After the Merging+Media seminar, about two dozen of us who had been selected from an application process gathered with Anita Ondine for a day-and-a-half intensive transmedia lab, delving deeper into the concepts touched upon in the seminar. Anita would discuss one topic in more depth, and give examples of transmedia projects, and then we broke into two teams to apply those concepts. The teams were divided carefully so that each had a diverse range of skillsets, and we were set with the same task: the theoretical creation of a transmedia project based on certain perameters, which at the end of the lab we would pitch to a panel of experts and be judged.
It's extremely inspiring to sit at a table with a dozen people from areas you have very little experience or skill with and brainstorm the most innovative transmedia ideas for a project you have no proconceptions or biases about. The level of creativity in the room was astounding, and the willingness of those people from such different backgrounds to listen to each other, to learn and cooperate, was amazing.
Over the two days, there were a couple of major points that I brought away with me.
The Transmedia Producer Regardless of whether or not you're working with the PGA definition of the term, it became very obvious to me the need for a controlling voice over a transmedia project, either the lead creative or a transmedia producer brought in early in the process.
Twelve people sitting around a table throwing around ideas was a fantastic brainstorming experience, but by the end of the first day, none of us could clearly say what had been decided -- what it was we were actually going to do. We managed to pull it together by the end (and our team ended up winning the pitch competition, to boot) but the need for a voice to say, after the brainstorming had been done, "Here's what we're doing," was clear. Those decisions have to get made, and ideally by someone with at least a passing understanding of all the variables involved, and a transmedia-native outlook. Someone who can then direct the various members of the team to their individual specialty tasks, and at the end of the process, bring it all together.
Airing Ideas It also pushed home for me the need to have multiple people in a room discussing these things together. My inspiration had stagnated somewhat of late -- I'd become rooted to certain ideas and perhaps lost sight of the greater potentials. I know I've been struggling to figure out what my next steps should be for some personal projects -- I know I was having difficulty, but didn't know the solution.
I think one of the greatest things that can be said about Anita's lab is that it inspired me all over again. The influx of fresh ideas, the ability to discuss them and debate them and just bounce things off each other has rekindled some of my joy at the possibilities before us.
Cooperation Perhaps what amazed me most was some of the discussion that took place in this room of people from widely diverse backgrounds. I know I've been part of teams that have struggled with one aspect of production -- in our case, a broadcaster not necessarily understanding what it is we wanted (or needed) to do -- but what I saw in the lab was an overall willingness to make transmedia storytelling happen, to be innovative and creative, and to produce great projects. While people from different points of view debated things like funding issues between producers and broadcasters and digital producers, it was clear that everyone wanted it to work, everyone wanted to find a way to make it work. Everyone wanted to understand everyone else's point of view so they could work together.
I've seen situations where a TV producer hasn't wanted to deal with the digital producers, because they were "the other guys". But the atmosphere of cooperation I saw last week was incredible. It gives me hope. There are barriers to overcome, red tape to navigate, but if you're dealing with the right people, if you have a team that understands the needs of the production, if you take the time to work with them and udnerstand their needs as well, we can make great things.
To Anita Ondine and all the other participants in the lab, thanks for a fantastic experience, and I look forward to exploring this with you all more in the future.
Merging+Media's photo set of the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mergingmedia2011/ Me accepting the pitch competition prize: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mergingmedia2011/5687737091/ Parts 1 and 2 of another lab-inspired blog, from Annelise Larson: http://www.veria.ca/transmedia/post-transmedia-syndrome-pt1, http://www.veria.ca/transmedia/post-transmedia-syndrome-pt2