On October 28, 2011, I recharged my creative batteries at the DIY Days event at UCLA. DIY Days bills itself as a roving conference for those who create, and it takes usually place twice year, once on each coast. Jam packed with workshops, project demos and talks, the day was a non-stop whirlwind of meeting new people and learning of new approaches to funding, production & distribution. There were several great keynote addresses, including Henry Jenkins’s “If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead.” Here are some brief insights from the panels I attended:
A transmedia sci-fi thriller whose first chapter, Zombie Alarm #1, ran in Amsterdam earlier this year. There are three main narratives: (1) Teenagers who start to display illness, (2) Zombie hunters who try to alert the public, and (3) Society’s reaction to the threat, which includes SWAT teams as well as a rogue officer. Ian called this “participatory storytelling” to differentiate it from an ARG. There were multiple live events with heavily made-up zombie packs roaming public locations, while genre fans tried to raise the alarm, appeared at the events to shoot “evidence” and spread the word about the infection. However, several media outlets found the zombie events to be inflammatory and criticized the project, which only brought more interest to it online. As for online mediums, they found that Facebook was best because people are used to responding to posts there, but they also had webisodes, zombie hunter blogs & twitter, user created content, a zombie wikileaks, fictional news broadcasts and a poster campaign. All these efforts were marked with a logo to try and tie them together and offer a sign that it wasn’t reality. More Zombie Alarms are planned for Europe, then TV and finally 3D features.
A found footage feature about a doomsday cult that believes a passing comet conceals the ship coming for them. The film itself is just a part of a much larger transmedia world, which includes location-based apps, character diaries & webisodes, documentary material on real astronomical events and websites related to the cult itself. But what really excited me about Mark’s presentation were the more hypothetical ideas concerning user experience — such as streaming video where the monster/scare is added or removed so as to make watching a film a surprise each time. Or maybe a viewer sees a scare, but rewinds the player to find it is no longer there. Or even a way to follow one character’s POV through a film by shooting coverage of all events during principal photography. In this manner one could generate multiple viewings of the same film and encourage audiences to share their experiences by comparing notes on what they saw. Desperate Comfort
I’ll link to her slideshow, but the gist of the presentation was to explain transmedia to traditional media executives in layman’s terms and ask for the transmedia team to be brought in early with the marketing team. It is important to identify who your collaborators will be as well as technologists while developing the storyworld and its narrative threads. Also, listen to what fans like & dislike.
Another case study, this time of a film + transmedia project revolving around a billboard sitting contest. This project was presented really quickly, so let me try to explain it as best I can: Phase 1 of the project is an online radio station featuring real bands, WTYT960.com. The second phase is an actual billboard sitting contest, the winners of which will appear in the resulting film and related webisodes. When the film is completed, a “mad art dash” live event will take place in 15 cities to coincide with theatrical release, which will be followed in 2 weeks by VOD, etc. in order to pay for marketing only once. Here’s Zeke’s website with more detail. Funding of the film is still underway, with Zeke wanting to approach brands and Effie wanting to take a more traditional find the actors, then raise money from investors approach.
I’ve been a fan of Jon Reiss for the past year and have both his books: Think Outside the Box Office and Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. Besides indie distribution techniques, one of his best recommendations is to identify your target audience & start marketing your film to them as earlier as you possibly can, before you even shoot a frame of film or pixel of video. Figure out how this audience consumes media (consumers want convenience – get it on all platforms), identify the niches that will lend you the most ardent supporters and be realistic about the value or experience you provide them. If you’re doing a theatrical release, create a sense of event that will be unavailable anywhere else, such as Kevin Smith’s Red State tour. Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = Make Money