fresh frontier of french film

This feature first appeared on Culturadar, an arts listings website for New York City. You can read the original post here.

It’s no surprise The Film Society of Lincoln Center offers an annual festival of French films. The French are to cinema what Cuba is to cigars. Other countries produce them, but not quite like France. They birthed cinema. Now, France aims to deliver audiences a new era of storytelling: the age of transmedia.

Rendezvousbanner

Transmedia is the art of sharing stories over multiple media platforms. Channels include online videos, comic books, mobile devices, alternate reality games, books, puzzles, and social media. In 2012, The Film Society of Lincoln Center decided to explore this media mixing and launched Convergence as part of The New York Film Festival. Over two days, immersive theater, interactive group video games, and panels on film and television extensions took over the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Thus began an exploration of the shift in storytelling in the 21st century.

After the success of Convergence, The Film Society looked for ways to develop this examination beyond its annual fall festival. Knowing transmedia isn’t solely American, the next clear step was highlighting transmedia work from around the world. With Rendez-vous with French Cinema on their season’s horizon, a special project came into focus.

ALT_MINDS is a fast-paced immersive experience that casts the audience in the role of an investigator. Creator Eric Viennot requires the audience to engage in the action and play an integral part in the expanding narrative. When six promising scientists disappear while on assignment, their kidnapping sparks a manhunt across Europe. Mysterious online videos, mind bending puzzles, and clues point to a dark conspiracy that threatens to ensnare the team of investigators charged with unraveling the mystery.

“ALT_MINDS is cool because it really blurs the line between fiction and reality,” said Matt Bolish of The Film Society of Lincoln Center. “You can become as involved as you want. There’s more going on than meets the eye.”

A big hurdle for this kind of mobile-based multi-platform storytelling is distribution in the United States. There aren’t many companies taking the risk. In France, ALT_MINDS received development support and distribution through the communications company Orange. Additionally, artists receive government support more easily. Between corporate and government support, creators like Mr. Viennot have more opportunities than American creators. That is one of the reasons The Film Society at Lincoln Center is offering this special event as part of Rendez-vous with French Cinema. They want to introduce this innovative work to an American audience.

“We are really excited to move ahead and start navigating transmedia and the development of transmedia in an audience,” said Mr. Bolish. “It’s important to have a global perspective.”

AltMinds1To sneak a peek at the next exciting revelation in cinematic storytelling, stop by ALT_MINDS and the art of French Transmedia on March 2. Creator Eric Viennot presents the project and offers a sample of what players experienced. He will also screen a portion of the web series and discuss how French creation is different from the United States. For more information about ALT_MINDS and the Art of French Transmedia, visit The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s website.

________________

ALT_MINDS AND THE ART OF FRENCH TRANSMEDIA
ERIC VIENNOT, 2012
Saturday, March 2 at 5:00pm
FILM CENTER AMPHITHEATER

FREE

Advertisements

peaking at the new frontier

Sometimes, things just work out.

That’s how I felt Saturday night as I fell asleep on the red eye departing from Salt Lake City. My wife and I just completed a week vacation with her parents and brother skiing in the mountains of Utah, and we capped it off with my first visit to the Sundance Film Festival. We scheduled the vacation with short notice, and it was only after setting the trip’s dates we realized its tail end would overlap with the start of Sundance. We didn’t have tickets to any films, but I knew I wanted to visit New Frontier, the social and creative venue that showcases media installations, multimedia performances, and transmedia experiences.

First, we went to another venue to see if we could get tickets to a documentary, but it (like all the other films that day) was sold out and had a very long waitlist queue in which we would need to stand for over an hour before getting a number to hopefully be selected two hours later, when they assessed open seating and called off numbers. Needless to say, it didn’t sound like our idea of a fun day. We headed over to the New Frontier venue.

WelcomeToNewFrontierSandwiched between one of the park-and-ride lots and The Blind Dog sushi bar is The Yard, a 100,000 square foot multipurpose space that houses the New Frontier venue. Divided into three parts, the main area features a gallery-style space featuring the New Frontier artists. The other two spaces offer a theater specially designed for the venue and a bar/lounge area for press interviews and parties. I spent most of my time in the gallery and saw two short films during our visit.

We arrived at noon, which is when the venue’s doors open. Immediately, I asked for the box office because I knew Coral: Rekindling Venus screened at 1:00pm, and I hoped we could get on the waitlist. Being the first to arrive, we got on the waitlist with no problem. While we waited, the New Frontier volunteer staff helpfully explained the photographs of coral hanging nearby trigger an augmented reality app that takes you “inside” the photograph, animating it as if you are under the sea.

coral2     coral1

You can download the iOS app here or Android here and use the pictures I took to try it out. Click the thumbnails for larger images.

An hour later, we were lying down on mats and beanbags in a small planetarium, which reminded me of a yurt one might find at Burning Man. Inspired by the first collaboration among the international science community to witness the celestial transit of Venus in 1761, Lynette Wallworth’s Coral: Rekindling Venus is designed to nurture an emotional connection between a global audience and the planet’s endangered coral reefs. It has a trance inducing effect as one reclines, opening to ocean animals, including sea lions, deep sea bio-luminescent creatures, and of course, stunning time-lapse coral shots.

Prior to the screening, Evans & Sutherland, the company that created the planetarium, offered a demonstration of the numerous projects using their technology. The demo was almost as interesting as the film, for it included examples of real time, interactive tools for teachers. My mother-in-law, a retired junior high school science teacher, looked like a kid in a candy store and marveled at how this technology will change how we teach science. Way cool.

Next to the planetarium was a wall scrawled with graffiti and donning a poster of a large rock. I immediately recognized the rock as the handy work of Yung Jake. Prior to our trip to Utah, I visited the Sundance New Frontier website to check out the artists. I discovered Yung Jake’s E.m-bed.de/d, a wild, truly innovative music video that takes over your browser. Seriously, click on the link above, hit play, watch the video, and then come back and read the rest of this.

yoongjakerockAfter I found Yung’s work, I followed him on Twitter and shared E.m-bed.de/d. Yung DMed me and offered a beta test of the app he’s premiering at Sundance. It’s a trippy, 3-D, interactive music video that plays on your phone or tablet called Augmented Real. You can download the iOS app here. (No word on Android.) Point your device at the rock image above and press play.

I’m only sad we left town before Yung played his live performances. He performed a sold-out show last night. If you caught the gig, let me know how it was. He has one more show tomorrow, January 24. It looks like there are still a few tickets left. You can buy them here. According to L.A. Weekly, Yung Jake, may very well end up being the breakout star of Sundance.

MoreFingerprints

Pulse Index, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Pulse Index is an interactive art piece that does what I love most. It makes its audience into the art. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s installation records the heart rates and fingerprints of participants and displays them in a Fibonacci pattern. You place your finger into the custom-made sensor, and your fingerprint appears on the largest cell of the display, pulsating to your heartbeat. Your print then travels down the sequence to join those of all the others who have visited the room. The mosaic of pink prints cover the walls of the room, constantly shifting the energy of the space. It’s breathtaking.

PamChristyHundredsOfFingerprints

My wife and mother-in-law cheesing amongst the pixelated prints.

My favorite piece at New Frontier was What is He Building in There? Inspired by the Tom Waits song of the same name, Ricardo Rivera and the Klip Collective transformed the front facade of the New Frontier venue into a 3-D, projection-mapped parable. Lately, I’m a sucker for 3-D projection-mapping, and this Kafkaesque, existential concoction of live action and animation blew me away. On the surface, the building looks like the outside of a factory, but throughout the film, walls dissolve away and windows slide open, showing the never ending toil of a solitary worker building…something.

“What’s He Building In There?” Sundance 2013 New Frontier documentation from Klip Collective on Vimeo.

One of the best parts of this was when a woman approached the entrance of the building and she waited for the projection to “open the door.” When it “opened” and she tried to walk through the door, she discovered the actual door still blocked her way. A true testament to the projection’s precision.

I didn’t get to check everything out. I heard Eyjafjallalokull, a three-dimensional, audiovisual mapping, optical illusion installation inspired by the 2010 Icelandic volcanic eruption, was wonderful. We couldn’t get tickets to North of South, West of East which wraps the film around the entire room in a 20-seat theater with swivel chairs. And Cityscape 2095 placed spectators on the observatory deck of a skyscraper, where they take in an imaginary city as it glitters over the course of one day. It was super cool, but I couldn’t stand there all day to watch it change.

Cityscape 2095

Cityscape 2095 by Yannick Jacquet, Mandril, and Thomas Vaquiée

We arrived at Sundance on a wing and a prayer, and as luck would have it, we enjoyed most of the New Frontier exhibition. If you’re in Park City this week, I highly recommend checking these exhibitions out. It’s not a crowded as Main Street, the volunteers are more than happy to help you explore the interactive aspects of the art, and you might just have your mind blown.

It was definitely a high point of my week in the mountains of Utah. The only thing I’d do differently next time? Plan ahead and schedule more than one day at the festival. So little time. So much to see!

the lost children want you

Yesterday, I officially began blogging for Culturadar, an arts listings website for New York City. Here is my first post, which you can also read here.

Have you ever wondered what it is like inside a cult? I mean a true blue, alien believing, doomsday cult that blindly follows a single man anywhere he leads. How do they vet their members? What do they share with their inner circle? What is real, and how do they manipulate science to attract followers to their bizarre beliefs? And, what happens to someone after she is violently extracted from the cult in which she is deeply embedded?

In the 1970’s, if you had a loved one embedded in a cult, a man named Ted Patrick was your go-to-guy. He forcibly broke doors down, tied people up and kidnapped them from cults. The police couldn’t legally do anything about the brainwashed members inside these cults, so they let Patrick get away with it. This went on until the 1980’s when laws shifted, making Patrick’s actions extremely difficult. That’s when kidnapping convictions and lawsuits landed left and right. But that didn’t stop families from hiring extractors to rescue brainwashed loved ones.

EVIEIn the 1990’s, a young woman joined a cult, and her family hired a professional like Patrick to extract her. He forcibly kidnapped her and put her through a rigorous deprogramming process. She tricked the extractor into believing she was deprogrammed so she could return to the cult, but the cult rejected her because they believed she had been deprogrammed. The woman lost all her friends and grew exceedingly lonely. To deal with her loss, she sued her own parents for destroying her life – and won.

Inspired by this true story, director and story architect Mark Harris wrote The Lost Children, a film that tells the tale of Evelyn Hamilton, a party girl turned would-be messiah of the secretive Lost Children cult that believes they are aliens from another world and their mothership, hidden within the Tioga Comet, is approaching Earth. The film follows Evelyn’s journey from The Lost Children, to the hands of obsessed cult deprogrammer Jared Allen Tyler, a character inspired by Ted Patrick.

Once Harris completed the film, he decided to dive into the themes of belief and faith. He expanded the story world of the cult through a live, immersive event in which the audience moves between two spaces. The first space offers a fictional cult recruitment session where some audience may be targeted for advanced psychic testing. The second space is an interactive science lecture in which authentic scientists discuss the nature of comets, as well as the real possibilities of alien life in the universe.

CONVERGENCE

On January 22 and 28, Harris will fully realize his plans when The Film Society of Lincoln Center presents the New York premiere of both the film and immersive theater extension of The Lost Children in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center’s Amphitheater.

Bouncing between cult mythology and hard science, the audience will see two sides of this strange world before viewing the aftermath, which is the film. When I spoke with Harris, he shared his hopes for the New York premiere.

“I kind of want this big argument going on in everyone’s head,” said Harris. “More importantly, I’d like the argument going on in person. Then, they kind of come together in the film with that argument in their head already.”

When finding distribution for the film became challenging, Harris sought a way to get people’s attention. The film doesn’t show the inside of the cult, so he turned to immersive theater to tell that story. By putting the audience in the position of the protagonist, they discover a unique perspective that deepens their experience. The live event also helps with marketing the independent film, which doesn’t have the big PR budget of studio movies.

“I didn’t want my movie to get lost,” said Harris. “You can’t compete. I wanted to do something really unique to make it stand out.”

UntitledDepending on the event’s reception, Harris might return for more showings in the spring. There is a possibility of digital distribution of the film, but he anticipates he will retain the theatrical rights, which gives him control over the live experience and allows him to pop up cult recruitments wherever and whenever he wants. For now, there are only the two showings at The Film Society of Lincoln Center. If you want to find out what it’s like inside a cult, Mark Harris is offering a limited peek at the secrets of The Lost Children.

Just tell your family where you’re going, so they know where to send Ted Patrick if you disappear.

The premiere of The Lost Children is now sold out.
filmlinc.com/lostchildren

thelostchildrenmovie.com

pitch perfect trailer hits the right note

In spite of (or maybe because of) the Glee-derivative, pop-culture laden, formulaic structure, Pitch Perfect’s trailer is hilarious.

Its tongue firmly placed in cheek, the movie shows tons of promise as a cult film. The attempt to make a capella hard core by setting a “Riff Off” in an abandon pool lighted with flashlights while they cover Dr. Dre’s “No Diggity” is deliciously over the top.

And my new favorite commedian/actor may very well be Rebel Wilson, who plays “Fat Amy,” calling herself that so “twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.” Instead of waiting to privately view on Netflix next year, I may actually catch it when it hits theaters October 5th.