TransmediaTransmedia occurs when a narrative takes place over a number of various media platforms. It may also be known as cross media, multi platform media or enhanced story telling.

Cross media is:

“being where you desire to fuse two or more media together, thus creating multiple story channels”

Some of the most prolific examples of these channels are: mobile devices, gaming consoles, social networks, websites, text messages, downloadable clips or phone apps.  All of these create many exciting possibilities that can be used to tell a narrative.  The easiest way to show how multimedia can effectively be used to tell a story is by giving an example.

The Matrix

The Matrix is a classic example of the use of transmedia.  This is because it had a unified narrative which was carried out over several social media outlets.  There were several films, an animated series called, “The Animatrix”, several video games, comic books and various merchandise.  Henry Jenkins, who is the provost Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California, refers to the Matrix in his recent book, “Convergence Culture; Where Old and New Media Collide.” Jenkins praises the way in which the Wachhowski brothers played the transmedia game in a deliberate and staged process; designed to achieve optimum exposure and success for “The Matrix.” Below are the steps which were used by the Wachowski brothers as described by Henry Jenkins.

Steps involved in using transmedia successfully

  1. The original film, The Matrix, was put out to stimulate interest.
  2.  A few web comics were put up to sustain the hardcore fans, hungry for more information.
  3. The anime was launched in anticipation of the second film.
  4. The video game was released at the same time, so as to maximise the use of publicity.
  5. Finally, the whole cycle was brought to an effective conclusion with “The Matrix Revolutions”, when the whole mythology was turned over to the players of the massively popular multi-player online game.

The structure of release was planned, so that each step was built on what had come before and most importantly, each step offered a new point of entry; thus ensuring that The Matrix optimised the use of multiplatform media.

This concept of multiple points of entry as used in The Matrix, is key to the effective use of transmedia.  With access to such a wide variety of media outlets, each individual has a unique way of engaging with a piece of media, making it almost impossible to identify patterns of use and so predict consumption of media.   This new and fragmented media consumption has become the norm and the use of transmedia is therefore necessary, if a filmmaker seeks to have the highest possible level of engagement for a film.

How to create materials for transmedia

The whole area of transmedia can seem daunting to independent filmmakers who may think that it will involve a large volume of extra work.  However, by informing themselves about transmedia and learning to envision how the materials created can be used across a broad spectrum of media outlets, they will realise that it is not too difficult.  If you think here, of websites, blogs, social networks, YouTube and EPK, you will begin to get a sense of the bigger picture and see that you can in fact use the same material as you are using to market and distribute your film.

More information can be gained on this subject by visiting the website of Lance Weiler, www.workproject.com, where you can get valuable tips about marketing and distribution for your film, as well as a wealth of information about these new forms of storytelling.

The following factors are some examples of work that can be done for transmedia, which is as important as your standard EPK kit and can be done concurrently:

  • 360 degree still photos of the whole set.  Whoever is employed to shoot the stills for your film can do this.  These photos are needed in order to create any type of potential gaming environment for the film.
  • Photos and detailed references of any props. For the same reason as above.
  • Wild sounds that might fit the narrative of the film.

Expanding the narrative: Films

If it is your intention to utilize multi-media platforms to gain maximum exposure for your film, it will be necessary to think creatively about how the characters of your film can be developed and how they might live their lives beyond the confines of the film.  There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved:

  1. Footage of deleted scenes may be used elsewhere.
  2. You can expand your characters and storylines by creating stand alone scenes live on the web. This technique has been used by studios and TV shows for years and it is time for independent filmmakers to catch up.
  3. Think about the back story of characters, how they came to be.  You can also explore what could be going on in their lives off screen.  These stories could be told using multi forms of media.
  4. If improvised exercises are done with actors during rehearsal, film these and use them, or you could plan and deliberately carry out improvisations for multi-media use.
  5. Think of how you can use short pieces on the web to create alternate realities for your characters. These shorts may be released into the festival circuit as separate entities, to create anticipation for your film in the conventional film world.
  6. Be creative with your behind the scenes footage.  Try and come up with original ways of doing things in order to capture and maintain the attention of your audience.

All of the material that is not part of the final release for the film is called extra-diegetic.  As the use of multi-media platforms becomes the norm, then it is likely that extra-diegetic will melt into diegetic and all material captured will become a seamless whole, with the expectation that it will be used across a wide variety of media. An excellent example of a transmedia experience is, “Four Eyed Monsters”, which can be seen at foureyedmonsters.com.

Documentaries

In the shooting of documentaries there is usually a wealth of unused footage.  After making the final version of “Bomb It”, we were left with enough footage to make four more films. This material has been successfully used to achieve some of the all important additional points of entry.  We created a “Bomb it” channel and “super landing page” by entering a contract with Ba Belgum who is also sponsoring screenings of “Bomb It” at graffiti festivals, to promote the channel.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

While there are some provisions for footage of a film to be used in a promotional manner, without extra payment to actors, there still remains some confusion about using film footage across a broad spectrum of media.  It may be necessary for the filmmaker to acquire supplemental market distribution rights, and further payment may be due to actors.  The new media section of the Screen Actors Guild website provides a good deal of information on this topic.

Summary of main points

  • Develop an evolving knowledge of who your audience is.
  • Engage with your audience as early as possible and find allies to help with this.
  • Use feedback and audience reaction to develop additional points of entry for your film.
  • Be active on a dynamic website and use social media to attract new audience members.
  • Prepare marketing tools as early as possible in the process and do as much work as possible concurrently with the shooting of your film.
  • Think outside the box for extra narrative and points of entry.

It is advisable to view the process as a whole Do not think of other media outlets as just ways of promoting or monetizing your film.  Remember, there is a whole new field of creative opportunity that exists which expands the boundaries of what we consider film to be.  This is a very exciting time for independent filmmakers to grow and develop in a myriad of new ways.  I also believe, contrary to popular opinion, that theatrical distribution of films, which is the holy grail of filmmaking; remains viable and in some ways, is more possible than ever.