This summer the members of CMA and the PGA (Producers, not golfers) got to hear transmedia guru and all around nice guy, Jeff Gomez speak about…transmedia. Why, what were you expecting?
Jeff is the founder, president and CEO of Starlight Runner (www.starlightrunner.com). Starlight Runner maximizes the value of clients’ intellectual property by determining their brand essence, expanding their story worlds and getting everyone on board with long term strategies. Got all that? The way I see it is that back in the not-so-distant day you used to have a property and there would be comic books, toys, video games, children’s books, a television series and a movie all run by different companies and no one talking to each other or on the same page. With transmedia, everyone is on board with one vision, one large story world and consistency is maintained. Please take note of this folks who say, wanted to make the Ninja Turtles from SPACE (I mean, mutant is right in their name) and makers of the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie (I don’t know anything about that one but my niece, who’s a huge fan of the show was very upset by the treatment of the characters in the movie).
So how did Jeff get into this? He remembers watching Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling!) when he was a kid. There was a character that was on the TV wrestling and then appeared in comic books. Huzzah! Multi-platform! Later, playing Dungeons and Dragons introduced him to the concept of a non-linear story world and the fact that a story can be communal. He wrote about Multimedia Gaming and created comic books and video games for various properties. One of his story worlds, Corindor became part of a little game you might remember called Magic: The Gathering. He formed Starlight Runner in 2000, a time where big companies were failing at maintaining good IP in the face of licensees. There was no continuity of branding.
Jeff said the secret to good transmedia is listening. You have to figure out what connects people to your property and SLR has worked on a lot of properties that really connect with people. Things like Transformers (though not the movie to which I say good on ya’, SLR), Avatar, Men in Black, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the trend is catching on. Sony Pictures just became the first major studio to grant a Transmedia Production and Consultation Annual Renewable Deal.
Transmedia storytelling conveys messages, themes or story lines to a mass audience through the artful and well-planned use of multiple-media platforms. Technology cannot overrule story (take notes George Lucas). At the end of the day story is still king, audiences (whether they be video gamers or TV watchers or whatever) need to fall in love with the characters and companies need to know their brand essence (what is unique to your property). Jeff says most successful story worlds have something positive in their essence, an aspirational message that if adhered to, would make the world a better place. Like my fav:
Five Elements for Good, Solid Transmedia:
- Does it have something to say?
- Comedy is fine but a joke is not worth chasing
- Characters need to be compelling (“Hook me with a good character that I like or identify with and I will follow her anywhere.”)
- Story Elements that are self-contained but additive (We know how the story of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth and Will Turner turned out but how did he hook up with Barbosa as a matey in the first place? We know what happened to Luke but are there other Jedi out there? And what are they up to? So many story possibilities!)
- The work leverages the strength of each medium it uses
Transmedia is now being embraced almost everywhere. On kindleworlds (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1001197421) you can write fan fiction and they will publish it and sell it (again, there’s that D&D communal storytelling).
As for Jeff, well it’s all come full circle. SLR is working on Lucha Libre USA, coming to a TV and an internet and a whatever-else-you-can-think-of near you! Awesome.
Main Takeaway: Story is still key. You want to be true to your story. You could say, write a bunch of (other) True Blood novels about vampires in Bon Temps that we haven’t met yet but you wouldn’t want to write one where the vampires eat hair instead of drink blood or where Merlotte’s is a hardware store because that just doesn’t fit in with that story world. Can you tell what I’ve been watching all summer?
Personal Takeaway: Whenever Jeff talks about the projects Starlight Runner works on I get star struck. I am totally pedantic when it comes to my media (Dear Tim Burton: Catwoman is a cat burglar. She doesn’t have super cat powers!) and I’m so glad someone is watching out for fanboys (and girls) like me.
Inappropriate Takeaway: Jeff mentioned they are working on longer stories with goldfish characters. Yessum, like the crackers. I couldn’t help but think, “First you play with them, then you eat them!” Oh, the humanity!