Session I: Transmedia Sunday October 5, 2014

"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." ~ Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California

Henry Jenkins on Transmedia 2009

In Session I, we'll dive into what is and how to create transmedia formats. As a guide throughout the lab, we'll be dipping into Andrea Phillips' A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling - a primer on transmedia that bridges the gap between theory and hands-on best practices.

According to Jenkins, transmedia is characterized by three components:

  1. Seriality

  2. Radical Intertextuality

  3. Multi-modality

While these terms may cause you to sputter, we will make sense of them together during the first session.

We'll begin by sampling a few transmedia formats that have already been executed, such as Fourth Wall's "Meridien." Once you see these formats in action, you'll find these analytical terms easy to grasp.


The most difficult skill for a screenwriter or playwright is advancing the action. In a traditional play or screenplay - single-medium story - the plot unfolds in a logical progression. The conflict escalates toward a climax. If you're writing a three-act screenplay, a major reversal has to occur at the ends of Act 1 and Act 2.

Transmedia storytelling turns linear storytelling on its head. While you aim to minimise exposition or back story in a screenplay, that same material can be distributed across multiple platforms in transmedia formats. By doing so, you can deepen the story, create the breadth of a novel and boost audience engagement.

In transmedia, you expand a linear story into a larger story universe. The story's components - characters, subplots, asides, back story, even snippets of dialogue - can be published on different platforms - web, SMS, videos, phone calls or social media outlets. You can then use different techniques to connect the pieces.

The challenge of multi-platform storytelling revolves around integrating story components on different platforms so the storyworld remains cohesive if not interdependent. If you're just publishing unconnected pieces of a storyworld on different platforms, you're creating a franchise but not transmedia.

Given that the field is fluid and evolving, you may even invent a new technique of telling a transmedia story.

Transmedia Resources
Formats, Videos, Blogs, Books, Conferences

Note: This list is a sampling and not exhaustive.

Must-Read Bible & More from Phillips


  • RIDES: click on Dirty Work (Fourth Wall) - a dark comedy following the misadventures of an LA crime-scene clean-up crew.

  • RIDES: click on Redrum (Fourth Wall) - an interactive video in which you piece together the motives behind the murder.

  • RIDES: click on Meridien (Fourth Wall) - visionary YouTube creator, Joe Penna's (aka MysteryGuitarMan) directorial debut. A 3-part adventure where time and space expand and contract, revealing a mystery, one sliver at a time.

  • Cathy's Book, a transmedia novel by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman.

  • Personal Effects: Dark Art, J.C. Hutchins' 2009 supernatural thriller was one of the first transmedia novels created for adults.

  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an award-winning web series adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" with Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr accounts.

  • MyMusic was the first transmedia sitcom on YouTube.

  • Clockwork Watch is collaborative transmedia storytelling set in a retro-futurist steampunk vision of Victorian England.

  • Defiance - TV series and video game partner to tell interconnected as well as separate stories.


Blogs and Websites


Conferences & Organisations


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