A Transmedia Hipster Parody Emerges in Williamsburg

What do hipsters, dinosaurs, and Bill Murray have in common? They all play important roles in Jurassic Park Slope.

Photo by Caitlin Burns

What do hipsters, dinosaurs, and Bill Murray have in common? They all play important roles in Jurassic Park Slope.

One of the latest fascinating side projects of transmedia experts Caitlin Burns and Steele Filipek, Jurassic Park Slope is “an interactive transmedia experience that combines an smart phone application portal with film, social media components, narrative blogs, location based unlockable material, and live events.”

Thus far, Jurassic Park Slope can be attributed with amusing tweets, sharesposts, offline meetings, and even the plastering of Williamsburg with fliers entreating Bill Murray to accept a role in the Jurassic Park Slope movie (not to mention a blog and phone line dedicated to the task). Confused? Don’t be. Caitlin Burns was kind enough to sit down with us and break it down:

PSFK: First, let’s start with the basics. You call Jurassic Park Slope a transmedia experience and you yourself work as a Transmedia Producer with Starlight Runner Entertainment; “a leading creator and producer of highly successful transmedia franchises.” For those of us who are unenlightened, what is transmedia?

Caitlin Burns: Transmedia Storytelling is the process of taking a narrative and weaving it across various media platforms so that you find new and compelling material wherever you’re experiencing an intellectual property. Seeing the same clip of a movie over and over again: on TV, online, on your phone, it gets old pretty fast. Our job as Transmedia Producers is to ensure that the story you find in a novel is different from the story you see in a video game, and that that is different from the piece of the story you find in a comic book series but that all of those stories are related in an interesting way and that they feel like they’re part of the same story world.

People always look at Star Wars, The Matrix, the Marvel and DC Universes, but you also see it in places you might not expect, Disney Fairies has amazing novels that follow characters you only get glimpses of in the Tinkerbell movies; The Gears of War video game franchise has a great set of novels that puts a strong female soldier front and center into the mix with the familiar main characters; Sherlock Holmes had a great extension with a social media game on Facebook that literally took you up to the chase scene where the movie began. So, really, it’s the process rather than the breadth or expense of these extrapolations.

It’s a concept that has always seemed like common sense to me, it’s how I want to experience a story and while there have been great entertainment franchises that have done it in the past, it is really satisfying to see the idea of planning this kind of narrative extension carefully catching on. Just this month I became a member of the Producers Guild of America as a Transmedia Producer. It’s a great honor and it’s a big step for the concept of Transmedia production to be recognized as an important part of the business of storytelling. That said, you see the concept of Transmedia Storytelling gaining traction not only in Hollywood but also in advertising, education and the non-profit sector.

How is transmedia related (or not related) to alternate reality games?

Alternate reality gaming is a medium that has “native transmedia”, in that many of these games require the player to move from platform to platform in order to finish a single story. So they’re moving from a web-series to a series of blogs to find clues and even to live events in major cities in order to solve a mystery or participate in the fiction. A fascinating example going on right now is Tim Kring’s Conspiracy for Good, which uses a fictional adventure story to mobilize its players online and on the streets of London to raise funds for real world charitable causes.

Alternate Reality Games are incredible immersive pieces of art and are amazing tools in the belt of a Transmedia Franchise; they cross media and reach fans in ways no other type of game does. They’re a platform unto themselves. They have a place in Transmedia Storytelling, but they don’t replace a television show or a novel, as each platform has its strengths and reaches a different audience in a different way.

Where did the idea for Jurassic Park Slope come from? Is it a purely personal project?

Jurassic Park Slope is a personal project that is the brainchild of me (Caitlin Burns) and Steele Filipek. We’ve been friends for years and have worked together on a number of projects for Starlight Runner Entertainment, which is a leading producer of Transmedia Franchises: having worked on everything from James Cameron’s Avatar to Microsoft’s Halo and Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron for the Walt Disney Company, just to name a few.

Steele and I were the people who would rent straight-to-DVD creature features from the video store, so we’ve been tossing around ideas on how to put together a low-budget monster movie for a while. One day when we were talking about live-experiences and distribution models for movies the idea just hit us, and combining a streaming movie with a scavenger hunt and Velociraptors just made sense. It’s our independent project and since its what we’re doing in our spare time, we’ve designed the rollout around the maximum amount of fun we can have doing it.

In one or two sentences, what is Jurassic Park Slope all about?

Instead of Paleontologists traveling to the world’s most amazing amusement park, where nothing can go wrong, Jurassic Park Slope takes its characters to Brooklyn’s in search of the greatest loft party ever… where nothing can go wrong. While the mysterious, exotic islands of Costa Rica house wonders unimaginable and Williamsburg’s streets pose indignities and fashion eccentricities that defy understanding, the dangers both groups face are the same… Dinosaurs!

Like the best monster movies, it’s really about characters and their relationships with one another. It’s not just cannibalizing the original movie, the characters and settings will seem familiar in places, but it stands alone as a different story.

Jurassic Park Slope involves some hilarious commentary on hipster culture- as do many blogs, sites, photo pools, and books (many of which you link to from your JPS feeds). What do you think makes hipsters such a rich source of entertainment?

I think the fact that being a hipster is not something that many people are willing to own up to is a big part of what makes it hilarious. I have yet to meet someone who sincerely has committed themselves to being a hipster in real life, and I have thrown parties in Brooklyn for years. Hipness is never in the eye of the beholder and the hipster aesthetic is very much about ridiculousness. Whether it’s putting on a thrillingly tacky pair of sunglasses or trying to make the most cuttingly witty remark about someone’s tight jeans there’s an aspect of the entire subculture that is about performance. At our last shoot we were wondering aloud just how many people had dressed up for film shoots today and the answer was “When you’re a hipster, every day is a film shoot.”

Why Bill Murray?

Bill Murray is such an icon; the most obvious reason comes from the fact that he is a celebrity who has connections to Williamsburg and a whole series of urban legends about crashing parties in Brooklyn. More than just his Brooklyn connections, the man is universally known to be hilarious and with the exception of that one Christian group that calls him the antichrist, I’ve never heard of a single person who didn’t think his was funny. I think that they admit he’s funny too, and that’s why they find him so insidious. He’s a hero to people who have grown up surrounded by cynicism who seems to be willing to do something that he thinks is interesting or fun for its own sake. More people need to see fun as an essential part of life.

What can we expect from you and/or transmedia as a form in general in the near future?

Jurassic Park Slope has a whole slew of events and contests planned for the coming months as we are shooting and we’re hoping to release the movie online and on a phone application for next year’s Velociraptor Awareness Day (April 17, 2011). There’ll be things for people to play with who can’t get to Brooklyn, people in San Francisco or Samoa will be able to enjoy a part of the experience regardless that will make sense even if it’s not the complete experience. It’s our hope that other people will pick up on our ideas about production and make even better movies and experiences like what we’re creating. Transmedia Storytelling gives creators a wide set of tools that can be used at nearly any budget, to get a project noticed and to build an audience early. People are going to see the stories they enjoy in more ways and in more places whether they’re coming from big studios and companies, or talented high school students and first-time creators.

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In short, Jurassic Park Slope can be seen as another interesting development in the world of immersive media.  For those of your located in or around NYC, this is definitely worth checking out in person!

To learn more about Jurassic Park Slope, visit the official Facebook page, Twitter feed, and official production blog.

To delve into Caitlin Burns’ other ventures, check out The Mystery of Girls’ Media, The Pirateologist General, Millinery Industrial Complex, and @Caitlin_Burns on Twitter.

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