Women of Transmedia

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On my journey into transmedia doc making, I’ve sought advice from a plethora of industry pros and innovators. I’ve been to dozens of panel discussions, read articles, had meetings and explored projects. And I’ve noticed something both striking and encouraging: many of my fellow multi-platform storytellers aren’t fellows at all: They are women. Unlike early in the dot-com era when men dominated the tech startup scene, it seems that women are at the heart of the group pushing this emerging field forward.

One of these pioneering women, Wendy Levy, eloquently quashed my original intention of calling this post “Ladies of Transmedia,” and set the charge for those of us working in this industry. “Leading the charge for authentic, transformative, truly interactive storytelling in male-dominated, tech-focused media networks is just not inherently ‘ladylike.’” Levy insists. Rather than fitting a traditionally buttoned-up definition of “ladies,” Levy says, “We are more like rule-breaking evangelists. Radical problem solvers. Strategy gurus with a lust for technology. ”

So, here are a handful of women blazing the transmedia trail:

 


AINA ABIODUN

Transmedia Architect
@ainaabiodun

Transmedia cred:

  • Founder of StoryCode
  • Creator of first ever Story Hackathon
  • Juror for the Tribeca New Media Fund

Transmedia philosophy:

Never be slave to medium. Stories tell you where they belong.

Advice for transmedia newbies:

Be guided by meaning and beauty above all else.

Current favorite transmedia projects:

  • New Day New Standard: a brilliant, simple, audio project for immigrant nannies.
  • Skyfall/Bond and Homeland games are pretty awesome ways to scratch the spy itch I’ve had since I was a kid.

 


ANDREA PHILLIPS

Freelance Transmedia Writer and Strategist, CEO at Deus Ex Machinatio
@andrhia

Transmedia cred:

  • Author of A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling
  • Writer and/or game designer for such projects as Perplex City, America 2049, Floating City, The 2012 Experience, Routes Game and The Maester’s Path for HBO’s “Game of Thrones”
  • Awards include BIMAs, the Origins Vanguard Innovation Award and The Prix Jeunesse Innovation Prize
  • Frequent speaker at events including SXSW, Nordic Games Conference, Storyworld and Future of Storytelling

Transmedia philosophy:

There is no objective right and wrong in transmedia storytelling; only what’s right for your structure, for your audience and for your story.

Building out a work of transmedia storytelling requires a lot of decisions. How many platforms do you need, and how do you pick them? Do you need an app? How should you use social media, or should you at all? Everything always depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Designing the architecture of a transmedia story should occupy just as much a part of the creative process as making up the characters and plot.

Advice for transmedia newbies:

Think about your story in terms of the experience you’re providing. Think about it relentlessly. What is your story going to feel like and look like for someone who isn’t in on your plan and doesn’t know what’s coming?

A lot of transmedia projects fail to adequately signal their entire footprint to the audience, so the audience may miss pieces of the story. You want to put as few barriers to entry between your audience and the experience you’re trying to provide as possible. If your #1 priority is protecting the integrity and value of your audience experience, the whole project will be the better for it.

Current favorite transmedia projects:

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This modern adaption of Pride and Prejudice is a web series, but calling it that does it a disservice, because the one series develops over many platforms including YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and the main website.

 


CAITLIN BURNS

Transmedia Producer, Executive Editor at Starlight Runner Entertainment
@Caitlin_Burns

Transmedia cred:

  • Board Member of the Producers Guild of America’s New Media Council
  • Part of Transmedia Production Team for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, Fairies, and Tron Legacy, Fox’s Avatar, Microsoft’s Halo, and more
  • Co-Producer of independent project McCarren Park, which launched at the Tribeca Film Institute’s 2012 Interactive Day and screened at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 2012 Convergence program (part of the New York Film Festival).

Transmedia philosophy:

Stories are much larger than the ways we can tell them. They spread beyond the limitations of their narration into our imaginations and our dreams, so why would you assume they’d fit in any one box?

It’s not just a small circle of people in the know using transmedia storytelling techniques, it’s a best practice for producers and creators the world over.

Advice for transmedia newbies:

Story is the core of any project and must be the most important thing you do. If you don’t know why you’re telling a story, take the time to figure it out. If you don’t know what your story is actually telling people — its themes, messages, aspirations — it won’t translate onto different platforms and it probably won’t translate to an audience. Good technology and narrative experience can make a good story better, but it won’t make a bad story good.

Favorite recent transmedia projects:

  • 18 Days in Egypt:* It’s a great example of how activism and documentary can combine and document real stories with the audience, giving a much richer experience than a 90-minute movie or a news report.
  • HitRECord‘s open production model and BitTorrent’s new monetization models are really fascinating to me and are putting together interesting projects.
  • Assassin’s Creed: I love how they weave storylines across different types of games, not just Console and DLC, but their handheld games, their apps, and their Facebook games. They’re all adding to the story world and continuing to innovate on the core concepts.

 


INGRID KOPP

Director of Digital Initiatives, Tribeca Film Institute
@fromthehip

Transmedia cred:

  • Administrator of TFI New Media Fund
  • Producer of the digital media events TFI Interactive Day and Tribeca Hacks
  • Programmer of the new Tribeca Storyscapes transmedia section at the Tribeca Film Festival
  • Frequent speaker at events including SXSW, MoMA Documentary Fortnight, Power to the Pixel, Sheffield Doc/Fest and IDFA

Transmedia philosophy:

Technology is wonderful but the story should always lead. Some of my favorite projects are actually rather simple in terms of technology. I’m not usually a big fan of lots of things to click on and puzzles to solve. I love projects that allow you to experience them in a very interactive way but also in a totally lean back, hands-off-the-keyboard fashion.

My other philosophy, however, is that the best projects tend to break all the rules. So I try not to be too prescriptive. If it works, do it.

Advice for transmedia newbies:

I do think it’s important not to be led by the technology too much. I’ve seen too many projects that are just not great stories — it’s like suddenly all the craft that we have learned over a century disappears. I’d really like to see more sense of craft and artistry brought to this space.

Favorite recent transmedia projects:

I’m also very excited by the possibilities of Zeega as a platform, and some of the projects coming down the TFI New Media Fund pipeline: Dadaab Stories, Laika’s Adventure, Hollow and a new participatory version of Question Bridge.

 


KAMAL SINCLAIR

Senior Manager, Sundance Institute New Frontier Story Lab
@KamalSinclair

Transmedia cred:

Transmedia philosophy:

Human beings need to tell, share and create story; it’s part of what makes us human and essential to the advancement of society. Transmedia storytelling is a critical part of the next evolution in story creation. One of the most exciting things that transmedia offers to this ancient art form is the space for many points of view to be shared simultaneously in simple, dynamic, elegant and immediate ways — ultimately leading us closer to understanding both the full complexity of the human experience, and the multifaceted nature of “truth.”

Advice for transmedia newbies:

A lesson learned during every technological shift in the art of storytelling is that the story must come first. The novelty of the technology will wear off, but the artists whose stories endure use the technology to make meaning.

Favorite recent transmedia projects:

 


LIZ ROSENTHAL

CEO and Founder, Power to the Pixel
@powertothepixel

Transmedia cred:

  • Power to the Pixel is the creator and producer of several cross-media events including annual Cross-Media Forums, Pixel Labs for development of cross-media projects and the Cross-Media ForumNYC in partnership with IFP
  • Co-producer of High Five Cross-Media Content for Kids with Nordisk Film & TV Fond
  • Frequent speaker at international film festivals including Rotterdam, Edinburgh, Berlinale and Cannes and events such as TEDxtransmedia in Rome

Transmedia philosophy:

Transmedia is not a format or genre. It’s an approach to working. It’s about how you approach storytelling and how you communicate ideas. What we’ve found working through our labs is that you should start by looking at the core of the idea and who you are communicating it to, figure out how you are going to engage them, and go from there.

Advice for transmedia newbies:

Don’t be driven by format. Always go back to the core of what you’re trying to communicate, rather than the medium, and work from there to explore the possibilities of the whole world of your story. Audiences are more platform agnostic than you may think; what motivates them to engage is a great and inspiring idea or experience, not just a movie or a game. Try to understand what moves audiences to engage, and how and where they do it. Once you get outside of the traditional formats, you can really be inventive and think about creating experiences for people.

Current favorite transmedia projects:

 


MAYA ZUCKERMAN

Transmedia Producer

Transmedia cred:

  • Co-Founder of Transmedia SF
  • Producer of several events around transmedia, including assisting production of StoryWorld 2011
  • Transmedia producer for the Fifth Sacred Thing – a multiplatform storyworld

Transmedia philosophy:

Transmedia enables us to create a new mythology for humanity. Transmedia is the big “why” of the storyworld. See my diagram comparing Simon Sinek’s “start with why” approach to transmedia:

Maya Zuckerman's version of Simon Sinek's 'Start with Why' diagram

Maya Zuckerman’s version of Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ diagram. View larger »

Advice for transmedia newbies:

Pick the right medium for the story always! At the beginning, ask yourself what is the cheapest and fastest way you can start testing your audience and developing the story? Later, phase out the story as you build an audience.

Favorite recent transmedia projects:

  • Prometheus marketing campaign
  • DayBreak web series and Jack Boxers ARG/mobile app, as extensions of Tim Kring’s Touch TV series

 


WENDY LEVY

Director, New Arts Axis
@twendywendy

Transmedia cred:

  • Creator and former head of the Bay Area Video Coalition’s (BAVC) Producers Institute for New Media Technologies
  • Producer and Director of The Stream web series
  • Frequent speaker at events including United Nations, Sundance, Skoll World Forum, SXSW, Independent Film Week and more
  • Co-founder of Sparkwise, a data and storytelling platform

Transmedia philosophy:

A project should leave the world better than when it started.

Advice for transmedia newbies:

Maybe you only need one platform. What are you trying to do? Figure that out and let the strategy and creative flow from there. Build a kickass team and keep your eyes open in the sandbox.

Favorite recent transmedia projects:

These are just a few among many…

 

Do you know of another great woman of transmedia, or are you one yourself? We’d love to hear from you. Share your own advice for transmedia newbies below, and let us know what you are working on.

* These projects appeared on more than one woman’s list of current favorite projects.

 

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Liz Nord
Liz Nord
Filmmaker and multi-platform producer Liz Nord (Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock In The Holy Land) is embracing transmedia with her new documentary project, Jerusalem Unfiltered and as director of Lyka's Adventure Labs. She has produced media projects around the world, including MTV's Emmy Award-winning 2008 presidential election coverage, and has presented on a wide range of creativity and media-related topics, notably as a TED speaker at TEDxDumbo.
  • Sandy Brownlee

    Wonderful list! I would add three names: Dr. Christy Dena, Alison Norrington, and Pamela Rutledge.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed – fantastic list! I would also add Lina Srivastava (NYC) & Nedra Weinreich (LA). Keep up the fantastic work everyone.

    • http://twitter.com/Nedra Nedra Weinreich

      Thanks, Andre! And thanks, Liz, for this great list (I agree with Sandy’s additions below as well). I hadn’t thought about the fact that there are so many women leading the way in transmedia, but perhaps it’s because of the collaborative/cross-disciplinary nature of the approach.

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  • http://twitter.com/wildfireeffect Stephanie M Scott

    Thanks for this, i have been following about 1/2 of this list and look forward to adding the other 1/2

  • Interactivemedia

    Good set of people but you should also have had Heather Croall from Crossover Labs on here, who’s been doing transmedia since the mid-90s. It’s a rather American list isn’t it? Would have been good to have people representing all continents, and also less-blogged people working on smaller projects than those North American ones which get repeatedly discussed at transmedia events.

    • http://twitter.com/lizfilm Liz Nord

      Thanks for pointing that out! We’ve got an Englishwoman and a couple lesser-publicized names on this list, but please do keep suggesting more women from around the world so everyone who reads this can learn some more new names and great projects to follow!

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  • http://twitter.com/lizfilm Liz Nord

    Thanks for all the suggestions here and on Twitter! Looks like this post is destined for a “part two.” Heck, it might even become a series. :)

  • Lori McDaniel

    This is SO great and I’m totally gratified to see Maya Zuckerman on your list, as well she should be! :)

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  • RhysMT

    Great list – but how are Alison Norrington, Dr Christy Deena, Dee Cook, Jan Libby, Siobhan O Flynn not on there!!! Also you should look at April Arrlington and Carrie Cutforth Young ; )

    • http://twitter.com/lizfilm Liz Nord

      Thanks for the suggestions! More evidence that we need a part 2!

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  • http://www.ubiquitycorp.com/ Chris Carmichael Ubiquity Corp

    Trans media is not just a small circle of people in the know using trans media storytelling techniques.Trans media is source of information and other many entertainment.