Transmedia: Why I’m not Buying

My good friend Ted Hope recently posted a couple of blog posts about the indie/art world film biz, and how given that we live in an age of superabundance, we need to embrace new models. Specifically, that we “need to build extensions, collaborations, and expansive discovery nodes into your storyworld architecture,” and that we must “Show them ways that people can expand upon the narrative, where the background can be deepened, why people will engage deeply and often, and why they will feel they have a greater takeaway, a greater return, of the investment of their engagement.”

Really? And Really? I agree that we live in an era of superabundance, and I’ve given many speeches and lectures where I’ve addressed some creative and business strategies artists can adopt to get noticed and make a living in a time when everyone is an artist and over 40,000 films are submitted annually to film festivals each year. But while I agree that transmedia is one of those strategies, I don’t believe it is the only one, or even remotely close to the best one. Why?

Because I don’t want to be bothered with deepening my connection to you as an artist. I don’t want to see you expand your story world, and I don’t want to engage more deeply with your story. I just want to be entertained, or enlightened (or educated, or…) for some period of time. That’s all the pay-off I need. If you tell a cool story, I’ll come back for more. If you tell a certain story, it might lend itself to being serialized in some fashion and I might watch several episodes. Those few of you with a story that needs an entire story world and multiple platforms on which to tell it…I’m probably not that interested. Some people are, and if you’re an artist interested in this, by all means pursue it. But don’t forget, not every story fits this model, and not every fan wants to engage more deeply with all types of content. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of your fans don’t care for it either. I hear lots of buzz about transmedia, but after attending over a dozen conferences about it and speaking with multiple “experts” on it, I haven’t seen a single successful model in the indie/art world.

What’s more important to me is that artists can now build a direct connection to their fans. Online web video artists, mostly working in serial formats but some expanding to long-form, have had much more success than any example you can point to from the non-Hollywood/Comic-Con world in transmedia. They’re the ones to follow.

As I’ve said before: copy Freddie Wong (but in your own artistic way) or Jenna Marbles (seriously) or any one of the next generation of YouTube stars. That will lead you to a better business model than deepening your story world. In fact, don’t even use that term, it’s so horrible, possibly worse than transmedia. 

Instead, focus on slowly and painfully building your fan base. You might also build a project that happens to have a film, comic book and genetically modified ear of corn tie-in, but that isn’t what matters, only the fan base does.

So, in summary, I agree with Ted that we need new models, but I think they’re already being built and are easy to find. Indies just need to adapt them to our ends, and that shouldn’t be too hard.

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