At the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), experts discussed transmedia storytelling, where it’s at and where it could go in the near future.
Multi-platform producer John Heinsen, CEO of Bunnygraph Entertainment (US), talking about the challenges facing transmedia in the US said, “Hollywood studios are antiquated. They’re not about creative ideas. Hollywood is not coming up with fresh new ideas.”
Clarifying the transmedia storytelling means different storytelling for different platforms, as opposed to the older “One Source Multi Use (OSMU)” practice of taking one story and re-purposing it for different platforms, Heinsen emphasized the need for “strategy” in planning and carrying out transmedia storytelling.
He gave an example of what could be possible with Korean dramas.
“Korean dramas are so popular right now with fans in Asia, America, and the Middle East and with transmedia you can tap into and build communities of these fans,” he said.
“For example, if you have a romantic show and two characters are about to have a big date, in between the two episodes where they decide to go on the date and when they go, you can have a video of the girl and her girlfriends going shopping for the date, shot by themselves, at a certain type of store that the viewers know she would go to. This is content that would go out independent of the two episodes, but still live within the storyworld of the drama,” he said, saying certain brands could be induced to fund content like this for their own marketing purposes.
Coming at the issue from an academic standpoint, Daniel H. Byun, professor at SungKyunKwan University and director agreed with the need for strategy in transmedia.
Using photos of raw and cooked T-bone steak and a diagram of a cow and its various parts of meat, he said, “T-bone is great for cooking T-bone steak. Certainly, you could make bulgogi or something else with it, but it would be tough, and not as good. There is a right or best way for each part of the cow to be cooked, just as there will be a right or best kind of storytelling for the different kinds of platform/media, whether it is a film or video game or a stage play or Twitter and Facebook.”
He summed up: “Transmedia is cow husbandry.”
“So this is why you have to start thinking and planning for transmedia at the pre-production stage. You’ll need development people for the different stages and/or platforms. Maybe you won’t have the resources or capital for that. But then you can cook a chicken instead of a cow.”
“But in any case, for this, we need to establish realistic and effective business models for transmedia,” he added, bringing the discussion to the current needs of transmedia.
Kim Hui, CEO of K-Production and a screenwriter (Haeundae, Dancing Queen) and director talked about the state of the Korean environment for transmedia storytelling using his case as an example.
His directorial debut, The Neighbors, was based on a popular web cartoon series by Kang Full.
“I’ll say upfront mine’s a bad example of transmedia if transmedia is meant to have different kinds of creative storytelling for different kinds of platforms because as a film, The Neighbors is very faithful to the webtoon,” he said, explaining that during the time he was working on the project, several films based on popular Kang Full cartoons flopped and so The Neighbors was put on hold.
“The analysis was that fans of the cartoons didn’t like the films getting creative with the original content. But then Late Blossom, which was very faithful to its original Kang Full cartoon, came out and was a success,” he said, explaining he was told to handle The Neighbors in the same way.
“It was a matter of figuring out what the audiences wanted, too,” he said.
“I think the Korean environment for transmedia is bleak because the companies that could do it are very specific and few, and they are already investing in films” he said, referring to conglomerate-owned major studios such as CJ Entertainment, Showbox/Mediaplex and Lotte Entertainment with affiliates in other media such as cable, internet and exhibition.
“This is why screenwriters that can create profit and distinguish themselves in the major studio environment hurry to debut as directors and then start their own production companies. That’s the only way they can get a piece of the profits the major studios [and their affiliates] are getting from their content,” he said, noting it also creates a problem of having fewer professionally experiences screenwriters who do just that job.
Heinsen begged to differ in that indie producers can take advantage of transmedia to build and capitalize on communities for their projects, whether it be for crowdfunding or marketing on release.
“I’ve had productions come to me because distributors wanted them to show what kind of reach they had. If you have a strategy - know your audiences and where they live in the digital space and what to target them with, you can build your storyworld,” he said.
“It’s also a matter of taking marketing budget and instead of spending it all after the film is completed, taking a fraction of that budget to use earlier on, so that you can create transmedia during the production & keep costs down, and build and capitalize on your community,” he said.