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From transmedia to theatres: when storytelling helps in engaging the audience


- CANNES NEXT: The NEXT events continue apace at Cannes, with more industry experts taking to the stage to share their experiences about cross-media projects

From transmedia to theatres: when storytelling helps in engaging the audience

On the third day of the Cannes Film Market, NEXT had only one event in store, but it was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience for its participants. In the afternoon of Saturday 17 May, the "I" Hall at the Palais des Festivals hosted a double journey into the world of cross-media: an interesting pitching session for four transmedia projects, followed by a panel with several industry experts from all over the world.

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Both sections were powered by Cross Video Days (CVD), in collaboration with Pôle Média Grand Paris. The former was represented by Bruno Smadja, its founder, who welcomed and introduced his guests, reminding the audience not to be afraid of the digital universe: “It makes our content meet technology,” as the CVD creed proclaims.

The first project to be pitched was that of a young Canadian director, Ziad Touma. His “creature”, which is still in development, is called The Judas, and it is a movie designed around an alternate reality game (ARG), requiring the player to investigate on several media platforms to finally find a killer. “It's the story of a landlord who gets killed because he put surveillance cameras in all of his tenants' apartments. There are six murder suspects (or characters) who live on social media during the investigation in real time, and the players can go online and spy on them to see what kind of information they’re exchanging. There is also user-generated content that complements the footage we shot,” said Touma, before his audience eagerly asked a range of questions.

Subsequently, a young trio of Danish girls took to the stage in order to pitch Muleum, their first transmedia project. The story, which may look very sad at first glance, is about a girl who, following her parents' death in an air crash, spends most of her inheritance on plane tickets, hoping to die, too. “It is her own way of exploring the world and herself,” reassured Annette K Olesen, the director. “Muleum is a suicidal coming-of-age comedy, a universal story affecting all of us and teaching everyone to accept our fragile life and the constant mistakes we make.”

Muleum's formats include cinema, TV and web, and each one is complementary to the other so that the audience can follow the girl's trip over a year through a video diary that will be released on the specific date of the diary entry,” concluded the two producers, Julie Friis Walenciak and Amalie Lyngbo Hjort.

The session continued with a project by Jonny Peters, an Australian cross-platform producer who guaranteed to take transmedia to a whole new level. The Dream Channel, the experiment's name, aims to make its paying audience the real character, influencing the direction of the drama with its choices. “All you have to do is simply register on our website and start sharing your most intimate dreams. If they aren't interesting, you'll get killed by other users. It's a dream battle!” explained Peters. The game's story starts with a man selling his girlfriend's dreams to The Dream Channel and becoming the star of a death-match game show broadcast on the channel; however, it is up to the viewer/player to go on with the battle.

Last but not least, a Slovenian docu-fiction by Ziga Virc was unveiled at the Palais. Its title, Houston, We Have a Problem!, immediately takes us back to the 1960s, during the US moon landing and the country's alleged deal with Tito's Yugoslavia. The 90-minute film is supported and enhanced by a cross-media strategy that includes a real secret news archive shown by a Slovenian philosopher.

The second part of the event saw CVD's communication manager, Caroline Decroix, moderate a panel about audience engagement and its return to the movie theatres. The experts on stage included Jacques Kluger of Telfrance, independent film producer Peter De Maegd, Judith Langerome of Free Angels, and Iron Sky [+see also:
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interview: Tero Kaukomaa
interview: Timo Vuorensola
interview: Timo Vuorensola
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director Timo Vuorensola. Following a short presentation of his comic sci-fi film, Vuorensola concluded the debate with an enlightening truth about transmedia: “When we started to spread the word about Iron Sky, all we did was upload blurry pictures of the moon with a swastika on it, and this attracted huge communities of conspiracy geeks and nerds. We then wanted to go further, and we released a game: it was a total failure! But that's transmedia: you don't have to do as much stuff as you can, but only something that keeps the original idea, focusing on the few things that actually support your story.”

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