PGA’s Transmedia Producer!

On April 5, 2010 by christy

Nikki Finke has broken the news that the Producers Guild of America has ratified the ‘Transmedia Producer’ credit. This is largely due to (among others) the efforts of Jeff Gomez. Go Jeff! Nikki describes the thinking behind the role:

This Guild-wide adoption is unprecedented as it will allow executives who expand storylines of franchises onto multiple platforms to receive official credit on these projects as “Transmedia Producers”. These producers develop cross platform storylines on Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, and Mobile — and now, they’ll be credited with an official title. I’m told this is a historic move for the PGA because the guild rarely backs new credits. “These amendments demonstrate how the guild supports producers making and changing the game,” a source told me tonight.

This sounds fine and is very exciting. But then I read the description of the credit:

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.

Most of this looks good. I’m thrilled marketing efforts are included (‘content marketing’ takes story and game design skill!). I am especially happy with the fact that one can be brought it at any point in the project. Some people don’t get what consultants do and so I’m glad to see that being brought in for a period of time, either early or later, still qualifies.

The parts that are unfortunate are the following:

  • The minimum of three (or more) narrative storylines. This is bad. I know Jeff Gomez has been pushing for the 3 media-platform rule for a few years now. But that was because it was an effective pedagogical device to get new practitioners to understand the need to think expansively. Making this official is a mistake. Although Jeff Gomez and Henry Jenkins focus their studies and energy on franchises, franchises are only type of transmedia project. There are tons of different implements of transmedia projects. What about all the transmedia producers for special television episodes that includes the web in a special two-screen experience? Gosh, simultaneous media-usage with TV shows especially created to work with the web or mobile are one of the biggest growth areas in broadcasting. And books with websites or DVDs? The minimum-of-three rule applies to franchises easily, but it shows how little these people know about how big the area is. I hope it won’t be strictly observed.
  • The minimum of three (or more) narrative storylines. This too shows a very narrow view of the area, but one that is quite pervasive and so understandable. Both Henry Jenkins and Jeff Gomez have been pushing the idea of transmedia storytelling for years. I stopped using storytelling years ago because when working in the transmedia space, I actually found I spend a lot of time working in both narrative and game modes. Game consoles aren’t even listed in the media platforms. Despite the rise of the game mode across societies, most of ‘Hollywood’ if you like, still sees it as a lesser mode of expression. Understanding how games work and how narratives work, indeed, how interactivity works too, is part of the skill-set of most transmedia writers (and producers). For now though, everyone keeps using the term ‘storytelling’ because it helps people understand that it isn’t just about marketing or something like that. For me, it is more important to recognise the unique skill-set involved with this area. But obviously it is so unique most people working in it don’t get it!

Otherwise, I’m thrilled to see this has gone through. Well done to Jeff and the PGA. I hope a Transmedia Writer is the next credit officially recognised. A lot of my work is also as a Transmedia Story and Game Analyst (like a Story Analyst for films and TV shows). But what are the chances of that happening soon? They’re still struggling to recognise game writers, let alone writers who work across narrative AND game modes, across media platforms (minimum of 2 hopefully). Time will tell… I hope so!!! :)

Late Addition: Brooke Thompson thinks it is a step in the right direction but also questions the three storylines rule in Twitter: “RE PGA Transmedia Credit — three narrative storylines? What does that do to the idea of transmedia being ONE story told across platforms?” I saw that and left that because I don’t think the PGA are quite ready to get their head around the single story, multiple media concept. It is one ARGers are quite familiar with, but not those who have come to the area through the notion of ‘story extensions’ in franchises. (I actually talk about some of these issues in my thesis.) Anyway, to me, it is good to see I’m not alone in my thoughts about this area!

Update: The PGA has announced that “the omission of video games from that list is an oversight that will be amended shortly”; and then also clarified that the role includes extending existing IP and introducing original IP.

86 Responses to “PGA’s Transmedia Producer!”

  • Jeff, thanks for the read and for clarification. Limitation makes sense, in light of repurposing factor. Glad to hear it’s for threads, not stories. Grateful to you and fellow transmediators for work at the forefront of this exciting new field.

    This comment was originally posted on ad broad

  • This is great news. Now when I try to explain what I do to people I have something to back it up … and can sound logical rather then just confusing them.

    Must discuss this in my entertainment graduate class today :).

    This comment was originally posted on Tubefilter News

  • But what does this mean for independent web producers?

    This comment was originally posted on Tubefilter News

  • Grr… saw a typo of the first comment I posted. I meant to type when I try to explain what I want to do to people… This is what I get to for trying to comment after trying to make sense of pages and pages of entertainment legal stuff to discuss in class today.

    This comment was originally posted on Tubefilter News

  • This is great – thanks for flagging Siobhan! And yes, Christy Dena is more than awesome. I’m using her "in media res" lit for my thesis.

    This comment was originally posted on Siobhan O’Flynn’s 1001 Tales

  • Hey Cait! super cool – I’m determined to find some way of bringing Christy here for a panel/presentation even if just by remote & if I do I’ll make sure you know

    This comment was originally posted on Siobhan O’Flynn’s 1001 Tales

  • it seems that the very semantics that bind associated "transmedia" terminology [think: transmedia/crossmedia/transliteracy] may act 2 codify/stifle rather than encourage experimental development? [pause 4 drama soundtracking...;)]

    ….umbrella embracing/advocating of "transmedia" places the emphasis squarely on the product/outcome of a merge/melange of known platforms + variables [the media part is the stick-in-the-eye/elephant-in-the-faux-pas-room bit] or cobbled 2gether "old media"/known forms of entertainment vs a embryonic/unquantified/intersectional modes [ref: ur 1st purdy graph above].

    i’ve [satellite] written previously about this [see here: http://bit.ly/cR2sR7 + here: http://bit.ly/afpaXk + here: http://bit.ly/15IOvT ] + try 2 suggest the necessity of creative movement 2wards terminology developed in tandem with the emergence of forms [ie template cracking] rather than narrowing down towards industry-standard based definition(s) [tho i do kno that concrete lingo adoption = moolah].

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • You make an excellent point. It’s an awful conundrum, isn’t it? You have to use an accepted definition to sell your work most effectively, but those accepted definitions are by their nature probably going to exclude the most experimental, interesting work.

    There’s no way out of here alive!

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • *staggers round tryin’ 2 find the "Exit the Catch-22 Here" sign*….;)

    ..ie it is indeedily a conundrum. so how do we ensure a realistic industry development path while making sure the intersectional doesn’t get squashed in2 oblivion? any ideas?

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • This just seems to cover marketing material and studio fare distributed via broadband/wireless. The ‘Storytelling’ verbiage appears to exclude repurposed material and parodies uploaded to youtube. What isn’t clear is their definition and acceptance requirements. Does acceptance include anyone making a web series, or does said Producer need to be exclusively in business with ‘institutions’ like Youtube or Crackle? So I have to second the earlier question about what service this will provide for the average indie web producer? Insurance benefits are quoted, but what is the minimum earnings in order to qualify for that? And why didn’t they just recognize New Media as part of the guild’s existing jurisdiction, and implement a minimum budget range as a requirement.

    Hey, it sounds great with the ‘benefits’ and ‘acceptance’ into a guild and everything. But how much will it cost me and what are the benefits of the affiliation?

    This comment was originally posted on Tubefilter News

  • Great assessment and analysis, Andrea.

    As someone who has spent their career ‘telling stories’ around consumer products/services and nonprofits (in other words, no entertainment franchises), I’m also optimistic for an outcome where "transmedia storytelling" encompasses both spiderwebbed and sequential narratives, both Hollywood and everywhere else.

    The way the definition process plays out eventually will have consequences for all of us (as you observed, in ways such as potentially determining roles and opportunities). For that reason we all are invested – voluntarily or otherwise – in this definition process. But in the meantime, our everyday work on ["insert ultimately agreed upon umbrella term here"] projects continues. And ultimately (as I keep reassuring myself), the quality of the work we do today and tomorrow is independent of how the field is defined.

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • Now that I’ve slept on it: In a way there’s a tension between the definitions of those of us wayyyy out on the fringe building all new kinds of media, and the definitions of established media authorities inching their way out toward us. Since we’re always moving faster than they are, they’ll never catch up, and the definition will always be a poor fit.

    So from where I’m sitting, we need to find a position of authority from whence to support our own definitions, as creators. Hijack transmedia so it means what we want it to.

    …does this mean I’m going to spend even more time giving talks now?

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • Kevin, that’s the thing that keeps me sane. We can talk circles around these semantics issues all day long, and absolutely none of it matters when you sit down to actually do the work.

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • Is there anything wrong with just saying: ARG designer/Transmedia creator? And when you get in for the interview because they were so blown away by all of the amazing stuff you’ve done, you can explain it all to them more?

    I guess I am moving toward facing a similar dilemma. This year, I am working toward combining my software and film companies into one…er…not sure. But the two are really starting to inform one another, and it suddenly dawned on my how important one can be to the other. Am I a film producer? Or a software developer? I see the two blurring for me down the road…

    So I have no answer except that I don’t see anything wrong with a resume that shows both. When I’m hiring, if the resume is interesting enough, I would see that person and ask them to expand on whatever I didn’t get about the resume.

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • There’s a subtle distinction between how to sell yourself for a job, and how you sell yourself for a project. I’m all freelance, and have been for a few years, now. There is no cover letter-resume-interview process for me; I get work by the weight of my reputation and the goodwill of my community.

    That means that what I call myself has to be pretty snappy. If I’m calling myself an ‘ARG designer’ by any stripe, that’s the more concrete thing, and it’s more likely to stick in peoples’ heads.

    Then, when they’re talking to people THEY know who are commissioning or pitching projects I’d be interested in working on, they might say "Hey, why don’t you hire this ARG designer, Andrea?" and they’ll get back "But I don’t want to make an ARG." It’s a very limited and limiting thing to call myself, and definitely narrows the scope of work I’d be considered for.

    That’s why I’m looking for an umbrella term that more accurately reflects the true breadth of work I’m interested in and capable of doing. ARG means a very specific thing, and I want to do a lot of things that you would never call an ARG.

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • Like Andrea, I’m a freelancer in the transmedia space who focuses on alternate reality games but does a lot of other stuff. And part of my frustration is similar to what you’re talking about, Mark. But there’s much more to it.

    It’s a reunion year for me and as I reacquaint myself with my old classmates, I find myself jealous at their ability to say "Oh, I own a restaurant" or "I’m doing mergers & aquisitions". You are facing the problem of having to chose between "film producer" and "software developer." Those like Andrea and me, essentially, have nothing.

    What we’re left with boils down to, "I work in ‘transmedia’ and I make these strange experience sorts of things that are kind of like games but more like stories and they’re really good at engaging an audience which is awesome and fun and a total blast."

    Which is to say, it’s difficult socially, but it’s even more difficult professionally where we don’t have the luxury of being able to expand on whatever it is that we do or where our focus is.

    Transmedia is huge and broad and covers so many things and, more over, unlike "film x" or "software y" we don’t have the luxury of people understanding the first term. So saying transmedia producer is meant with blank stares. And those that understand transmedia – they understand that the term could mean, essentially, anything. If I present myself as a "transmedia writer" that could mean (especially under the PGA definition) that I just extended some original IP by writing copy for a comic book. Something that is so far removed from what I actually do (or, perhaps, just a little part of it) that it’s meaningless.

    This is (slightly) easier to deal with when you are a part of a larger company than when you are a freelancer and, as Andrea pointed out, have to rely on a quick and easily grasped title. As freelancers, our titles are a part of our "brand." When you’re associated with a company, your company carries the burden of branding and so your title of "President" or "CCO" or "Marketing Manager" or whatever is important but in a completely different way. In this way, the definition issue is always going to be felt more by freelancers than others.

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • I know, I’ve been freelance for a decade. Basically all of my work comes from relationships I already have at this point. Or word of mouth recommendations. I don’t even have a resume anymore.

    But personally, when I am hiring people, and they come recommended, I will give them a look no matter what because they were recommended. So I assume that the recommending person had a reason why this person might be good for my project.

    Have you given any thought to changing to a company? Instead of hiring "so and so, Transmedia producer", form a company called:

    "TRANS-PHAT"* Transmedia Services.

    *If you don’t use TRANS-PHAT, I want to use it for my transmedia company…:)

    For me, I’m probably going to try to call it some kind of "media company." I might say transmedia in there, since I’m considering creating software tools that might help transmedia storytelling in some ways.

    But that might be a better "umbrella" solution…

    Or alternately, have you ever considered breaking your resumes up based on the gig you’re going for?

    As for the reunion, I have little/no concern about what high school people think about me, so that doesn’t weigh into my decisions…

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • TRANS-PHAT is the best name *ever.* Probably not for me, tho. ^_^

    I’ve considered starting up a formal company, but the tax implications of starting an LLC or C-corp don’t do well by me. I could do a little branding around my sole proprietorship and just call myself something different, but I worry that it would put me in a position where my existing clients might not feel comfortable doing business with me anymore. Tricksy!

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • "Hijack transmedia so it means what we want it to."

    Hells yes.

    The term "shockwave rider" comes to mind…I think it’s pretty clear that the only way Transmedia will live on as a term is if it always stretches to encompass the most creative and original forms of the work, the things that will be Old Media in 10 or 20 years. But that won’t happen if the definition is left to the hands of a deep establishment, and certainly not to organizations like the WGA or the PGA that primarily do something else entirely.

    To echo your sentiments, Andrea, I don’t want the label to lose steam, especially if I plan to be working under it for the next 20 years.

    But if we keep expanding the definition into the future (where new transmedia projects will probably look nothing like what we’re doing today), maybe we should consider of the "trans" in transmedia to mean "transcendent." ;)

    This comment was originally posted on Deus Ex Machinatio

  • Obviously you were not consulted. Harumph!

    This comment was originally posted on ad broad

  • This is a very positive landmark decision! Great job!

    This comment was originally posted on Tubefilter News

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