Third panel: Designing Transmedia Worlds
In attendance were David Brisbin, Art Director/Production Designer (Twilight, New Moon, The Day Earth Stood Still), Danny Bilson (The Rocketeer, The Flash, The Sentinel), Derek Johnson, Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas, R. Eric Lieb, Partner at Blacklight Transmedia and former editor-in-chief of Atomic Comics (28 Weeks Later), and Laeta Kalogridis, screenwriter and Executive Producer (Shutter Island, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Bionic Woman).
Building a world is about setting up a system of rules whereby all the events that will take place within that world will have to conform.
The panelists saw transmedia as partnership between different production sites. These production sites share some resources but they see the content slightly differently. Derek Johnson noted that franchise logic is an economic logic which in turn reflects the creative and cultural logic. The whole goal is to find an intellectually satisfying way to create content. Others noted that when creating worlds, the first thing you have to figure out is where the center of the universe is. The question “Where do you want to go today?” will lead you to that center.
Ultimately, transmedia is messy, it has different positions and investments whereas the producers tend to want something unified, and thus, present the locus of control. Fans, on the other hand, are long-standing experts on transmedia even if they are merely lurkers. They like to retell the stories, but by doing so, they create multiplicity and contradictions. While franchises themselves show intolerance for multiplicity in meaning-making, fans are quite resilient in accepting contradictory narrative developments.
Despite this contradiction, the existence of fans does not threaten the industry. As a matter of fact, the energy that fans put can serve as an industrial function in its own right. I would argue is that this is the reason why the creators of Lonelygirl15 were able to build their brand and eventually found EQAL, an entertainment company that develops what they later identified as “social shows.”
The most important thing about transmedia experience is ownership. As the audience is consuming individual parts of the transmedia franchise, or purchasing t-shirts, mugs, action figures, she is appropriating these texts and making it her own. Thus the sense of ownership is one of the important characteristics of these experiences. The trickiest part of transmedia production, as one would suspect, is timing the release of individual pieces. The games need to be developed in time to be released in the most effective manner, the comic books that may be filling in areas that are not covered in the movies must be released in between these films.