Deep media, persistent narrative, immersive storytelling, transmedia: right now, we are experiencing a moment of radical technological change, with seismic shifts in the way that entertainment is conceived, produced and distributed. Savvy companies and producers, including the creators of Lost, Star Trek and Halo are incubating concepts that are designed captivate and interact with audiences across an array of media platforms.
According to Henry Jenkins, author of the seminal text, Convergence Culture: Transmedia storytelling is storytelling by a number of decentralized authors who share and create content for distribution across multiple forms of media. Transmedia immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of dispersed entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story.
Transmedia narrative is the technique of conveying messages, concepts and themes to a mass audience through systemic and concerted use of multiple media platforms. The implementation is designed to engage audience members individually, validating their involvement and positively reinforcing personal participation in the narrative. The result is intense loyalty, long-term engagement and a desire to share the experience.
In recent years, applications of transmedia narrative have been popularized in the entertainment industry. Popular films and television shows, especially ones that boast deep worlds, complex storylines and layered mysteries (such as Star Wars, Lost and Heroes, as well as the upcoming Flash Forward and Day One TV series), are offering their audiences the opportunity to “live the lifestyle” of the show, providing them with rich content accessible across an array of media distribution channels.
Audience members are also invited to voice their opinions, even dialog with the showrunners. In more advanced incarnations, audience members may even interact with the characters themselves, through use of Web-based avatars, video games or alternate reality experiences. This generates a fiercely attentive and vociferous self-organized following known as a fan base.
The activities of these “torchbearers” can cause a little known program to gain “buzz,” disproportionately impact the popular culture and subsequently become a phenomenal success, as exemplified by the X-Files franchise of the 1990s and the more recent multi-billion dollar Harry Potter franchise.
STARLIGHT RUNNER ENTERTAINMENT & THE ACTION DRIVE ENGINE
Starlight Runner Entertainment is a leading creator and producer of highly successful transmedia franchises. The entertainment industry, the advertising industry and consumer product corporations call upon us to maximize the value of entertainment properties and leading brands by extending their narratives and preparing them to be accessed through an array of media touchpoints. The sum total of Starlight Runner’s expertise in transmedia incubation, production and implementation has resulted in the creation of a proprietary development engine we call the Action Drive System™. The process is often divided into several phases, including:
Immersion, where we deeply explore the brand and interview the marketers and visionaries behind it;
Innovation, where we build or repair the narrative and underlying mythology of the brand and recommend development procedures that will allow for its extension across an array of distribution platforms;
Expansion, where we are actually building out, enriching and deepening the fiction of the brand, creating franchise bibles and guidelines for it; and
Planning, where we work with the brand owner to strategize a rollout over a certain period of time, often over the course of years, which utilizes multiple media platforms in concert.
The Action Drive System™ development engine also has vital contingencies for the foundation and cultivation of fan bases. Each property we work with must now contain a variety of interactive features that invite, validate and celebrate audience participation. The best form of communication is one where your audience believes it is being heard. Action Drive adds listening to the implementation of narrative.
Finally, the Action Drive System™ accounts for the coordinated production of entertainment content across traditional and digital platforms, so that audience members can be engaged and invited to enjoy the narrative in a way that closest suits the tastes and participation level of each individual.
This process can take anywhere from six to eighteen months, with actual production overlapping and taking point from there. Costs range from the seven-figure mark on up, depending on the scope of the project and Starlight Runner’s equity stake in the endeavor.