Last week in Expanding Cinema: New Media, the Movies and Beyond we were visited by another incredible person from the industry. Jeff Gomez, a native New Yorker from the Lower East Side, is the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a company focused on transmedia storytelling.
Like most of the class, I looked at Jeff with a confused expression. What is transmedia storytelling?
As he explained, it’s the process of conveying a story to a mass audience through multiple media platforms, whether that platform is a movie, a comic book, a videogame, a television show, a smart phone application or a toy, (yes, a toy can be a media platform). Jeff’s company helps figure out the core story so they can align all the people and divisions within a media company to make sure the story is authentic and consistent on each platform. It all starts with Jeff because he’s the one who works with each division to help them create the story world. Once he’s given the green light, he and his team start to develop parts of the world that you see and many parts you don’t see.
And then, once the story is launched, behind the scenes a team of professionals does data analysis that enables the transmedia campaign to reach the audience in the most immersive way possible. Now you really have our attention. Movies and media platforms combined? It’s like a dream come true for our generation.
Since he was little Jeff has always been fascinated by the larger stories told across comic books, games and movies. He first fell in love with anime and the multiple worlds created by manga. As he got older he thought, “How can I make a living pursuing my youthful obsessions?” Once he stumbled upon transmedia it all became so clear to him. He now creates story worlds for a living.
A story world is a narrative that lives beyond just a single story. Behind every movie and character is a backstory that Jeff helps create. These story worlds not only form the backbone of the character’s journey but are also of story elements we never see. The story world contains details from the character's background to what type of bed sheets the character sleeps in. Jeff’s job is remarkable because he’s studying an already created character or brand and giving it a whole life behind and beyond the screen.
For any person that loves to create stories and bring them to life, this is a dream job and it only gets better. Jeff and the team at Starlight Runner worked with James Cameron on Avatar, helped Microsoft create the world for the popular video game Halo, and worked with the producers of Dexter to help extend the world he lives in and make him more accessible to the audience.
So what is the key to Jeff’s success? For something like transmedia storytelling he advises that you should get involved as early as possible in the media project you are assisting. It’s also wise to realize that in today’s society with the ever-growing Internet, our ideas can belong to everyone. Sharing your concepts is the key to being successful according to Jeff. If someone is able to build something off of a concept you created then that just means your work is justified and validated through someone else.
To someone who wants to work in this industry, Jeff made it clear that collaboration is key. You can’t succeed without working together with people to create something spectacular. Some of the greatest ideas are taken from a scene in a movie, a book, or something someone said in a classroom. Inspiration is all around us.
As his lecture came to an end and the whole class was wide-eyed with interest. Jeff said, “If there’s anything I can tell you, it’s that it’s doable.” When he started proposing transmedia projects, “All I heard was no, you’re crazy and even to this day I do.”
And yet, he is so busy doing what he loves (and getting paid for it), he can hardly keep up.
Mikey Levitt is a student in the NYU/Tisch Undergraduate Film and TV Department from the class of 2018.