StoryDrive Conference and SPARKS Push “Storytelling” to the Max

In Frankfurt 2011 by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Angry Birds

Does Angry Birds — what must surely be the most addictive app of all time — have a story? Indeed it does: the birds have had their eggs stolen by pigs and they want revenge. Sounds simple, doesn’t yet? Yet, this simple “story” has generated some 350 million downloads since the game’s launch in December 2009 — 150 million of those since June — with users spending more than 300 million minutes playing the game each day.

Sanna Lukander of the parent company of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment, will be offering insight into the phenomenon on Wednesday, October 12 at 3 p.m. on the SPARKS stage in Hall 8, on the first day of three days of scheduled lectures from some of digital media’s finest thinkers.

Luksander’s official title as vice president of Book Publishing, suggests that Rovio has ambitions beyond mere downloads. Already the company developed a cross-promotion with the film industry, producing a tie-in app for the film“Rio” in partnership with film studio 20th Century Fox, which was initially released exclusively via the app store. Even more recently, the company produced an online comic strip to celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival. There are already licensed card games and toys; and with the acquisition of its own animation studio earlier this year, an in-house produced movie looks likely.

Can books be far behind?

What’s clear form all this cross-platform production is the no story is limited to a single delivery format; stories remain universal, no matter the medium in which they are presented.

Increasingly for the Frankfurt Book Fair that means bringing together content producers and storytellers of all kinds for interaction. The introduction in 2010 of StoryDrive acknowledged that content is the new currency in the global marketplace. The project, which is now part of the new Frankfurt Academy, brings together games developers, filmmakers, app developers, and book publishers — into a two-day conference track.

Among those being featured are two individuals involved with some of the top grossing media properties of all time. David Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter films — this summer’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” has taken in $1.15 bn globally, putting it at #3 on the all time earnings chart (behind “Avatar” and “Titanic”) will share his insights — and is likely to have something interesting to say about author J.K. Rowling’s own foray into digital online media, Pottermore, which is due to launch around the time of the Fair. While, Montreal-based games designer Louis-Pierre Pharand of Ubisoft was instrumental in developing the first-person shooting game Far Cry 2, which sold some three million copies around the world in 2009. Like Angry Birds, Far Cry was extended across multiple mediums: several novels were published, as was a tie-in art book, limited boxed editions, even special “spaces” within Sony PlayStation’s online community. If anyone knows how to exploit a single storyline to its maximum, it is Pharand.

Of course, content may be the new global currency, but you still need cash to make things happen. That’s why StoryDrive/Sparks is also offering several presentations with those responsible for financing, including Paul Brett from the UK, one of the people responsible for ensuring that “The King’s Speech,” — the 2011 Oscar-winning Best Picture — made it to screen, and Juliane Schulze, senior partner at the Berlin financial consultancy peacefulfish, who funds a wide variety of creative projects, such as co-film productions between Germany and India.

To help facilitate dealmaking, the StoryDrive Business Center offers a meeting place within the larger book fair, with special “matchmaking” events. As befits the Book Fair, which is itself the premier rights and licensing event in the world, the StoryDrive Business Center is located in Hall 6.0 right next to the LitAg, where the accredited literary agents and scouts do business at the fair. The expectation is that proximity will breed familiarity, and additional opportunities for rights trades and transactions.

After all, what does any media property begin with — be it a game, a movie, or an interactive app — but a story. And where do so many stories start? With books.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.