Details have been slowly emerging about the Rome transmedia property. Originally a straight forward music album, two music videos (traditional and interactive HTML5) have since been released, and a full-length feature film is now being developed at the Sundance Lab. How did it evolve into a fully orchestrated music transmedia project?
Rome, a collaboration between musician Danger Mouse and composer Daniele Luppi, was released last spring to positive reviews. Having bonded over their love for the soundtracks of Spaghetti Westerns, the two artists created a “soundtrack without a movie” album, a phrase many musicians use to describe a concept album without a literal narrative. The songs contain many pronouns (I, me, you, her), making it clear they are being sung by distinct characters, but who specifically, we do not know.
The album release was accompanied by an elaborate HTML5 video helmed by Chris Milk, director of the Arcade Fire HTML5 video “We Used to Wait.” In “3 Dreams of Black,” the viewer plays the female resident of a strange world, which she observes and explores to the song “Black.” Something is amiss here: a destroyed city is overgrown with flora, roaming buffalo morph into spiders, but it is never explained how or why.
Last week, Milk debuted a traditional music video for the song “Two Against One,” an animation of a hunter’s regret filled dreams. The train from the previous video is present, as is the chaotic mixture of wilderness and urban landscapes. But how are all these pieces tied together?
It was announced last October that Milk will be directing a feature-length film based on the album, with some elements from Alden Bell’s novel The Reapers Are the Angels, the story of a young girl surviving in a zombie-infested America. According to Variety, the movie “centers on a girl born into a post-apocalyptic world who must survive by her wits while finding moments of simple joy.” This clearly calls back to the destructive landscapes of the videos, and the “me against you/them/the world” tone of the album.
While the video for “Two Against One” is hand-drawn cell animation, the film would be live action. The music video is essentially the fever dream of the antagonist of the story. It’s mostly his backstory, his life before the tale we see in the movie. If you have a fast computer with Chrome installed you can also see the interactive lucid dream of the protagonist at www.Ro.me. These pieces are sort of narrative breadcrumbs that lead you to the eventual larger story.
What is most surprising, however, is that the film is spearheading the development of Rome into a true transmedia property. Last October, Sundance launched its New Frontier Media Lab, “a new project designed to provide creative storytelling support to Artists working in the emerging fields of multi-layered and multi-formed narratives.” Six properties were chosen to be workshopped, one of which was Rome. The property’s description states that it will become a multiplatform interactive narrative experience, with the feature film uniting the different platforms with a cohesive narrative.
The mere fact that the well-respected Sundance Institute has launched a transmedia incubator is newsworthy, but that they also included a music property is very exciting. Music can seem like one of the hardest platforms to initially launch a transmedia campaign from, but with creative guidance and support, Rome could prove to be as successful as any property birthed from a more literal art form. It’s also important to note that, while it is ideal to plan a transmedia campaign before anything is released, albums can still evolve over time into a cross-platform property. It’s never too late to start!
I will continue to track this property as announcements are made.