In the entertainment industry, we can’t tell stories like we used to because the landscape of story consumption and creation has simply changed … and it’s not returning to what it was. Period. End of story.
So what exactly has changed? When did it happen? Where did it come from? How does this effect the business of storytelling?
To understand more …
Let me introduce you to Henry Jenkins & Convergence Culture
As a pop culture geek and scholar, in 2006 Henry Jenkins brilliantly painted a picture for the public about how culture was re-shaping in a digital era. Jenkins identified that with the emergence of new media also came a surge of grassroots media creation by everyone with the right technology and a story to tell. The more accessible the technology has become the more grassroots storytelling has flooded the storytelling marketplace.
Today in a digital age, culture is created by both “top-down media” (i.e. Hollywood) AND “bottom-up” (i.e. the audience). This is convergence culture – where media giants meet the audience and their stories converge to create mass culture. And where storytelling and culture creation is in the hands of Hollywood AND the audience.
The transmedia impulse: For the love of story
In convergence culture, audience behavior has changed to not only include being content creators, but also that of seeking out more story content for the stories they love beyond the original story medium (see Transmedia 101). This means that a fan will read the Harry Potter book, then while patiently waiting for the movie to release, they seek out additional ways to engage with the story-world such as read Harry Potter fan fiction, engage in discussions online with other Harry Potter fans or create their own story extensions to add to the cannon (e.g. fan trailers, art, fiction).
Why would they go to such extremes? Because humans love story. Humans always have, in all cultures across all time. We want to be transported by story so as to better understand ourselves and our society. So when a story resonates with us, we seek more of it. It’s been going on for centuries. But now we have more platforms to use in the creation & consumption of story. We have more opportunities to be with the story and characters we love so much. So we seek out stories across platforms. It’s called the transmedia impulse.
This impulse has struck audiences and they are seeking more story in this digital era, and yet Hollywood continues to only offer the traditional movie, TV show or, if fans are lucky, a graphic novel. So when Hollywood doesn’t provide it, audiences are now investing in creating more – “Veronica Mars” is a great example of that.
Humanity is hungry for more story. Now is the time for Hollywood – an industry struggling to survive – to embrace this changing media landscape and create transmedia story experiences that not only cross platforms but involve audiences in the storytelling experience. Over the last 10 + years, there have been so many missed opportunities for new story creation and increased IP revenue. Let’s not waste anymore time (see Disruptive Storytelling).
It’s time to embrace change and rethink storytelling in a digital age. Let’s build radical new storytelling experiences for audiences to consume and engage with.
Audiences are hungry and waiting …