In June this year, East End Film Festival hosted its second edition of EMERGE, a day of talks and discussion around the convergence of film and digital, at the Barbican Centre. I was lucky to be tasked with co-hosting the day, and so got to see the brilliant range of speakers who contributed to the event. Here are some of my highlights:
Award winning director and coder Evan Boehm‘s talk was fresh and energetic and in just 20 minutes he raised some great questions around the day’s theme. Evan’s work integrates interactivity and responsiveness naturally as an inherent part of the experience, rather than a forced add-on or navigational tool. His work ranged from animation and music video to art installation and experiential advertising. His talk touched on issues such as character in gaming, looking at archetypal characterisation as well as the very particular empathy we have with a character we are playing in a game. Evan is well-known for his interactive narrative ‘film’ The Carp and the Seagull, a strange, complex and compelling piece using dual narratives simultaneously played out to reveal a ‘real’ and ‘spirit’ world. Meanwhile his gallery artwork Looking at a Horse is a deceptively simple concept, elegantly executed. A video of a horse in a static run-cycle changes depending on how many people are observing it. This is a strong comment on the perceived value of art and its context. The more people are looking at the horse, ‘the more beautiful it is’.
Lifesaver is an interactive film directed by Martin Percy. Designed to be a practical aid for first aid training, the film takes users through a series of hypothetical situations where someone is in danger of death and in need of resuscitation. You are asked to make decisions at each crucial point of what you should do, and you then move forward to see the result of your decision. Despite the basic ‘choose-you-own-adventure’ style interactivity, the project packs a punch due to good acting and production values, carefully thought out cinematography and editing and details such as the integration of movement recognition into the app. When you need to active resuscitate a patient you move your tablet / viewing device up and down in time to the instructed pace and are scored on how effective this pace would be on a human subject. This inclusion of some physical activity on the part of the viewer insures that they are learning with their body as well as their mind, increasing the chances of using the skill in a real-world emergency.
Ed is a Project Director at Crystal CG, Official Supplier to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and was responsible for delivering key digital experiences for the Games. This included much of the extraordinary digital content for the opening and closing ceremonies, from the projection mapped set to the audience-pixel screen and much more. Ed’s talk focused on the development and delivery of this absurdly large-scale and high-stakes project, touching on some of the most difficult areas and unexpected complexities involved.
There were many other interesting talks throughout the day, from novelist and filmmaker Chris Petit’s assassination of the British Film Industry to Warren Ellis’ observations on what makes a film a film, as commissioning and audiences change. Sarah Tierney from Colony talked about her new online distribution platform and the future of audiences online, backed up by some fascinating data. Meanwhile Fernando R Gutierrez De Jesus’ live interactive non-fiction project Choose Your Own Documentary demonstrated a thoughtful, genre-crossing spin on the live documentary.
As is often the case with events of this kind, the focus was broad and offered more questions than answers. The usual question marks around ‘what is story’ and ‘how can it be told effectively in a non-linear manner’ were raised and it was great to see a multitude of creative approaches to the possibilities offered up by new technologies.
Videos from EMERGE 2014 will be posted on the EMERGE website later in the year: http://www.emerge-lab.com.