Technology lends itself to new creative forms of storytelling. One example is transmedia, a new technique of storytelling that involves enhancing the experience through multiple platforms, such as books, videos, and even live events.
The Elements Club is one such transmedia series, where every few months a new segment telling the tales of a quirky, yet loveable, cast living in Victorian England is released.
The story is historical romance fiction, and it blends humor with romance—all under the production of KYS Realm.
KYS Realm, (pronounced “Kiss Realm”), is really set up to be a full-scale media business. Between the memberships, e-books, games, video segments, and live events, as well as photos, additional information about characters and the story, behind the scenes sections, ringtones, and even wallpaper, a fan could really spend a lot of time on the site. I personally admire all the little details that contribute to this story. For example, every character is active on Facebook! And I like that the story is divided into segments, focusing on specific characters but letting the audience delve into all the transmedia aspects.
The creator of KYS Realm, KYS, shaped her story around a talented cast, who performed in the webisodes portion of the transmedia story as well as posed for photos for the video game elements.
Charlie Woods, who played Lord Gray, the lead male protagonist in the first segment, Lord of Lingering Shadows, said that he liked the arc of the story and he had much respect for KYS.
“I think [KYS] is so amazing and talented,” he said. “She wrote the book and directed the film.”
Woods is a British actor whose background is in acting and teaching. He said he is not a big gamer, but he looks forward to seeing how the video games in The Elements Club turn out. In the meantime, he enjoys hearing his mother’s reaction to the first e-book and webisode.
He also said there is a transmedia group in Los Angeles that meets regularly, which shows that this way of storytelling is getting bigger.
Julia Aks, a recent college grad, played the part of Scarlet Ruby Müller, the female protagonist of the first segment and Lord Gray’s love interest. Although her background is in theater and opera, Aks said she loved being part of a transmedia project.
“The book is really good,” she said. “So that’s really good to have a solid foundation for the rest of the transmedia project. But the group of actors [KYS] cast are just the greatest people. We have such a blast on set, and we all just love it, and we love each other, and I always look forward to going to that set.”
Aks said she also feels a strong connection to her character.
“She’s a really strong young woman, who is smart with a mind for business, and she’s a really likeable character,” she said. “Plus she’s kind of quirky and I’m kind of quirky.”
One interesting aspect of transmedia, according to Aks, is the fact that the story can evolve to best match all the elements. For example, after KYS cast her actors, Aks said she edited the book to better describe the people playing her characters. In future segments, Aks will also have the opportunity to show off her opera singing skills.
Aks said she appreciates that KYS gave the cast a lot of preparation time before filming the webisodes.
“It’s amazing what she’s done,” Aks said. “We’re all so in awe of her…She’s spends like four hours a day doing PR and four hours writing a book and I don’t know how she has the energy but she is doing it and doing it really well.”
If given the opportunity, both Woods and Aks said they would gladly be part of another transmedia project.
“I think this is an awesome form of storytelling that is on its way to gaining much more popularity,” Aks said. “I think it’s an experience that readers and participants have not had a lot of before, and I think it’s the future of storytelling.”
I had the pleasure of learning more about this transmedia world in a conversation with KYS herself.
How did you come up with the idea for this story? And why did you decide to make it transmedia?
KYS: In regards to the story, I was originally working on another super-secret project that I knew I wanted to take into the emerging world of transmedia. However, to bring on the level of sponsorship and to bridge the international markets, I needed a smaller, “do-able,” proof-of-concept story. After researching the market trends of e-book readers, casual gamers, and online viewers, and after reviewing a viable genre, I focused in on the $1.3 billion romance market. Since I love business, history, science, action, sex, humor and God, I chose to mix them all up in my kind of realm.
Although the title Transmedia Producer was added to the Producers Guild of America two years ago, transmedia is still a new buzzword for those outside of Hollywood. Transmedia involves arcing a story across at least three different media platforms with UNIQUE content, rather than repurposed. My background involves almost every known media, and I was overjoyed when a new title came along that finally “fit” me. There are two main reasons I chose to produce a transmedia story. 1) Today’s audience is no longer found in only one media. Marketers are chasing consumers because consumers now find their own entertainment on many platforms. 2) Trying to get funding for a major project, such as a film, is a multi-year task with high odds of failure. By producing a story with many roads to entry, and multiple small products, a story has the best potential of not only securing an audience, but over time, also becoming highly profitable.
Do all the different parts (e-books, games, videos) work together, or can they stand alone?
KYS: For this project, I had to create new terminology. One of the words I am throwing around is “segment” which means a group of products that follow the romance of a certain male/female lead. A fan can enter the realm of The Elements Club series, and choose to follow the romance of a specific couple, or just be involved by watching the antics of the members as a whole. Each for-sale product offers a complete experience, yet a keen consumer will find gaps. Example: In the first segment, Lord of Lingering Shadows, a fan may purchase and read the book. The book offers a satisfying conclusion, yet certain aspects of the characters or sub-stories in the book are not resolved. While Lord Gray is successful in winning over Scarlet Ruby’s affection, who is Nemesis Angel? Why is Lord Hollingberry desperate for funds? Does Dr. Death really collect whale phalluses? These questions and more are found in other products and media and vice-versa with other aspects of the segment, such as the casual game having questions not answered by either the book or the online episodes.
What exactly is a casual video game? And how does one access/play it?
KYS: A casual video game is defined as a video game that is quick to pick up and play, and easy to bounce in and out of. Most mobile and/or tablet games fall into this category, meaning that players might drop into the world of Tiny Tower, or Gardens of Time, play a round for six minutes, then go back to driving, or waiting in line, or watching TV.
At this point, The Elements Club is finishing out our first game for a release in May 2013. It will incorporate Match 3 game mechanics with a heavy integration of story and some new twists to the genre. For distribution, we hope to be on MochiGames and Shockwave (both free-to-play game sites), and on iTunes as a standalone game.
Will all the videos be on YouTube? Or will members have to pay to watch?
KYS: At this stage, all the videos will be distributed on YouTube and/or other free platforms.
What kinds of events can people attend?
KYS: The easiest event is the monthly party-line (conference) call where all the Victorian members of The Elements Club get together on the party line and talk 1890s business and science…or not. With actors trained in improv, I honestly never know what is going to happen next! In the fall of 2013, after the series has gained traction, we are looking forward to having a Mining, Minerals and Mayhem party at Heritage Square Museum, the home of The Elements Club. Located in Los Angeles, this museum is focused on preserving Victorian homes throughout the region. It was an honor to film in the museum’s historically furnished rooms. For the Mining, Minerals and Mayhem event, we hope to bring in Theodore Gray, the real-life author, scientist and elements collector, to blow up rubidium.
How long did it take to create? How long did it take for just the first segment?
KYS: If you count the months I spent researching the business side of things prior to jumping into creative, thus far the project has taken up two and a half years of my life. Production for the first segment is roughly six months for all three products combined.
I read on your site that the next segment will not come out until June 2013. Is the story finished or still in the works?
KYS: Segment two involves the romance of Lord Wesbury and the Lady Gaga of the Victorian era, Master V. I have planned out seven core segments, but as of now I have not finished writing the book and the newest scripts (working on it!). I would hope that as the fan base grows, they will start informing me of the direction they want the project to go. Which romance should be next? Which new character do they want more information on? Should I bring on XYZ Emmy-winning actor or not?
On the website there are sponsors—did they pay for all production and editing costs?
KYS: Thank goodness for sponsors! Even though none of the sponsors provided cash this first round, they each worked with me, mostly on trade deals, as I Begged, Borrowed and Bartered to make this first segment happen. Investors have no idea what to do with romance or transmedia. To create this project, I sought out media that I had the skills and/or resources to create. After developing the business plan, and crafting the first round of creative direction, I sought to win over fellow teammates. I chose to offer each teammate options to join the project per Profit sharing, Deferred (with payments starting immediately upon cash-flow), and other combinations. Outside of treating every member of the team as an investor of time (versus money), I also operate on Open Book Management principles, meaning that everyone on the team knows every number of the project, whether it be the viewers on YouTube, or the sales of a book.
How is everything being promoted?
KYS: “Plan, Cross-Promote, and Pound” is my motto. It takes months, followed by years to build out a brand. Marketing is just as tough as building a project. When I roped in my team, I was brutally honest about the fact that they had to stick with me for at least three segments because it will take a massive amount of legwork to build up the company. The great thing about the project is that I have actors willing to be in character and in costume, which is entertaining. In the world of PR, everyone wants something different. An author interview is boring, but actors in character who are trained in improv? Ah! As the project grows, I now have doors for radio and TV that are normally closed.
Currently, I am coordinating in-store, Indie bookstore party-line events for the launch of our EPUB book. I am also reaching out to various media to book my talented team as various holidays arise, in which actors are in character and in costume dispensing Victorian advice on love and seduction. When planning for this campaign, I also developed content that would be able to be thin-sliced and reused as exclusive media assets for various online entities. For audience reach, each character in the series has a unique hobby or interest that allows different audience segments to be reached. In terms of industry reach, this project allows promotion in the book publishing, video game, TV, online industries, in addition to British and American countries.
Which aspects of this transmedia project are the most popular so far? (e-book versus videos, etc.)
KYS: Well, we only have one week of data! Based on numbers alone, video is reaching more people. But is quantity always quality? I would much rather have only 10,000 fans that are hard-core than 100,000 that never purchase or support the project with their participation.
How did you find your cast and crew?
KYS: A combination of advertising, asking around, and prayer. I was ruthless in picking a team that were not only talented, but that were also entrepreneurs at heart. This project requires long-term “doers,” not semi-committed “arty-farties.” Thankfully, I was able to drill down through countless auditions and interviews to get the best-of-the-best. Men and women that I am beyond grateful for because they chose the hard path—making a project, and not just talking about it.
What is your favorite part of telling a transmedia story?
KYS: That it is a new, volatile beast that offers great sacrifice with the possibility of great reward because there are no barriers, just wise boundaries.
Read, watch, and play The Elements Club at the KYS Realm website, http://kysrealm.com.