Episode 183 – Jeff Gomez

Virtual Memories Show #183: Jeff Gomez

“The reason we enjoy these finely-tooled story-worlds is because we love dollhouses. We love miniatures. We love to see a universe that is created in such a way that they convince us somehow, even for a moment, that they’re real.”

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Transmedia producer Jeff Gomez joins the show to talk about the evolution of storytelling. We get into how the internet is driving communal narrative, the role of fandom in our culture, the way every new media is touted as the Destroyer of Worlds, the outgrowth of “canonical” storytelling and his one-time role as Keeper of the Canon at a comic company, the parallels between sports-nerds and fantasy-nerds, the old entertainment properties he really wishes he could work on, and just what it was in his childhood that led him into this role! Give it a listen!

“Story existed in one form from the dawn of human history until just a couple of hundred years ago, when it was disrupted. The disruption is ending.”

We also get into the impact of fan fiction, the economics of the IP feeder system, playing D&D as a way to connect with people, why the Fantastic Four movies didn’t work, the transition from The Hero’s Journey to The Collective Journey, and how it feels to get criticized today for comics he made in 1996. Plus, I ask the nerdiest closing question in the history of the show. Now go listen to the show!

“I saw a lot of violence growing up, but everyone got along when they were in the movie theater.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, has the greatest job in the universe: he designs, expands, and defends the integrity of some of the biggest blockbuster worlds in all of pop culture! Jeff served as a creator for the story worlds of Magic: The Gathering, Turok Dinosaur Hunter N64, Hot Wheels World Race, and Coca-Cola Happiness Factory.

As the most renowned Transmedia Producer in the entertainment industry, Jeff takes blockbuster movies, hit videogames, and major toy brands, and develops and extends their fictional worlds across multiple media platforms. He also serves as an advisor and consultant on global trends in technology, youth culture, and social media to studio heads, publishers, licensing agencies, C-suite executives, and government leaders.

Jeff has worked on such exciting franchises as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, James Cameron’s Avatar, Hasbro’s Transformers, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man, 343 Studios’ Halo, and Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also teaches transmedia storytelling for social good to non-profits, educational institutions and non-government organizations across the globe, including Mexico, Colombia, Australia, and the Middle East and North Africa region.

Growing up on the rough streets of New York City, Jeff has always championed the causes of young people. His Never Surrender! seminars teach kids how to deal with bullies, and he regularly provides career counseling to imaginative teens and young adults who are facing challenges in life.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gomez’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Gomez by me.

Movie Review Tuesday: Steroids, Ivies and Comics

Time for another installment of movie reviews! All documentaries this week!

Bigger, Faster, Stronger: This is a documentary about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes in America (well, North America, since Ben Johnson’s 1988 Olympics disqualification gets some play). The documentarian, Chris Bell, is a young man whose brothers — one older and one younger — are both on the juice, trying to build careers in pro wrestling and professional weightlifting. The narrator brings a folksy, light touch to the film, discussing the myriad hypocrisies in our legal policies toward PEDs, their demonization. I do think he bites off more than he can chew when he tries to make the point that the beautiful people in advertisements are a big factor in people’s decisions to use steroids and the like. That segment is also the one where he models for both the “before” and “after” sections of a fake nutritional supplement ad in one day, to show how misleading those ads can be. The saddest but best part of the film may be the segment where he interviews the father of “steroid suicide” Taylor Hooton, poster corpse for President Bush’s bizarre anti-steroid announcement at the 2004 State of the Union address. Despite his child’s other risk factors, including use of an anti-depressant known to cause suicidal ideation in teens, the father declares that he “knows” steroids killed his son, and doesn’t care what science or research has to say. The filmmaker treads the difficult line of showing the man’s willing ignorance without overtly humiliating him (or getting his ass beat). Overall, it’s a pretty entertaining documentary about a culture obsessed with getting over.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29: And then there was a documentary about a 1968 game between a couple of Ivy League schools. I knew nothing about this game when I picked up the DVD, except that Tommy Lee Jones was on the Harvard team that year. The movie rounds up a ton of players from both sides, and a weird trend emerges as they’re introduced: while the Yale players fit the stereotype of WASP-ish legacies and other wealthy scions, many of the Harvard players come from hardscrabble, public school backgrounds. (Which made me think Harvard had lower admission standards for its team, but also made that team a bit more sympathetic than the blue-bloods of the Yale squad.) The filmmakers make virtually no direct intrusion into the film, instead alternating between interviews and footage from the game itself. There’s an attempt at framing the game in terms of tumult of its 1968 milieu, but the story of the game itself, Harvard’s incredible comeback, and the personalities of a few of the players — Harvard’s backup QB Frank Champi, Yale’s QB Brian Dowling (inspiration for Doonesbury’s B.D. character), and Yale’s lineback Mike Bouscaren — sweep the film along. Bouscaren, in particular, illustrates a certain type of self-delusion that must be seen to be believed. Most of the men, 40 years later, are capable of stepping back and saying, “It was just a football game, not life and death,” but you can tell how much resonance that November afternoon had in all their lives.

In Search of Steve Ditko: This is British chat-show host Jonathan Ross’ hour-long documentary about superhero cartoonist Steve Ditko, the man who (co-)created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics, then inexplicably quit the company. Ross, a lifetime comics fan, treats Ditko’s legacy with reverence and interviews many subjects about both Ditko’s work and his life, focusing on Spider-Man, but also taking a trip into Ditko’s bizarre Mr. A stories and his Ayn Rand/objectivist fixation. The twin culminations of the documentary are Ross’ interview with Stan Lee and his attempt to meet Ditko at the latter’s Times Square studio. I was touched by how reverent Ross was, and how so many of the interview subjects geeked out over the same passage we all did: Spider-Man’s struggle to get out from under a giant machine in issue #33. The biggest drawback of the show was the inane decision to render all text in Comic Sans. If you’re a comics fan, you really oughtta watch this documentary sometime.

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