Creative Voice: Carrie Cutforth-Young (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my interview with the awesome Carrie Cutforth-Young. Part 1 is here.

You’re co-founder of our sister transmedia meetup in Toronto! How’s that going? How’s the transmedia scene in the T-dot?

The one thing I learned in studying art history at OCAD, was the pattern between fostering community and artistic success. There is a hangover from modernity, which triumphed the individual, that gave us this idea of solitary artists languishing in obscurity, creating masterpieces alone in studios, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If you analyze the most successful art movements in history, you will see somewhere along the line artists got this crazy idea that they should get together and meet up. The Canadian art scene has always understood this and we are renowned for our artist collectives (from the Group of Seven to General Idea and onward). There also happens to be a thriving Toronto Web Series community. Inspired by the Transmedia Meetups around the world, Siobhan O’Flynn and I felt that a Toronto group was long overdue as we each individually knew pockets of people doing their own thing. Now the time was ripe to bring as many as we can together for in the very least mutual interest and support.

We are still pretty much in our infancy, with only three meetups in and plans for another bi-monthly meeting in January in the works but so far the interest has been gangbusters.

It is wonderful to see conversations are bubbling, collaborations are brewing, and I’m very much excited to be a part of this community as it just begins to take shape.

What drives you as a storyteller? What are you interested in, and what do you hope to accomplish?

I like to tell people I had a melodramatic childhood, as opposed to a traumatic one, but it would be fair I had my share of both. Story was an escape for me. And when I have had really horrible things happen in my life (or very melodramatic things), my first impulse is to refashion the sculpture of my tragedies (and triumphs) into a work of fiction: one where I am in ultimately in control of the universe. Story is not only my coping strategy, it’s my survival instinct. At the risk of inflicting you with purple prose, I would like to assert that I write the blood of my life out of me in ink. But I don’t want you to think I’m dreary and emo, because my stance on storytelling couldn’t be further from that mark.

One of my writing heroes is Preston Sturgess and I beg all writers to watch Sullivan’s Travels (the movie from where the title Oh Brother Where out Thou? comes from) at least once in their lifetime. Without going into too much spoiling, it is a brilliant screwball comedy about a director who struggles on a fool’s errand to make a serious film that will transform people with his art. And I pretty much prescribe to the medicine Sturgess prescribes in that film

In its use of participatory models of co-creation, Transmedia has the ability to amplify the health-giving benefits of immersive storytelling. As much as I admire transmedia activism, I am somewhat unashamed to admit that I am not transmedia activist, except in the instances of challenging people’s perceptions about gender, sexuality, belief, equality, paradigms, etc. through fiction by creating both strong and weak, but nevertheless, fully fleshed out characters you can sink your teeth into. And that’s not just a figure of speech. With transmedia, one can literally bite a character if one wanted to. (But please don’t as the actors’ unions would be up in arms).

What would be your advice for an indie transmedia writer/creator?

Right now, transmedia is suffering from guru-fication. My best advice for creators just coming into the transmedia fold is have an understanding of what came before, be part of the current conversation, but don’t be afraid to forage ahead and start developing a body of work that speaks to one’s own particular vision of transmedia.

Where ado you want the transmedia industry to go? What would you like to see happen in this community, especially in Canada?

I really <3 the international transmedia community. It’s rather small at the moment so it can feel a little bit like family. And, for the most part, the transmedia community lacks the cut-throat shark frenzy of other media making communities although there are a few snakes in the grass (but I’m getting better at spotting them). I would like it to retain this great supportive nurturing mojo it has going on as it gets larger (while the sharks begin to pool into these waters as transmedia becomes more mainstreamed), but perhaps I’m being just an idealist on this point.

Right now, there are creative clusters in transmedia forming across the Canada, particularly around web series, but we have a lot of bridge building to do between those clusters in Canada, and outreach to those outside of it. And then we can build towards forming an industry.

And the women! Transmedia has so many inspiring women working in the field, which is amazing when compared to the gaming and film industries. I’d like that trend to continue but also widen out to be more representative of all groups.

Finally: who's your favourite other person doing cool stuff in the field?

Ahaha. The biggest problem with becoming a producer is that you suddenly have no time to be a consumer, and I really miss my days of trawling unfiction for the latest trailhead. I feel like I’m missing so much great stuff. Floating World (Andrea Phillips) looked so elegant. I soooo wanted to play it. And there are so many projects I don’t even have time to find out what they are anymore.

I really admire Tim Kring for trying to change the paradigm within television and being of the very few to do so. So I feel he is a real pioneer. I really like Mike Monello’s loudmouth practioner stance and how encouraging he is of indies to just get out there and get their hands dirty.

I’m a huge admirer of the community builders, as I know how much work that kind of work takes. Mike Knowlton was fantastic source of inspiration and initial advice for Transmedia Toronto. And I couldn’t have a better co-conspirator in community building as Siobhan O’Flynn, who in a cursory way is the reason I got into transmedia because if it hadn’t been for that night at the CFC Hybrid Media Lab…ya’ never know. I was so excited about Transmedia Vancouver starting up for the Canadians to represent so kudos to you on initiating the first group in Canada—you are an inspiration. And all the virtual groups and networks. I really dig people who get community building: Karine Halpern, Lorraine Hopping, Simon Staffans, Scott Walker, Paul Burke, Nedra Weinreich, Geoff

Maye, Gunther Sonnefield, Alison Norrington ….geeze I’m going to kick myself for whoever I’ve left out. Oh, I guess that’s what the comment section is for.

But the people I’m most keen on are the people who I am collaborating with. Tom Liljeholm is a rockstar in my opinion. And Jim Martin shits rainbows for breakfast. Sometimes, I literally leap out of bed to check my email to see the pages he has written the night before. Everyone on the team is amaze balls.

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Be sure to check out our experimental fiction project Azrael’s Stop, about a boy who must learn to live when everyone he loves has died. Updated daily at azraelsstop.com