Blacklight Does Transmedia: The Future of Storytelling — and End of Lame Movie Tie-Ins

TheGrill@Tribeca: The benefits of working across different media channels to create a broader, unified experience

Last Updated: June 13, 2012 @ 5:09 PM


Has R. Eric Lieb hit on the future of storytelling?

Speaking at TheGrill@Tribeca, TheWrap's inaugural conference on independent filmmaking, the president of Blacklight Transmedia gave a primer on transmedia, a form of storytelling — and marketing — in which a story is told through various media to create a complete world. He was interviewed by the site's Editor-in-Chief, Sharon Waxman. (Photograph by Susan May Tell)

Crediting USC and former MIT communications professor Henry Jenkins with creating the term, Lieb said transmedia is a form of storytelling in which creative elements "are disbursed systematicially across different media channels for the purpose of creating a coordinated and unified media entertainment experience."

"So each bit of the larger whole contributes to the viewer's discovery of the story universe, and each piece is an entrypoint by which the consumer can … discover the story world and in turn be immersed within that story world," he added.

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If that sounds complicated, real world examples abound. The "Star Wars" prequels, for example, spawned videogames in which players could take the part of members of the Jedi Council who were only briefly seen on theater screens.

Lieb worked previously at Artisan Entertainment, where the "Saw" films were complemented by comic books that revealed the villain's origin. "Matrix" videogames offered similar insights into the film's world.

Transmedia, is different, he stressed, from cross-media, in which people create after-the-fact books, comics, or videogames that fans sometimes see as subpar cash grabs. In transmedia, the story is created for the various platforms at the same time, and shared across those platforms fairly simultaneously.

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Transmedia often works best in "Star Wars"-like stories that create vast, new worlds. Such stories offer plenty of opportunities to tell the stories of characters who aren't always on-screen, Lieb said.

"Those characters you don't see in the movie are off doing something," he said.

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