />Content Summit<br />
  2. 2.<br /><br />Twitter: nickdemartino<br />
  3. 3. (c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />3<br />Transmedia Storytelling<br />Crossing the Line towards Infinity and Beyond <br />
  4. 4. (c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />4<br /><ul><li> Movie Geek
  5. 5. Ex-journalist, -filmmaker, -adman
  6. 6. 20 years at AFI:
  7. 7. Computer Media Salons
  8. 8. Enhanced Television
  9. 9. Digital Content Lab
  10. 10. DigiFest</li></ul>WHY ME?<br />
  11. 11. WHY ME?<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />5<br /> Coming Soon:<br />“Reinventing Hollywood”<br />
  12. 12. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />6<br />Transmedia<br /> is…<br />
  13. 13. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />7<br />…an <br />adjective<br />
  14. 14. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />8<br />Commercial transmediasupersystems<br />“Playing with Power in Movies, Television <br />and Videogames” by Marcia Kinder (1991)<br />
  15. 15. DEFINITION…<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />9<br /><ul><li> Across multiple media
  16. 16. Each contributes to fan’s understanding of story
  17. 17. Multiple entry points into story
  18. 18. Immersion in the story and its world
  19. 19. Game-like play
  20. 20. More than an adaptation of another work</li></ul>Henry Jenkins: Transmedia Storytelling<br />
  21. 21. DEFINITION…<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />10<br />“The art of conveying messages themes or storylines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms."<br />Jeff Gomez, Starlight Runner<br />
  22. 22. DEFINITION…<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />11<br />“A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms:  Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist...<br />
  23. 23. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />12<br />…These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.” <br />
  24. 24. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />13<br />“Transmedia storytelling is the future of marketing. And those who can span across formats and share their expertise will stand out in an age of Digital Relativity.” <br />Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital<br />
  25. 25. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />14<br />“Transmedia storytelling” is the label for when you’re creating a story as the primary storytellers and intending to tell your story across multiple channels.”<br /> <br />Brian Clark, GMD Studios<br />
  26. 26. (c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />15<br />EXAMPLE?<br />
  27. 27. (c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />16<br />EXAMPLE?<br />
  28. 28. (c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />17<br />EXAMPLE?<br />
  29. 29. RELATED TERMS:<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />18<br />Multimedia.<br />Franchise.<br />Multiplatform.<br />Alternative Reality Games<br />Interactive.<br />
  30. 30. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />19<br />1981: TAMARA. Interactive Theatre <br />
  31. 31. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />20<br />1990: Hyperland<br />BBC & Douglas Adams<br />
  32. 32. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />21<br />1992: MYST from Cyan & Broderbund<br />
  33. 33. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />22<br />1992: Bram Stoker’s DRACULA<br />Game based on Coppola’s Film<br />
  34. 34. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />23<br />1995: In the First Degree<br />Interactive CD-ROM from Broderbund<br />
  35. 35. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />24<br />1995: Johnny Mnemonic. CD-ROM from Sony Imagesoft<br />
  36. 36. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />25<br />2002: Push, Nevada: ABC & LivePlanet<br />Play along with the mystery to win $$<br />
  37. 37. PRECURSOR<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />26<br />2003: Battlestar Gallactica. AFI team: Schematic, Syfy, others <br />
  38. 38. DEFINITION<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />27<br />“STORYTELLING WITHOUT BOUNDS”<br />Filmmaker and Transmedia Producer Lance Weiler<br />
  39. 39. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />28<br />2006: LOST EXPERIENCE<br />ARG-plus from ABC & Hi-ReS<br />
  40. 40. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />29<br />2007: HEROES 360 (later Evolutions)<br />Digital extension from NBC & Jesse Alexander<br />
  41. 41. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />30<br />2007: The Truth About Marika<br />ARG from Company P.<br />
  42. 42. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />31<br />2008: WHY SO SERIOUS? <br />ARG from WB & 42 Entertainment<br />
  43. 43. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />32<br />2010: HEAD TRAUMA/Hope is Missing<br />Lance Weiler/ Seize the Media <br />
  44. 44. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />33<br />2010: CONSPIRACY FOR GOOD.<br />Tim Kring & Nokia<br />
  45. 45. BREAKTHROUGHS<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />34<br />2010: COLLAPSUS. From Submarine & VPRO<br />
  46. 46. COMING SOON<br />UNSPEAK is a transmedia project focusing upon how language impacts issues. From Tommy Pallotta<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />35<br />
  47. 47. COMING SOON<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />36<br />2011: Rockstar Games<br />Immersive use of décor and history<br />
  48. 48. COMING SOON<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />37<br />Fourth Wall Studios <br />Has first-look deal with Imagine Entertainment<br />
  49. 49. COMING SOON<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />38<br />New transmedia studio <br />from Guillermo del Toro<br />
  50. 50. RESOURCES<br />(c)Nick DeMartino Consulting<br />39<br /><ul><li>
  51. 51.
  52. 52.
  53. 53.
  54. 54.
  55. 55.</li></li></ul><li><br /><br />Twitter: nickdemartino<br />

Editor's Notes

  • This presentation is part of the Digital Hollywood 2011 “Content Summit”, specifically the day-long track on May 4, 2011 that explored “transmedia storytelling”. Topics and speakers are listed on this URL:
  • Nick DeMartino Consulting provides strategic services to companies in the digital media and content markets, including marketing initiatives, strategic alliance and partnerships, business development and more. Details available at
  • Today’s talk looks forward, but also where we have been.
  • Why am I on this panel?I am a movie geek.I am an ex-journalist, filmmaker and adman.And I spent 20 years running digital programs and initiatives at the American Film Institute, some of which are listed here.
  • I was also invited, I think, because I’m researching the topic for a new column:ACM&apos;s &apos;Computers in Entertainment&apos; is an online journal. They are redesigning the site for launch the last week of May, which will premiere my new column, &quot;Reinventing Hollywood&quot; Topics will include:Online video viewing of movies and TV is here, it is real. How will copyright holders (big and small) cope? (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, Bit Torrent, Ultraviolet)— What does the landscape for animation look like below the &quot;ultra&quot; budget leaders (Pixar and Dreamworks)?— Movie (and TV) meta data - morass or new frontier (Movie Tagger, RCDB, Rovi, and emerging semantic web apps)– Can you become a filmmaker (or animator or game designer) online? The reemergence of online education.– Transmedia - hope and hype among the true believers of cross-platform storytelling. Here is an overview: for new site: for past issues:
  • In terms of definition of the term transmedia…..
  • Transmedia is an Adjective.There are transmedia storytellers.Transmedia methods.It’s a term that has come into the fore in the past few years, and has caused quite a lot of controversy.
  • The first citation I could find that uses the “transmedia” adjective was this one, from USC’s Marcia Kinder, who is famous for launching the “Labyrinthe” project –
  • The term transmedia storytelling is, by all accounts, a coinage from Henry Jenkins, a much-published academic from MIT, now on the faculty at the University of Southern California. Henry is a good source for info, particularly his courseware, which is published on his blog: specific article is from MIT Technology Review, &quot;Transmedia Storytelling.”Jenkins, Henry (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814742815. Jenkins, Henry (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814742815. Jenkins, Henry (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814742815.
  • Jeff Gomez is a game designer who cofounded a firm in NYC called Starlight Runner which consults with media properties and brands to create transmedia properties. He has been very active in evangelizing the term “transmedia,” including within the Producers Guild of America. This is his definition.
  • The PGA defines criteria for various credits on films and television. In 2010 a new credit was approved for “transmedia” producer. Certainly in the years prior to this development, a new class of creative professional had emerged to collaborate with the primary creative team on extending the story-world of media properties, especially television. The PGA credit is an answer to that, but it seems to have triggered a lot of controversy, including a movement against using the term.
  • This is the last part of the definition, which makes a key point, which is that transmedia is not what we used to call “shovelware” – e.g., dumping content from one medium into another platform.
  • This quote from high-profile PR guru Steve Rubel sent shivers down my spine, only because I thought the transmedia storytelling term was focused upon the artform, not commerce, per se. This is a good example of how the methods of the multi-platform storyteller, having been proven to be attractive to fans, are irresistable to marketers.
  • Brian Clark is a very active transmedia producer and a leader in the field. GMD Studios is based in Florida.
  • So, is the Royal Wedding a transmedia story?
  • Or the Bible &amp; Jesus Christ?
  • Certainly Star Wars is transmedia, with many different media and formats. Though, there are those in the field who prefer to think of Star Wars as the first major storytelling FRANCHISE, not really transmedia. What is the distinction? Whether new elements to the story are added in every platform, and therefore make the experience of all platforms necessary for a full experience of the work.
  • These are related words describing various story forms. Some would say that none is as complete as “transmedia.” Others say, to hell with the language wars. Let’s get to storytelling!
  • In keeping with some of those words, I’ve collected a few examples of “precursors” from past decades. Tamara was a theatrical event launched in Toronto in which the audience moved into different rooms and interacted with the actors. The story would unfold differently, depending upon your journey and what happened in each room. The show ran for many years in Los Angeles and New York, and was revived in Toronto. This is interactive, but not really multi-platform, though a CDROM was attempted.
  • Douglas Adams, the creator of A HITCHHICKERS GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE built this work with the BBC at the dawn of the interactive media age in order to explain and explore hyper-media. It could be said to be multi-platform because the links took the user into different environments and domains. You can tell that the ideas were ahead of the technology by looking at the clunky fonts.
  • MYST was a ground-breaking game series on CD-ROM back in the 90’s, which remained the highest grossing title until the SIMS overtook it. Unlike the classic “videogame” format, which were usually shooter or role-playing games, MYST was a journey of discovery in which users proceeded into environments and worlds by finding clues and activating elements of the system. Again, not really multi-platform, but a new way to tell a story. MYST and its sequels are now available in the iTunes store in both a free and $4.99 version.
  • Francis Ford Coppola created a successful film adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel about the original vampire starring Gary Oldman, and Sony released a game version that utilized footage shot on the set of the film, which nudges into the terrain of multi-platform. We were excited to show it at the time because of the high profile of the director, who created iconic films like THE GODFATHER trilogy.
  • Another CD-ROM title from Broderbund was created by my friend Haney Armstrong, a fllmmaker who came up with this extension of the traditional police procedural story by allowing the user to interrogate people.
  • This William Gibson classic was made into a film with Keanu Reeves, not well reviewed, but significant because Sony released a CD-ROM game simultaneously which allowed gameplay in a movie-like setting based upon the same story. The casts were different.
  • TV interactivity is a whole topic in and of itself. I included PUSH NEVADA in this presentation because it did represent a breakthrough. Clues were peppered throughout the show and the website that allowed users to amass points leading to a winner. I think I remember that some clues involved mobile calling as well, Even though the show was not popular enough to be renewed, it was an early example of multi-platform enrichment of a primary story.
  • When the Sci-Fi Channel wanted to bring back the classic Battlestar Gallactica, representatives of the company, as well as Universal’s game division, came into the AFI’s Digital Content Lab to create a multi-dimensional viewing experience. The user interface, created by Schematic’s Dale Herigstad, allowed seamless movement by the user in and out of the primary story (TV), a first-person spaceship flying experience (game), and deep data about the ship, the characters, and the backstory, which also included clues. This was not the version launched at the time of the show, but inspired lots of others.
  • Lance Weiler has what is the most inclusive and inspiring definition of transmedia.BTW, he gave a wonderful talk at Ireland’s Darklight Festival.;feature=player_embedded#at=146His work is displayed at his home page.
  • So what might we consider breakthroughs in the development of this artform?The Emmy went to the LOST EXPERIENCE, an alternative realtiy game from ABC and Hi-ReS, a design and experience company. The TV Show’s millions of fans could deepen their experience of the story world via this comprehensive site.
  • Ditto with HEROES, which launched its 360 experience, later renamed EVOLUTIONS. Producer Jesse Alexander worked closely with the TV series creative team.
  • My mind was blown by this Swedish alternative reality game from Company P, headed by Christopher Sandberg. They used TV, newspapers, the web, live events and kind of took over the whole country for a few weeks. The premise was a fake event, but it was treated as real, and people engaged with the story in a sort of ambiguous way, not knowing for sure what was real, what was fake, what was conspiracy, etc. Such a fictional trope is often part of ARG work, and many would date it back to Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre’s radio adaptation of H.G.Welles’ WAR OF THE WORLDS in the 30’s.
  • 42 Entertainment created this multi-platform alternative reality game that invited players during the period bridging the release of the two Batman films, especially the much-anticipated DARK KNIGHT from director Christopher Nolan. Because the Gotham setting and the tone and elements of the franchise are so well known, the creators could play off of that with newspapers and other media released in sequence that contained clues and links to fill in the complex world of the films.
  • This is just one of the properties created by Lance Weiler, whose breakthrough film THE BIG BROADCAST was itself a precursor to more complex storytelling components being added beyond the film “platform.”
  • Tim Kring created Heroes and in 2010 launched a global ARG called Conspiracy for Good which was sponsored by Nokia. There were extensive live events that contained clues that could be retrieved via mobile augmented reality technologies, as well as many other events. The fictional elements, especially those about the evil corporation, were quite elaborate. There was a real-world charity in Africa that benefited from the activities as well.
  • COLLAPSUS was a documentary film on Dutch television that was expanded into a broader transmedia experience that integrated game-play, global mapping, animation and other elements. Directedby Tommy Palotta, who produced Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Won the best interactive film award at the SXSW festival in 2011.
  • Unspeak extends this idea even more by making short films that are outward manifestations of the world wide web. We are a web browser with 20 tabs open at once all playing video and hyperlinking the universe. The effect is hypnotic, we don&apos;t know what will happen next, we don&apos;t know why the images are related to the words and our brains search to make the connections. This is powerful propaganda. Think of it as propaganda about propaganda. We are now planning to make the clips available and a simple drag and drop editor. People may also upload their own videos and are encouraged to make their own unspeak transmissions. All of this is nice and egalitarian, but it doesn&apos;t really matter if we don&apos;t activate and empower the viewers. Our aim is to turn consumers into activists. To get people creatively invested is to truly interact. If they are spending the time creating, we know they are invested and spread the idea of Unspeak like a media virus. We give them the tools, inspiration, and encouragement.
  • Coming later in May 2011 is a slightly different type of platform game from Rockstar Games, creator of the ultraviolent GRAND THEFT AUTO series. The creators used extensive historical research and photo and film collections to create 1940s Los Angeles. Like a great film, the game creates a story-world. Technologies allow a much richer experience than games and CD-ROMs from 15 years before.
  • Fourth Wall Studios has a first-look deal with Ron Howard’s and Brian Glazer’s Imagine Entertainment, which got a lot of attention in Hollywood. We should be looking for original work coming from these guys. Rumor has it that they will also release a toolset for other practitioners.
  • Another of the many recent developments on the Hollywood transmedia storytelling front is Mirada, from fantastical filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, HellBoy, etc.) As a recent New Yorker profile details, Del Toro has a fantastical vision of the world, perfect for storytelling without limits.
  • There are a large number of blogs and other sources about transmedia and related topics. I have listed six. The first two come from London, a group that incubates transmedia properties. The Transmedia Artists Guild operates very extensive boards for practitioners. provides reviews and news, as does ARGN, which tends to call the properties alternative reality games. But my favorite title is “You Suck at Transmedia,” admittedly stolen from the popular “You Suck at Photoshop” site.