After the very last team meeting of a culture change project I’ve been working on for the last four years, I hot footed it over to Salford to ignite a spark for a new community project with a difference… the focus is cats and cat lovers! Yeah, i know, i know… more on that later.
Just before Christmas I read about a new transmedia development programme being run by Sheffield International Documentary Festival and Crossover Labs. [To save time read up on the how, why and what of Transmedia here.] I submitted an application and next thing you know I’m sat in the Black Lion Pub, Salford (run by FutureArtists as an arts venue) for half a day learning about the new cross-platform funding and distribution landscape with a bunch of other hopefuls (mainly from Ireland and Scotland which was refreshing). And then we then pitched our projects and got feedback. I thought I’d share a few insights I picked up from the day…
After a brief insight into the history and convergence of media, Adam Cassels gave us a couple of case studies on how to build an audience of fans and advocates of your work. The above pic neatly sums up a progression over time as different media platforms converge and become more portable and interactive. Its at that exciting cusp that we found ourselves on a rapid learning curve.
It was interesting to learn about a whole transmedia experience of a film that I quite enjoyed, Tron Legacy, that totallllly passed me by. There’s was me thinking i am all new media and actually i just saw the film at the cinema when two years earlier the producers trailed a teaser (or concept clip in this case) of the film at comic con to seed the idea that the main character, Flynn, from the cult original, Tron, is still alive. Apparently people went wild through social media. That whole fanbase, then got involved in shaping the released film through a carefully crafted and moderated social media campaign, game and live experiences that included cracking codes. The payback for those superfans was that the consequences of their code breaking activity made it into the film. A big return on investment was the $400M box office, $40M profit and associated product placements (reebok made a tron shoe that features in the film) and the legacy continues through app sales, ebooks and comics. Of course not everyone has the money to make an expensive teaser, so the next case study gives heart to the filmmaker with a hole in their pocket.
The second case study was about how users created the demand. Documentary maker, Lucy Cook, shared a travel film with her friends about baby orphan sloths when suddenly, the film went viral and got viewed by 750, 000 people on youtube. Baby Sloth orphans?! I know! But check them out, they are cuuuute, and funny-looking!
Funding & distribution
Next up Charlie Phillips of Sheffield Doc Fest gave us an overview of the old world vs new world of funding and distribution models with a shift in emphasis on the filmmaker to self-fund and self-distribute through social media and a bunch of new tools available online.
- You need a strategy – its hard work!
- You need a mailing list (demographic data is king) for targeted marketing – where people live to prove you can reach an audience
- Need to be entrepreneurial
Charlie also gave a brief insight into crowdfunding, a collaborative and non-hierarchical approach to funding your content. Here its not just about the money its about building and connecting with potential audiences and engaging them as a community with a vested interest (and occasionally a walk on part!) in your project.
- Know community and plan to schedule release of tasty snippets
- know your pitch
- don’t exclude other funding
- meet your audience where they want to see your content
We were encouraged to check out alternative funds for films including third sector, charitable trusts and private foundations which require filmmakers to take a different approach to asking for money.
Charlie neatly summarised that essentially you can go the:
- DIY approach, using channels like Distrify
- Do it with others approach – e.g. to help you get on itunes etc
- Do it for free approach as a kind of loss leader if your content is cheap to make
What’s important is to know your territories and to know your pitch. Which leads me neatly to where i started with the cat thing…
We all had to deliver a 2-min pitch of the cross-platform / transmedia project we want to develop through dev2del. The pitches were done in alphabetical order so i was nested third from last. We had to give an insight into our experience, the concept and what we wanted from Dev2Del. After several great pitches, mainly social injustice stories and a couple of uplifting feature comedies i was thinking, maybe my cat project is a bit fluffy!!!!!
Its called Lost Cats Legacy… I was wondering if lost cats ever got found… everyone’s seen the lost cat posters plastered to trees around your neighbourhood… is there a way to help the cats get back to their rightful owners? That’s where lost cats legacy comes in… a humorous transmedia project to connect cat lovers globally, helping lost cats get found and sharing stories en route. Intrigued? More soon…
After Manchester the Dev2del team head to Bristol and London before deciding on which projects go through to the next round for a 2-day creative workshop in Glasgow. As a nice touch: even if you don’t get to the next stage you get to goto a Seize the Future workshop in February as part of the Stoke your Fires festival. Two more stages follow as hopefuls are whittled down to go to a specially devised ‘meetmarket‘ at Sheffield Docfest with decision makers, experts and consultants to give expert feedback on your honed pitch to help pave the way to breath new life into your project.
Looking at the whole programme there are some pretty cool partnerships and collaborations involved in the dev2del. I especially like this whole thing of development & distribution connecting at the outset to help shape content development and put the peer-to-peer, connect and collaborate method into practice. For our one of our last films, Cote D’Azur, it got picked up for distribution via AND festival and will be screen at the Olympics which is pretty cool. Even better would be to have connected to these opportunities in the difficult development stage. Anyway… looking forward and quite intrigued to see what falls out the other end the Dev2Del partnership.
It was also really great meeting other writers and filmmakers, hearing their pitches, stories and hopes in a Salford crossover arts/ entertainment venture that’s taking transmedia by the cahooneys. All good!
As a related aside – i have to share this fun crazy, crowdsourced version of Star Wars that i came across on twitter and watched on the bus en route to my pretty amazing part-time job at Lancaster Uni. I was laughing out loud and in awe at the same time at this strange experience of watching a film that you know and love transform before your very eyes into… i guess you just have to check it out.