Multi-platform work won’t just be a novelty in the digital age, according to speakers at yesterday’s Power to the Pixel | Cross-Media Forum, which ran in association with the BFI London Film Festival.

Mike Monello, co-creator of The Blair Witch Project and co-founder of cross-media producer Campfire said: “We are not at the cutting edge…we are trying to catch up to audiences.”

He spoke of how The Blair Witch Project took off with audiences because of its “story universe” that existed even before the film’s rlease.

He said film-makers and storytellers now should not just deliver a story, but an “experience design.”

On opening the forum, Power to the Pixel founder Liz Rosenthal said cross-media was still in the process of breaking out of the perception that it was just a “fad, weird niche or a form of marketing of existing products.”

Factors such as internet-enabled TV, video-on-demand rollout, games consoles as entertainment hubs, and mobile platform growth could help to advance cross-media not just as marketing tools but as a key part of business models. One speaker said this could be the year “when people start signing big cheques.”

The Forum heard about recent successes such as Paramount’s The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD) and Submarine’s work on Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly.

Also at the conference, Michel Reilhac, executive director at Arte France Cinema, said that one trend is designing experiences for multiple points of entry into a narrative story. He called that “game-ification,” because it reflects the kinds of interaction seen in gaming or social networking.

He quoted games pioneer Jane McGonigal’s suggestion that by the time they reach 21, young people may have spent as much as 10,000 hours gaming - almost equal to what they spend in school.

The experts at PTTP also pointed out another trend, which is online rewards for activity. In gaming and social networks, status (number of friends, a place on a leaderboard) is more important than monetary reward.

Jamie King, founder of crowdsourcing service and P2P distributor VODO, noted how he had created an online currency that encouraged audiences to use social networks to promote films.

To make cross media projects work, screenwriters can’t be tied to the former formal conventions of the screenplay.

“We need a different range of skills…writers who can change gears really fast,” said writer Maureen McHugh.

Transmedia pioneer Lance Weiler, for instance, calls himself a “story architect” but notes that storytelling is still at the heart of multi-platform work. His starting port is “a story I am dying to tell.”

Related events continue today with the Pixel Pitch FInance Summit and Competition