*Note: This post was originally published at Focal Press’ Mastering Film website in 2011. Passages from this article appear (in expanded form) in and provide the basis for the first chapter of COMICS FOR FILM, GAMES AND ANIMATION“What is Transmedia?”


We’ve got our definition of transmedia storytelling which is:

the crafting of stories that unfold across multiple media platforms in which each story piece deepens the whole – but is capable of standing on its own – giving the audience the choice as to how deep into the story experience they go.

Let’s break that up into my three types of transmedia (and bear in mind I’m not an academic… especially when looking at type number three).

• NATIVE TRANSMEDIA – stories conceived to be transmedia from the start – my own WHIZ!BAM!POW! project is a native transmedia project. POKEMON. THE MATRIX. AVATAR..

• ADDITIVE TRANSMEDIA – stories that began life in another medium and had transmedia elements added to them: ABC’s LOST, CASTLE, TWIN PEAKS, NBC’s HEROES, THE OFFICE. For the most part, these are not…

• CRAP TRANSMEDIA – what we’re trying to avoid. Transmedia just for the sake of it or solely for marketing purposes because it’s “in.” If it comes from the wallet instead of from the story, it’s crap transmedia (which can be both native or additive, though usually additive).

A few words of warning to filmmakers considering “transmedia-fying” their work.

• Don’t. Unless, of course, it makes the work done in the focus medium (the term I use for the central medium of an additive transmedia project) better and more well-rounded. There are several stories that work best in a single medium – in spite of a push on the part of marketeers and the undisciplined to transmedia-fy everything. Stick to your guns. Say “no” more than “yes.” In this series, I’ll share my own criteria for adding transmedia elements to a film script; what to look for, and what to avoid.

• We’ve got to think of ourselves like fine dining chefs in the Midwest. I live near Cleveland, so the proliferation of amazing restaurants continues to astound me. What’s the secret of their success? Meet people halfway. Give them Mac and Cheese, but make it with goat cheese, white truffles, and grilled chicken. Ask a lot, intrigue; but don’t ask too much… ahem Matrix. There are three people you have to satisfy in a transmedia project: yourself, the passive audience, and the dedicated fans.

• Don’t make a shitty comic book. Or a shitty ARG. Or a shitty video game. Or a shitty web series. The shitty list goes on and on. If you’re going to expand outside your focus medium, you have to know how to create within that medium. You have to learn the medium (or media) and LOVE it. You have to know what makes it different. You have to know how it can best suit your story. It used to be that a film was the symphony of the visual storytelling world. Well, guess what? It’s not when you make the transmedia leap. It becomes a section of the orchestra, and you have to learn the tones and colors of each instrument to construct your transmedia symphony.