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Is an assumption in the way?What is the worst-case scenario?Could I do the opposite?How can I thrill the end user?What am I afraid of?Do I understand why?Where else has something similar been done?What is expected and why?Who has something to lose?Who is the enemy and how do we foil them?Who could solve this problem with ease, and how?How would my favorite super hero do it?How would my favorite movie character do it?Could I change the medium?Could I ask the question differently?How would a 3rd grader approach this problem?What question do I need to answer first?Is there a resource I’m lacking?How would I describe the problem in three words?Are there sub-problems to the main problem?What’s the world like once the problem’s solved?Who can I call for help?Can I create a metaphor for the problem?How would I start over?What’s primary block and why?
#Transmedia Book Excerpt 3 - Star Wars Is Our Low Bar
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be pulling select excerpts from our upcoming Macro-Narrative Transmedia practice guide, The Great Narrative Expansion. This particular excerpt, “Star Wars Is Our Low Bar” piggybacks off the last excerpt and highlights another of the reasons we decided to publish the book. Enjoy.
Star Wars is our low bar.
Again, the main reason we began developing our own process was that we needed something tailored to exactly what we wanted to do creatively and how we were thinking about our projects, and let me warn you now - we’re big thinkers. Really big actually. To the point where most people think we’re crazy. This, to us, means we’re on the right track. It also means that any process we use needs to be scalable to fit our big, crazy vision.
I grew up a devoted fan of the Star Wars saga. I watched the films, owned the toys, donned the underroos, played the roleplaying game (Second Edition, not the original) and read the expanded-universe novels. Today, I marvel at the fact that George Lucas is still making so much money on one idea nearly 30 years after inception. Not only is there new content being produced in nearly every medium, there are dozens upon dozens of documentaries produced and books written that analyze every aspect of the franchise. It’s astounding how this creative project has not only endured, but has continued to thrive over multiple decades. Lucas has accomplished this by imbedding his idea into not only the entertainment, publishing and toy industries, but culture as a whole.
With the Harry Potter series, I believe that J.K. Rowling has created a similarly enduring work. I’m not just talking about book sales or box office results. I’m not just talking about how J.K. Rowling is worth a billion dollars because of the franchise. I’m also referring to the massive multi-demographical, worldwide community she’s built. The notion that a children’s book about a young boy attending a school of wizardry, which was written on an old manual typewriter in Great Britain, now causes adults across the world to argue about what House the Sorting Hat would select for them is amazing to me. Seriously, to make people that passionate about a piece of fiction is equally rare and awesome. Whether you’re a fan of the series is beside the point. The cultural impact it’s had is unquestionably remarkable.
Before some slick transmedia aficionado fires off an angry tweet about these two franchises not being “true transmedia”, let me cut them off. I recognize that Star Wars isn’t the best transmedia example because of the lack of additive comprehension in the different pieces. I also recognize that Harry Potter has existed as a straight adaptation before the announcement of Pottermore. So, when I fondly mention these projects, I’m focusing on their overall success, cultural impact and success rather than whether they fit snuggly into a transmedia definition. If we can take the good things about these franchises and add those to our immersive transmedia experience we’ve designed from the ground up - watch out.
Are the accomplishments of Lucas, Rowling and writers like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis exclusive to them? They created endurable works that have impacted people’s lives in ways that 99.9% of other creative works haven’t, but are they unique in their ability to create works of this nature? Absolutely not.
If George Lucas did it and J.K. Rowling did it, then so can we. And so can you. If you have the proper leading, a great idea and you’re armed with the right tools, I say chase the giant whale and don’t settle for Nemo. Nemo is cool and all, but Nemo isn’t for us (Nemo as in the size of the fish, not the $867 million Finding Nemo made at the box office - we would find a way to live with that).
Bottomline: We’re going big. We’re going for Star Wars-sized projects. We want to make J.K. Rowling jealous. We’re going for works that are legacy-compliant. If my great-great-grandchildren aren’t seeing one of our ideas thriving in their time, then we didn’t think big enough.
However, I’m not just saying to dream that big in a ‘wouldn’t that be cool’ way. I’m telling you to plan that big from the inception of your project. If Lucas can get the results he’s achieved when he didn’t initially expect Star Wars to be more than a single film and had to expand the universe on the fly, how much more can we, as informed transmedia content creators, achieve when we think big and plan accordingly from the gate?
I’m telling you to go ahead and build a 90,000 square-foot house even though you may only use four rooms at first. It’s much easier to do that than to keep adding on additions to a two-room starter home. Don’t believe me? Dig up some interviews with Damon Lindelof and listen to him talk about how difficult it was to keep expanding Lost on the fly when the mysterious island was only designed for the pilot episode.
I know it seems like a lot to take on. You know why it seems like that? Because it’s a lot to take on. But you can’t expect to create a transmedia project as big as Star Wars, as good as Lawrence of Arabia, sells as well as Harry Potter and lasts as long as The Odessy without putting in some good old fashioned sweat equity.
So, how do you plan for something that big? You follow our Macro-Narrative Transmedia process.