This week the Tribeca Film Institute and the Ford Foundation announced that they would award $400K in New Media grants to a range of amazing projects. Among other things, this represents further evidence of the evolving state of content and storytelling. Feature films, twitter feeds, articles, mobile games-- all fall under the expanding definition of "content". And while the film and TV industries have challenges ahead in continuing to find ways to monetize their content in the face of so many fee alternatives, storytellers seem to have more tools than ever to tell and expand their stories. Here are a few examples of transmedia (definition: several media serving a single narrative) done right. These examples blur the lines between content and marketing, branding and entertainment… but than anything they suggest what is possible for filmmaker and storytellers looking to break out of the single screen canvas.
Billed as X-Files meets Lost, this Motorolla-sponsored web series produced by top YouTube channel Machinima follows covert government agents as they seek to suppress the truth about extraterrestrial encounters. In addition to the six episode web series, the narrative was carried out over several websites such as www.sigma-agency.org, an official-looking government website for the series' harboring government entity. Additionally, the narrative expanded via a series of twitter feeds (such as that of Alvin J. Peters--@ProjectRCVR). The series racked up more than 6M views in just a few weeks.
2. YEAR ZERO
A 2007 album by industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero was a self described concept album that criticized the contemporary policies of the US government by presenting a dystopian vision of the year 2022. The marketing campaign around the release of the record was nothing short of ground breaking, which included USB drives in rock club bathrooms that contained passwords for secret websites and leaked documents pertaining to the album's narrative. T shirts were sold with messages, also tied to unique URLs and alternate reality games emerged to allow fans to live in the world of the album. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 100 selling 180K+ copies in its first week. NIN founder Trent Reznor is also rumored to be working on a Year Zero miniseries with BBC Productions for HBO.
3. THE WALKING DEAD
What in three seasons has become a global television phenomenon began as an award-winning comic series from Image Comics. The post-apocalyptic drama has steadily expanded its story into other media, including games and web series-- allowing airing network AMC to further engage die-hards to the series and to bridge viewers between seasons. In addition to the franchise's growing list of mobile and social games, AMCtv.com launched The Walking Dead: Torn Apart a six episode web series directed by Greg Nicotero that explores the origin story of Hannah, aka Bicycle Girl, the infamous zombie from Season 1. A second web series is in the works.