Matt Costello on StoryDrive China and the Future of Storytelling

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Matt Costello

Matt Costello

Next week, May 29-30, the Frankfurt Academy will host its second annual StoryDrive China conference in Bejing. The event is “the first all-media platform in Asia dedicated to exploring new forms of collaboration and business models across media boundaries.” A variety of professionals from around the world will share their views on the future of media and entertainment.

Among this year’s speakers is multimedia author Matt Costello, who has worked across a variety of media, from writing fiction to scripting and designing numerous best-selling games, including The 7th Guest, Doom 3, G-Force, Pirates of the Caribbean and Rage.

He spoke with Publishing Perspectives about the upcoming conference and the future of storytelling.

PP: What are your expectations of the “Story Drive China” conference?

Costello: I expect not only sharing my personal experience of creating crossmedia with a wide range of participants, but also hearing from the other great speakers on topics that will be relevant to my work as well.

How can the film, book and games industries profit from one another?

Audiences do not today invest in a storyworld on merely one platform. They not only want to experience that world as film, game and book…they want each medium to expand it in the unique way each platform can deliver. Ultimately, this can mean a deeper, committed experience to the world and stories people love, transcending the traditional model and, of course, offering opportunities for the business of IP.

In your opinion, which of today’s products (enhanced e-books, apps, films, books) represents the future of storytelling – and why?

As one might infer from my response above, there is no one product or platform that is the ‘future.’ It will be all of them working in concert, interacting in so many different ways. And that is not to mention the products, platforms, and possibilities to come!

After transmedia storytelling, alternative reality games and cross platform publishing, what might the next level of storytelling look like?

Best to look at something that is being done right now for a clue. A current major project I am working on will have at its core a trilogy of kids/YA novels. These will shape the tablet/app experience so that kids can have similar adventure and experiences as the kids. Not only that, the very world the kids live in will be transformed as the characters, events and even places can be revealed as part of their town, their neighbourhood. Finally what the kids do will shape what will become a 24/7 on-going adventure, changing a fantastic world by how they interact with it.

In your day-to-day business, do you have many contacts with other industries? In what ways, specifically, do you benefit from them?

I work with many major companies, and often bring partners into creative meetings where I think they might have a solution to a problem that needs to make an idea happen. That means staying current in what can be done, what will be able to be done soon…and who are they players ‘making it so.’

Where do you see promising interfaces between the industries?

I see the film/TV industry embracing, as a start, the importance of the second screen and then seeking to make use of it in a way that is not mundane. (Which a lot of 2nd screen apps have done.) As such, the forward-thinking companies are working to ‘mashup’ the creative, the technical, the theoretical to elevate the vision of a story world, change tis experience. For example, matching 3D VR Headsets to geo-located story developments, matched to a major network series…three different worlds coming together.

In real terms, how have the new technologies changed the way you work in recent years?

It’s the thinking versus the tech that is key. Since the early innovative work I’ve done, the tech has changed constantly and dramatically. I’ve learned that what is more important is imagining the idea, the possibility of doing something as opposed to looking at current tech and saying this is our toolset. We don’t know what the technology landscape will be a few years form now, but we need to be stretching the possible. Having said that, I have done projects where a new tech, such as a game engine, is about to be revealed, and I have worked from the creative end to maximize all the interactive and storytelling possibilities that tech holds.

The motto of StoryDrive is “Tell your story differently.” What do you think a good story should look like today?

At its core, it should exist on all relevant media, each bringing its own facet of the story and the characters. That experience — the way it looks — is that while I as a user/audience moves from one platform to another, I still feel enmeshed in the rich world I love…here playing with elements, here designing my own, here following a single tale. The world should, in short, surround me.

Please complete the following sentences:

For me, books are…are a core platform. One tale told well opens the door to hundreds.

For me, games are…play; specifically, playing and being in a world I love.

For me, films are…immersive intense experiences of the story world; like books, they should provide the clues and hints to many other tales and experiences just behind that door, just around that corner.

In five years, books will…be part of the total creative and business media plan, key but working in artistic cohesion with the other elements.

In five years, games will…even more intense portals into storyworlds, where we live the tales we love.

In five years, films will…will feed, with imagery, sounds, design and look, the various other platforms so that one can be watching a film at home and, at certain moment, become the character to attempt the challenge or mission ourselves.

Learn more about Frankfurt Academy’s StoryDrive China conference and register today.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.