Transmedia as a state of mind

Michel Reilhac, Executive Director of ARTE France Cinéma, shares his thoughts on transmedia and ARTE’s role in financing transmedia projects

I guess the first transformative revelation came from my first son when he was six. I told him I was taking him to a show. He asked me “What kind?” I did not understand. He insisted “But what kind of show?” I still did not understand… He then showed me his hand flat, horizontal and said “This kind? Or that kind?” and he switched his hand to a vertical position. To him the only difference between a theatre play and a movie was the surface on which the actors performed, one horizontal, the other vertical.

Life itself is transmedia and has always been. It used to be more so before arts became a specialist’s affair in the XVII century. We can now go back and play, mixing the experts and the participants.

It is about bringing the fourth wall down AGAIN.

Now is one of those rare and privileged moments in time when a cycle ends and it is up to us to start the next one.

Yes: it is a major crisis for independent cinema, which is reaching the end of a cycle, but it is also a chance to reinvent us.
No: the economic models are not here yet because it is too early: the financial system only comes in place when the risk is eliminated. Now is the time for risk takers and explorers, they will pave the way for the financiers.

Yes: we have to improvise for a while longer.
And yes: this is the most exciting phase. I experienced the same in the 80’s with modern dance inventing itself.

So why get involved and interested if it is not ready yet, no revenue stream generated? Should we not keep it a hobby for the fools who want to waste their time on it? Why not just sit and wait until the fruit is ripe?

- 1
10,000 hours = time spent on games at age 20 = time spent on education at age 20 = time needed to be a virtuoso at anything. What will all these game virtuosos use their talent on?

- 2:
Two days worth of information now = the amount of information handled between the dawn of mankind and 2003. (“The most ignorant individual among us enjoys easy access to more knowledge than the greatest scientist of yester world “ Michel Serres)

- 3:
“Private life is an outdated notion” Mark Zuckerberg: blending of personal/private dimension with public sharing.

My own 10 commandments

1. Thou will collaborate:
Lose the old habits. Stop the siloed thinking. Explore new ways even if painful. It will be even more painful when you reach unprepared the end of the current system. Only then can you decide to still do the traditional storytelling.

2. On the story, thou shall focus:
Lose the fascination for the new gimmicks and devices that will keep popping up and the fear of not keeping up with the geeks. We use technological devices to tell our stories, that tend to blend, mesh and interface instead of remaining separate and autonomous. Don’t get fascinated by the technological side of things.

Technology changes but the needs remain the same.

3. Thou shall embrace game culture:
It is a vertical approach to story telling as opposed to the traditional horizontal approach. Game is no longer the enemy. It is our partner and friend, for us who come from the storytelling world.

4. Thou shall earn the trust you rightfully deserve:
Trust is not managed, it is earned.

Trust management/ community management, these notions are odd. Trust is kept, maintained and nurtured. It can be betrayed and what one seeks is the engagement that it triggers. It is very much about how to trigger engagement through being totally sincere and honest.

5. The problem is not the story, it is the interface:
Independent cinema and TV, as we know them, are reaching the end of a cycle as dominant forms of storytelling on the market.

Relationship to audience needs to be entirely re-invented:
- Community building
- A film is no longer the end of a short cyclic process; it is an element in a lifelong project where the artist becomes the media

6. Thou shall focus on the flux not on the object:
Flux has different depths and speeds. Focus on the relevance of the artwork in the context. It is a vehicle for social interaction beyond its own limits.

7. Thou shall blend flux and events:
Both are today’s components of our lives. We need both. Live arts and festivals have a great future for this reason. We need them more and more as we are more and more online and virtual. Man is a social animal.

8. Thou shall spend great time and energy:
Transmedia needs now to dedicate a lot of time, not just a sidekick anymore.

9. Thou shall be fair and honest when blending the real and the virtual:
Loss of tangible dimension of reality. AS IF rules.
The whole as if approach to ARGs has to be carefully managed in order not to leave the audience with a sour betrayed feeling.

10. Thou shall play the game of changing the world:
Transmedia expresses our craving for new utopia.

“Left to his own devices, the individual must now entirely construct himself on his own, away from the old collective and religious frames “ Gilles Lipovetsky in “The deceptive society”.

In our self-oriented societies, the meaning of existence is seldom found in a great collective adventure. It therefore has to be found in the inner resources of each individual. Or in the re-invention of ways to CHANGE THE WORLD:

* Jane Mc Gonigal
* The Gamification movement for real and serious games
* The ten Google commandments (Larry Page / Sergey Brin):

1. We want to work only with the best
2. Technological innovation is our blood
3. Working for Google is fun
4. Be actively involved: you are Google
5. Do not take success for granted

7. Earn your customers and users loyally and respectfully every day
8. Growth and long term profit are key to our success
9. Google supports and engages with the communities where we work and live

Working on three transmedia projects:
- Rosa
- 2062
- Secret project

ARTE known for setting the trend with web docs:
- Prison Valley
- Gaza / Szderot
- Miami / Havana

And web fiction: Addict

  • A project has to have a feature film embedded to be eligible for co-production
  • We do not separate our transmedia projects from the classical ones in terms of financing
  • We do not separate the transmedia elements from the film
  • We invest around 400 000 Euros per project
  • We are looking at setting a separate fund for development of transmedia stories

We have now embraced transmedia as part of our strategy even though non-linear programming is still minimal in terms of audience and revenue. We are at the beginning of the process. We are not afraid to fail because the learning value from our failures is the only way ahead.

The Big Brother equivalent of transmedia is probably in preparation somewhere, some of the people here with us may be involved as we speak…it will happen within the next two years. Remember how there was a before and an after Big Brother. That is what transformed TV into reality TV. Who knows how transmedia will impact our world…?

So when I asked my son Eliott, now 25, what would be his hand gesture for transmedia he thought for a little while and then said “It would be like that…” and he wiggled all his fingers in his open hand.

So just get ready to enjoy the wiggling…

(from a talk given at Transmedia Victoria, January 2011)

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2 Responses to “Transmedia as a state of mind”

  1. [...] por el artículo de Reilhac (‘Transmedia as a state of mind’) me he decidido a adaptarlo a la realidad de las webseries, como uno de los primeros escalones [...]

  2. [...] this great piece at Power to the Pixel from Michel Reilhac, Executive Director of ARTE France Cinéma, shares his ten commandments for a transmedia state of [...]

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