As we wrapped up our first-ever New Frontier Story Lab at the Sundance Resort in Utah, we took a few minutes to check in with 10 guests as they checked out on their way home. Our fourth interview is with Chris Johnson, one of the inaugural creative fellows at the New Frontier Story Lab. Johnson originated the concept of his project Question Bridge in 1996 as a video installation. It has since grown to ever more adventurous iterations including live installations, an interactive online community and thousands of interviews completed. He lives in Oakland, California.
1) Do you know what transmedia is, yes or no? Yep.
2) Using only one word, how would you describe it? Happening.
3) Which is more important? Storytelling or Technology? You can only pick one. Storytelling, no doubt about that for me.
4) What do you do? What’s your passion? Right now my passion is getting the Question Bridge project out into the world in the most effective way. The fact that it’s now curriculum that will be used across the country means more to me than I can say.
5) What transmedia website, article, project or person are you really excited about right now? I’m most excited about Question Bridge Dot Com of course. As for projects and people other than that: Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin’s The Johnny Cash Project just amazed me and Tommy Pallotta’s work on The Last Hijack – it’s beautiful and extremely impressive and important.
6) Why do you think it’s taken so long for transmedia to be taken seriously? I think part of the issue is that, by it’s very nature, a transmedia project exists on multiple platforms so that people invested in one format or another understand it from singular points of view. For example, the natural tendency is to feel that just because something appears as an installation, it’s only relevance and worthiness for funding, is in terms of that one form. I also know that we storytellers have been slow to recognize the importance of properly defining our genre. Question Bridge has spent a lot of time and energy trying to gain funding for our project as if it were properly a “documentary.” Funders with a mission to support projects like that understandably had trouble understanding how we fit into that narrow category.
7) Who or what first helped you understand it? When did you hear about it for the first time? Wendy Levy and the 2011 BAVC Producers Institute first made it clear to me where Question Bridge fit into this new genre. That experience was more valuable that I can express.
8) Have you been to the Owl Bar on this trip, yes or no? Yep.
9) What piece of technology could you simply not give up right now? It has to be my iPad … until I need to make or answer a phone call and then it’s my iPhone 4S; or until I need to edit our project and then it’s my MacPro.
10) What was the most exciting thing that happened to you at the first-ever New Frontier Lab? Just being invited was the most exciting thing! After all, our time with the Advisors changed everything in good ways for us.