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December 2009, Week 5


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"Mann, Denise" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 30 Dec 2009 14:44:18 -0800
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Dear Screen-L subscribers:

Professor Henry Jenkins (USC) and Denise Mann (UCLA) are co-hosting a one-day conference at USC on March 16th called "Transmedia, Hollywood: S/Telling the Story." This event will take place one day before the start of the SCMS conference. Given that many of you are making your SCMS travel plans now, we wanted to alert the membership of this event, which is designed to introduce the SCMS membership to a number of prominent Hollywood industry professionals in dialogue with media scholars from varoius parts of the country. The location of this one-day conference is USC, which is about 20 minutes (by car) from the Hotel Bonaventura in downtown L.A--the location of the SCMS conference.

In addition to the one-day "Transmedia, Hollywood" event (described below), Henry and Denise will also be co-chairing a workshop at SCMS on March 20th. The workshop features five prominent TV creators who are actively involved in creating multi-platform television. They include: Tim Kring (Heroes), Carlton Cuse (Lost), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Heroes, etc.), Kim  Moss (Ghost Whisperer), and "webisode-master" Mark Warshaw (Smallville, Heroes).

"TRANSMEDIA, HOLLYWOOD: S/Telling the Story":

"TRANSMEDIA, HOLLYWOOD: S/Telling the Story," a public symposium, will explore the role of transmedia franchises in today’s entertainment industries.  The event brings together top creators, producers, and executives from the entertainment industry and places their critical perspectives in dialogue with scholars pursuing the most current academic research on transmedia studies.

There will be four topics covered (two in the morning; two in the afternoon) with 4-5 industry professionals and media scholars appearing on each panel. The topics are: 1. Reconfiguring Entertainment (moderated by Henry Jenkins); 2. ARGs: This is Not a Game.... But is it Always a Promotion? (moderated by Denise Mann); 3. Designing Transmedia Worlds (moderated by Henry Jenkins); and 4. Who Let the Fans In? Next-Gen Digi-Marketing" (moderated by Denise Mann).

There will be a nominal fee of $25 for the public (at the door) and no charge for faculty and graduate students who are registered to attend SCMSs. Everyone must pay for their own parking and meals.

See below for a more detailed description of each panel.

Conference Panels

Topic: Reconfiguring Entertainment
Henry Jenkins, USC, Moderator

The recent news that Disney is buying Marvel Comics has sent shock waves through the entertainment industries as two companies, which have built their fortunes on transmedia experiences but for very different groups of consumers, are being brought together under single ownership. What implications does this merger have for the kinds of entertainment experiences we will be consuming in the next decade? This panel brings together visionaries, people who think deeply about our experiences of play, fun, and entertainment, people whose expertise is rooted in a range of media (games, comics, film, television) to think about the future of entertainment as a concept.  Transmedia designers often use the term, "mythologies," to describe the kinds of information rich environment they seek to build up around media franchise and deploy the term, "Bibles," to describe the accumulated plans for the unfolding of that serial narrative. Both of these terms link contemporary entertainment back to a much older tradition. So, are we simply talking about a largely timeless practice of storytelling as it gets relayed through new channels and platforms? Or are we seeing the emergence of new modes of expression, new kinds of experiences, which are only possible within a converged media landscape? What does it mean to have "fun" in the early 21st century and will this concept mean something different a decade from now? In what ways will the desire to produce and consume such experiences reconfigure the entertainment industry or conversely, how will the consolidation of media ownership generate or constrain new forms of popular culture? What models of media production, distribution, and consumption are implied by these future visions of entertainment?

Topic: ARG: This is Not a Game…. But is it Always a Promotion?
Denise Mann (UCLA) moderator

Using a collective intelligence model disguised as play, Alternate reality games, or ARGs, give any individual with a computer a means of problem-solve anything from global warming to the true meaning of the Dharma Institute conspiracy. ARGs also give instant “geek cred” to marketers from stuffy firms like Microsoft and McDonalds tasked with selling consumer goods to the Millennials. Are these elaborate scavenger hunts, which send players down an endless series of rabbit-holes in search of clues, teaching them how to think collectively or are they simply the latest in a long series of promotional tools designed to sell products to tech-savvy consumers? Unlike regular computer games, ARGS engage a multitude of players using a multitude of new technologies and social media formats—sending clues via Web sites, email, or just as likely, by means of an old-fashioned phone booth in some dusty, small town in Texas. For ARG creators, the new entertainment format represents rich, new storytelling opportunities, according to Joe DiNunzio, CEO of 42 Entertainment (AI, Halo 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest). However, for the big six media groups, the primary purpose of ARGs is promotional—a new-fangled way of selling Spielberg’s AI (The Beast), WB’s Dark Knight, Microsoft’s Halo 2 (ilovebee’s), or ABC’s Lost (The Lost Experience). In other words, are ARGs simply a novel new way for the big six media groups to prompt several million avid fans to start beating the promotional drum on behalf of their favorite movie, TV series, or computer game or do they represent a new way of harnessing revolutionary thinking?  In this panel, ARG creators, entertainment think-tank consultants, and media scholars will debate the social vs. commercial utilities associated with this latest form of social engagement.

Topic: Designing Transmedia Worlds
Henry Jenkins (USC) moderator

Transmedia entertainment relies as much on world-building as it does on traditional storytelling. Transmedia practices use the audience's fascination with exploring its richly detailed world (and its attendant mythology) to motivate their activities as they seek out and engage with content which has been dispersed across the media landscape. Recent projects, such as Cloverfield, True Blood, and District 9, have relied on transmedia strategies to generate audience interest in previously unknown fictional universes, often combining promotional and expositional functions. Derek Johnson has argued that these fictional worlds are "over-designed," involving much greater details in their conceptual phase than can be exploited through a single film or television series. This "overdesign" emergences through new kinds of collaborations between artists working both for the "mother ship," the primary franchise, and those working on media extensions, whether games, websites, "viral" videos, even park benches. In this new system, art directors and script writers end up working together in new ways as they build up credible worlds and manage complex continuities of information. What does it mean to talk about fictional worlds? How has this altered the processes behind conceptualizing, producing, and
promoting media texts? What new skills are emerging as production people learn to introduce, refine, and expand these worlds through each installment of serial media texts? And how do they manage audience expectations that they will continue to learn something more about the world in each new text they consume? What does each media platform contribute to the exploration and elaboration of such worlds?

Topic: Who Let the Fans In?: “Next-Gen Digi-Marketing”
Moderator: Denise Mann (UCLA)

Most Hollywood marketing campaigns remain overly reliant on expensive broadcast television commercials to reach a large cross-section of the audience despite growing evidence that avid fans are capable of generating powerful word of mouth. In the decade since The Blair Witch Project’s website became a model for engaging a core audience by creating awareness online, a new generation of marketing executives has emerged, challenging the effectiveness of top-down strategies and advocating “bottom-up,” social media marketing.  By fusing storytelling and marketing—ranging from ABC’s low-tech, user-generated aesthetic in “Lost Untangled” to Crispin, Porter + Bogusky’s polished, eye-candy approach to selling Sprite in its “sublymonal advertising” campaign—this next generation of web marketers has upended previous notions about where content ends and the ad begins. Having grown up reading Watchman comics, playing Sims, and surfing the Web for like-minded members of their consumer tribe, these new media professionals come armed with the knowledge of what it means to be a fan; as a result, they are refashioning the processes and structures that inform the relationship between audience members and the culture industry—forcing today’s media conglomerates to adapt to the new realities of the cultural-industrial complex while also ensuring their own survival. Gen-Y consumers’ sophisticated understanding of, but less contentious relationship with brand marketing, invites today’s media marketers to embrace a revolutionary mode of not just telling stories but selling them as well. What is the future of entertainment? Will the Internet be run by top-down corporate owners or bottom-up Web-bloggers or some yet to be realized combination of both?

Best regards,

Denise Mann, Head,
UCLA Producers Program
Associate Professor,
Department of Film, TV, Digital Media
102 East Melnitz
P.O. Box 951622
L.A. CA 90095-1622
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ph: 310 825-9218/fx: 310 825-3383

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