Transmedia entertainment is basically storytelling that expands across different media. A great example of this is Star Wars: It started as a series of movies, then people kept expanding the story with books, comic books, and now Galaxy’s Edge is a themed area inside the Disneyland Park. But it’s not just the same story told over in different media; the different media expands the story and explores more of the storyworld.
Most in the industry believe that Henry Jekins is the father of this field of study. He’s a professor at the University of Southern California and is known to attend comic conventions 🙂 Here’s his definition I pulled from one of his blog posts:
“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”
There are many reasons myself and so many developers are excited about transmedia entertainment in addition to the joy it brings participants. I’ll explore these reasons deeper along this journey, but I will start by listing a few here:
By creating a longer lasting property, it alleviates some of the risk involved in developing each of the individual stories. Comic book series – with the exception of decades-old and widely known superhero or supervillain franchises – are expensive to develop and rarely make a sizable profit. It’s the same with films and TV shows. That’s why companies that invest in these sectors usually only do so once, or do it over and over again with multiple stories. If an investor doesn’t have oodles of money, they get burned out. If an investor does have oodles of money, they realize you have to produce many series hoping that one or several out of every ten will make up for all the rest and more.
Additionally, great content = great marketing. So making something in one medium will help market the other mediums. Another way to look at it is that you can build an audience with the mediums that are less expensive to produce such as comic books and radio-dramas, and that will help support your film and TV shows.
You’ve probably noticed that because it’s been a time of great change and thus turmoil in the entertainment industry, developers are willing to take less risk and resorting mostly to proven intellectual properties. For example, so many TV shows and movies come from comic books or podcast series today – it’s wild. So why not build it into your strategy from the beginning?
Of course, creating stories that are not just repeats, but actually use each medium for its strengths is easier said than done. In an upcoming article and podcast, I’ll interview Kris Simon, a friend who I call my “comic book mentor”. I should also start calling her my transmedia mentor because she’s currently working on an incredible transmedia project. We’ve just begun breaching the surface conversation about the strengths of each medium and how to use each for maximum effectiveness.
I would love to hear from you… What makes a story better for TV than for a comic book? What makes a story better for a comic book than for TV? What about movies and audio dramas?
My goal is to make this a highly collaborative blog. As you can see, this blog and video series will meander through winding paths as we journey together. Pretty soon, I’ll start a podcast as well. I think of Lift Your World as a non-fiction transmedia story that’s expanded through writing, videos, and podcasts 🙂 If there’s ever anything you’d like to contribute or learn about, please share that in the comments or via our social media channels.