Transmedia Artists Guild

The Hazel Project

Over the last year, you've heard me talk a little bit about the Transmedia Artists Guild. At SXSW, we had our coming-out party and announced a rough site and some forums we'd love for you to join -- but much more important, we announced our first big initiative, the Hazel Project.

Hazel Grian is a transmedia creator based in the UK who has done some awesome high profile work, including an ARG for Star Trek and the two-player experience 221b for Sherlock Holmes. She also builds physical robots like Tweeture that interact with social media.
A few months ago, Hazel suffered a personal tragedy in which she lost both her home and the ability to pursue her livelihood. She has been invited to speak at the Storyworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco later this year, and we want to help get her there.

If you have it to give, please donate whatever you can to help Hazel reclaim her life. And please, please take a few minutes to Tweet, blog, or email about this even if you don't have money to spare.

Transmedia practitioners are reaching that critical mass at which we become a full-fledged community. And this is precisely the sort of thing around which a community should rally. Let's prove we take care of our own.

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During SXSW, the team over at Six to Start went and launched a fun locative storytelling platform called Wanderlust. It's a clever idea -- it uses the venue type of a place Foursquare instead of a precise location. So the story might ask you to visit a park to read the next bit of story, but it doesn't have to be, say, Central Park -- it can be any park in the world. It's a web application instead of an iPhone/Droid app, so (if I understand correctly) you can use it on any mobile device with a web browser and GPS. And the best part is you can write your own stories for Wanderlust, too!

I've already had the great privilege to write just a tiny story myself, along with creators the likes of Naomi Alderman and Adrian Hon. Mine is Ivy. I'm honestly a bit nervous about it, because it's very much like the kinds of things I write when nobody is looking. If you happen to go through it, do let me know what you think!

On another note, I've been dipping my fingers into a lot of pies lately, and as a result I've been doing a lot of promoting at the expense of meatier content. Alas, time is short. But I now have a glut of stuff to write about, so things around Deus Ex M should be getting a little more interesting again.

In the coming days, I'll be writing more on the Transmedia Artists Guild, the Hazel Project, a post mortem on Ready for the Big Chill, a summary of my transmedia ethics talk at SXSW, annnnnd yes, I'm sorry, a couple more project launches. But hey, I can't keep this pace up forever...

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TAG Panel and Meetup at SXSW

Interested in the Transmedia Artist's Guild and what it's all about? At SXSW we're finally stepping into the limelight. Come to the panel on March 13 at 5pm. It's in Salon C at the Hilton. Executive committee members Jay Bushman and Steve Peters will be talking about our goals as a group, and what you can do to help shape our future.

But SXSW isn't complete without a party, right? That's why we'd like to hold an informal transmedia meetup at the bar of the Driskill Hotel where it all began. Come on over with us when the panel is over -- or join us there later, if we can't tear you away from the Old Spice panel.

Let's rock this thing, people.

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Transmedia Artists Guild

I'd like to talk a little bit about the Transmedia Artists Guild. Aside from our first public statement at ARGfest and the somewhat spartan website, there's not a lot of information out there, but a lot of people are very curious about what we're planning. 

Let's start by talking about where the idea came from. During SXSW, a group of us got to talking over ice cream about some of the problems affecting professionals in our field. Isolation, for one; also difficulty in establishing credibility, missing industry standards for getting credit for our work, and the lack of a really good fit in other, existing professional associations. 

I'd be all over the transmedia producer credit at the PGA, but... I'm really not a producer. The SFWA wouldn't have me, as things stand now. And while the IGDA has long tried to foster a professional ARG community, there are difficulties with that home for the broad sweep of transmedia. A lot of great transmedia works aren't fundamentally games in any sense. 

And at the same time, there are some things you just aren't going to be comfortable talking about in a public venue like, say, the ARG SIG list. Not even because of our counterproductive habit toward secrecy -- if a client listens to your carefully constructed pitch, turns you down, and builds your project with an in-house team, that's something you probably won't be comfortable talking about in public, but it is useful information for other pros who might be thinking of pitching that same client, right? 

Keeping It Simple

So! TAG! Where do we stand? Well, first up, we're starting small. It's easy to ramp up in complexity, and over time we expect that will inevitably happen, but for now, we're keeping everything as simple as possible. We're trying to establish a legal nonprofit entity, think about who should be represented on our initial board, and establish membership criteria and processes. Very basic stuff. 

Next, we'll gradually roll out our big-picture plans: a member-locked forum, a jobs board, best-practice standards for credit, mentoring, resource lists, community awards, etc. But we are a group of unpaid volunteers in a notoriously time-poor profession, so you'll have to forgive us if we aren't springing to life as immediately fleshed-out as other groups. We'll get there, but you have to give us a little time. Starting with a modest set of features makes it more likely we'll get this party started at all.

A Few FAQs

We're not establishing an international organization. Not because we don't love all of our global colleagues! You know we do! But because the legalities of establishing a nonprofit across international borders is simply too big a problem for us to handle right now. If you're interested in creating a sister organization in your country, though, let us know; if and when TAG gets big enough, we'll probably find a way to legally get together under a single umbrella.

TAG is intended to be a professional association, and not a union. We have no plans to institute collective bargaining, standard contracts and pay rates, etc. That's a much bigger pile of fish to fry.

Indie and grassroots creators are welcome in TAG. We definitely do want to represent the interests of independent creators -- we have indie, non-commercial artists among our founders. That said, since this is a professional organization, grassroots projects submitted as part of a membership application will need to be professionally constructed and conducted. This doesn't mean you need to pour money into a transmedia project for it to qualify; but you probably will need to put a lot of time into it.

We want to serve transmedia artists. We're new at this, and we're probably going to make some mistakes along the way. That's life and fallibility for you. But we're trying our very best. If you're a transmedia pro, we want to know what we should be doing to make this organization work for you. Speak up. You can comment on this blog post for now; we'll get an official TAG inbox going a bit later, as we get more organized.

A Personal Note

This is a very ambitious undertaking, and I have to tell you, I'm terrified we're going to get it all wrong. But as a writer and transmedia creator, I've long since learned that the scariest things are generally the ones most worth doing. Let's go out and make it happen.

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