Anatomy of a Highly Successful TransMedia StoryWorld – “Conspiracy for Good”

Posted on May 5, 2011


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

THE AUTHORS REPORT:  “With the Conspiracy For Good, our definition of a successful transmedia project is one that utilizes technology to deliver story content and engage an audience in original and novel ways.  We intentionally created a story that lived all around consumers all the time, and incentivized the audience to move from one device to another in pursuit of the story, solutions to problems, and answers to mysteries.

A transmedia story is the opposite of traditional television, which lives in one place at one time, such as NBC on Monday nights at 8pm, and you sit on your couch and let the story come at you. After our writers created the Conspiracy For Good narrative, we then chopped it into 1,000 pieces and distributed those pieces across many platforms, such as characters’ Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, text messages, and updates on various websites, some of which were hard to find.  The audience then went and found the pieces.  So, when a cell phone buzzed in the pocket of one of our audience members in the middle of the day, they got to live in the story again for a few minutes and went to a particular website to learn something new about a character or a development, much like you do with your friends in your regular, everyday life.  We even distributed songs that had hidden clues. When a participant found a clue on a character’s Facebook page, for example, they were often motivated to search deeper and crowdsource, with other participants, solutions to the character¹s journey.

The Conspiracy For Good actually had a character who traveled from Zambia all the way to London and she often ran into obstacles along the way. Her dream was to build a library for school kids in Zambia, and our audience actually helped the character fund and built a real library there. The audience communicated with her and used Nokia’s Ovi Maps to guide her through northern Africa and Europe. We actually had an actor (songwriter/poet Nadirah X) and a camera crew on the road for months of travel, being guided by fans.”

“So, to the many writers and producers involved in the Conspiracy For Good, the challenge was to create a puzzle with 1,000 pieces. Everyday the audience received one or two puzzle pieces from different sources (mobile device, song, etc). Over time, the fans begin to see the bigger story that emerged as they put the pieces together, and it soon became obvious that some very big actions were about to go down in London at a particular time and place. The Conspiracy For Good really pushed the limits of transmedia storytelling‹and also old-fashion street theater – and our audience loved it.

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

It’s incredible how new technologies have democratized filmmaking. You can make a great piece of art with a cell phone camera. I know because some of our fans did just that. We used a lot of mobile technology and mobile applications because we were aligned with Nokia on the CFG pilot. The future is clearly in social media and crowdsourced experiences, and also GPS technologies. The funnest part of our 4 month long event was the scavenger hunt in the streets of London that used image recognition software and location-based gaming to uncover mysteries, move through the streets guided by your cell phones, and find underground concerts.

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

When people come across an experience that they love, they want to share it with their friends. Art is powerful when it expresses an emotion, it taps into something that bypasses our intellect and makes us feel rather than think. That is moving. And when we experience that, we want to share it with others. This is true when you hear a great song or see a video or read a poem or play a game. Transmedia is best when you tap into this.”

“A story is more powerful if the storytellers create a story architecture that invites and even necessitates that you invite your friends to participate with you. If the story involves doing real good in the real world, then it is even more exciting to invite your friends to join your cause. The Conspiracy For Good wants to inspire you to invite your friends to experience new art and music and story, and by doing so also support a real world cause. So, I would have to say that transmedia storytelling is most effective when you interact with others and actually share and create art with them. The best example of this that I’ve seen recently is this pretty incredible Johnny Cash video that needs actual fans to sketch every single frame in the video.”