Guest Post by Elaine K. Phillips
Psyched about transmedia yet? Thus far, we’ve explored both the creative and socio-economic aspects of transmedia storytelling, suggesting that independent artists are uniquely positioned to use transmedia techniques to create rich, immersive story experiences like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” (LBD).
Still, it can be hard to imagine yourself compiling a detailed story bible, gathering a team, and taking small steps toward achieving your dream. So we talked with independent filmmaker and transmedia producer Lorie Marsh, who is continually doing just that.
Meet Lorie Marsh
For Lorie Marsh, storytelling is all about fostering thoughtful dialogue. “I want to facilitate getting people to talk about stories,” Lorie says, “and transmedia is the epitome of participatory storytelling.” Originally a multimedia software instructional designer, Lorie has always been interested in pairing digital media with traditional media in interesting ways. As an ad hoc creative producer for “Lyka’s Adventures”—a children’s edutainment property spread across an app, interactive plush toy, book series, and travelling Adventure Lab—Lorie has seen first-hand how carefully seeding content across media transforms consumers into collaborative creators.
Lorie brings this perspective to her and writer-director Jentri Chancey’s ongoing projects: an intracompositional transmedia storyworld called “Lost in Sunshine” and a spin-off intracompositional work called “Visible Noise.” Both “Lost in Sunshine” and “Visible Noise” are East Coast-style productions set in small-town America, more akin to the LBD or Blair Witch than the MCU; Lorie describes them as “humanistic, art-house dramas.” Still, Lorie and Jentri’s experiences planning and producing “Lost in Sunshine” and “Visible Noise” offer valuable insight to every independent artist, no matter your genre.
Whether set in the real world or deep space, every transmedia storyworld requires factual and thematic coherence, according to transmedia pioneer Jeff Gomez. For example, every Star Wars story stems from the “factual” existence of the Force, never straying from the thematic “inner and outer struggle between Light and Dark,” Gomez says.
Despite its comparatively mundane setting, Lorie and Jentri’s storyworld required equally intentional, robust worldbuilding. Every “Lost in Sunshine” story stems from the factual experience of anxiety disorder, consistently exploring what Lorie calls “people running away from themselves.” The central character, Lyn Blue, is “determined to deny that she has an anxiety disorder,” Lorie explains. “All of her actions have to do with that.”
Indeed, from the supporting characters’ backstories to the media platforms themselves, every “component of the storyworld” stems from the facts and themes associated with Lyn’s anxiety, Lorie says. She and Jentri designed the online elements to establish the three main characters: Lyn, an anxiety-afflicted woman who longs to escape her small town; Cassie, Lyn’s best friend; and Bob, a wannabe self-help author. To explore the comic side of Lyn’s anxiety and to further develop the characters, a short film called “Visiting Hour,” will depict Lyn’s attempt to visit her hospitalized father despite her terror of hospitals.
Moreover, to facilitate creator-consumer interaction, Lorie and Jentri chose online platforms that both their characters and their audience would realistically use. Jentri tweeted as Lyn while blogging for both Lyn and Bob, and Lorie blogged as Cassie. While in-character blogging has become a routine transmedia technique, Lorie and Jentri took online participatory storytelling one step further by planning three online games, including one in which players helped hapless Bob find a job.
But as Lorie admits, “It didn’t take.” Six years after “Lost in Sunshine” launched in 2009, Lorie and Jentri have faced—and faced down—their share of obstacles. Stick around to get an insider’s look at the vicissitudes and victories of their six-year journey.
Want to read more? Check out Elaine’s “Transmedia Storytelling: The Heart Behind the Hype” and “Transmedia Storytelling: Why it Works for Indie Creators.”
Elaine K. Phillips recently completed her M.A. in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University, having penned her dissertation on transmedia storytelling’s impact on fiction publishers. From digital intern to magazine editor, Elaine has held diverse positions across the British and American publishing industries, but her greater passion is crafting thought-provoking adventure tales. She finished her first (bad, bad, bad) science-fiction novel at eleven and is currently writing an alternate history sci-fi novel set in fifteenth-century Britain and China. She’s obsessed with digital media theory, children’s media, and coffee, and would love to discuss any of the above with you on Twitter. Learn more about Elaine through her website and LinkedIn and Contently profiles.