September 28, 2009
International Development Enterprises India: Can a Mobile Cinema Truck Be a Transmedia Extension? (Part 1 of 2)
So, can a park bench be a transmedia extension? I would vote yes -- at least in this case. It may be a small piece of a larger system of information about the film but it moves beyond simple branding and already situates us emotionally and intellectually inside the fiction.
Prof. Henry Jenkins, on District 9 and transmedia
If people see a picture of mine and then sit down and talk about it for 15 minutes, that is a very fine reward, I think. That's good enough for me.
Billy Wilder, Film Director (Sunset Boulevard & Double Indemnity)

Building on Prof. Jenkins recent entry on District 9 and transmedia in the first week of the inaugural offering of his Transmedia Storytelling & Entertainment class at USC (full text available here), his discussion reminds me that it is a false assumption that the opportunity to 'situate' the audience and fan community "emotionally and intellectually inside the fiction" always occurs prior to the release of a film or television show.

Product placement within cinema and television, as another example of an attempt at strategic marketing within media texts, presupposes that the narrative intervention lies embedded within the primary narrative. To this day, the ability to measure the success of and efficacy of product placement campaigns is an art and a science.

Most recently, product placement has been highly, highly leveraged into the reality-programming genre. Product placement is narrative structure for many of these reality shows. In reality programming, product placement seems to have found its true narrative home. For those of us who have been trying to block out the intrusive Reese's Pieces campaign embedded within the E.T. (1982) narrative since we were twelve years old, reality television is a godsend.

But what of the fifteen minutes of which Billy Wilder speaks? Unlike the now famous and oft quoted Warhol "15 Minutes of Fame" and its postmodern alliance with some of the more misguided aspects of celebrity culture, Wilder's 15 minutes of personal connection speaks to that period right after we have seen a film when we are deeply moved -- influenced and affected by the themes, characters and narrative of a film -- and want to share our thoughts and desires, ideas and inspirations brought on by the cinematic experience with a friend in those minutes right after the film.

Sometimes we want to change ourselves or change the world. Or the social imaginary suggested by the film or the world built by the Director, Cinematographer and Production Designer has been so persuasive and strong, dystopia is distilled and/or a utopian vision resonates deeply within us.

Or maybe we disagree with our companion with whom we are talking about the film in that 15 minutes, about the choices the protagonist makes or the final outcome of film itself? Wilder's "15 minutes" is a continual point of social value exchange within the affective economy (Jenkins, 2006a). It is the conception point of fandom, a fandom that grows and matures not much unlike the fan herself or himself over the course of a lifetime.

Billy Wilder has always been an inspiration and, fusing this Wilder quote with a Prof. Jenkins quote in an effort to sort out some of the long term implications of transmedia, I have been intuiting and tracking since joining the Consortium last year -- well, it's a pretty sweet gig, I must say. And Jenkins and Wilder are quite a cinematic and intellectual mash-up.

My mind returns, then, to the recent Newshour with Jim Leher piece on food production in India which was the original inspiration for this blog entry:

India's Population Boom Tests Green Revolution's Legacy:

In this video segment at the 1:09 mark, a mobile cinema rolls into rural India as a platform for a narrative intervention on issues such as food production, population growth and the pros and cons of migration to an urban center for work or survival.

Following is a transcription of the news segment and interview with Amitabha Sadanghi, CEO of International Development Enterprises, India (the full transcript is available here):

FRED DE SAM LAZARO (Newshour with Jim Leher): Amitabha Sadanghi thinks one solution to the food crisis is to make small subsistence farmers more productive. He goes to villages like this one in the impoverished northern state of Uttar Pradesh and gets everyone's attention by inviting them to the movies.

These actually are very long commercials for products sold by his nonprofit enterprise, but they have all the movie staples, he says.

AMITABHA SADANGHI, International Development Enterprises, India (through translator): Bollywood style, with known actors and a good story. You have romance, fights, songs, dances, everything.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And at the end of the story, in true Bollywood style, everyone lives happily ever after, thanks either to the KB treadle pump or the KB drip irrigation system. More than a million farmers already have brought these products.

They are simple devices that provide farmers who now grow one rain-dependent crop each year the water to grow additional crops during the dry season. And there are other advantages, as well, according to Sadanghi, a social entrepreneur who believes there are market solutions to poverty.

AMITABHA SADANGHI (through translator): They go out of the village and take anything, rickshaw-pulling, roadwork. But after getting a treadle pump, they stay in the village in the house. They have two extra crops. They have an extra $500 a year they didn't have before. And another thing: When children go to the cities, they don't go to school. Here at least they do attend school.

In Part 2 of this article, I will tie together these initial, diverse ideas surrounding transmedia.



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