ACG Unabridged: Christy Dena

For this episode of ACG Unabridged, I bring you Christy Dena. She's a celebrated and widely-known academic, speaker and creator, now working on the original comedy/drama Authentic in All Caps. But you knew that already, didn't you? Because you already follow her work, right? Of course you do.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your favorite projects?

A: My favourite projects are ones that have given me an experience that resonated, or had some clever design features that I admire. I love Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music. It is a novel and a music CD, though not of the traditional transmedia kind. The novel is a lovely story about a violinist and pianist, and is told through the years of their time playing together. The CD has the music they played, including a piece that was central to the plot: Beethoven's String Quintet in C minor. It was the first ever recording of this piece. Although the book was designed to listen to the tracks while reading certain scenes (like Laura Esquivel’s Law of Love), the music triggered rich memories of the story. I felt as if I was closer to their world.

I was moved by Xenophile Media’s Beethoven’s Hair, an adaptation of the book of the same name. (I see a pattern here!) I find the experience beautiful and through the exploration, quite meaningful. It took me through a journey where there is a release at the end regarding the character’s life.

I also really enjoy the webisode You Suck at Photoshop for its clever fun; and love the idea of Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman’s Thursday’s Fictions. Thursday’s Fictions explores the many lives of characters that reincarnate continuously, and this notion is replicated in the form by being retold and expressed via a dance film, book, play, Second Life space, and so on. I’m also a fan of Peter Hill’s Museum of Contemporary Ideas, a fictional museum that exists through websites, press releases, coasters, lectures, and live events.

Q: Where do you see the art and business of storytelling headed over the next few years?

A: The art and business of storytelling over the next few years? Gosh. Many things will stay the same, but some changes will happen. I think we’ll see more broadcasters willing to take complete packages of broadcast and digital elements rather than buying them piecemeal. There is a strong attraction to two-screen experiences at the moment, and I’m hoping we’ll see this move beyond social TV to two-screen story experiences. We’ll see more and more artists attempt to create their own projects based on peer- and audience-funding. As for art. I think we’ll keep seeing meaningful projects coming from the documentary space and indie gaming space, and hopefully more art in the transmedia space. 

Q: How can you design interactive pieces that don't feel tacked on to your story at the last minute?

A: It begins with thinking about interactivity at the beginning. Writers reach a point where some elements of storytelling are second-nature (protagonists and antagonists, catalytic beginning, rising obstacles, and so on). The same needs to happen with interactivity, where the writer is also automatically thinking of the role of the player in the project, how the fictional world and the world of the player overlap, the sort of activities that would be satisfying, and how often they’ll be acting.

As I noted previously, I also make decisions about characters, plot and activity based on the theme of the project. I plan each character arc to reflect an aspect of the theme, and likewise think about the player journey. The dramatic structure of my projects include definite moments of interactivity. So when I flowchart the narrative journey, it includes key moments when the player takes over. My characters and their environments are also designed with the player in mind. Are they characters and environments that certain players will enjoy spending time with? If so, how can they?

In a way, I create ensembles that can represent different player interests. The point is, all of this happens during the concept development stage onwards, and is an organic part of the process.



This is bonus material from A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, out on June 22. Preorder your copy today!

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