Workflow – Are you able to produce thinking in a product agnostic way? Can your systems manage the process of creating multiple products from one IP?
Rights – Are your rights in order ? Do you know what they own and what you can sell where?
Permissions – The vastly important issue of permissions. Do you have the right permissions cleared, and are you on top of this increasingly important revenue stream?
Globality – Digital means global, so are your systems scalable, multi language and multi currency?
Distribution – Can you get both types of content – digital and physical – out the door in the right format at high quality?
Monetization – Let’s not forget that with digital as well as being able to create multiform, bundled, fragmented any which way content there needs to be thought on how they make money for the content. Digital allows for a 101 ways to change, subscriptions to pay per view.
“Hollywood is discovering that the return on investment becomes more minimal if you don’t employ your property across all platforms… young people want to be told stories in the way that they use media. So you’re looking for a way to reach them pervasively.”—Jeff Gomez in THR on the approved transmedia credit for the Producers Guild of America
It took two years for the Producers Guild of America to approve a transmedia credit. Two years later, it’s finally expected to become a fixture on film credits.
For the creative community, that means an official title to recognize storytelling that spans film, TV, videogames, comicbooks, toys, the Internet, mobile — and new interactive platforms all on display at CES.
Since the PGA started recognizing the role in April 2010, the first credits have already started to appear, with George Stayton getting a transmedia producer title on Paramount and Hasbro’s “Transformers” franchise. The credit’s also appeared on THQ’s “Red Faction” videogame.
But 2012 should prove a watershed year, according to veteran transmedia producer Jeff Gomez, who’s been championing the concept for more than a decade. The Canadian Media Fund will add the credit to its projects. And “there will be (another) major studio getting on board very soon,” Gomez said.
Although the PGA doesn’t have collective bargaining agreements, Gomez hopes transmedia work will eventually become part of the master contracts handled by the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, with those groups already starting discussions to consider the credit, which would net their members more money for their multiplatform work.
Expanding jurisdiction is tricky turf for the guilds — SAG was unable to persuade the companies to include language addressing performance-capture by actors in the last negotiation — but it’s a potentially huge area for Hollywood’s creatives.
Christopher Pfaff, a transmedia consultant who’s vice chairman of the PGA’s New Media Council, believes the PGA’s support of the credit has already had a profound impact. “It took us about two years to get the credit enacted but doing that woke a lot of people up,” he added.
Pfaff, noting that the guild counts over 600 members on the new media council, believes that the turning point in recognizing transmedia has been the cratering of the DVD market.
"The changes in DVDs really resonated for a lot of mainstream PGA members, who are realizing that everything’s up for grabs in terms of platforms," Pfaff notes. "There are all kinds of opportunities to extend the narrative — and the conversations are now taking place at day one. They’ve seen people like James Cameron and J.J. Abrams using multiple entry points into stories."
Pfaff points out that the PGA’s New Media Council already has a working relationship with the WGA East and predicts that the other guilds will want to come on board. “It’s inevitable that their members are going to wake up and say ‘I want to work in transmedia.’”
Transmedia’s not an abstract notion for Gomez, who sits on PGA’s New Media Council and is a co-founder of transmedia developer Starlight Runner Entertainment, which has worked on large multiplatform projects such as “Avatar,” “Tron Legacy,” the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and “Transformers.”
He believes that the majors have started to realize that their approach to transmedia needs to be less reactive.
"Transmedia is something that the studios have been trying to do once a movie hits big, so it tends to repeat itself," he noted, citing the rush to release a game based on a film that’s a watered down copy of a pic’s plot.
That’s starting to change, Gomez believes, turning to Warner Bros.’ approach to its Batman films and games.
"What’s really intriguing is studios are discovering that the videogame can expand the property, not replicate, by exposing other aspects of it," Gomez said. "Warner Bros. is not making any effort to duplicate the Batman story in ‘Arkham Asylum’ and ‘Arkham City’ and they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars (from them)."
Gomez’s Starlight Runner’s no longer alone in the transmedia arena, with about two dozen shops mining the same realm including 42 Entertainment, Campfire and Red Six Media, which recently worked on “Real Steel.”
"Hollywood is discovering that the return on investment becomes more minimal if you don’t employ your property across all platforms," he added. "Young people want to be told stories in the way that they use media. So you’re looking for a way to reach them pervasively."
Scriptshadow runs a great script review blog and has jotted down some good resolutions for all you screenwriters out there. The resolutions actually apply to all writers, from transmedia buffs to novelists so check them out.
Believe in yourself. – Guys, you cannot succeed unless you believe you can. A lack of confidence affects every aspect of your screenwriting. You won’t write as much. You won’t write as well. You won’t try as hard to get your material out there. You’ll project an image of negativity. You have to believe that big things are going to happen if you really want to make it. I just read this article over at CNN which said that while most people give up on their small resolutions, they stick with their big ones, because the big ones require more commitment. So commit to a big spec sale and BELIEVE you can do it. That one shift in attitude is going to change your life.
Write marketable concepts - Guys, I mean, come on. Enough. Stop with these scripts that have no chance of doing anything. Trying to be that 1 in a trillion screenwriter who breaks through on a “nothing” premise is a suicide mission. The number 1 reason a script doesn’t sell is because the concept is weak/non-existent. You want to write your “change the world” script? Break in first. Look at I Think My Facebook Friend Is Dead. Clint and Donnie will be the first ones to tell you they have a lot left to learn, but they came up with a great premise and now their test movie is arguably the frontrunner for the million dollar Amazon prize. Don’t take yourself out of the game this year before you’ve even started to write. Be smart and choose a concept that has a chance of selling.
Take chances in your writing – No, not on a boring premise, but on your actual story. This is one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We get so wrapped up in the rules (I’m no exception to this) that we forget we’re still dealing with art here. And every famous painting or movie or song or play has that certain “je ne sais quoi,” – something in it you can’t quite explain. And that unexplainable quality comes from taking chances. If everything’s exactly by the numbers then that’s how your story will feel – exactly by the numbers. Just make sure you’re not taking chances ONLY to take chances. It still has to feel right and appropriate for your story.
Don’t focus on anything negative – This is a sister resolution to #1, but you guys gotta stop focusing on all the negative information out there about making it as a screenwriter. Are you TRYING to talk yourself out of success? Do you WANT to convince yourself that it’s impossible? Because the information is out there if you want it: “Only one in a million screenwriters actually makes it.” “It’s impossible to become a screenwriter if you don’t live in Los Angeles.” “New screenwriters never sell spec scripts.” Don’t expect anything good to come out of you obsessing over these facts that have been so exaggerated over the years that they’re not even accurate anymore. Just focus on what you can control: Writing and learning. The more writing you do and the more learning you do, the closer you’ll get to breaking in. This business is not as dependent on luck as you think. The people who work their butts off and are serious about their craft almost always find a way in.
Think outside the box – This is a creative industry. That’s what we do. Create. So use some of that creativity to find a back door into the business. People have been doing this forever, and even though showmanship isn’t as beloved as it used to be (screenwriters sending ticking clocks to producers in anticipation of their spec, “The Ticking Man,” which went on to sell for a million bucks), there are still a lot of backdoor creative opportunities to get in. By starting this blog, I increased my rolodex by 200 fold, giving me way more opportunities than I ever dreamed of having. What will you create? What sneaky little thing do you have up your sleeve to break into the industry?
Do not deviate from the plan – There are a lot of great screenplays out there that we’ll never see because they never get finished. Why? Because you never finish them. Because you get bored. Because you don’t want to do the hard work. Because it’s SO MUCH EASIER to start on that new exciting idea you came up with yesterday. I got news for you buster. Screenwriting is hard. It takes dedication. It takes work. It takes you barreling through those bummer moments where you don’t have any idea what to do with your story. Instead of moving on to something new that will eventually put you in the same position you’re in now, stick with it. Finish your screenplay. That sense of accomplishment will give you confidence to rewrite it until it’s perfect. I know it isn’t easy guys. But nothing worth having in this world is.
Be brave – Being passive in real life isn’t much different from being a passive character in a screenplay. It leads to a story that goes NOWHERE. You’re going to have to buck up and do some things you don’t like doing if you want to advance your career. No, I’m not talking about streetwalking on Hollywood and Vine. But you’re going to have to call agents, call managers, send more e-mail queries, follow-up more e-mails. You’re going to have to call that long lost sorta-friend who knows that production manager even though it’s going to be an awkward conversation. Any way you can get people to read your scripts, do it. Because you never know where that break is going to come from. It’s usually from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who gave your script to them. That person calls you in. You end up hitting it off. He hires you for a rewrite. And what do you know? Your career has begun. Breaks materialize in the oddest of places. But they never materialize for people who keep their scripts hidden on their hard drives. Be brave people. Get your stuff out there.
Work more on your characters – I mentioned this in my interview a couple of weeks back. The biggest difference I see between amateur screenplays and professional screenplays is character development. So if you’re serious about this screenwriting thing? It’s time to put a lot more effort into character. Read everything you can about it. Learn how to arc a character. Learn how to build compelling relationships between characters. Start writing 10 page character bios for your main characters. Go through my Scriptshadow Character Generator again. It doesn’t matter how cool your plot is. If you don’t have characters we care about, your script will be LAME.
Get honest feedback – We writers like to live in a dream world, a bubble that allows us to live on in perfect bliss. In this bubble, we improve at a glacial pace, because nobody ever tells us what’s REALLY wrong with our writing. When we do give our script out, it’s to friends or family, the people we know will support us and pat us on the back. I’m sorry but I’m popping your bubble. Bubble time is over loser. This year, I want you to make a commitment to get some honest feedback. Whether it’s joining a writers group, forcing friends to stop bullshitting you, or paying for professional notes. You need someone telling you the truth. Just remember, the main reason writers avoid this is because they’re afraid of being told their writing is bad. Don’t think of it that way! Your writing IS bad. 90% of all writing is bad. But in order to knock that percentage down, you need people telling you what you’re doing wrong so you can IMPROVE.
Help others – This may seem like a touchy feely filler resolution, but it’s probably the most important resolution on this list. All the writers I meet are so focused on THEMSELVES, on their scripts and their problems and their endless screenwriting heartbreaks, that they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Here’s the truth. The more you help other people, the more people will want to help you. I PROMISE you this. I SWEAR to you this will happen. Just try it for a month. Start asking people what you can do for them. Offer someone help in your specific trade. Read other writers’ scripts and give them notes. It will come back to you in ways you’d never imagine. And best of all, you’ll feel good about yourself.