Transmedia will revolutionize storytelling as much as the printing press, says expert

If you’re a moviemaker whose primary focus is creating the best movie you can imagine, the current movie industry has some bad news for you: That’s not enough anymore. Speaking at this year’s Cross-Media Forum in the United Kingdom, Sean Stewart – whose Fourth Wall Studios has worked on creating interactive marketing for movies such as The Dark Knight Rises and AI: Artificial Intelligence – said that what is needed now are more filmmakers who want to create the best worlds they can imagine.

The reason for the increased focus on creating immersive experiences that go beyond just the cinema screen, Stewart says, comes as a result of the increased spending studios are forced to make in order to create the next big blockbuster of the year. “Back in 2001 when I went to the studios to pitch, it was very different,” he told the Hollywood Reporter following his keynote address. “But when you are spending $30 million, $50 million or $200 million on movie budgets, you have to be really concerned about how to make that money back.”

Reflecting the nerd demographic seemingly at the center of blockbuster movies these days, Stewart’s talk was called “Storytelling V: The Audience Strikes Back,” and described the shifting relationship between audiences and fictions in a world where everyone has smartphones, tablets and access to the Internet. He cited a recent Google survey that revealed that 77 percent of audiences are dual-screeners – That is, using another electronic device while also watching television – and suggested that, in order to maintain a close connection with their audiences, storytellers will have to learn to spread their talents across various media.

One of the ways that taking a fiction transmedia would increase audience interest, he suggested, was that almost all other media outside of movies and television require more user participation; while the audience sits back and watches a movie or show, they are required to interact with phones, computers or other devices, even if it’s simply to turn pages or press buttons to click on a particular link. Because of this, Stewart argues, audiences will automatically become more involved with what they’re watching, because they’ll subconsciously be more a part of the experience or, as he put it, “[living] inside those worlds.” This change, he said, will revolutionize storytelling in the same way that the creation of the printing press and mass-produced books did in the fifteenth century.

Stewart – who recently won a Primetime Emmy for Interactive Media for Dirty Work, the first time the award has been presented for something created specifically for the Internet as opposed for a more traditional broadcaster – was speaking at the annual Cross-Media Forum that is part of the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival.

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