Carrie Cutforth

Storyworlds: A Need for A New Model

December 21, 2012

s2The challenge for those utilizing the Storyworld Hollywood franchise model (particularly those who are independent creatives) is then to aspire to an insurmountable and unattainable pinnacle of immersion and pervasion that is near impossible to pull off with success unless it comes with a blockbuster franchise budget (or shoe elves). The model also assumes that pervasive immersion is what any given target-audience actually desires.

And it is the dominance of the Hollywood Storyworld franchise model fostered (more and more so) within the global transmedia storytelling entertainment communit(ies) that is leading to a plethora of muddled and mired properties that are all attempting to replicate “a kitchen and the sink” approach as the dominant transmedia strategy de jour. We see this again and again with many independent creative driven properties that all have strong narrative ideas sadly weakened by overblown expectations in terms of both platform integration, scope and reach of user engagement. Particularly with Canadians trying to fit Hollywood square pegs into Canadian film/TV landscape round holes when devising their transmedia strategies in applying for funding.

Over the last year or so, as the Storyworld franchise model has gained both traction and acceptance as a viable strategy within Hollywood models, it has become the de facto transmedia framework triumphed at conferences, blogs, and trade markers and not without dissent or unintended sour consequences.[1]

There is a need, then, for a theoretical framework that specifically speaks to independent transmedia creators and independent creative driven transmedia properties. A model that understands the finite limitations of both the indie transmedia creative as well as the limitations of their respective audiences, who rather than being mainstream, are often niche and under served.

As a community of transmedia entertainers, we cannot talk about “the way forward” within an echo chamber of self-congratulatory franchisers, especially when the dialogue is uninclusive of independent practice, understanding full well that historically independent creative practice is at the forefront of experimentation and ideas (and within the legacy of transmedia entertainment as well).

Independent transmedia creatives (and independent creatives employing transmedia tactics) must recognize that the theoretical transmedia framework for thinking about their work should not be about maximizing reach to mass audiences by aspiring to be a juggernaut of pervasive immersive experience that overwhelms the stocked shop shelves OR invades the everyday ala ARGs. The theoretical transmedia framework for independent practice must be about getting the most traction out of the least effort/budget and strategizes to gain momentum through the serialization of small meaningful engagements that build towards ritualizing and nurturing story cultures within their respective target niche audiences.

And the Storyworld franchise model does not fit this purpose.


[1] And snark…don’t forget the snark.