Walking with Hipster Dinosaurs: How To Make A Transmedia Production
For many producers, hearing the words Transmedia or New Media is a daunting, confusing directive. Taking your storyworld and expanding it across multiple platforms is not only at the vanguard of the entertainment industry, it is also increasingly what differentiates films from one another in the eyes of audiences and distributors.
It is no longer the exceptional film that has a website and social media as part of its rollout. It is the rule. The material that surrounds a feature is as vital to its success as what ends up on screen and filmmakers and the industry are adapting rapidly.
This is not to say they don’t require creative, well executed and compelling narratives, fiction and non-fiction, at their core. The fact is that any film can be improved by ancillary materials that are both elegant and well considered. Especially because that is where audiences will first learn about your film.
This year at the Tribeca Film Festival, the projects shown are not simply great films. They’re storyworlds that can be explored online, in live events, on phones, and of course in theaters. This is both a challenge and a great opportunity for filmmakers who have stories to tell.
It gives one a larger canvas to do so (not limited by the running time of a film) but expanded to the limits of one’s ability. Working on multiple platforms allows an artist to include many of the pieces that might not have been able to fit into the finished film and show perspectives on the narrative that otherwise would never be seen.
This is all good, but what does it mean to actually do this?
My experiences, ranging from international studio blockbusters and Triple-A video games to novels and television productions– have taught me that this kind of creation is fascinating, difficult, profitable, hugely collaborative and most important— inspiring and very fun. Since filmmakers are encountering the need to produce their content on multiple platforms even in the most basic, traditional productions, my co-producer and I decided to create a no-budget, educational project to show just how this sort of production comes to life: Jurassic Park Slope.
Jurassic Park Slope is first and foremost, a movie. The full-length feature is a comedic parody of the 1993 classic, Jurassic Park; the movie that got me interested in making movies in the first place. Our version was a no budget, guerilla production by design because for most filmmakers starting out in transmedia production, they don’t have millions, or even thousands of dollars to throw into their ancillary platforms… at least for their first attempt.
So what is it about? It’s not just about the production, it’s about telling a story that’s going to be interesting and fun. What’s more interesting and fun than insufferable hipsters being eaten by dinosaurs?
Nothing ruins a good party like a Velociraptor attack. And when a group of urban hipsters gets caught up in a whirlwind of Mesozoic fury, it’ll take more than PBR and vinyl records to get them out of Brooklyn alive.
The film will be released through a variety of non-traditional distribution platforms, but centers around a walking tour of Brooklyn. As of April 23, you’ll be able to find that on your smartphone via Moveable Feast Mobile Media’s App. This application allows anyone to create a walking tour for free, giving a platform for filmmakers to create location specific experiences.
This is not the only content we created, though. Taking our cheaply constructed dinosaurs out to events in Brooklyn we began to build interest with our audience. We also used a flyer campaign to reach out to other creators who would want to create pieces in our story world early on.
I will discuss more of these processes at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive Day on April 23, video of which will be posted shortly. To compliment these endeavors, which so far were the cost of paper mache and photocopies, we took our characters online, not only helping us to develop them for our script, but expanding the reach of the property into the established fans and new fans alike. Our fan base had been built before we had shot a single scene.
These ideas worked for Jurassic Park Slope, finding us the resources we needed to shoot the film in Summer 2011. We rewarded the generous contributions of our fans by creating events and meetups around the production, culminating in our final shoot at an exclusive party in December featuring musicians from the soundtrack. We also created videos for our website, online presences for fictional characters, live theatrical events for meetup groups that would host us and tried to pursue the opportunities that came our way as best we could. Ultimately, we’ll be putting all of what we’ve learned from this film and our past experiences into a book that will describe the development and production process on multiple platforms with little to no budget.
For most filmmakers, you may read about the activities we described above and say to yourself, wait? That’s it? I can do that. You can, that’s the point. It’s real work to create projects on multiple platforms, but the biggest barrier to getting it done is figuring out how to do it yourself with the tools at hand.
Every time a filmmaker takes on new additions to their film we can learn from their successes and missteps, how to make beautiful things and how to use them to fund our next project. Jurassic Park Slope is a delightful comedic film, but most importantly, it’s designed to inspire others to create their own work and to do it better than we were able to.