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The Pros and Cons of Interactive Storytelling

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik June 25, 2013 at 8:58AM

I am not a total convert, but I do see some benefits in the revolutionary new story spaces that go by various monikers, be it transmedia or multi-platform storytelling. That's my conclusion after delving into the new media world for this two-part investigative story for Indiewire: Part 1, "Transmedia is Sexy, But Who's Watching?" focused on several questions about audiences and the industry's interest in new media documentaries, while Part 2 "9 Tips for Interactive Media Producers" examines what makes a transmedia project successful.
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I am not a total convert, but I do see some benefits in the revolutionary new story spaces that go by various monikers, be it transmedia or multi-platform storytelling. That's my conclusion after delving into the new media world for this two-part investigative story for Indiewire: Part 1, "Transmedia is Sexy, But Who's Watching?" focused on several questions about audiences and the industry's interest in new media documentaries, while Part 2 "9 Tips for Interactive Media Producers" examines what makes a transmedia project successful.

I have long been skeptical of the form. Ever since Lance Weiler began touting new narrative digital strategies some years ago, I remained full of questions about such projects: How many people are really up to engaging with stories on their iPhones and their computers after they leave the movie theater. Am I a Luddite? Perhaps. A late-adopter? Most certainly--I didn't get my first cellphone until late 2001 and I'm still using Mac OS X 10.4.

"Alma - A Tale of Violence"
"Alma - A Tale of Violence"

But after talking to several experts in the field of documentary, and interactive docs, in particular, my biggest takeaways are:

1) It is the future of storytelling. It's not going to replace traditional linear storytelling, but it will become a growing part of the entertainment and information business. And as millennials grow up and have kids, the majority of consumers will be far more adept and comfortable with non-linear stories than me. At this point in time, Ingrid Kopp's statement, "Meet the audience where they are" resonates the most for me--as someone who isn't fully invested in multi-platforms, I appreciate the simplicity of Arte's "Alma - A Tale of Violence," which tells a compelling story with subtle digital additions that don't interfere with its more linear emotional experience.

2) It is the best way to get an audience more involved and galvanize them. While at this point in time, there are only a handful of interactive projects that have successfully harnessed social and new media to tackle their project's issues. that may change. It was Sundance Institute veteran Cara Mertes who spoke the most passionately and eloquently about the way in which docs are impacting the very fabric of society, and it's hard to argue with her when she suggests that if documentary filmmakers want to change the world they better embrace digital tools.

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