Advice for Creating a Transmedia Documentary
It’s an exciting time for filmmakers and storytellers who are exploring ways to enhance their stories via the web. One of the new genres to emerge is the “web” or “connected” documentary. In essence, these are documentary projects that try to engage viewers via interactive tools — from customizing the experience depending on when and where it is accessed, to providing a “choose your own adventure” structure. This isn’t your typical documentary, and if you’re not wary as you undertake one of these projects it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Ben Moskowitz provides important tips to keep in mind as you explore interactive tools; and if you haven’t experienced a connected documentary, we’ve got a couple for you to check out:
For an interesting example of how you can combine the web’s interactivity with surveillance footage and data to create a larger story, check out Bear 71, a project that highlights one bear’s journey in the Canadian wilderness and the challenges it faces. I’ve embedded the trailer below, but you can experience it for yourself here.
For a more “choose your own adventure” style example, check out Journey to the End of Coal.
You can tell a lot of thought had to go into how the footage, audio and interactive elements were organized so as to create a seamless experience in each of these examples — and it’s with this in mind that Moskowitz suggests a few key things:
“You have to commit to the fact the ‘thing’ you are making is not a linear, unchanging video with a discrete runtime (even if your users will experience it as such). For all intents and purposes, you’re making a web app.”
“This is a major difference between developers and filmmakers. Filmmakers are afraid of showing things that are half done. Filmmakers do a lot of iteration, but it usually happens in private—they continue to tighten your edit to test the flow, tempo, and rhythm of a certain cut. But to adapt to the web, filmmakers have to be willing to do this kind of iteration in public.You’re making software. And in the software world, we like to say ‘if you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version, you waited too long.’”
For the full tips and interesting food for thought click on the link below. If you know of any other great examples of connected, interactive storytelling, let us know in the comments!
- Prison Valley: an Interactive Web Documentary
- Lance Weiler's Transmedia Project 'Pandemic 1.0' Premieres at Sundance (and Online)