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MarlaLewinGFV


Reporting on movies, film festivals, film production, premieres, movie events, industry trends and plays from around the world
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The Global Film Village: Toying with Transmedia at the LA Film Festival

The Marvel Universe: (c) 2010 Marvel Comics All Rights Reserved. 

by Marc Halperin

Toying with Transmedia was a lecture by MIT professor Henry Jenkins, this trend has been around for more than a decade but has gained traction lately. I first heard about Transmedia at the San Diego Comic-Con years ago. Robert Gould an old friend created Imaginosis in 1999 to focus on visual artists who create "World Properties." At the center of that company is the World of Brian Froud who designed the Dark Crystal and the world of Faeries including the best selling book Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book.

Professor Jenkins described his work as "Where old and new media collide." He looked at it from the viewpoint of comic books with cross-overs to movies, toys, television and other mass consumable media.

Professor Jenkins presented us wih a new lexicon of terms to describe this world.

Spreadability is the term used to describe why we want to pass on our experience with a product to friends. The producer first creates within us an emotional or intellectual connection that impels consumers to want to share the experience.

Drillability is the further exploration of a subject. To feed this desire the reader should find it essay to find additional information through links and availability of secondary products.

Continuity and multiplicity are variations on a theme.  Continuity is the creation of a structured world. An example of this is the Marvel Universe begun in the 1960s. Prior to  this superheroes existed in their own realms. In the world of DC Comics each character was a stand alone both in location and story. Superman was in Metropolis or Smallville. Batman lived and worked in Gotham. Cross overs were limited. The casual fan could pick up a comic and be aware of everything they needed to know in an individual book.

Marvel created something different Stan Lee grafted the comic book onto the soap opera format (Seriality). Every character was powerful but flawed. Every book had its own cast of characters but they were aware of all of the other super heroes everywhere. Marvel built continuity into every story. Crossovers were encouraged. This caries on within the latest movies including Iron Man 2. Heroes from one series would guest in other books and join in groups to fight larger villains, groups of villains, or conspiracies. Marvel understood their audience and built their universe for growth. They also took advantage of the yearly cycle building to the summer when their audience had more free time and they launched annuals or giant size books as special issues to fill that need.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siQgD9qOhRs

Multiplicity allows the telling of stories from the viewpoint of secondary characters or in the Marvel Universe entire summer story arcs were created in which each character's book would tell the story from their perspective (Subjectivity) but by reading all of the books available each month the experience was far richer for the fans.This lead to the creation of over 5000 unique characters which made the company a valuable commodity. Disney recently paid over $4 Billion for these assets even though most of the best known brands are already licensed to other companies. (On June 22, Disney announced that Dr. Strange was going into development as a feature.)

Extensibility lead to the explosion of toys, games, comic books and novels created the opportunity to immerse the audience into the world in greater depth than could be done just in a comic book. World building is multiple experiences based on extensibility of existing characters. An example of this is the Paramount distributed Transformer franchise which exists to sell toys. The first two movies have sold billions of tickets, toys and tie-ins of all kinds.

Extractability is how the experiences of this world can transport the consumer to other worlds. Modeling a world to immerse a large population of viewers is  a major undertaking. The audience is further encouraged to explore sanctioned events that enhance their experience with the product through real world experiences. Warner has recently launched the Wizarding World of Harry Potter  at Universal Florida.

Prior to the Transmedia model taking hold movies were pitched  based on their story alone. The script or its story's uniqueness was enough. Then in the late Seventies and Eighties we entered a period when characters sold the script. Now producers pitch the World including multiple characters and story arcs with a full compliment of toys, games and multiple spin-offs envisioned from the beginning. Studios and Networks now understand that building franchises leads to enormous profitability. In television the Law and Order franchise has existed for twenty years keeping NBC afloat with multiple spin-off series existing simultaneously. The CIS franchise has dominated CBS's programming. Movie studios have grown to depend on franchises and sequels because they deliver targeted and dependable audiences. The secret to the success of this is deliver the audience the same product but just slightly different each time. Audiences want the familiar but with a new twist. Creators are free to explore their worlds but to be successful they cannot stray far from what has gone before.

 

Marc Halperin was General Sales Manager of both Miramax and Fine Line Features. He has over 30 years of experience distributing major motion pictures. He was partnered with Robert Gould in Cygnus a limited edition publishing company in the early eighties that produced highly collectable artwork from comic book artists Barry Smith, Jeffrey Jones, Robert Gould and illustrator Alan Lee. 

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.

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