Transmedia should be an easy concept to understand: Create a project that can play across multiple platforms. Walking the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, during CES, all of those various screens are on full display.
But Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, who has helped studios develop transmedia storytelling with franchise like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Transformers,” says there’s still a lot more work to be done. He spoke to Variety about the issues the biz still needs to deal with to make transmedia successful.
Why is now the time to produce transmedia projects?
“Only a few years ago there wasn’t more that you could do. Tech was tech and content was designed to be so specific: You developed a television show for TV because that’s what most people were looking at and weren’t going anywhere. Now they’re going to different media platforms and they’re spending more time on those platforms and yet the costs to develop this core content is so exorbitant that you want this content to operate across all different platforms.”
What’s Hollywood fear of embracing transmedia?
“There’s a fear that the technology will give the consumer too much access and that they’ll express themselves about the product in a negative way.”
What’s your reaction from the tech biz?
“We’re finding that tech companies are very interested in storytellers. They’re interested in creatives coming in and innovating on their technology to do interesting things. They’re great at building platforms but they’re not great at showing it off.”
Whose job is it at the studios to promote transmedia?
“It’s not the job of the brand manager but a certain kind of producer with the skillsets to understand the kind of storytelling and manage the way the stories are told and the politics within the company to make that kind of content work and nurture the franchise as a whole. You need someone who understands what the platforms are and how to develop content that will play to its strengths.”
How long before Hollywood and Silicon Valley get it?
“It will take another year or two to get it going. The bottom line is if you just get out of the cab (at the Las Vegas Convention Center) and start walking the floor, you’re going to see a lot of pretty televisions. There needs to be an infrastructure built into the CES experience that invokes imagination from Hollywood with regards to looking at the technology. I’ve discovered that’s not an instinctive thing.
How should the creatives view CES?
“The problem is what they’re looking at is going to show up in department stores later this year. What we have to think about is where is this going next since we’re developing content that won’t come out for three or four years. I’m working with Microsoft and I know what they’re doing three years from now and it’s stunning.”
You didn’t coin transmedia but you’re pushing it forward.
“I’m not a radical. I’m a little more Professor X than Magneto. Transmedia has been around as an academic concept for some years before I kind of discovered that body of work and began communicating it. We’ve come really far because we’ve been able to articulate what this is in words that people understand. And we’ve been able to say, ‘Look, this is new technology and these are new techniques but we’re using your established infrastructure to get things done.'”
How would you say storytelling has changed?
“For a century, we had to shut up and listen to the broadcaster. We’ve gone back to telling stories around a campfire. So much at CES has been focused on devices that are just about broadcasting. The age of one-way broadcast, I feel, is coming to an end.”
What needs to change for industries to understand their new consumer?
“These changes require a shift in attitude and a new understanding of the technology that’s currently coming out and in development. A lot of work needs to be done to usher the entertainment industry into this age, but also to make people who are building the technology more aware of the vitality of that dialogue.”