by Dianna Brodine, PostPress
Jeff Gomez is the chief executive officer of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a production company based in New York City that specializes in the extension of intellectual property across multiple media platforms – a technique called transmedia storytelling. His company works with executives and creative visionaries at movie studios, television networks and video game publishers to maximize the value of their entertainment properties by extending their story worlds across multiple media platforms – including print.
What is transmedia storytelling?
From the Starlight Runner Entertainment website:
Transmedia storytelling, according to Gomez, is the process of conveying messages, themes or story lines to a mass audience through the artful and well-planned use of multiple media platforms. It is both a technique and a philosophy of communications and brand extension that enriches and broadens the lifecycle of creative content.
[Transmedia means that] the story itself is distributed across a variety of media. Each piece of the story feels as least somewhat complete and adds to the audience’s concept of the characters and story world. When done well, audience members become more and more deeply engaged with the narrative, accessing it whenever they want, wherever they want.
What are the opportunities for print to interact and integrate with movie and video game storytelling?
In the next few years, I am hoping that the print industry becomes more aware of the vitality of the role that it can play in these kind of world environments that we’re seeing, not just in Hollywood – the Marvel superhero world or Star Wars world – but, in these brand worlds where each extension of the ecosystems, the distribution system, the storytelling system that you have access to is telling a slightly different piece of the story. One of the big innovations we’ve seen in print is its capability of being personalized and of becoming an important memorium of the world and your relationship with it. So much of what we now are embracing as possessions are digital. We no longer have DVD collections or record collections. Even our book collections are starting to diminish. So, we have to think about creating a special, more individuated relationship with these kinds of physical products. Printing now can do this with things like variable data printing. This ability to customize and integrate provides an ability to apply data on an individual level so we can actually customize the content of a product that is designed to go out to a mass audience. We can customize it from an audience member-to-audience member level.
What is the print industry’s place in that process?
There’s a printer we use in the Washington, DC, area that has a very clever sensibility – an ease with which the company can speak with a producer or creative people on the entertainment industry side and then draw those elements into a unique printed product. Having a printer who understands and has a more proactive sensibility about the way that the companies in your community or your city are communicating with people is important. Those companies might not be aware that these new effects and the techniques will be useful to them.
Why has storytelling come back into the corporate consciousness? It’s not just for movies anymore.
One of the skill sets that is involved with that is the ability to look at some data and understand what the story is, and then, perhaps, integrate it into the print matter. Some direct mail fundraising has been doing this for years. There is an understanding of what the demographic is and, if you’re above 65, you’re going to get more emotional appeals. Those are important stories that will yield a much higher return. That level of individualized storytelling can be applied across all audiences.
You’re a print consumer. What do you want to see from the people you are working with in the print industry?
On a very superficial level, as a production company for example, if I need someone to go out and shoot a commercial, there are a million little digital production studios that can go out and do that. The same happens with printing – unless you can demonstrate to me not just that you can create a pretty effect or give me a certain paper stock, but that you can understand a little bit more what my content is and what I’m trying to communicate. Your technology can now allow me to localize better, to personalize better and to play up some of my brand’s strengths. Who at Marvel Comics could have ever conceived that Ant-Man could be a different size on every cover? The printer was clever and said, “With this variable data approach, we can do this,” and it was a no-brainer.
Editor’s Note: A recent Ant-Man comic book cover was printed as a limited edition with the Ant-Man character appearing as a different size on each issue.
Now we’re going to see more and more of that, and that makes the printer important to the comic book company.
Why is variable data and social media integration so vital to the print industry?
As parents grew up, we watched the fading heyday of Hollywood where celebrity was always distant. You read the gossip mags to get little snatches of what their lives might be like. Well, it’s entirely different now. They’re accessible, and they have to be. There’s a relationship that’s going on. Some people say it’s not real, but it certainly feels real to these young people. And, it’s impacting their decision-making.
So I encounter this attitude – this grown-up attitude – that it’s a passing thing. But, it’s fundamentally changing the way we communicate. And, we have to get used to it and move with it. We cannot marginalize or alienate the people who live and breathe this stuff, because that’s pushing our own kids away from us – and the future generation of the employee in our own workforce.