The Cultural Gutter

dangerous because it has a philosophy

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

The Unnameable Future

Gutter Guest
Posted May 5, 2011

serious 80.jpg…or, Why We Are Confused About The Defining
Terms Angrily Dismissed By Those Trying to Trademark Them

Recently on her site GiantMice.com, “experience designer” Brooke Thompson posted an article entitled, “Transmedia Is Killing Hollywood Will Kill Transmedia.” In it, Thompson decries the fact that the new storytelling form known as “transmedia” (previously called “cross-platform storytelling,” and before that called some-other-damn-thing) is being bastardized by Hollywood.

Where transmedia was once about experiential storytelling (by “once,” we mean approximately three years ago), it is now little more than a catch-all phrase for the various non-movie extensions of a franchise. Please do keep in mind that Thompson and several of her cohorts are the folks who actually gave Hollywood that label to run with. More on that shortly. To Thompson—and several others currently working deeply in the bowels (you know who you are) of this Alternate Reality Entertainment—transmedia’s values have been squandered and marginalized by studio-types looking to cash in by building their same-old crap with shiny new transmedia packaging. In her view, these studio types are “killing transmedia” by running away with the label, calling any story told with a movie and comicbook and / or videogame, a “transmedia property.”

Thompson knows a thing or two about transmedia, having been the architect of the amazing “Why So Serious?” marketing campaign for The Dark Knight. Wait, did we call that a marketing campaign? Apologies. We meant, “transmedia experience.” She is a real talent, and one of the few people who could, and does, call themselves an expert in this yet-to-evolve field without being a self-aggrandizing prick. But her experience with the experiential has not only yielded expertise, it has also engendered the same kind of myopia of which she accuses “Hollywood.” Again, she is not alone with this.

serious president 250.jpg“The one thing businessmen love as much as money is a buzzword,” Thompson writes. “Especially a buzzword that they can use to describe exactly what they have always done but make it sound fresh and oh so hip. They don’t have to grow or adapt, all they have to do is change a word. Enter Transmedia.”

She’s right. Any big organization or system—or non-system, as we have frequently declared “Hollywood” to be—is resistant to change. As crappy as America’s economy is, and as crappy as many people will tell you movies have been lately, the film industry is still inarguably successful and sees no reason to change. Beyond that, the industry may very well be incapable of self-initiating the kind of change required to treat transmedia the way Thompson sees fit, i.e. transforming from a film into a transmedia industry. We are sure that she is smart enough to know this, and as such, that she has the plan to change an entire profitable industry into something more closely resembling the business she would like it to be. Particularly, one where the industry continues to hire her, spending large amounts of money to do so—as it should. In the meantime, Hollywood has merely jumped on the cool kids’ bandwagon, using certain elements of transmedia to market the same stuff. We have no argument with Thompson there, by the way. She’s right again. Hollywood is doing what it has always done.

But so what? How exactly does Hollywood co-opting certain elements of transmedia—even the word itself–kill transmedia? These properties will still exist and be consumed by those who enjoy the form and transmedia and “fake transmedia,” will coexist. And both, for the foreseeable future, will be used mostly to market films to people who otherwise don’t know an ARG from a QR tag. So, how exactly is anyone or anything being “killed?”

Thompson and others like her, who have eaten and breathed transmedia since before it had a name, are so close to the form that they cannot see anything else, and are just as resistant to its evolution as Hollywood is to its own. The difference being, perhaps, that Thompson and friends seem to see it as only for those who toiled away in semi-obscurity making little-to-no money on projects using these types of storytelling methods just for the sheer love of it. There is something to be said for what Steve Peters et al, did with The Matrix—something purely for the sheer love of it. But when those same persons were paid significant amounts of money, to use those same methods for Warner Brothers’ The Dark Knight, Trent Reznor’s Year Zero or Microsoft’s Halo 2, they were no longer doing it just for love. Maybe that is where the problem lies.

We get the reality of what Thompson is trying to say, but it sounds more and more like the kids who liked the really cool indie band before anyone else did—and then once the band goes mainstream, it’s just not the same anymore. They need something else that is on the fringe that no one else really likes. Yet. Early adopters / Geeks typically don’t like it when the masses discover the things that used to be esoteric. (See John Crye’s rant on this very site called “What’s the Matter with Runescape?” in which he denounces the Norms playing videogame versions of RPGs that used to get the Geeks beaten up back when “WoW” was spelled “D&D”). The only thing that makes any Geek better than the Norms—and other Geeks—is the esoteric shit they know about. Esoterica is the source of a Geek’s power and cred.

In no uncertain terms, they’ve done it themselves—THEY being the fine, creative folks who coined the term for doing what storytellers have done for centuries—tell stories using whatever means they have had available to them at the time. THEY had an opportunity to make some money doing what they love. THEY subsequently attracted more attention not only to the stories they were trying to tell, but also to the products they were helping to sell. The problem now is, the big corporations introduced to this way of storytelling / marketing are doing what they always do—co-opting it to suit their own needs. Finding a cheaper way of doing it. In doing this, these originators are not the only ones being hired to do this any longer. So, in effect, even with the love, these projects became something more akin to businesses they were trying to create, which became something that they could no longer control and / or be the only game—or Experience Creators, if you are thrown by the pun— in town.

~~~

JOHN CRYE & TODD SHARP ARE GEEKS AND WHORES WHO WILL TELL THEIR STORIES ON ANY AND ALL MEDIA THEY CAN EXPLOIT, PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT PAY WELL.

Next month, John Crye & Todd Sharp return with “The Unnameable Future, Part II”, in which Thompson’s follow-up to “Transmedia is Killing Hollywood will Kill Transmedia” is responded to and the Truth is revealed!

Comments

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Sequart, friend of the Gutter Colin Smith is taking an exhaustive look at the American superhero comics of Mark Millar–and by exhaustive, we mean, “28 Part.”

    ~

    Friend of the Gutter, Will McKinley writes about his past as a soap opera fan and the return of a classic soap opera, The Doctors, and its significance for the genre.

     

    ~

    Action choreographer, director and stunt performer Panna Rittikrai has died. Films Panna worked on, whether as a choreographer, director, producer and/or actor include: Born To Fight / Gerd Ma Lui (1986 and 2004), Tom Yum Goong (2005), Chocolate (2008), Spirited Killer (1994),  Power Kids (2009),  Dynamite Warrior/Khon Fai Bin (2006), Bangkok Knockout (2010) and all three Ong-Bak films (2003, 2008, 2010).  Film Business Asia, The Bangkok Post and Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal have obituaries. City On Fire and Far East Films also remember Panna. Here’s an interview with Panna from Thai Indie.  Panna kicks ass in this tribute video.

    ~

    Actor and singer Elaine Stritch has died. Stritch worked extensively on Broadway, but she also appeared in September (1987), Small Time Crooks (2000), Monster-In-Law (2005), the British television series, Two’s Company3rd Rock From The Sun, My Sister Eileen and 30 Rock. The New York Times Variety and The Detroit Free Press. Saara Dutton remembers Stritch in her piece, “In Praise of Broads.” Here Stritch performs, “Zip” from Pal Joey, “Why Do The Wrong People Travel?” from Sail Away and “I’m Still Here” at the White House. Here she is in a 2008 production of Endgame. And here she is on Theater Talk.

    ~

    Actor and producer James Garner has died. Garner is probably most famous for his role as Jim Rockford in the tv series, The Rockford Files, but he also starred in Maverick (the tv series and the 1994 film), Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), Marlowe (1969), The Great Escape (1963),   Victor/Victoria (1982), Move Over, Darling (1963), My Fellow Americans (1996), Space Cowboys (2000), God, The Devil and BobDivine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002),  8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter and The Notebook (2006). The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Variety have obituaries. Here is Garner in what is reportedly his favorite television series, Nichols (1971). And here Garner talks about acting.

    ~

    The Projection Booth watches Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires with Troy Howarth.

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: