The Problem with Horror

Clients come to me and Starlight Runner all the time with problems regarding their horror franchise. It used to connect with audiences, so why isn’t it doing so now? Why is the main character so popular but the series dragging? Why can’t we seem to re-invigorate the story world? It’s a constant refrain, one that provides no easy answer. At the base of things, transmedia has a problem depicting horror.

This isn’t for lack of effort or appreciation. Hell, I love horror. I just want to make that absolutely clear from the beginning. The Thing is one of my favorite films ever, as are 28 Days Later, The Exorcist, Evil Dead, and too many others to mention. Cthulhu-style insanity-terror creeps under my skin and refuses to let go. I’m even working on a horror project myself, so feel free to hold my feet to the fire when it comes out. Understand that my discussion below is not meant to be a criticism of the form. There’s nothing wrong with horror as a genre.

Unless you happen to be a premarital-sex-loving, pot-smoking teenager who works at a summer camp. 

Unless you happen to be a premarital-sex-loving, pot-smoking teenager who works at a summer camp.

What I’m going to talk about here is why horror doesn’t always translate in a transmedia sense, both from a franchise perspective and as a stand-alone story across multiple media platforms. Characters from horror? They thrive in popular culture long after their initial depiction. Creators of horror? They can be rock gods. But long-form series? Those are much rarer in the grand scheme of things, and those that exist tend to tone down their straight-up scares fairly quickly or go straight for camp.

Continue reading →

A Very Steele Look at Aliens and Isolation

When last we met (many, many moons ago), our talk about passive and active media led to quite a lot of attention. I got record-high viewership totals. My blog got bandied about on the interwebz like a rain-slicked football at a Pop Warner football game. For a split second, I even began to trend. It was heady to receive this attention, and it brought in a lot of work, hence my absence on ye ol’ blogosphere.

But enough about me. Well, no… keep it up with the laudations…

But enough about me. Well, no… keep it up with the laudations…

I did receive a few questions about it all, naturally. People were genuinely interested in talking about some of the more detailed aspects of my missive, which generally fell into the following categories.

  • Can you talk about the franchises you worked on in the past? Alas no.
  • Will you give me writing lessons? If you’re willing to pay.
  • Are you trying to imitate Abe Lincoln? You tell me.

AbeLincoln

So I decided to give you guys a peek into what I mean about the usage of storytelling between platforms. Let’s look at this from a franchise perspective so that the themes are congruent, the characters are similar, and it’s reasonably well known enough for a broad audience to understand.

I’ll save my Farscape fanfiction for another day.

I’ll save my Farscape fanfiction for another day.

Continue reading →

Passive Media, Active Media, and The Five Building Blocks of Every Good Story

A key feature in any transmedia roll-out is the ability to utilize each medium’s core strengths. A campaign tries not to reiterate the same story over and over again not just because it’s boring and not just because you want to reach new fans, but because, say, a story that’s best told in film doesn’t necessarily translate well to the video game environment, or vice versa.

Sounds simple, yet you’d be surprised by the amount of people who don’t understand this concept.

Sounds simple, yet you’d be surprised by the amount of people who don’t understand this concept.

This can be intimidating to the media fledgling. A producer has to oversee an entire array of platforms and content creators in order to establish a coherent and profitable story world. That requires connections, of course, but also an often intimidating amount of knowledge of production across a wide variety of distribution points. Does he or she really need to understand how every media works in order to create a great roll-out strategy?

Continue reading →

Be Users, Not Consumers

People always complain about the youngest generation, but I actually love the Pluralists. These are the kids who were born near or after 2001, the peeps who have never known a world without the internet, who have grown up post-9/11, who have the information of our entire history at their fingertips.

When they’re not posting image macros, that is.

When they’re not posting image macros, that is.

I mean, let’s just look at the Pluralists as a whole. They:

  • Are the most published generation in history
  • Follow the breadcrumbs laid out to them by companies and their peers
  • Reward authenticity and quality above all
  • Have grown up in a multimedia atmosphere
  • Understand how to utilize interactivity, intuitively
  • Celebrate an infinite amount of diversity

That’s a pretty accomplished list for me! There’s just one small issue…

Continue reading →

The Importance of Memetics

Memes are ideas, behaviors, styles, or usages that spreads from person to person within a culture. Some of you already know this. Some of you are thinking about Advice Animal macros. Others are new to the concept. Bear with me, all. It’s important, because memes are the core of every brand, and thus, at the core of every narrative.

What is a story but a shared idea about how the world works, after all? I have an experience that I share with a friend because it highlights an analogy I am trying to make. He retorts with a story of his own that is contrary or complementary. If one is better than the other, both change to reflect this. If not, or if the ideas are badly stated or too deeply entrenched to be affected, you have reached a sort of equilibrium state. Both co-exist, even if they are mutually exclusive. In both cases, the participants in the story have tried to express themselves in a way that crosses the gulf of humanity. It is hard enough being human without also having to be alone.

What happens when that isn’t enough, though? What if somebody is trying to change a culture?

Or sell a product?

Continue reading →

The Blue Ruin of an Old Paradigm

This is not about Blue Ruin as a film. It’s not about how it’s paced, or how the thriller works/does not work in an indie environment, or about the statements that it makes, or it’s cast n’ crew. This is about how it is distributed and why this will mean the end of the $14 movie ticket.

That noise you hear is the sound of hundreds of people closing this window.

That noise you hear is the sound of hundreds of people closing this window.

Stay with me, here. This is important.

Continue reading →

The Muppets Most Branded

I’m struggling with this one, and not because of my feelings on this one particular film in general. I honestly don’t care what the reviews say. I don’t care who knows it. The Muppets Most Wanted was a fantastic movie and my movie of the year so far.

I mean, I’m not the most impartial of judges. I own three versions of Muppets from Space (DVD, VHS, and download). I hit up Muppets 3D, regardless of lines, as my first (and last) ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I’ve gotten into arguments about whether Charles Dickens would have approved of a muppet-led version of his Christmas story (in short, I don’t care what Mr. Dickens thinks). Some people are into Star Trek. Others worship at the blood-drenched altar of Joss Whedon. Give me Gonzo and a camera crew and I’ll conquer the world.

Bow, mortals.

Bow, mortals.

But is this because I have been so brainwashed by Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie, et al that I’m willing to allow myself to be sucked in? And does it even matter if I’m having a good time?

Continue reading →

Star Wars, as Told by Michael Corleone

Disney is getting rid of the entire Expanded Universe for Star Wars. If you haven’t heard, and are a fan, then I’ll wait right here while you cry yourself to sleep. I’ll wait.

To be fair, though, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. Disney has already axed pretty much anything regarding Star Wars that began even a little outside of their control. LucasArts was the big one that most people gnashed their teeth about a la some biblical figure, but there are numerous other moments of grief playing themselves out across the House of Mouse. The Clone Wars, an Emmy-award winning smash-hit, only managed a graceful exit thanks to a receptive home. For everything else, it’s been a spring cleaning that is matched only by the ending scene of The Godfather.

Continue reading →

The FCC Sold You Out…

…and is that really a surprise?

As if we all didn’t see this coming. After throttling Netflix and other services in knowledge that the Supreme Court would rule in their favor, it was all but certain that internet service providers were going to institute a “fast lane” for certain distributors that would be willing to pay a fee. What was shocking (read: not shocking at all) was that the FCC would beat them to it and simply hand over the reins. This coming after a decade-long fight in which the FCC practically gutted itself in some Kurosawa-esque ritual of seppuku that mirrored Japan’s existential crisis on the economic world stage.

Or something like that.

Or something like that.

Continue reading →

Brooklyn and Basketball and Branding

ESPN has an interesting article about the branding of the Brooklyn Nets. Or rather, the BROOKLYN Nets. In this, their second year across the Hudson and East Rivers, New York City’s other NBA team continues to focus on its locale rather than its nickname as the source of its branding. Why? Well, it shouldn’t come as any surprise, but people like identifying with Brooklyn.

People used to live in Brooklyn because it was affordable. Now they pay for the privilege.

People used to live in Brooklyn because it was affordable. Now they pay for the privilege.

Continue reading →