It took two years for the Producers Guild of America to approve a transmedia credit. Two years later, it’s finally expected to become a fixture on film credits.
For the creative community, that means an official title to recognize storytelling that spans film, TV, videogames, comicbooks, toys, the Internet, mobile — and new interactive platforms all on display at CES.
Since the PGA started recognizing the role in April 2010, the first credits have already started to appear, with George Stayton getting a transmedia producer title on Paramount and Hasbro’s “Transformers” franchise. The credit’s also appeared on THQ’s “Red Faction” videogame.
But 2012 should prove a watershed year, according to veteran transmedia producer Jeff Gomez, who’s been championing the concept for more than a decade. The Canadian Media Fund will add the credit to its projects. And “there will be (another) major studio getting on board very soon,” Gomez said.
Although the PGA doesn’t have collective bargaining agreements, Gomez hopes transmedia work will eventually become part of the master contracts handled by the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, with those groups already starting discussions to consider the credit, which would net their members more money for their multiplatform work.
Expanding jurisdiction is tricky turf for the guilds — SAG was unable to persuade the companies to include language addressing performance-capture by actors in the last negotiation — but it’s a potentially huge area for Hollywood’s creatives.
Christopher Pfaff, a transmedia consultant who’s vice chairman of the PGA’s New Media Council, believes the PGA’s support of the credit has already had a profound impact. “It took us about two years to get the credit enacted but doing that woke a lot of people up,” he added.
Pfaff, noting that the guild counts over 600 members on the new media council, believes that the turning point in recognizing transmedia has been the cratering of the DVD market.
“The changes in DVDs really resonated for a lot of mainstream PGA members, who are realizing that everything’s up for grabs in terms of platforms,” Pfaff notes. “There are all kinds of opportunities to extend the narrative — and the conversations are now taking place at day one. They’ve seen people like James Cameron and J.J. Abrams using multiple entry points into stories.”
Pfaff points out that the PGA’s New Media Council already has a working relationship with the WGA East and predicts that the other guilds will want to come on board. “It’s inevitable that their members are going to wake up and say ‘I want to work in transmedia.'”
Transmedia’s not an abstract notion for Gomez, who sits on PGA’s New Media Council and is a co-founder of transmedia developer Starlight Runner Entertainment, which has worked on large multiplatform projects such as “Avatar,” “Tron Legacy,” the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and “Transformers.”
He believes that the majors have started to realize that their approach to transmedia needs to be less reactive.
“Transmedia is something that the studios have been trying to do once a movie hits big, so it tends to repeat itself,” he noted, citing the rush to release a game based on a film that’s a watered down copy of a pic’s plot.
That’s starting to change, Gomez believes, turning to Warner Bros.’ approach to its Batman films and games.
“What’s really intriguing is studios are discovering that the videogame can expand the property, not replicate, by exposing other aspects of it,” Gomez said. “Warner Bros. is not making any effort to duplicate the Batman story in ‘Arkham Asylum’ and ‘Arkham City’ and they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars (from them).”
Gomez’s Starlight Runner’s no longer alone in the transmedia arena, with about two dozen shops mining the same realm including 42 Entertainment, Campfire and Red Six Media, which recently worked on “Real Steel.”
“Hollywood is discovering that the return on investment becomes more minimal if you don’t employ your property across all platforms,” he added. “Young people want to be told stories in the way that they use media. So you’re looking for a way to reach them pervasively.”
And earn creatives more coin in return.