Development blog: Transmedia Buzz

Development blog: Building film buzz means embracing buzz words

iFeatures Development Blog.

Whilst partaking in Birds Eye View’s inaugural filmonomics programme, producer Marcie MacLellan was introduced to  Christopher Granier-Deferre, Executive Producer of iFeatures, Creative England’s innovative low budget filmmaking initiative. Joining director Dan Kokotajlo and writer Charlotte Wise , Marcie submitted a feature film project, Apostasy, to the programme and shortly afterwards learned that the project would receive development funding. In this blog series, Marcie provides an account of her development journey with the iFeatures programme. 

Here, Marcie discusses the buzz around transmedia…

Building film buzz means embracing buzz words

You know the buzz is officially out of a buzzword when people stop talking about it and start doing it. Transmedia is one of those words. When I was participating in Biennale’s inaugural development programme for filmmakers as part of the Venice International Film Festival, transmedia was still the comparatively new kid on the block. But its popularity has taken off and then some. Now that we’re one of the eight teams to get through to full development of our feature film with iFeatures3, the non-traditional marketing approaches they promote shows that transmedia has more than just a passing role to play.

So what exactly is it? It’s hard not to think of transmedia as just cross-media repackaged and re-marketed. However, while cross-media is described as “a media property, service, story or experience distributed across media platforms using a variety of media forms,” the inventor of the term, Henry Jenkins, defines transmedia as “the integration of entertainment experiences across a range of different media platforms.” In his book, Convergence Culture, he writes that “transmedia immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of dispersed entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story.”

In a recent article I wrote for Talk Business, I found that the difference between cross-media and transmedia lies largely in the perspective a story takes, the detail it offers and the impression it creates. With cross-media you generally start with one concept and deliver it across all media available. With transmedia, each medium that your audience interacts with should serve a very specific purpose, while allowing your story to unfold like chapters in a book.  And like a good book, more of the narrative of the story is shared over time, allowing for a deeper connection with its characters. And that’s where, as a producer, transmedia can be far more exciting than cross-media ever was.

Whether or not you fully buy into the hype of a broader transmedia approach, you should never underestimate the power that social media can have. As a recent example, Alan Graves, my co-producer on another iFeatures supported film The Prefect and Line Producer for Northern Soul, has witnessed first-hand what social media can do. As recently reported in The Guardian, “it was expected to be a short-run release of a niche movie. But a wave of social media interest in Northern Soul, a film about the 1970s British dance movement which will be released on Friday, is turning it into a nationwide success beyond the dreams of its creators.”

Obviously some genres lend themselves better to this type of promotion than others. According to Graves, Northern Soul was made popular on social media by ‘enthusiasts in the scene’ making it a prime candidate for this type of push. In some cases however, your project may only be suited for more traditional marketing approaches. You just need to know the difference.

We’ve had to ask this of our feature film project, Apostasy, a drama about a young woman raised in the Jehovah’s Faith, struggling to determine if her love for her sister is more vital than her love for God. Its fit in transmedia takes a bit of thinking about – which is exactly what we did as part of the exhaustive development process with iFeatures3. Before we decided to leap into the social media realm and the deeper transmedia world, we discovered three reasons why we’ve decided to take story telling beyond the big screen.

  1. Depth

The topics our film delves into have a lot of depth, which means supplementary documentaries, news footage and real-life events can lend themselves well to our transmedia strategy when it comes to giving people an ‘in’ to the world our characters inhabit and finding ways to relate to them outside of their faith.   Among them, we plan to incorporate supplementary ‘behind the scenes’ films shot in a documentary style featuring members of the Jehovah’s Witness community, along with media stories citing ‘signs’ of the coming Armageddon. Our film’s characters also have back stories that begin well before our film starts and can continue long after it ends. As transmedia stories are just that – stories – we know that our characters can take our audience farther.

  1. Dialogue

Transmedia demands a dialogue – and that is one thing our film most certainly encourages. It begs the questions: What is faith? What does it mean to lose faith? Is love more important than faith? These questions spark conversations – and intensely personal and controversial ones at that. This translates to blogs, tweets, posts and images that keep an audience engaged every step of the way, in every medium we use.

  1. Reach

We know that our film will initially draw an indie audience. But as it deals with themes of family, love and redemption, it will ultimately attract a wider audience through festival success and positive word of mouth. That word of mouth will come not just from the experience of the film, but by immersing people in the world of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, faith in general, and people’s sense of superstition and fears of what the ‘end of the world’ could look like. In short, its audience may start niche, but its potential reach is anything but.

Written by Marcie MacLellan

Marcie MacLellan is co-founder of Incontext Productions, a content production house based in London, England. She has a BA in Journalism and a MA in Screenwriting and Production. She is the producer for Apostasy, a feature film currently in development with iFeatures3. Stay tuned for her next blog about the iFeatures process, where she discusses the importance of developing strong female characters in a Bechdel friendly world. 

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