I was fascinated to learn (originally via Nikki Finke) that the Producers Guild of America has officially approved a new credit, transmedia producer, for people who oversee the expansion of a textual universe across multiple media platforms. As Finke and Scott Macauley (among others) point out, much of the credit for shepherding this new position into being goes to Jeff Gomez of Starlight Entertainment, who has worked on a range of transmedia projects, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, and Avatar (and discussed the importance of transmedia textuality here). The credit goes a long way toward acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining textual consistency across a vareity of media platforms and toward recognizing the ways in which fans engage with popular texts through multiple iterations. There are many positive aspects to this decision, including the basic recognition that a significant portion of our entertainment today is not contained within a single text. It’s also cool that the PGA includes “marketing texts” within the definition of what a transmedia producer might oversee.
Christy Dena, although excited about the creation of the transmedia producer (TP) credit, offers one or two minor reservations, first by questioning why the minimum number of platforms was set at three and by questioning the use of the term “storylines” to describe the multiple spaces where part of a textual project can appear. Like her, I wonder if this definition isn’t (potentially) a little limiting, especially when it ocmes to non-fictional texts. Although Dena is focused more on game consoles and other forms of interactive textuality, it’s certainly possible to imagine transmedia works that aren’t overtly guided by narrative aims, such as documentary films that might have pedagogical or political purposes, such as the PBS project Digital Nation or mny of the films produced and distributed under the Participant Procutions label.
Still, this is a welcome recognition that textual boundaries far exceed a two-hour movie or weekly television series and that what happens outside of the “primary” text is important to the viewer’s overall experience, even if the language for describing some of these practices is still rushing to catch up.