16 September 2011

Transmedia Storytelling - our journey

Ah, our next transmedia thriller novel. It's OK, I wasn't doing anything the next couple of years...

We began our second transmedia project - actually, it began a few months back. We're approaching this project a little differently, rather than explain the differences though, I will just explain what we're doing with the understanding that you, the reader, will know that it's different from last time. Except maybe for instances where I say, "we did this the same way last time."

We, oh yes... who are we? We are Enthrill Entertainment.

Here's how it all started...

Jeff Buick, calls me up - "I have the next story - our next transmedia project" - we meet shortly after and he shows us his blueprints for the story at the next board meeting.

The blueprints that Jeff has created are amazing, they show the various characters in vertical columns, as these columns descend, you see how the characters will interact with one another, how their story builds, the plot is plotted and the outcome is a question mark (for us, ...Jeff knows what's there). As a concept, it's a real strong story. As Jeff explains the story, you can visualize the characters in their settings - Jeff is a marvelous storyteller, it's moments like these that you sit back and go, wow!

The board asks questions and is intrigued by the story. A budget is agreed to for research and Jeff is off to spend time in the field, researching the locations where the story takes place. This takes him to London, Prague, Budapest, Pilzen (home of my favourite beer) and Boston. Research takes 6-8 weeks. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Boston with Jeff as he scouted locations for characters' homes, workplaces and interviewed locals. This experience gave me so much insight into the depth of research needed to pull together not only a believable story but one that is very, very real.

While research was being conducted, I was assembling the creative team that is to lead the project. From Francomedia, we have Christina Greenway, Dave Kromand, Colin Stange, Ryan Ferrier, Sandor Fekete and Dylan Nadon working alongside the Enthrill team to create an immersive storyworld. Our initial meetings yielded some tremendous ideas - some we will act on immediately, some will be scheduled and some will be dropped for various reasons.

The launch of our book is set for March 2013. This gives us plenty of time to create an interactive and immersive experience for people to engage with characters and elements of the story as well as participate in a large scale event.

Last weekend we reviewed the photos from Jeff's travels, each grouping of photos was associated with a particular character or an event from the story. We saw where the protagonist lives, works, works out, goes for lunch, dinner and drinks as well as some of the streets she walks down. This was the same for nearly every character. As we were going through the photos, you could imagine the character walking down the streets of Boston - it was so real.

I'm always careful about suggesting ideas while the narrative is still being written. I must remind myself that the writer tells the story, it's his creative vision that we are bringing to life. My worry is that by offering up suggestions and ideas during the writing is akin to a committee building a web site - I've seen a few of these disasters. The creative vision must come from one source, the author has fans that have come from his stories - it's his writing and narrative that is at the core of our entire project. Tampering with the foundation of the project risks everything - at what point do we remove the authors name from the book?

Our job as transmedia storytellers is to take the author's vision of the story and embellish, enhance and bring it to life, not to alter or change it. There's a reason we're working with a best-selling author, because he is a gifted storyteller and there's a reason he's working with our group - because we can bring it to life.

That being said, we are currently flushing out character bios, creating in-depth resumes for each and every character so that we can engage actors to portray them online and perhaps in film. We have launched a blog site that will play into the plot of the story - the blog was actually created by a character in the story.

So much of what we do is done in context. For instance, the blog I mentioned above. A character in the story, located in Hungry has launched this blog. How do we approach the design of this blog? What are the characters means for web production? In the timeline of the character, does he hire someone down the road to revamp the blog? What does the blog look like now, what will it look like as the narrative of the story lines up with the storyworld we have created? These are all questions we need to address in developing the characters blog.

Here's how we approached it: The character has little web development means, but enough to grab a template and get it going, after a few months of slowly gathering content on the site, he hires someone to update the look and functionality and it begins to gather content quicker. In this, he acquires a certain piece of content that sets the narrative in motion. The blog cannot look like we did it, it has to look like the character did it.

The design of everything in the storyworld must be within the context of the story and if created by characters must demonstrate and emulate their abilities and sense of style (or lack thereof). This is sometimes dangerous in attracting an audience, if the audience's first introduction to the story is a piece that has been designed by a character of ill means you risk them leaving the storyworld. This is a challenge for transmedia storytellers - how can we get the audience to understand the context in which elements of the storyworld are created?

We've got a lot more planned and I will do my best to update you on our progress throughout our journey.

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