Interview with Alternate Reality Creator and Interactive Experience Storyteller Jan Libby about Transmedia Storytelling and the question “Why Transmedia?”

Jan Libby is a passionate storyteller who creates amazing storyworlds, alternate realities and interactive experiences on a multi-platform level. Some of our readers already know her really immersive Alternate Reality Games like R U Sammeeeees I + II or Lonelygirl 15. In 2007 she allready answered 15 questions about Alternate Reality Games and this time our interview concentrates on the topics of Transmedia Storytelling. Be inspired by the following answers.

As a creator of Alternate Reality Games – why transmedia?

I define “transmedia” as one story (or experience) told and delivered across multiple media platforms. Well, that is exactly what ARGs have been doing since The Beast. I’ve been creating transmedia stories for nearly seven years. It is THE MOST EXCITING form of storytelling as a creator and player/participant. I guess the biggest difference, between ARGs and the projects people claim are transmedia, would be the gaming mechanics built into the design for ARGs. But, that said, I see many so-called transmedia projects with some form of game within the overall design. This is not to say all transmedia equals an ARG. Transmedia is a tent containing various types of entertainment that tell a story across different media platforms. ARGs are one type.

What’s driving the sudden activity and buzz around “transmedia”?

The world has changed so much over the last ten years. The way we connect to one another has changed. This holds true for the way entertainment, publishing and news connect with an audience as well. And, for some reason, the word, transmedia, resonates with many folks at Media Companies, Agencies, Publishers and Networks. A lot of Agencies and a few Cablers get the transmedia space, while most Media Companies, Publishers and so-called Big Networks are still figuring it out. They haven’t truly connected with what it really means for them, but they can feel “a shift”. The word “transmedia” plus the buzz give them a target and hope for a future.

Can you think of any examples of content, either mainstream or niche, that are great case studies for how things should play out?

Rather than list a few favorites, I have some advice for any wanna-be transmedia makers.  If you truly want to understand “how things should or could play out”, I wouldn’t suggest you spend all your time looking up case studies.  Seek out current projects and experience them.  Good and bad.  Be a participant or player or audience member (depending on the particular project). Great filmmakers spend a lot of time watching and examining films.  Writers learn from reading other writers.  Same for making art.  Experience transmedia.  Jump in and feel what its like to interact with storyworlds, travel across platforms and seek out story and content.

Do you think that only Hollywood and big networks are able to realize “cool” transmedia projects?

No.  I believe you need a wonderful story or an engaging experience.  It doesn’t have to be large to be cool.  There are so many inventive indie creators that blow me away.  Chris Milk, Jonathan Harris, Hazel Grian, J.C. Hutchins, Brian Clark, Mary Feuer, Lance Weiler, Christy Dena, Jim Babb, King and Keck, The Googles, Andrea Phillips, Sara Thacher and Jeff Hull, Haley Moore, Dog Tale Media and more.

For larger more commercial projects, I’m excited to see what the gang at Campfire produces this year. And, of course, Fourth Wall Studios has some crazy talented folks working on cool stuff too.

There is a really great growing community of creators.

What do you wish for upcoming transmedia projects?

I would love to see us continue to take risks.  Let’s experiment with our content, delivery and audience.  I’m stepping it up with my Snow Town I-Fi (which is not a transmedia experience on it own, but could be used as part of a larger transmedia world) and an upcoming site-specific Multi-platform Theatre piece. Many other transmedia makers, some mentioned above, have big plans for the year ahead.

And let’s stop trying to make everything “casual”. Makes me nuts! Does anyone make a film or write a novel and say, “hey, let’s make this is a casual film/book experience”? Ha! No. Transmedia has the potential to really pull an audience into a world. Let’s go for it!

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Jan Libby


What is the transmedia scene in your country like?

Funding is a huge issue for the indie transmedia scene.  There are very few grants available for transmedia. At this point, you have to sneak your proposals in under another category.  It’s too new. A few transmedia makers have found ways to partner with tech companies. Other creators have had success raising capital via Kickstarter. Although I usually self-finance my indie projects, I’m attempting to obtain much needed funds for my Snow Town I-Fi App via Kickstarter right now.

I love the transmedia meet-up communities.  The New York and L.A. groups are incredibly active. It is a wonderful way for people to learn more about transmedia and to network with a good mix of creators.

Thank you very much for taking the time and answering our questions, Jan. We are looking forward to see your upcoming projects and can’t wait to hold our tablet in our hands with the Snow Town I-Fi App running on it.

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