Methodology, Skills and Professional Benefits Participants Participants' Comments MEDICI Coordinator and Head of Studies «The 12 Labours of Hercules» Report of the Reports – Workshops 1 to 4

Reports Previous Workshops

First Workshop Report – 25 to 27 April, 2012 – Sigtuna (Sweden)

Module 5 – Introduction By Keynote Speaker Inga Von Staden

The question posed to Inga von Staden by the MEDICI program was:
New techniques, new forms of content, new distribution models, new screening devices, and new types of audiences… how do all these impact on the world of traditional media like film and television?

In her presentation, Inga von Staden provided several possible replies.

Introduction: Digital Technology

The advent of digital technology has fundamentally changed the media landscape. A new audiovisual format has been born - the video game - and, with it, a new industry. This interactive format family with its action-, serious-, casual-, social games and many other genres is as differentiated as the family film format, and successfully engages large audiences.

Production means such as cameras or editing software have become affordably cheap. We are seeing the democratization of media production and distribution. Today anyone, whether s/he is a professional producer or amateur media artist, can upload media content onto the Internet and distribute it directly to an audience. And new devices such as tablets and smartphones give viewers multiple access to any media - any time and anywhere.

The new range of engaging media formats, the proliferation of media content, the Internet and the multiple points of access have formally fragmented national and mass audiences. Hence, it has become increasingly difficult to target a large enough number of people to justify a professional production.

Transmedia

These developments are impacting the value chains in all media sectors. New business strategies are emerging calling for new methodologies in development, production and distribution. The most promising seems to be the convergence of formerly distinct media sectors such as print, film, music, games and others still, described variously as inter-, cross- or multi-platform media. The most prominent term - transmedia - was originally coined on the art scene and later popularized by the acclaimed media researcher Henry Jenkins, in his book “Convergence Culture”.

Transmedia sees the creation of different media formats (film, game, mobile apps, social apps, exhibitions, radio shows, books and other) from a single content body. In other words, rather than begin by scripting for a pre-defined media format, a pre-development phase is introduced in which a content universe is established. The result is described and visualised as a so-called bible. This canon is then handed over or licensed out to the different creative teams.

The content universe can be a fictional one, as seen with star wars. In that case. it was designed. The content universe can also be a non-fictional one, like the War in Afghanistan, in which case it was explored. In whichever case, once the universe is established, stories derived from it can be translated into film scripts, into actions simulated in game design documents or into conversations transcribed into community strategies. If the universe is a non-fictional one, a story derived from it can be fictionalized into a film, as is already common practice in cinema and television.

The media formats and apps envisioned can be interlinked - emotionally, functionally and strategically - into what is termed a media architecture. Different designs of media architectures have emerged. Some are more open like the matrix; these are called transmedia worlds. Here, the media formats are comparable to different windows looking onto one and the same landscape. One does not have to have seen the film to understand the game, although the formats may reference each other. However, looking through more than one window allows for a better understanding of the content environment as a whole.

There are also more condensed media architectures: these are so called transmedia storylines as seen in the the truth about marika (Swedish title: sanningen om marika) aired in Sweden in 2007. The cross-media production by Sveriges Television (SVT) and the company p was marketed as a “participation drama”, where viewers were invited by a young woman via a range of media channels to participate in the search for her lost friend. The media architecture included a TV-drama series, ongoing talk shows, radio discussions, Internet sites, game and mobile apps as well as live events. In a transmedia storyline the story plays out over a timeline on a range of different media platforms. The user must access several media formats to experience the whole story.

With the convergence of media, a whole range of new, often interactive formats making use of film footage has emerged. These hybrid formats are often of a documentary nature and derivatives of a film project. As it becomes increasingly difficult for documentary film makers to pre- and re-finance their productions, they have started looking for other means and channels to tell their stories. They are supported in doing so by the combination of broadcasting and online services as seen with the French-German public broadcast service ARTE or the National Film Board Canada.

Last but not least there are the co-creative experiences, where the user is integrated into the design of the content world and production of the professional media products. An example is dark side of the moon, a world co-created by a Finnish team and its large fan-base from which a film, several games and graphic novels were derived. The community helped by crowd funding and -financing parts of the media products, partially crowd sourcing development and production and was instrumental for the viral marketing. The film iron sky premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2012.

Communities should be planned in pre-development as part of the media architecture; they should be built up during the development phase of the media formats, and managed during the production and distribution phases by the production studio (since only the production team is close enough to the content to manage the content specific conversations). Thus community managers should be involved in the team from the start, and a budget projected to finance them.

10_Transmedia

Process

Though it is much too early in the evolution to precisely define Transmedia professions, we can identify a number of functions that need to be represented on a Transmedia team. A Transmedia production needs a supervising Creative Producer who not only brings together the team and controls the budget, but also helps design the media architecture in order to address the different media markets. Thus s/he needs be involved in the content creation. A Content Director should supervise the research and design of the world, the formulation of the canon in a content bible, and the translation into different media formats. The Art Director is responsible for the audiovisual interpretation of the content. The Technical Director will recommend technical solutions and supervise the development of software and/or hardware to express the functionality embedded in the content. Finally the Community Director will plan the Community Strategy, build the fan-base and supervise its management. Together they create the content universe and media architecture; they also manage the communication on a transmedial meta-level in the form of collective leadership. Since members of the Transmedia team may be part of the team creating one or more of the format derivatives, they will also have to communicate on the specific level of production format. Experience shows it is advisable to create time and space for regular Transmedia meetings bringing together the Transmedia team with members from the format teams, where format-specific developments can be reviewed, production phases synchronized, and next steps planned.

Motivators

Transmedia enables a production studio to address different media markets with one body of content. The media architecture is the blueprint for how and when to address what market. All media formats have a market. They would not exist, did they not have a market. A producer must know the rules of a given market, how to approach it, how to design and what to produce for it. For instance, in the online games market of today the producer must understand the rules of embedded micro-payment systems. The art is not to lose sight of the original intent of the content while it is being forged into a media product or architecture.

Producers can make use of funds and financing instruments to cross-finance parts of a transmedial production that are otherwise difficult to pre-finance. For instance technology funding for the development, production and distribution of media technology can help finance the development of the respective content.

The creation of different media formats from one body of content allows for synergies in development and production. To produce a media product within a 360°-production will be more cost effective by the factor of x representing synergy than if it were to be produced on its own. This is how the foundation for the distribution of geographical knowledge, “National Geographic”, evolved into an international media corporation. The foundation invests into the research of a given topic, in other words development of a content world, and - already in the research planning phase - has a team of media experts project the cross-medial exploitation of the subject together with the researcher.

Buyers and commissioning editors have become increasingly interested in media packages. These allow them to cross promote one body of content and thus create synergies in marketing, and to address new target groups via new media channels and interactive formats using content formerly targeting a specific audience. As described above, this has proven successful in the documentary film business: here the film footage is enhanced by functionality, extra information and real-time data visualization, making it more accessible and attractive to an increasingly heterogeneous audience. It has been very successful for Disney’s content brands, and for harry potter.

As users have become accustomed to interact with and participate in media, they are increasingly willing to help finance a production meeting their personal interest. A number of platforms have emerged facilitating the crowd-funding of media products. This does not necessarily imply the production is cross-medial from the start, but a community may well suggest and even produce other media formats if they have been successfully engaged. Thus what was formerly designed to be just a film, may be transmedialized by the fan-base - something to be taken into consideration when directly addressing an audience.

Deterrents

Transmedia productions are by nature complex. They demand a high level of communication with a range of partners from different media sectors, are difficult to frame in legal terms and do not (yet) have many exemplary business models to go by. It is a challenge to balance the complexity of design by an interdisciplinary team against the creation of unique content with an engaging edge. Launching a Transmedia production may involve many hours of consultation with a number of different media experts at the least, if not actual visits to many different market venues to meets them.

Cross-Over to Workshop: Funding

Are national and regional film funds prepared to meet the developments described above? If so, what strategies could they project? What would it take to prepare them to take the initiative? What are the challenges they will be facing? What exactly is it that they would be funding? How could they evaluate which applicants to select, and which projects in what phase?

Some media funds have started implementing new frameworks to address the changes in the media landscape. How could funding bodies considering such steps benefit from their experience?

Illustrations by Daniel DePierre

Schedules Previous Workshops Partners Contact