Monthly Archive for: ‘December, 2007’

The Visionaries Continued: Halo & Madonna

8 Defining Principles of Trans-Media Production
Part II: The Visionaries Continued: Halo & Madonna

By Jeff Gomez

Many of today’s visionaries operate on a global scale, the products of their muse rolling out across vast swathes of the media landscape. The challenge they’re facing right now is rooted not so much in the content of their message, but in how that message is going to be formed and reformed to provide a unique and satisfying experience no matter what the distribution platform may be.

The best of these artists are coming to understand that what is least satisfying to audiences in the digital age is repurposed content. They’re also learning that the best alternative to milking the cow ‘til it’s dead lays in generating a strategy that extends their message in a variety of ways—a strategy that is carefully coordinated, a plan that is equal parts creatively inspired and tech savvy.

This is the challenge currently being faced by two disparate but powerful mavens of pop culture: Madonna and the development team behind Microsoft’s Halo video game franchise.

Since 2001, Halo has propelled itself from console video games to local access networks and onto the Internet. The complex storyline of the game was expanded upon in novels, web sites and comic books. The releases of Halo 2 and Halo 3 were received with fanfare normally only devoted to major blockbuster movies (or Harry Potter book releases!).

The franchise has generated hundreds of millions of dollars, and it’s now invading everything from YouTube to G4 TV shows thanks to the developers’ ingenious application of a playback and editing mode in the game that allows players to capture and direct their in-game antics as if they were creating big-budget sci-fi film clips.

But a few million video game enthusiasts do not make for a truly global property. In order to do that, Microsoft and developer Bungie Studios will have to realize some of the remaining principles of trans-media storytelling and production. They’ll have to examine their rich universe and carefully extend the characters and narrative in such a way as to make them accessible to a much greater audience. The key lays in their ability to engage people on an emotional level at least half as well as they did with great gameplay. Having a visionary like Peter Jackson on their side will certainly take them a long way, because ultimately story drives great trans-media properties.

Madonna’s latest venture will prove to be no exception. In a grand experiment that will only prove risky if the former Material Girl decides to become an avant garde performer for the next five years, Madonna has sealed a remarkable deal with mega-concert promoter Live Nation. The deal reportedly advances her $17.5 million, then pays her $50 million for performances, gives her 90% of ticket sales, roughly $20 million for each of three new albums, and partners with her on licensing deals and new ventures.

The challenge Madonna faces—particularly in light of the current state of the music industry as well as the fact that she’s entered the autumn of her career when most of her peers bailed in mid-summer—are myriad. One thing is for certain—endlessly repurposing music and concert footage simply won’t fly.

Then again, if she’s anything Madonna is an innovator. She understands how to recruit talent to her causes, and in this case savvy producers can make a huge difference. But will these creatives truly be able to help her build a rich, persistent, compelling and participative narrative that weaves what she envisions across an array of audiovisual outlets?

They will, but some alchemy will be needed to pull it off. These producers will have to possess a fundamental understanding of how people have come to integrate their media into their daily lives. More so, they must fully fathom the core messages and themes of this visionary’s new work. Only then will they know how to orchestrate these images, icons, sounds and narratives into a symphony of platform-specific content that engages, entertains and inspires.

I wish her luck.

Next Up: Jeff takes on the second principle of trans-media production when he discusses those special projects that plan their cross-platform rollouts from inception.

Never Surrender!

Jeff Gomez (jeff@starlightrunner.com), is the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, Inc., a developer and producer of highly successful trans-media projects whose clients include The Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, the Coca-Cola Company, Mattel and Hasbro. Over the next few weeks he’ll be sharing his expertise on the white hot trans-media industry – exploring its fascinating history and expanding upon the 8 Defining Principles of Trans-Media Production

Previous Jeff Gomez trans-media post

The Visionaries

8 Defining Principles of Trans-Media Production
Part I: The Visionaries

By Jeff Gomez

If you really give some thought to the great artists throughout history, you push beyond their iconic images and sculptures, concertos and films and you start to consider their messages, their obsessions…their visions.

Often they gravitated to a specific medium and flourished there, but if that platform were to be blocked off or somehow no longer satisfying, the artist would make a jump. Sometimes, if the vision was powerful enough, the medium no longer mattered.

Today, thanks to technology, most professional story telling tools and methodologies are also available to any kid who can access a computer. And it seems that experienced creators can learn a thing or two from the young ones.

At colleges across the country, students are turning in term paper “kits” consisting of hard copy overviews, DVDs containing narrated motion videos illustrating their research, video blogs, animated charts, specially created web sites, even digital bibliographies. Some of their professors don’t even know how to read these things!

What’s vital for every film, television and new media producer to understand is that these students aren’t even aware of the fact that what they are doing is extraordinary! This is how they live, how they experience life, and this is how it’s going to be. We are going to have to catch up with them and give them what they want, or someone else is going to.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Japanese pop culture. I always admired the manga-ka. These were the artists, whose visions were realized in phonebook-thick volumes of black and white comic book art. If the books proved popular (like Gundam or Space Cruiser Yamato), they would be adapted as television series, sequelized as direct to video featurettes, then immortalized as theatrical films.

But those artists don’t act alone. They call upon trusted producers to help them develop and extend their central vision across multiple media platforms while ensuring consistent quality and integrity. As producers we can take a cue from the Japanese and do the same in tandem with our own visionaries.

To do this, we’ll need to sharpen our skills and embrace new approaches and newer perspectives. Some of us have already started to do just that, and the results are some of the most exciting and dynamic projects coming out of the entertainment industry today.

In my upcoming entries, I’ll move through each of the 8 Defining Principals of Trans-Media Production to briefly examine what it takes to conceive, develop, produce and distribute this kind of content, whether we’re talking about a tent pole franchise or a modest indie film.

Next Up: Jeff gets specific with the vision thing when he takes on Halo and…Madonna?

Jeff Gomez (jeff@starlightrunner.com), is the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, Inc., a developer and producer of highly successful trans-media projects whose clients include The Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, the Coca-Cola Company, Mattel and Hasbro. Over the next few weeks he’ll be sharing his expertise on the white hot trans-media industry – exploring its fascinating history and expanding upon the 8 Defining Principles of Trans-Media Production

previous Jeff Gomez trans-media post

DHX Media acquires Studio B Productions Inc.

HALIFAX, NS – DHX Media Ltd. (AIM & TSX ticker: “DHX”), a leading independent international producer and distributor of television programming and interactive content and the parent company of DECODE Entertainment and Halifax Film, has acquired all the outstanding shares