Today I want to talk about Mike Monello’s presentation on Day 1 of the Power to the Pixel 2010 event, because it has a lot to say about Transmedia (past and present), plus it’s full of great insights for practitioners and future commissioning agents. For those of you who don’t know Mike, he is one of the co-producers of ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ and a founder of Campfire.
Monello began with a provactive statement:
I have no desire to make movies anymore.
Which was qualified by saying that Transmedia had become so much more fulfilling for him as a producer and a storyteller that he was no longer as excited by the prospect of creating something in the dark, crafting it in private and then launching a shrink-wrapped product on the world. Instead, he enjoys the process of dialogue with fans, building a mythology together and feeling the adrenaline rush of watching events unfold ‘live’.
This is what happened in the pre-release build up to the ‘Blair Witch Project’ and led to the creation of Campfire. Since then, he has been working predominantly with ad agencies and brand owner’s marketing departments, because marketeers are used to creating ads and campaigns across multiple platforms. For them, Transmedia isn’t much of a leap. And, for the time being, this is where the money is coming from – out of advertising and marketing budgets. Consequently, this has led to Campfire working on a number of projects for TV shows (Trueblood & The Colony), video games, publishers (Penguin) and brand owners (Audi).
Monello admits that for many Transmedia producers the technology and choices can be daunting. His advice is to focus on the story that you want to tell and the way in which you want to tell it. Sound familiar? All the other decisions will then fall into place. Furthermore, we have to think this way, because audiences are already engaged with stories as Transmedia – whether we’ve planned them that way or not. They don’t differentiate between an activity book, a game, a TV show, etc… to the audience, it’s all part of the same story universe.
A simple approach to Transmedia… the best approach… is rooted in simple human behaviour and desires… Successfully implemented in experiential entertainment for years – what Michel Ruilhac refered to as ‘Experience Design‘. Transmedia is not just a buzzword but a form of story that is closest to how we perceive the world.
To give an example of ‘Experience Design’ from history, Monello used Coney Island – the peninsula on the southern end of Brooklyn, New York – that from the 1890′s to the 1930′s was a “perfect storm of entrepreneurism, creativity and technology.” Maxim Gorky called it, “A fantastic city of fire” – on account of the million plus electric lightbulbs that were used to light the area – the first mass use of electricity in America. Coney Island had become a fairground of unusual attractions, events and marketing.
George Tilyou was a permanent fixture at Coney Island and, arguably, a Transmedia artist who combined theatre and amusement rides into a grand spectacle. He built a wide assortment of amusement activities, which today would be an insurance nightmare: a loop-de-loop rollercoaster that wasn’t without incident, a human roulette wheel that turned around until it spun people off into the crowds… but in 1897, he launched ‘Steeplechase Park‘, which was to become his crowing glory.
The Steeplechase Park was a mechanical race-track, where the punters could sit on a wooden ‘horse’ and fly around a track. But the main attraction here was not the track itself but the ‘Blowhole Theatre’ that followed. After riding the track, the participants were forced up onto a well-lit platform (as opposed to a gift shop, which would be the strategy today) and forced to traverse a shifting floor, shaking staircase and clowns with electric prods who would electrocute the men and corral the women over blowholes that would upset their skirts. This was essentially a giant stage, because viewing galleries and balconies had been built all around it for other people to watch. And audiences couldn’t get enough of it. They had to darken the stage to force voyeurs to leave in order to let knew people in to watch. This show ran for 70 years, making it the longest running show in New York’s history.
For Monello, what we take away from this history lesson is that customers would pay for the privilege of entertaining other customers. People like seeing shows but they like seeing other people even more. Sounds like YouTube, doesn’t it?
In 1907 Steeplechase park burnt to the ground. The morning after fire, Tilyou posted sign
“to enquiring friends, I have troubles today that I had not yesterday, I had troubles yesterday which I have not today. On this site will be built a bigger better Steeplechase park. Admission to the burning ruins 10 cents.”
Tilyou was a showman to the end…
Lesson 1: design communal, shared experiences. This will make them more meaningful.
The Internet gives us massive scale and visibility. Like the design of the Greek ampitheatre, audiences react best when they can see each other.
There were more interesting history lessons from Coney Island. For example, in 1897 Dr Martin Cooney invented the incubator to save the lives of premature babies. Unfortunately, he could not gather support for his invention from the medical community, who had come to think of premature babies as a lost cause and, instead, focused their resources on saving the lives of mothers and helping to prevent premature babies in the first place. So, in 1903, he set up a permanent exhibit at Cooney Island. People could come and see premature babies being saved in full view inside his incubators. He used the money he raised for further research. Eventually, people understood that the babies at his Cooney Island exhibit got better treatment than they would in hospitals, as Cooney opened up more exhibits world wide. Eventually, the medical community took notice and the rest is history.
Lesson 2: People make an instant connection to tangible stories.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Great post by David G Wilson AKA Transmediator on Mike Monello's Power to the Pixel Day 1 talk 'A Universal Framework'
Posted by siobhan at 6:18 PM