Mar 312011
 

How does a country encourage its creative producers to innovate media projects & services? Many leave it to commercial forces only, where it is an innovate or die, sales driven culture. Some though with small or fledgling production communities have to rely on government subsidy and kick-start funding to get most ‘innovative’ projects off the ground. I have looked and been involved in the latter for many years as Multi-Platform producer devising initiatives, director of training units and lecturer in education sectors which include several European countries, Canada, Australia, UK and US. How can we better divvy up millions of tax payers dollars and spread it between heritage and multi-platform?

Below are a few excerpts of a longer article/paper & book chapter (full of juicy stats & facts!) on public tax payers funding of global multi-platform media projects from a perspective of “are we giving it a ‘fair-go’” – as they say down under. It is focused on all government creative funding agencies who help divide up ‘new and old’ screen culture funds in their respective countries. Its intention is to help multi-platform (as opposed to the vagary ‘digital’) move forward rather than be held back by analog thinking or status quo market approaches. I will PDF and link later…

As some of this sails close to one or two of my ‘day jobs’ (some of my credentials in this area are listed at the bottom of the post) I have kept it as generic as possible, without any intentional finger pointing. I hope some top level ideas I suggest to help fix something that has been broken for decades, may not fall on deaf ears.

Preface – Traditional Media vs Multi-Platform: Where’s the engagement?

To choose an excerpt or ‘why multi-platform’ this old argument about the old vs the new is appropriate here. There are many who say we are in a golden era of TV and Film. Audiences both love and trust these mediums and growth is strong across the board. So naturally “we must find and fund new talent and projects in these areas for the good of our culture”. Telling stories through film, tv, galleries, concert halls and books is the only real media to take into consideration. Or is it? This is the status quo, most public funds for media are for localised film and TV and ‘culturally’ significant ‘art’ projects. The ‘other stuff’ oft called multi-platform or digital or online is still not taken seriously. I suggest it still does not reflect what and how its people are consuming media and how they are engaged in that usage.

To give a sense of this disparity, for example in Australia last years total spend (note this includes commercial investment) on film was US $336mill yet overall funds for ‘multi-platform’ creative projects across all public agencies amounted to approx $12-15mill – with the largest funder in the space Screen Australia about to provide approx $4mill annually for creative multi-platform. If we also add TV funding into the mix and think of other territories also (UK film spend US $1.48 bill) we can get to an estimate ratio of around 9:1 of traditional media funding vs multi-platform. Note this is about creative ‘story-centric’ projects vs digital business or hardware enterprise. That means around 9 times more is publicly granted/invested in Film & TV than Multi-Platform or it’s storytelling child, transmedia. I am still adding up figures from other regions which may alter that slightly and although I would like to, don’t get me started on the balance spent on training and education across these two sectors!

As I presented in my last post/article (Navigating the World of Multi-Platform) the media landscape has now significantly fragmented from the 1970-90s yet those in control of the ‘funding’ & educational mechanisms are, I would suggest, still basing decision from those days by funding what is effectively just ‘linear video stories’ – vs more interactive across multiple media channels. Sure there are a lot of statistics that on the surface back this up – for example, TV viewing has remained static and even growing regardless of the increase of  video watching on the web or games usage and box office is strong even with illegal digital distribution and on and on. But when you look at some sectors, print and music for example, who themselves were saying ‘business as usual’ 2 years ago, it tells a completely different story purely from a sales perspective – due to online distribution (eBooks & mp3 torrents) traditional sales are falling at between 10-30% annually.

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Aug 262010
 

“We live in extraordinary times and the last five years particularly, a renaissance of storytelling. We are, as we were pre-printing press days when we equally shared, enhanced and distributed the fragments of our engaging stories. Today’s technology has delivered a new spirit of connectivity, a democratisation of story given back to the ‘many’. Storytelling not at walking speed but the speed of light. You equipped to deal with this?”

OK enough opening fluff and straight to the point. I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague at Screen Australia trying to answer a simple question. Cue music…

If you have a story project, that’s a little bit ‘strange’, who ya gonna call?

Magic Point Maroubra LX3 dBW 26

Not Fearing to Tread - Photo cc GHayes

(Strange = new format, transmedia, innovative, social, game-like, fragmented.) If you have a film and TV project and you need assistance to develop the script, help with the production, work through the characterisations, get advice on Red or 3D etc: there are a zillion consultants, vocational educational courses and many willing wannabe advisors to draw on. Film, Radio & TV particularly have 100+ years of maturity so it is also pretty easy to incrementally innovate, floating in watertight boats on tried and tested waters. Sadly the options for story rich projects that fall outside the straight and narrow linear path, have a more difficult time.

To be professionally guided or get the skills to create new storytelling formats you can

  1. Get in touch with professional agencies already doing this stuff. But they are often rather busy making ends meet and engrossed in ‘transmedia’ marketing big budget or existing story brands to really give you the time and advice you need.
  2. Find a traditional academic ‘digital story – type’ course (marketed as a world first) in your local area. Spend 6 months or longer working with ‘we need to do this stuff’ academics and theorists or at best, passionate aggregators of the best ‘new story’ project trailers masquerading as educational case studies. Also these course tend to be trials and under resourced – erm not the views of me with lecturer hat on, local employers 😉
  3. Find a local specialist individual who ‘seems’ to know about this new space – very few good experienced, passionate folk about and also a bit hit and miss.
  4. Seek out a handful of seminars, short workshops or networking events around the world. There are actually very few and they are often of the evangelising vs really getting down to nitty gritty ‘storytelling’ processes.

So here we are, a great dawning of transmedia storytelling, innovative new services and products yet still no true, deep development initiatives? Academia and industry either too money-busy, unable to take risk or focused on the past to really fill in this void?

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