A Watershed Moment / by KirstenStudio

The word "media", according to Steve Schultz (CEO & Founder, Moveable Feast Mobile Media) is anything that has an audience. I like that definition. It's broad, but feels accurate in this day and age.  Media, in it's increasingly numerous forms, was the trending topic of discussion at the first day of New York Film Festival's Convergence conference. Convergence's program explores the future of storytelling through creators, innovators, and theorists who are working and thriving in the industry of transmedia. Schultz sees five main storytelling elements in todays media arena. Video, audio, text and image are pretty obvious. What is less apparent (at least to me) are maps.

Location, Location, Location: The Future of Film in a Geotagged World was the title of my first panel today where Schultz lead the discussion with an interesting presentation on media evolution and where we're at now in the world of multi-platform storytelling. We are, Schultz says, at a watershed moment. The emerging transmedia discussions and events like Convergence certainly backs his case.

Schultz walked the audience through the stages of media development (experimentation, imitation, extrapolation and innovation) that has already happened with television, gaming and other technologies.  New forms of programming are going through similar growing pains.

Right now new platforms of storytelling seem to be going in the direction of curation and collaboration. It's not just about consuming anymore, but about inspiring audience engagement and shared experiences. Panelist Amy Neswald made an interesting observation by noting the evolution of the computer experience. We were at our home or office, isolated indoors staring at a screen, presently we're out and about with our screens, but still rather absorbed in them, which can be fairly isolating. It appears, however, as though the next step in technology's growth is to interact both with the outside world AND the computer (whether it's your iPad, mobile phone or whatnot).

Neswald (writer, filmmaker) designed a mobile interactive story application that takes parents on a tour with their kids in a park. This interactive story is about wishes and includes maps, video (love that stop motion animation!), text, suggestions on ways to interact with the park and more. So much of our contemporary media is disposable, but this isn't because it enlists interaction between humans as much as with the devise. A parent and a child will have this memory of going to a park together and talking about the power of a wish.

I loved the idea of layering maps and experiences in storytelling and a mobile devise is the perfect tool to do so with.

I must admit that my two favorite presentations of the day were Brian Fountain's Transmedia on $800 a Day and Caitlin Burn's McCarren Park: Hipster, Dinos, Transmedia and Producing Something For Nothing (pictured left). They felt tangible. And can you see some commonalities between the two? Fountain was lightening fast, funny and provided a wealth of information comprehensively. All keeping with the idea of not spending hardly anything. Burn's was a case study of sorts as she walked her audience through the McCarren Park production, which is best explained on its blogspot site. "McCarren Park is an interactive transmedia experience that combines an smart phone application portal with film, social media components, narrative blogs, location based unlockable material, and live events." Burns also is a terrific speaker and is as funny as she is informative.

Fountain and Burns inspired a handful of ideas on the get-go (at least for me), from non-profit multi-media to social issue documentary outreach. There are tons of possibilities. Each of those non-profits as well as documentary commonly have no money and each are in definite need of audience engagement. I came away feeling like, "I could do something like that." The cost would be more time than money, which of course they are often intertwined, but I came away with feeling like I could start creating tomorrow.

Fountain brought up the power of collaboration and that is something that I couldn't agree more with, and I hear people plug it at whatever industry event I attend. That's because it's that important, especially if you are a one or two woman band, as many mediamakers are. Whether it's collaborating with a graphic designer for branding or an organization for a co-production. Collaboration not only broadens your audience, it offers expanded creativity.

To follow Brian Fountain and Caitlin Burns, check out @Fountain, @Caitlin_Burns.