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Revolutionizing the Creative Media Industry’s Business Model in Malaysia – Part 1

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Entrepreneurs.my had the opportunity to interview Caitlin Burns, a Transmedia Producer with Starlight Runner Entertainment, a role which Caitlin creates and influences fictional universes that are familiar to millions worldwide. Building on a background of Theatrical and Event Production she has worked on Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tron Legacy for Disney, James Cameron’s Avatar, Halo for Microsoft, The Happiness Factory for Coca-Cola, and Transformers for Hasbro. She discusses her views about Malaysian entrepreneurs and SMEs getting involved with the creative media and transmedia industry locally. Thank you and much credit to our fabulous friends from award-winning PR firm TEXT100 for providing such coverage with us for the benefit of local entrepreneurs.

The local creative industry is often overlooked when discussing the potential growth and development of Malaysia’s SMEs. This is no surprise considering the industry globally has been mostly dominated by big animation / movie studios whilst locally, our industry players have yet to garner any strong recognition even in the country.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that in recent years, we have started to see the rise of budding local animators and creative multimedia players who have been able to produce quality work of international standards. Coming from small and upcoming animation studios, these budding animators are at the core of the local creative industry SMEs with potential to grow further and contribute towards achieving Malaysia’s aim of becoming a regional creative content hub in the future.

Transmedia storytelling is one such avenue to facilitate the growth of these budding animators and creative industry enthusiasts. Defined as the technique of telling a story  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storytelling> across multiple platforms and formats using the latest digital technologies, transmedia storytelling can help animators reach to reach out to wider target of audience to under a single cohesive campaign. This gives many startup companies a holistic approach in creating an immersive experience for their audiences.

Thanks so much for your interest in this Interview.

I want to clarify something right off the bat, the definition of Transmedia Storytelling above is misleading. Here in the United States, the more accepted standard, by professional organizations like the Producer’s Guild of America and the Department of Justice define Transmedia Storytelling in a broader way that includes not just digital technology and advertising campaigns but also recognizes the power of more traditional media like publishing, live events and the great work of creators who have been exploring their story worlds on multiple platforms for decades.

My preferred definition is from Henry Jenkins, a phenomenal thinker and professor at the University of Southern California (USC) formerly of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and author of Convergence Culture.

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.

The legally recognized credit for a Transmedia Producer, my job, is from the Producer’s Guild of America, the entertainment industry guild that exists to define credits for producers and creators in Hollywood:

A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms:  Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.

A Transmedia Producer credit is given to the person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms. Transmedia producers also create and implement interactive endeavors to unite the audience of the property with the canonical narrative and this element should be considered as valid qualification for credit as long as they are related directly to the narrative presentation of a project.

Transmedia Producers may originate with a project or be brought in at any time during the long-term rollout of a project in order to analyze, create or facilitate the life of that project and may be responsible for all or only part of the content of the project. Transmedia Producers may also be hired by or partner with companies or entities, which develop software and other technologies and who wish to showcase these inventions with compelling, immersive, multi-platform content.

To qualify for this credit, a Transmedia Producer may or may not be publicly credited as part of a larger institution or company, but a titled employee of said institution must be able to confirm that the individual was an integral part of the production team for the project.

 

While obviously, digital forms have helped and support this kind of development hugely, the current wiki-definition is unfortunately limiting, and ignores a lot of great work by filmmakers, studios and emerging creators.

A Moment with Caitlin Burns about the Future of Malaysia’s Creative Industry and Entrepreneurship in Transmedia

1) Young entrepreneurs form a huge number of interested readers on our site, and they are keen to know, is it expansive to get in or to set up business in the transmedia industry?

Caitlin Burns:

The barriers to entry in Transmedia are actually fairly low and well suited to small and medium enterprises that are willing to join forces with others with related specialties. While obviously, it is expensive and difficult to get a feature film (either live action or animated) into theatres internationally, there are a lot of opportunities for distribution online and to build a fanbase for a storyworld through lower-budget media executions (short films, small games, online campaigns) that can help find the larger investment of funds or to draw the attention of international distributors. The big things that you need are a strong story that you understand, and a willingness to work with others who know more about their specialties (game developers, filmmakers, online creators) than you might. Being able to seek out and   collaborate with other groups in service to the same story world can be mutually beneficial, creating something that is larger than the sum of its parts.

2) The local entrepreneurs understand that movie or animation studios hardly make it big relying on the Malaysian market alone to market to. In view of this, what would be your suggestions to entrepreneurs who want to go into the animation industry and then be involved with transmedia when they aim to market to a global audience? What are the challenges that await them when they venture overseas, to ‘Matured’ markets like Hollywood and Europe, where competition is rive? And how can they differentiate themselves?

 Caitlin Burns:

While it is a huge feat to get the attention for International Distributors, even for new creators in Hollywood there are two big things that are great opportunities for creators of work in Malaysia and elsewhere. First, the Internet is the greatest global distribution channel ever created, and you don’t need the patronage of an International Distributor to find your way into the homes of a global audience if you can find your audience there. Second, audiences aren’t searching for stories and content by where it’s created, they search by what it’s about, and that levels the playing field for international creators. If you can put an interesting, well-made story into the world, people can find it.

 What emerging producers and creators, in Malaysia and elsewhere, are to seek out experts, like transmedia producers and either engage them directly or seek them out to learn from their experiences. Some of these experts, like Jeff Gomez or the creators visiting Kuala Lumpur at Kreative.Asia (April 6-8), can familiarize Malaysian studios with the process of creating world-class entertainment brands that have global mass audience appeal. They are capable of helping Malaysian studios and emerging companies present their intellectual properties in a way that speaks to their transmedia potential: how the property has both a great story and a story world that lends itself to extensions into video games, toys, features, online gaming, social media, and beyond.

To be continued into Part 2 on 4/4/2012…

BIODATA

Caitlin Burns is a Transmedia Producer with Starlight Runner Entertainment, New York-based entertainment studio that specializes in transmedia development and production. There she creates and influences fictional universes that are familiar to millions worldwide including: Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tron Legacy for Disney, James Cameron’s Avatar, Halo for Microsoft, The Happiness Factory for Coca-Cola, and Transformers for Hasbro. She has also worked with Showtime, Sony, Nickelodeon, Scholastic, Nelvana, and Wieden+Kennedy.

 Ms. Burns is speaking at Kreative.Asia this April 6-8, 2012, register at kr8v.asia or email to [email protected]

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