Current Issue / DU Alumni / People

Alum Zak Kadison is a Hollywood transmedia pioneer

“It’s an incredible opportunity for creative talent to expand on the stories and create new experiences for fans of the movie or vice versa,” DU alumna Zak Kadison says of his transmedia approach to entertainment. Photo: John Schiavone

There’s more than one way to tell a story, and Zak Kadison wants control over all of them. Through his company, Blacklight Transmedia, Kadison (BSBA ’03) is pioneering a new approach to the business of show, developing original stories that can be told across multiple platforms: movies, video games and comic books.

“While I was at Fox I learned of this notion of transmedia storytelling, which is essentially when you tell a cohesive narrative using a variety of platforms—video games, comic books, movies, TV—but each one of those properties tells a unique story that’s stand-alone but complementary to the whole,” says Kadison, who spent two years as a senior production executive at Fox Atomic after interning for Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Spyglass Entertainment during breaks at DU.

“An example of a transmedia story would be Star Wars. The film is different than the video games, which are different than the comic books.”

Of course, comic books and video games based on movies already exist, but the current model, Kadison says, is for studios to license a film’s plot and characters to other companies, which often end up making inferior products.

“Our company has actually been set up to manage the creative process of the video game, the comic book, the movie, etc., across all of those platforms,” he says. “It’s an incredible opportunity for creative talent to expand on the stories and create new experiences for fans of the movie or vice versa.”

Blacklight has only shopped two projects so far, and both have been purchased by studios. The first—simply called Blacklight—will roll out this summer with an online video game and a comic book. A movie is in development at 20th Century Fox, along with a console game. All the content is overseen by creative talent working for Blacklight Transmedia and its partner company, video game designer Zombie Studios.

“One of the main benefits of transmedia storytelling is that it doesn’t matter in what order the content is created or in what order it’s consumed,” Kadison says. “Everything is designed to be a stand-alone experience that’s good in whatever medium it’s in.”

Another benefit, he says, is that transmedia stories further involve the audience in the narrative and reward viewers for making subtle connections. He points to a minor character in The Matrix Reloaded who was the protagonist of a Matrix-themed comic book that came out around the same time as the film. You didn’t have to know about the comic to enjoy the movie, and vice-versa, but someone familiar with both might have experienced a deeper connection with the story—and a bit of a thrill at having an extra piece of inside knowledge.

Kadison started Blacklight less than a year ago, but already he’s got some major movie muscle on his side—producer Brian Grazer, who owns Imagine Entertainment with actor-turned-director Ron Howard. Impressed with Kadison’s vision, Grazer offered the young mogul a first-look deal that gives Imagine the first opportunity to partner on a Blacklight project.

“The projects I saw were well-thought-out concepts with strong underlying symbolism and archetypal foundations, with graphic novels and designs that were exquisite,” Grazer told the Web site Deadline Hollywood. “Zak was enormously charismatic, and his ideas were different from the typical movies Imagine has made. I wanted to bet on him and his team.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *