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by Ana Vasile, published on 28.09.2 The crowdfundingThe crowdfunding is at his hype! A long list of websites like MyMajorCompany, Kickstarter, People For Cinema, Invested.in or Touscoprod propose to the online community to finance music artists, films, journalism project or documentaries. More and more transmedia and cross platform projects appeal to this type of funding. We chose three different emerging projects that base themselves on this type of financing. Balance of Powers, NightVision and “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” are three emerging projects based on crowd funding, proving that this type of funding is efficient. Another project worth describing, Christy Dena’s, kept our special attention for its different approach. Supporter vs. Producer At first, the crowd funding websites advertised to cybernauts: “become producers”. A tricky question, especially in France, where the producer title implies winning part of the profit… Eventually, the creators learned that it’s neither practical nor plausible to share the profits with thousand of unknown “online producers”. They started to offer objects or exclusive content in exchange for the cybernauts financial support. On the paper, this should perfectly work for transmedia projects, where the storyworld plays such an important role.
Crowd funding for a storyworld: Balance of Powers
Created by the team that wrote Perplex City, Balance of Powers is a project aiming to create a dark new alternate-storyworld: a web-based free-to-read story, structured in eight chapters unfolding over eight weeks. Crowd-founded through Kickstarter, Balance of Powers introduces us to four main characters and to their Cold War era world. “Their stories converge at a strange city on stilts called Midway; a place between places, where the balance of powers will be decided.” Murders, international politics, armed interventions, investigations, an ex-spy and a lot of imagination… an interesting promise and a rich storyworld that might be developed on multiple seasons if the community is supportive enough.
Balance of Powers is presented as a hybrid online experience, a mix between a book and an ARG: a free-to-read online episodic story with special content available only for the subscribers like letters from the characters, live story events online, and even newspapers and artifacts from the story world. The money raised through the crowd funding should help the team to create the graphic design and physical objects, to pay the web hosting and to “make the user experience as enticing and engaging as we can”, as the team wrote on the kickstarter.com’s pitch. If the project raises more money than targeted, the team promised to start working on Season 2 of Balance of Power. The project already raised 1 565$ more than asked, so we may keep our hopes up.
More than 100 cybernauts are baking to Balance of Powers. We might think that the creator’s names played a part, but I’m inclined to say that the project itself has all the chances to catch the eye : Adrian Hon, Andrea Phillips, David Varela and Naomi Alderman: four awardwinning storytellers, writers, and game designers who love creating together captivating fictions. Nevertheless, the promised objects directly extracted from the dark storyworld seemed to interest the online community. For a pledge of 15$ the cybernaut receives the title of “Cadet”, extra content and exclusive behind the scenes commentaries. For more than 40$, the backer is promoted to “lieutenant” and receives at his doorsteps a newspaper shipped directly from the storyworld. For 75$, he can be named “commander”, be proudly invited to an online special performance or might even be a part of the story. More than 10 backers pledged more than 200$ in order to receive a limited-edition book of Balance of Power Season 1. One backer paid 500$ and will receive at home one special artifact from the world of Balance of Powers. Crowd funding for a “Facebook Theatre”: NightVision NightVision is another project appealing to crowd-funding as a source of pre-financing. Presented as a horror experience, not a movie, a book, nor a game; another hybrid storytelling
project trying to emerge thanks to the online community’s help. NightVision will be played out on Facebook, Youtube and across the web. The creators call it “Facebook Theater”. It is a story of terror and nightmare where “a group of mates from Imperial College are trapped in a pitch black where they only have a camera’s nightvision mode to act as their eyes. The footage from the camera’s is being uploaded to youtube LIVE.” The show will take about half an hour to complete and will unfold through an intricate social platform web. The audience will be able to interact with the characters via Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Created by PlayThisNext, a cross platform development company, NightVision hopes to raise $10 000 through crowd funding, in order to finance cast costs, crew costs, technical equipment and the script. By this hour, they managed to raise $10,051 on the Invested.in platform. The rewards are given as advance tickets, VIP invites to online screenings, special thanks credits, and a multiple screenings pass. Addressing a niche market: “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” The crowd sourcing might be interesting for smaller projects or more specifically for those targeted at a smaller audience which would never be aired by national broadcasters. This type of financing assures the diversity of content and the creative innovation. By crowd funding, the creator speaks directly to the audience targeted… “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” is a crowd sourced project imagined by Adrian Hon, one of the cofounders of “Six to Start”, a company focused on next-generation stories. Presented on kickstarter.com, “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” is a journalism project born from Adrian’s personal imagination and desire to think of the future. It is a weblog exploring the future and proposing 100 posts for 100 objects, accompanied by newspapers from the future and podcasts. Adrian wanted to transform this web experience into a real book, rooted
in science facts. This approach seemed to interest the readers. In fact, “A History of the Future in 100 Objects” raised easily the double of the pledged initial goal of $2500.
But don’t imagine that the author will be greatly paid. He attested doing this for pure pleasure. He raised the money for his project’s technical needs, like recording and producing a highquality podcast with real actors, hosting the website, illustrations, printing the newspapers and books, and converting the last ones into open and non-DRM eBook formats. He also promised that if he raises more than the target, which evidently happened, they would create more content, smart phone or tablet apps, and even to hold an event at the British Museum with guest speakers. The project looked interesting on paper and the author is more than qualified to create it. However, why did the cybernauts joined the adventure and invested? More than 100 backers helped Adrian raise the money he needed to make the project happen. Pledging from 5$ to 500$, the cybernauts were conquered by his cause and by the promised gifts, all within the universe of the future as seen by Adrian Hon. The promised gifts were: exclusive newsletters, ebooks, printed newspaper directly from the future, autographed books, naming a scientist of the future, an Olympic athlete or even a President… the chance to star in a podcast as a Mars mission controller, or a 3D sculpted object, from the future of course! Why use crowd funding? For Balance of Powers, the creators confessed that they chose this type of financing in order to be in direct contact with the readers and players every day. They said that “Funding by Kickstarter is a great way to start to build a community around our new world.” Other than building a relationship with online community, the crowd funding may allow a certain freedom of creativity. PlayThisNext, the creators of NightVision, wanted to innovate and to allow the final user to be involved into the creative process of this new type of storytelling.
Other than obtaining funds, the crowd funding seems helpful to create a community around the project even before its launching. It might be an interesting way to test the project itself. Christy Dena told us that for her project “Authentic in All Caps” presented here, she asked for the cybernauts’ financial support by offering a pre-order feature: “However, the pre-orders are not there as my primary financial model. The pre-orders are there for a different reason, to see who is seriously interested in this creative project. It is a form of market testing. Most crowd funding projects gather finance from people supporting the people behind the project. They’re not necessarily interested in the project. I’m working on my long-term goal of having a sustainable artistic life. I’m interested to see who will pay to experience my creative projects. I’m working to build a direct relationship with my audience/players! » said Dena. For all of these projects, the crowd funding appeared to work on different levels: financing, testing or obtaining publicity.A new way to obtain financing for content creators, the crowd funding may be more than just an online wallet, but a way to connect to future online communities, so eagerly needed by all transmedia projects… Perhaps, one of the main reasons is that the traditional financing paths are too crowded to allow creative and different projects to emerge.
author Ana Vasile
Ana Vasile est Assistante du Responsable de la Communication et des Formations pour le Transmedia Lab. Diplômé d’un Master Pro en Communication Multimédia et Audiovisuel de l’Institut de la Communication et des Médias à Grenoble, elle travaille en agence de publicité pendant plus de deux ans dans un département de création. Ana rejoint l’équipe du Transmedia Lab en 2011 et participe plus particulièrement au développement d'une nouvelle politique éditoriale et à la rédaction d'articles pour le blog www.transmedialab.org
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