StoryWorld 2011 in San Francisco: Day 2


DAY 2 – Morning


Talk: It all started with a Mouse – Orrin Shively (Disney)

in conversation with Alison Norrington

  • Mickey’s 10 commandments (by Marty Sklar):
  1. Know your audience.
  2. Wear your guests’ shoes.
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas.
  4. Create a weenie.
  5. Communicate with visual literacy.
  6. Avoid overload.
  7. Tell one story at a time.
  8. Avoid contradiction.
  9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun.
  10. Keep it up.
  • These 10 commandments remain relevant for theme parks as well as digital, and in essence apply to any story.
  • It’s really difficult to know your audience: you as the creator and your colleagues may not be in the target demographic, so you must always go by what your audience will like, not what you like or dislike.
  • You also need to consider how your target audiences differ in different countries – cultural differences, age differences, worldviews, etc. can all impact how your content is received. You need to think global, and that includes thinking about what your global audiences are like.
  • You always want an ideal experience for your users, but often that is not the case, so plan in any challenges, obstacles and discomforts your audience may experience and help them overcome them in the best and easiest way possible.
  • Embed yourself with your audience to really understand them. Be part of their community, know which platforms they can be found on, and actively talk to them.
  • Audiences want to be listened to, regardless of whether you’re dealing with children or adults.
  • Weenies (visual magnets) are very important to help your audience to find their way around in the environments you offer them. For example, Disney’s castle is always at the center of its theme parks, and reconfirms the guests’ choice that they have come to Disney, while also helping them to find their way around the park.
  • The Architecture of Reassurance (Karal Ann Marlin) is a great book Orrin recommends to understand how people can be managed in different types of environments.
  • Ease people into their experience, e.g. start out with something familiar and use it to lead your audiences towards your weenie; and in turn, use many smaller weenies for each sub-environment you lead your audience into. The weenies are also important to make people understand where they are going, and to take away the fear of the unknown.
  •  Give people a framework or guide so they know what kind of behaviour is expected of them in your storyworld. This can be aided by the destination itself or a character of your story.
  • Tell one story at a time. Use a consistent thematic to keep your audience immersed at all times. This requires an extreme attention to detail, and it is important because people will not notice the detail when it is there, but they will feel a disruption if the detail is missing.
  •  The flow between experiences is a very delicate balance. It is very important that the transmission from one experience to the next is as organic and as smooth as possible. Weenies are a great way to direct people’s path through your content world.
  • Moving a crowd or an audience is extremely difficult, but once they are hooked on your content it becomes a lot easier. Then again a problem is to hook them in the first place.
  • For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun: No matter how informative/experiential/educational your experience is, it will not stick with audiences if it is not fun. If your content isn’t entertaining people, will not buy into it (literally and metaphorically).The most compelling and simplest experience always wins.



Talk: Worldbuilding and Mythology – Jeff Gomez (Starlight Runner Entertainment)

“Show me you care about your storyworld. Show me that it’s real.”

  • When talking to entertainment executives: Speak in a language they can understand and tell them how they can make money with transmedia!
  • Your personal message is what distinguishes your story from others so you need to be honest and have a meaningful message that will touch people.
  • If you don’t really mean it (your message, your world), your audience will leave you.
  •  The Grand Narrative:
    • You must make a commitment to developing an appreciation for the finer art of the franchise as well as its mythic underpinnings.
    • The universe is not just about fine characters and beautiful settings. It is a reflection of you that stands up to scrutiny and deep analysis.
    • In a multiplatform narrative, you must write yourself in the story world before you can do so for anyone else. You must infuse it with your soul.
    • The method of storytelling is incredibly complex. You must hit your audience right between the eyes so they fall in love with your content and follow the content across platforms.
  • The best messages are born of pain.
    • Honesty, something you communicate with passion, something that feels so powerful it hurts.
    • Story was born to respond to life and death questions and so we don’t feel constant pain and loneliness
    • Mythology and belief systems evolved to assert order over chaos.
    • Contemporary narrative tends to focus on yearning for what is beyond our reach.
  • Failure
    • Real and heart-felt failure resonates with us.
    • Myths, classic and contempary, are fuelled by failure.
    • As storytellers we must infuse our pain and failure into our narratives, people are used to sharing failure on social media and with others
    • We must also show how failure can be a stepping stone to success.
  • Multiple touch points, one tool
    • Know your message, use it to lift people up in a variety of ways and themes.
    • Your content must be vital and relevant to the driving platform.
    • Each piece of content must be a capsule, i.e. it must be self-contained and include something important & relevant to the overall narrative.
    • Your narrative needs to be consistent an the author needs to be an active participant in the grand design.
  • The age of broadcasting is ending.
    • Responding to and making use of instant feedback and communal storytelling are key for long-term survival.
  • The walls between virtual and physical worlds are breaking down, and entertainment executives need to be aware of this to stay on top of their game. Most entertainment companies have the infrastructure required for transmedia already, they just need to finally make use of it.


Panel Discussion: Measuring Multi-Platform IP

Panelists: Gunther Sonnenfeld, Jeff Bernstein, Ben Straley; Moderator: Mike Monello

  • The context is important in measuring the success of your multiplatform IP. You need to know what you want to achieve, what your goals are, particularly in terms of your business goals. Do you just want exposure? Do you want people to subscribe? Do you want them to make micro-payments across different platforms? Based on that you can then develop a method of measuring your success.
  • Tracking your users across platforms remains a crucial challenge. Once you know who your consumers are, what they like and dislike, on which media they spend their day, and how they move between platforms you can tailor your transmedia strategies to your target audience’s habits more closely. Knowing as much as you can about your audience also gives you the possibility to actively predict and manage demand and supply.
  •  The more useful and the more interesting your content is for your audience, the more likely they are to offer your personal information voluntarily, like their Facebook details, for example.
  • Defining engagement and measuring it also continues to be a challenge. The definition of what constitutes engagement is usually up to you as the producer and is again based on what you want to achieve with your project, but common elements of engagement definitions are whether people talk about you and share your content, whether they buy your products, and whether they take part in the community surrounding your content or brand.
  • Monitoring whether your audience talks about you and whether they share your content is really important, because you can no longer rely on mere ratings. People are now consuming multiple media at a time, so in order to assess whether they really are aware of your content their talk and sharing is crucial.
  • You need to meet your audience on platforms where they already are. You cannot just force them to go onto a different platform, they will not follow you unless they are already hooked on your content.
  • You need to be flexible; audience behaviour can change very quickly so you need to be able to adjust even if your data until now suggested something completely different from what you are observing.
  • Try to use data to predict trends rather than to trace trends.
  • To avoid the causation/correlation confusion, develop models to test and to test against, and to assess how likely a correlation is actually a causation.
  • If you are a storyteller you have a tremendous advantage because you have the possibility to build a community from ground up, to learn who they are, and to build scalable experiences based non that. Storytelling is crucial for lifecycle tracking and long-term measurements.


DAY 2 – Afternoon


Panel: Licensing, Branding & Commercial Viability

Panelists: Kevin Brown, Guthrie Dolin, Mike Wiese; Moderator: Ivan Askwith

  • It used to be the case that brand focused on one single story which was communicated again and again through different channels. Now these brands are trying to figure out what’s relevant and meaningful to people in order to find the stories that really resonate with audiences.
  • To find out whether a brand integration is going to work or not, you need to ask yourself: What has entertainment value? What can leverage budgets and get people talking?
  • As a brand, it is important to look for a meaningful value exchange, meaning that your participants/fans need to get something valuable out of their engagement with your brand, something that has meaning for them.
  • You should only use a brand integration if it improves the narrative experience, e.g. by making the experience more realistic. For example, using the word “Coke” rather than a made-up word or the description “brown soda” (both of which strike the audience as unbelievable).
  • Brands are shortcuts to meaning and filled with associations. This can greatly enhance a story experience and significantly aid character portrayal. For example, having a character drive a Ferrari creates a whole set of ideas about that character in the minds of audiences, based on their knowledge of what a Ferrari is and means.
  • Ultimately, integrating the right brands into the right stories is a delicate act of match-making.
  • Because they make a story experience more realistic, brands can also act as bridges between the storyworld and the real world.
  • Brands have huge audiences and tremendous reach and fans, so collaborating with the RIGHT brands can really help your narrative. Which brands the right ones are depends on your brand vision, target audience, and brand mission.
  • In case your brand name is used negatively in a story, you should a) first try to improve your product on which the brand was based on, and b) try to control your brand’s usage and exposure.
  • A brand shouldn’t be at the center of a story but should instead take a supporting role enhancing the overall story experience.
  • Create content around a brand is a great way to create an audience that will follow you – e. g. Macy’s creating stories around Christmas because they want to own the holidays and a particular target demographic.
  • Team up with great storytellers to tell a great story aligned with the vision of your brand.


Panel: Managing Rights in a Participative Canon

Panelists: Bradley Garrett, Sparrow Hall, Sarah Pearson; Moderator: Anita Odine

  • Every creator needs to understand basics of copyright law. For example, the fact that you don’t have to secure copyright if you create your own original work (unless you’re an employee of a company).
  • Adaptations of your work are derivatives of the original, so the creator of the original still holds the copyright to the original.
  • Be willing to share your content,  but also don’t be too controlling. Audiences now expect to participate in and to share your content, so you have to think about sharing up front, e.g. looking into Creative Commons Licenses.
  • Fair Use concept protects you against persecution in a lot of ways but you cannot always rely on it. Studios are usually not going after people when a derivative isn’t commercialized. In terms of participation, they remain scared of letting go of control whilst they do enjoy the free promotion as well.
  • Fair-use is a lot more limited internationally.
  • The best way to protect yourself against lawsuit is permission. If you do it for personal use you’re less likely to be sued, but if you make money your content you very likely will be dragged to court by the copyright holder.
  • If you are collaborating with others, clear up the copyright situation right at the beginning, and be clear about how much you want to share of the IP’s . Put everything down in contracts, even if you are working with friends. Get your rights processes in order right away.
  • Also lay out everyone’s responsibilities in contract form so if people don’t deliver their share of copyright revenues can be adjusted.
  • There are also international creative commons licenses which are valid worldwide; use them in particular if you are distributing online.

[Update, Nov 2 2011]

Panel: Show me the Money

Panelists: Brian Clark, Marcus Gillezeau, Andrea Phillips, Ana Serrano; Moderator: Ian Ginn

  • You don’t want to bring ‘outside’ (i.e. investor) money into too early as it easily restricts and tries to direct your creative development. Also remember that a low number of outside investors means a low number of people to share your profits with.
  • The first financing step is to make your project sustainable; the second step is to expand your project from there.
  • Remember that topic sensitivity (death, sex, horror, etc.) is often a problem when you raise outside money, so be aware of and prepare for that if necessary.
  • If you are going transmedia, try to produce as much content as possible in the least amount of time possible. For example, if you are shooting a feature film, shoot the web series at the same time to maximize the use of the staff and sets you employ.
  • Freemium remains a great way to draw people in to paid content.
  • Try to use as many revenue streams as possible to generate a more balanced financing plan.
  • Once fans and investors are already invested in your stories emotionally and/or financially, it is easier to get them to pay again.
  • A great book the panel recommends to identify ways to monetize transmedia: Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder.
  • There are enough business models out there, producers just have to start discarding ad-supported models as well as their fear to charge fans. Transmedia is not marketing any more, and if you provide valuable and quality content on different platforms, you can charge for that.
  • Brand and advertising sponsorships and partnerships remain relevant source of financing as well.


Panel: The Way Forward

Panelists: Albert Cheng, Jeff Gomez, Tim Kring, Alison Norrington, Vivi Zigler; Moderator: Brian Seth Hurst

  • Obstacle of terminology (“what is transmedia?”) will hopefully be removed soon.
  • It is important to keep in mind that a transmedia project doesn’t have to be a big blockbuster enterprise right away. Starting small is also profitable and allows room for experiments.
  • The audience is going somewhere after a movie or TV show is over, and creators now need to meet the audience in the media spaces they inhabit throughout the day.
  • It is important to maintain a constant dialogue with your fans and your audience, via social media, an official websites, and the like. Audiences expect to be listened to.
  • Find certain people in larger entertainment companies who are well-placed and believe in transmedia. These don’t have to be the ‘bosses’, but they can still help to build valuable bridges between visionaries and businesses.
  • Bear in mind how your audiences are using different types of technologies and create and distribute your content accordingly. For example, iPads and phones are very personal devices while TVs are shared between different people. Use your audience’s technology habits to enhance your storytelling.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment.You can fail, of course, but you will learn something whether you win or lose.
  • The story drives everything, but the flow of technology has changed the way in which writers and creators need to think about stories. Storytelling must become three-dimensional and more non-linear whilst living on many different technological devices that accompany the consumer through all aspects of his/her life.
  • Creating content is a ‘beast that needs to be fed.’ Audiences want more and more and more content, and participation and UGC can be great ways in which the flow of content can be upheld.
  • An entire generation of kids is now used to entering storyworlds through video games and to take active part in the universes they experience; producers must cater to this if they want to reach their audiences.
  • Know who and where our audience is; how do they use technology, and how do they feel about it?
  • As a producer/creator you are now also a curator; you don’t have to monitor every little detail, but you must ensure that the storyworld you create remains authentic and true to its vision and message. Your audience senses if there is a deviation from the character and vision of the story, and they will react badly.
  • You can build your audience from any platform. There is no one key driving platform; it always depends on your project.