Meeting Alison Norrington

The day arrived when Alison Norrington came to tell us what transmedia storytelling is.

Alison has an impressive résumé. She is a storyteller, writer, producer and experience designer, who founded Storycentral, a London-based entertainment studio that incubates and develops ground-breaking IP with global partners in film, television, Virtual Reality, theme parks, animation, gaming and advertising.   She specializes in storytelling and experiences crossing traditional formats, live events, digital and location-based entertainment.  

Alison has designed and led VR labs at the London Film School, Singapore Media Academy/MediaCorp, Swedish Design Institutes and the Royal College of Art, exploring new frontiers of experiential storytelling for VR & 360 storytelling. 

She was Conference Chair for StoryWorld Conference & Expo in Los Angeles, is a TEDx speaker and has presented at a number of conferences including Digital Book World, London Book Fair, Asia Media Summit, Eurovision TV Summit, London Screenwriters Festival and Story Expo LA, tapping her expertise in building transmedia properties and digital content for commercial and niche audiences.

She is featured on the BAFTA Guru series and is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, The Writers Guild of Great Britain, Women in Film & TV and the Romantic Novelists Association.

The above is only a taster. Her list of accomplishments, public speaking engagements, creative collaborations and contacts in the business is impressive. More importantly, she is also a really warm, likeable human being who brings the best out in other creatives.

Mistakes and accomplishments

Alison told the group how she got into virtual storytelling in its very earliest days, tweeting out her novel line by line. She readily admitted she made all the mistakes under the sun back then, but although this first idea did not work – it gained the attention of the Press, and she started on a path where she learned and refined how to use new technology until she was working with studios across the world doing exciting things at the cutting edge of technology.

A lesson in creativity

For me, the base concept she presented was strangely familiar. About 10 years before this meeting, I had come up with an idea for storytelling where you tease and tantalise your friends and others by adding strange events to your facebook page. You might take a photograph and it has someone in the background. You might come across a clue on the ground. It would need a cast and a crew to do it.

I mentioned this to a friend, and he immediately raised objections: “Facebook won’t allow fake accounts.” And this was enough, in 2012, for me to scratch the idea of a detective story that unfolded over facebook, with other friends playing other actors within the story. There is a lesson here for creatives: when you have a new idea, make sure you are surrounded by people who are supportive: objections before trying an idea out will kill a project. It’s a lesson I’ve really learned over the years, and I try to surround myself nowadays with people who aren’t afraid of new ideas.

The idea Alison presented was similar to the one I’d daydreamed, but richer. The use of real-world events and places were part of the mix. People might want to meet up and discuss clues. There were all sorts of ways that story points might be dropped, not just online but through phones, through art, through messages – however you might want to wrap up stories and characters.

It was heady stuff, and really appealing – so how would we go about doing it. After all, keeping track of all these different characters, assets, storylines, photos, venues, artwork and events whilst interacting live with the general publich on facebook seemed a big ask. So, we had our starting point from Alison – and it was a huge big picture of what we needed to do.

So now, how do we get writers to work together? That was the job of our next industry expert, Joe Reddington.

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