The Discovery of the German Transmedia Scene: Things Are Changing

As an opening for this workshop, Frédéric Dubois declared that “Germany is less of a production than a sales location, but things have been changing since the last two or three years”.

The three speakers (Frédéric Dubois, Mathilde Benignus and Thorsten Unger) orientated the discussion around two genres: interactive documentaries and serious games.

We were eager to attend this workshop, not only because transmedia is considered as the potential future of the whole industry, but also because we did not know much about the state of the German market in terms of interactive projects.

As we were introduced on the 23rd of June to the new web platform of France TV Nouvelles Ecritures (IRL), this workshop appeared as an opportunity to explore deeper this subject and its meaning in another country.

What we have learned is that it is not easy to have access to development funding for such projects in Germany, but since two or three years web productions can benefit from new innovation funds which encourage the local producers to get involved in a not yet defined genre. This last point echoes the observation which Diego Bunuel shared during his presentation of Canal +: “We hear a lot about transmedia but nobody really knows what it means.” Indeed, transmedia is a hybrid field which is full of narrative and visual possibilities.

As far as games are concerned, they represent a very important market in Germany. The proof is that Berlin has become a hot spot for games production and that even German politicians are backing up games funding. The average gamer is 36 years old and 35% of gamers are women. Besides, the new generation of serious games claims to be not only an entertainment media but also a cultural one, which is a turning point for an underestimated genre.

Here are some examples of studios and their games projects:

  • Generation Zero by Reality Twist
  • The Good Evil by News Game
  • Evelyn Hibersek by O. R. pheus
  • Game of Peace by Studio Fizbin

To go back to interactive documentaries, the speakers talked about the most representative of the kind:

  • Netwars by Filmtank
  • Mein Kampf by Tellux
  • Unter Freunden by IndiFilm
  • Who are the Champions by Miriquidi Film

The speakers did not only give examples. They also talked about the different ways in which you can get money to produce such innovative and economically fragile projects: how does funding process work? Producers can contact Miz-Babelsberg, an organization that funds innovation. To get this financial aid, an association with a television channel is required, even if it is an informal agreement. They can also address regional film funds which are opening up, though the amounts are still low. Creative Europe Media is another source of funding, as well as foundations which are keen on educational and photographic projects. As surprising as it might sound, journalism funds are a new way to get production money in Germany contrary to France. Besides, some newspapers are really interested in distributing interactive documentaries such as Zeit Online, Spiegel Online and Faz.net.

The traditional distribution networks for interactive documentaries remain ARD, ZDF, Arte and Deutsch Welle, whereas for the games the common distributors are Twitch, Youtube-Channels and Rocket Beans TV.

Interactive documentaries are more and more present in several festivals in Germany, such as the Dok Leipzig Net Lab, in Storydrive Frankfurter Book Fair, in the Bayerisches Filmzentrum or in a new section at the Dok Fest München. Serious games also have several annual representations, like at the Red Dot Conference, the Quo Vadis Conference or the Respawn Conference.

As another proof of the growing importance of the transmedia market in Germany, several awards have been created to encourage talent and risk taking: the Grimme Online Award, the Hansel-Mielh-Preis Digital, the Lead Award or the Deutscher Digital Award.

As you may have noticed, Berlin is the place to be.

 M-C Cianfarani & P. Di Vita