The latest in our series of exclusive Lizzie Bennet Diaries interviews – Hypable spoke to The LBD Transmedia Producer Jay Bushman about his recent Streamys win, his work on the show, and what transmedia is all about, anyway.
It’s been Lizzie Bennet Diaries mania here on Hypable. Last week we brought you the first in our series of interviews, with the stars of the show:
Now it’s time to look behind the scenes at one of the most innovative and interactive elements of this Pride and Prejudice adaptation – the use of transmedia. So what is transmedia all about? We decided to go straight to the source – to Jay Bushman, Transmedia Producer on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
Hypable: First, congratulations on your early win at The Streamy Awards. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries won Best Interactive Program, how does that feel?
Jay Bushman: The Streamy Award, along with the IAWTV [for Best Interactive/Social Media Experience] award last month, is hugely gratifying. Especially since I’ve spent – and still spend – a lot of time trying to convince skeptical producers and executives that this kind of storytelling is workable, powerful, engaging and worth the effort. So this kind of validation from the community is incredible and humbling. And I hope it’s a sign that more people will want to explore this kind of storytelling in the future.
It’s also nice because now I can relax during the actual ceremony and cheer on the rest of the team nominated in the other categories.
[Authors note: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries also picked up the Streamy for Best Writing: Comedy (for Bernie Su)]
What is your definition of ‘transmedia’?
Alas, that’s actually a really complicated subject. We have a joke – put two transmedia creators in a room and pretty soon they’ll have three definitions of transmedia. But the short version is “telling stories over multiple platforms.” The term encompasses many different variations on that.
The two big ones are: 1) multiple standalone stories on multiple types of media that all are connected to the same storyworld – Star Wars or The Matrix are good examples of that, and 2) telling a single cohesive story over several different channels, which is the style of transmedia that we use. These two different branches of transmedia have a lot in common, but they also face unique and separate challenges, which is one of the things that I think leads to the term being so confusing.
I tend to fall into the second category; I’m mainly interested in single stories that come at you from multiple directions. I also find the term “transmedia” to be inherently limiting – it implies value in the simple number of different platforms that get used, rather than the unique story qualities of moving a story around over a number of digital channels. It leads to checklist thinking, that in order to have a “real transmedia” project, there’s some threshold of number of platforms that have to be used.
I fully expect the term transmedia to be superseded at some point by something else. We just don’t have that term yet. But in the future, I think we’ll look back at the word as something like “kinescope” or “zoetrope” – an archaic term used for a short period of time as an evolutionary step towards something much bigger.
But for now, transmedia is the term we have, and it’s the way I describe what I do so I can get hired for work.
How did you become involved with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Whose idea was it to include all of the transmedia elements?
I’ve known Bernie [Su, co-creator, executive producer, head writer and director] for several years, and we’d been looking for a way to work together. Back in 2011, I saw him at the first Storyworld Conference – a convention for transmedia and multi-platform storytellers – and he told me that it gave him a bunch of ideas. I had already been developing a modern take on Pride and Prejudice, but had stalled a bit on cracking the adaptation and had put it aside.
Early in 2012, when a mutual friend found out that Bernie was doing LBD and wanted to add some transmedia elements, she suggested that he reach out to me. Bernie gave me the rundown on the concept, and I jumped at the chance to join the team. It was a perfect fit.
Who decides which storylines are included on the various social media platforms you use?
Everything starts in the writer’s room. We break the stories for each arc, and decide what belongs on camera and what doesn’t. For major story beats, I’ll look at what ends up in the episodes and try to find ways that transmedia can complement the action, show viewers what’s going on from a different perspective of characters who don’t belong on camera at that point, or ways to bridge episodes together. I’ll discuss ideas with Alex [Edwards, transmedia editor] and Bernie and we’ll decide on a course of action.
For some of the other transmedia elements, individual people have a certain amount of autonomy to decide what to do in the moment. Rachel [Kiley, writer for The LBD and spinoff The Lydia Bennet] does a fantastic job with Lydia’s tweets and her choices of which to mark as favorites. Alex has control of Gigi’s music choices, and has used them to tell a great story about that character’s evolution, even before she ever appeared on screen. I had the idea for Caroline’s Thanksgiving ordeal the night before, and I wrote it on the spot.
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