Christy Dena on the Creative Potential of Cross-Platform

We're continuing our series of blog posts asking people working in the cross-platform, new media space the same four questions. Christy Dena wrote her PhD on transmedia storytelling, so there's no denying her commitment to this field!

What makes a successful cross-platform or transmedia project? Are there key ingredients? What's the secret sauce?

Each project (and team) is different, and so there are many tips and lessons learned one applies as needed. When talking generally about cross-platform/transmedia projects though, here are some observations:

1) You can avoid of lot of headaches and dead-ends if you begin exploring your transmedia possibilities at the concept development stage, rather than after the film has been created.

2) Know your limits and interests: if you want to do a game, for instance, make sure you have at least one person on the team that works in gaming and that likes games!

3) Do whatever you can to make it easy for your audience to know about and access the content you spread across media.

4) Treat your transmedia content in different media equally – it should all be meaningful.

5) Play with what you want to do, others be damned.

What are the most exciting emerging technologies that filmmakers should be aware of?

Depends on what you’re interested in!  

What can filmmakers do to encourage real engagement and participation from "the people formerly known as the audience"?

I've found that if a filmmaker doesn’t already engage with social media, or participatory projects, it's a big learning curve for them. Some just aren't interested, they shouldn't fake it. Find someone on your team, or hire someone, to do it. As for participation, there are many ways you can get your audience involved. I personally don't think every project has to have audience-driven content, but all projects certainly need to be reactive in some way. See where you're willing to work with your audience – it may be in conversing with them during production, enabling them to contribute content, promote you, and so on.

For me, I've found at least two things are crucially important when encouraging action. The first is a strong call-to-action cycle. By call to action cycle I'm referring to firstly having a strong primer to motivate people to act. Give people something substantial before you ask them to do something. The more substantial activity you want from them, the more effort you need to put into the primer. Then you also need a clear referral – a strong and clear instruction on how and when to act.

The whole process doesn’t finish until you've given them feedback – acknowledge and reward their activity in some way that is commensurate with what you've asked them to do. The last step is essential if you're asking people to do things continuously, and you want them to feel satisfied by the experience.

The only thing I've found extremely helpful in facilitating participation is having a real time feedback system. Do you know what your audience is doing? Do you know what they like about your project? Do you know what hasn't worked with you calls for participation? Are you able to make changes easily?

What is the number one reason filmmakers should care about cross-platform storytelling?

I could put forward arguments about why it is important to have more than one way for your audience to experience your story. But cross-platform storytelling is not for everyone. It is, to me, another artform that an artist chooses to do. Some people have entered the area of cross-platform storytelling through external prompts, but I believe the best creations will come from those who employ it as a natural part of their expression. Filmmakers will and do care about it when it fulfils and stretches them creatively.

Christy Dena specializes in the design and production of trans/cross-media projects. Recent clients include working on Tim Kring, The company P & Nokia’s Conspiracy for Good; No Mime’s Media & Cisco’s The Hunt; ABC’s global alternate reality drama Project Bluebird; and the Bangarra Dance Theatre Company. Christy has recently run Transmedia Victoria – a transmedia event for film, TV, gaming, digital, theatre, music, and literature professionals. She has given keynotes and speeches at Power to the Pixel, TEDxTransmedia, XMediaLab, Crossover, Cartoons on the Bay, Whistler Film Festival, Slamdance, DIYDays, the First International Conference on Cross-Media Interaction Design, and many more. She co-wrote the Australian Literature Board’s Writers’ Guide to Making a Digital Living, and wrote the first PhD on ‘Transmedia Practice’. Her mentoring clients include the The Pixel Lab (UK); Crossover Lab (Aus), XMediaLab (Aus), the Australian Literature Board’s Story of the Future (Aus); LAMP, AFTRS (Aus). She began her creative career in theatre, working as a writer, producer, performer and director. She then pursued her passion for animation and became a producer in Australia’s first ever fully digital production studio. As an actor, she has appearances in TV commercials, TV shows, short films, performed comedy at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for years, toured Australia for a comedy cabaret. As Director of Universe Creation 101, Christy is currently developing her own entertainment web services and creative projects.