This past week I attended the Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida… I was honored to be asked to attend, however being in social media I was feeling a little out of my element… curious to see where I could make connections with filmmakers and actors other than the obligatory comments of “Are you a model?” or the sleazy “Would you like to be in my movie” followed by awkward winking and pointing gestures. I actually ended up in many in depth conversations of low budget productions and/or struggling actors that have a severe gap in the promotion of themselves and/or movies especially online through social networks.
The lightbulb went off after talking about my personal branding, the Miss Destructo myth.. the breaking of the windows, my story, blurring that line between what is real and what is fiction..Just like creating a character on the screen, it’s all about the creation of myth and the art of seduction through many forms of media. While keeping the storyline consistent and wanting your audience on their toes waiting to know the next bit of the story, giving them a escape into an another world. Now, what if their online promotion tied in the storyline of the movie, through the website, promotional items, the actors promoting themselves as their characters with a unique character voice. This building of a multimedia, multi-platform, viral marketing powerhouse is called Transmedia.
Is Transmedia something that is new and trendy? Not at all, the only thing that has changed is the addition of application development and these new fandangled tools such as Twitter and Facebook . I had been doing this for years in the promotion of band’s albums and movies already, we did something like this for David Bowie’s Reality album and many other projects such as movies, creating a backstory to the album, some promo CD’s even having movies on the disc. Creating a storyline to drive people down different media pathways such as secret codes to speakeasy like websites, like Alice chasing the White Rabbit.
One thing I can remember doing is creating fake profiles on chat forums making people think we were these characters from these storylines, of course this isn’t for the weak of heart. Of course you need your transmedia “actors”, It can be a bit schizophrenic at a point, I was playing four characters at one all with different story lines and personas in promoting a video game. I can remember one project I had to actually take a break from being one”online” character, the character was dark and was actually seeping through into my own self. No bueno, so yes, if you can… don’t fall down the rabbit hole yourself. You need a team. Just like putting together a movie itself, transmedia productions need a team with good communication skills, you need to be consistent and storyline can also merge and change at a moment’s notice. And you don’t have to have a huge budget to be successful in transmedia, just the right amount of creative brainpower and a good team of well trusted friends, remember Blair Witch Project?…. First rule of Transmedia club… well, you get it.
One of the greatest recent examples that I have personally seen using Transmedia is the video game Alan Wake. Alan Wake actually had a full feature long movie that I watched before playing the game, other than being creeped out as hell.. it’s quite a Twin Peaks mindgame of a movie. But I had been pulled into the game, the familiarity of the storyline and there’s that emotional connection of now wanting to “help” this fictional character.
What’s the benefits of transmedia? You bet the next day I was telling everyone about this movie and game, the word of mouth alone for a game that without the movie I probably wouldn’t have played. I was lured into wanting more, almost a sort of desire to know what’s next and I wanted others to share in this experience. Of course, in the promotion of books/music/movies/or tv shows, there no one is going to “like” your movie or you unless you give them a reason to, with any kind of branding especially in entertainment. It’s all about the art of seduction… the more of a legend you create the more people want to surround themselves with the legend to escape their reality. Not to get too deep but people generally have a detective like nature, the more cryptic, off the wall and strange you can get the more people are going to talk about you, your film or whatever media project you may be working on. Remember, ALWAYS treat your audience like VIP’s..the cooler the promo, like HBO’s True Blood’s marketing of the “True Blood” beverage… heck, I bought a four pack.
Why does transmedia work? The more you embed a message or a story into many channels of media, it’s a bombardment of familiarity and welcoming into your audience into world of the story. Of course, the more emotionally imprinting something is, whether disturbing, shocking or “warm and fuzzy” the more people are going to remember it. Creating a false relationship with a fictional character is going to feed on that whole curious nature of us humans to want to know more. Leading the audience to the end point of purchase, whether a movie, a video game or even an event as local theme park Busch Gardens does with their Howl O Scream events every year. Busch Gardens has mastered transmedia, creating well crafted and guarded storylines through websites, twitter accounts, tv commercials, promotional stunts, radio ads to promote not the event but the myth of main characters of their Halloween themed events… last year they left a bloody guitar at my door. How’s that for blurring the line between reality and fiction, I almost called the cops. But it worked, I wrote a blog post about it and the next thing you know i’ve got people wanting to know more about the event and this fictional man-hating rock star character “Sylvie” that left this battered guitar. Is she real or is she fake? Again, it’s the writers and storytellers that deserve all the credit for making a successful transmedia campaign work.
How can you easily measure a transmedia campaign? Well, there’s many fandangled ways especially with the use of social media. But going back old school… following the guidelines of “this message will self destruct in five seconds” is always worked well for seeing how a certain promotion was going, time sensitive promos with special codes that seem like it is meant for them and them only, that they are getting let into a top secret world always worked super well in helping us monitor and survey the amount of diehard fans actually sticking true to following the path of the storyline.
Going back to the Sunscreen Film Festival next year I hope to see more education about the worth of transmedia across the filmmaking community and seeing the use this new marriage of old school transmedia and social media in action. It’s amazing how one event can change my storyline as well, this oddly coincidental collaboration in real life of two different types of media have sparked something great in myself, I feel I truly found where my passion lies and it’s in Transmedia. It’s almost a phoenix on fire in my gut where many forms of media and social media have left me wondering “Why the hell am I even doing this anymore?”. Mostly because of the lack of seeing creative new uses for social media, I feel we’ve lost touch of the power that is social media and are imploding on ourselves trying to fix everything wrong with it instead of focusing on the good. We need more “big damn lightbringing, singing and dancing heroes” to make sure things don’t become a black hole. Do not make me put in a clip from Captain EO right here, because I am mighty tempted…
Honestly, stop being an adult for two seconds… seriously, get your jammies on and let’s talk about the effect we ALL have as media influencers right now. Go back to that childhood wonder of you wanting to be a Jedi or Sarah from Labyrinth, remember what your dreams and nightmares were created by as a kid… make that happen for the next generation through the mediums that they know best. It’s up to us to inspire and create the our own storylines and our own world.
Long live the new flesh of storytelling…