Announcing Rio’s Henry Jenkins Transmedia Lab

I have written from time to time here about my travels to Brazil and my wonderful engagement with the people who are shaping the creative industries down there. It is a country which has embraced my ideas with a passion that I have seen few other places, and in return, I have fallen in love with their culture, their people, their landscape, and their media. I was deeply honored recently with the Rio Content Market launched the Henry Jenkins Transmedia Lab (*Blush*) and I wanted to share some information about this initiative here with my readers.

The Rio Content Market is an international event dedicated to multi-platform content production and open to the television and digital media industry. On its first edition, Rio Content Market hosted the gathering of 170 executives from both national and international markets to share experiences, with the attendance of more than 1.000 members of the television and digital media industry. The second edition of Rio Content Market had keynotes and panels from leading professionals of the field. There were debates, pitching sessions, and rounds of negotiations, and this year, they announced the launch of the Transmedia Lab.

A partnership between the Brazilian Independent Producers Association and The Alchemists. The Transmedia Lab selected 12 transmedia projects (among 170) from

Brazil and Latin America in 3 main categories: (i) web, (ii) TV and (iii) Apps & Games. These projects were analyzed by tutors who will work with the authors to improve them. Later, the selected projects will be pitched and their authors can meet interested players face to face. The winning project – Contacts by Segunda Feira Films, won a

trip to participate on Transmedia Hollywood and will be co-produced by the Alchemists for international markets. The Henry Jenkins Transmedia Lab will be a talent and IP developing platform that will occur between US and Brazil.

We were able to showcase Contacts at this year’s Transmedia Hollywood event and introduce its producers to our audience. (I was unfortunately unable to attend the event due to some medical issues). So, now is my first chance to publicly share my enthusiasm and respect for what Segunda Feira Films has been able to produce — a project which makes imaginative use of social media not as an added on feature but as a central focus of its story, which deals with the possibility that we might receive communications from the dead. At the heart of Contacts is a rich genre-mixing story, which is bold in its experimentation with alternative modes of audience engagement. I hope you will agree.

Mauricio Mota, the key force behind the launch of the Lab and the person who has done the most to introduce me and my work to Brazil, wrote an important statement about the state of transmedia in his country as part of the launch of the lab. I am happy to share it with you here.

LETTER TO THE CONSULTANTS AND PRODUCERS OF THE SELLECTED PROJECTS

by Maurício Mota, Chief Storytelling Officer of The Alchemists

Transmedia Storytelling Co

“First the story, then the platforms”

“First the plot, then the iPhone, my son”.

“First a good intrigue and characters, then the character’s Facebook page”.

Transmea Culpa

In 2007 I had my first contact with the term “transmedia storytelling” in its origin. For more than a week at MIT, I accessed the academic, theoretic and analytic aspects as

well as the commercial, capitalist and Hollywood ones. And when I left I had been transformed by two people: Henry Jenkins and Mark Warshaw. The first, the pope of convergence, a great fan of pop culture and the first academicwho built a healthy bridge between those who think and those who make culture; the second, a pioneer of transmedia storytelling in broadcast television: for eight years he revolutionized Superman in Smallville and made as much noise with the first season of Heroes as Lost made.

We became partners that year. Nice, huh? More or less. It’s a bit more complicated.

Here begins this Transmea Culpa, which could have no better place to happen than in Rio-ContentMarket, in Brazil, during the opening of the first Transmedia Lab of Latin America. From the moment when I brought the term transmedia to Brazil, I had the aid of

Meio & Mensagem Group, which understood that this new manner of storytelling would bring innovation to the whole market: storytellers, advertisers, vehicles, agencies and

so on.

They all loved it and started using the term: scripts, projects and PowerPoint slides. Viral videos became transmedia, games became transmedia, cell phone apps became

transmedia, making bogus character blogs became transmedia. There you have it; everyone began to own the latest word. And we were all wrong.

Because excited as we were with the English term and the American cases, everyone was so astonished that they forgot that transmedia storytelling means a TRANSMEDIA NARRATIVE. And in doing so we simply focused on the MEDIA, forgetting the importance of stories and content. Or at least we put all that in the background.

Then we had to repeat endlessly to clients and partners: “first the story, then the platforms”. “First the plot, then the iPhone,my son”. “First a good intrigue and characters, then the character’s Facebook page”. Then, besides giving too much audience to Twitter and Facebook (current crazes) this frenzy brought along an unnecessary strife: the

strife between generations or types.

On one side producers, distributors, directors and experienced content creators of consolidated media. On the other side, the generation that considers itself Avant-garde, off the curve, those who understand completely the new media because they spend more time in the social media and own an iPhone. And the only loser is the story.

Because the consolidated bring to the table a repertoire and an experience that you can only amass in time. And the young add freshness and the will to transgress of those who have nothing to lose. If they’re mixed, these characteristics are an unbeatable alchemy in the content area.

And this dispute between who is right and who is wrong makes everyone talk too much and do too little. It hinders the process of innovation that we need so much for the next decades – because we will grow immensely, we will set the stage for world events, we

will need content for education and entertainment as never before. If I could put on paper some words that would bring an essential definition to transmedia narrative

in these three years of hits and misses in stories in Brazil and in the USA I would write:

  • Balance between platforms
  • Quality of production
  • Short Mass media togenerate a quick knowledge of the story
  • Niche mediawith more time to deepen the story
  • TV or internet, radio or book, it doesn’t matter: the story needs to have a
  • central platform (a mother ship)
  • Produce specific content for each media, do not copy and paste
  • The story needs to always focus on two types of “people”: the general public and the fan, the person who will want more layers to your plot.
  • And last but not least, so that you will not need to make a Mea Culpa regarding your story, that could have been more successful and have generated more riches,

    invest a lot in Research and Development, make it right, make mistakes, run risks.

And what is the best environment to take risks and mix experiences, successes and

the scars of the consolidated with the transgressive energy of the new storytellers? A lab. In the city which will help to redraw the way culture and content are made in the world: Rio de Janeiro.

Welcome to the 1st Transmedia Lab of RioContentMarket.