Interview with Christy Dena, Cross-Media Specialist

With her background as diverse as her current projects, Christy Dena stands out as one of the top experts in the dynamic and diverse sphere of cross-media. Christy shares her knowledge and experience through her “Online Universe” of websites, which span an array of cross-media topics, her doctoral research, and her own personal development. Traveling all the way from Australia to open the London Forum with her presentation entitled “Should We? Could We? Would We? – Films in the Age of Cross-Media Production,” Christy also took time to offer her insight in the following interview.

PTTP Conference 2008What does your job as a cross-media specialist involve?
My work involves sharing my knowledge of and experience with cross-media projects by mentoring teams or individuals, consulting with practitioners on specific projects, giving presentations and writing articles. When I advise practitioners and marketers on their projects, I consider everyone’s skill set and the specific needs of the project (and my available time!). I then provide any number of services, which may include research reports, cross-media strategy, cross-media narrative and game design, integration of business models with the content and so on. I can enter at any stage in the process, but I prefer to work with clients for a while, developing their ideas and staying with projects all the way through their implementation.

What excites you about cross-platform approaches?
What excites me personally is that cross-platform approaches provide a beautiful challenge. You have different media platforms that are incompatible – like a book, a film, a website or mobile phone – and you’re trying to figure out how you can get a story to work across all these platforms. It’s a complete reverse of technical convergence – which is when all these media devices merge into one platform that can do anything. What’s different about cross-media is that you retain the integrity of the different platforms while seeing how you can bring them together. It’s also challenging to think about how you design these experiences so that people remain immersed in the story, even though they are closing down one device and moving onto another, which they will interact with in a completely different way.

How has entertainment changed as a result of multi-platform distribution?
Although distributing across more than one platform is not solely a contemporary phenomenon, in recent years, multi-platform distribution has changed the entertainment industry and experience of entertainment in these ways:

  • The range of media platforms available and actively utilised by people has increased. In addition to television, radio, theatres and shops we now have portable media devices, game consoles, urban screens and a much greater number of channels and websites available. Because there isn’t hierarchy, such as everyone uses broadcast television the most, now to reach a wide range of audiences we must distribute through a wide range of platforms.
  • Distribution can potentially happen anywhere, with very little overhead cost. The ubiquity of networked technologies means distribution can happen with intangible methods such as Bluetooth, email, streaming online and so on.
  • Publication is easy. Previously, all key distribution channels were controlled by gatekeepers. Now, in addition to these traditional channels, we have channels, such as the Internet, that allow anyone to self-distribute and potentially reach large audiences.
  • The Internet creates global access. In contrast to location-based conventional distribution, through the Web, people from all over the globe can connect at any time and form communities around shared interests and experiences.
  • Multiple media platforms create more consumption options. People may want to watch a film online, be a part of a special preview screening in their community, have the DVD to watch with friends at home and have a digital file that enables them to watch on a portable media device whilst traveling.

What outlets or ways of storytelling do think will become more popular as technology improves?
In the last ten years, there has been an increased interest in cross-media, trans-media and alternate reality games across a variety of industries, in both mass entertainment and independent arts. With so many different devices such as mp3s, gaming consoles, mobile phones and TVs, practitioners are considering how to utilise more of them. These different devices make it possible to reach new audiences, in terms of both distribution and promotion. Some practitioners are also starting to see these different media platforms as potential storytelling devices, so rather than the device being a channel to repurpose content, it can compliment and expand on the content. We will see more prefaces or prequels that get stories going and will also be able to follow stories beyond their conclusions.

What qualities contribute to the success of a cross-platform project?
Success relies on the same principals of good design that work in any area. However, there are different ways to execute cross platform projects and each of those different executions appeals to different audiences. It’s important to try to execute the project in a way that is within your skill set. Jumping too far ahead of your abilities often leads to not executing the project well, and therefore not appealing to the audiences you are trying to reach. So, it’s a good idea to take a step back and slowly stretch yourself as you create a project and aim to reach audiences that suit this approach. Having a good team also helps, as well as consulting with people who work in the area and have experience. Also remember that each platform has something different to offer and that the choice of medium should match with the story.

What resources should filmmakers consult as they develop their cross-platform projects?
Lance Weiler’s Workbook Project is an excellent resource that just keeps getting better. My own blog and podcast Universe Creation 101 has links to labs, practitioners and resources. Beyond the resources listed on those two sites, I like to keep my eye on movie website listings, like Simple Movie Review, in order to discover compelling and creative film websites. I also love sifting through the listings of Easter Eggs in DVDs, on The Easter Egg Archive, to see what nifty hidden content the creators came up with. Additionally, Chris Thilk’s Movie Marketing Madness has some interesting posts. Finally, a mixed bag of sites that offer great inspiration for concept development, narrative and game techniques, promotional strategies, potential media platforms and so on include: Grand Text Auto, We Make Money Not Art, Networked Performance and Gamasutra.

Interview by Nikki Nime