The Film Society of Lincoln Center today announced the complete details for the Convergence section of the 54th New York Film Festival, which will take place October 1 to 4, 2016. The fifth edition of the highly anticipated annual program delves into the world of immersive storytelling via nine interactive experiences, featuring virtual reality, augmented reality, installations, and more—including two World Premieres and one U.S. Premiere.
Over the course of the weekend, audiences can explore a multitude of non-traditional film experiences, including immersive storytelling experiences Sound Hunters, where users record the sounds of their world via an app, mixing and remixing their own electronic music compositions; thrilling audience-directed heist film Late Shift in its U.S. premiere; and, back by popular demand for a second year, the hyper-collaborative Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things, in which participants assume the role of the famed detective to solve mysterious crimes across Lincoln Center.
Virtual reality highlights are the World Premiere of acclaimed Indian work Priya’s Mirror, which fuses comic books and augmented reality to shatter taboos around the subject of violence against women; Giant, which transports the viewer into a family’s bomb shelter in an active war zone; Ricerca VR, which incorporates 2D and stop-motion artistry to create a visually stunning world; and Cardboard City, where participants become artists by adding buildings, memories, and stories to an ever-evolving cityscape. Also featured are two interactive video installations: EKO, a trio of interactive shorts that masterfully balance technical achievement and quality storytelling, and the World Premiere of large-scale Lives in Transit, which chronicles 24 hours in the lives of 10 transportation workers across the globe, and which will run from October 1-16.
Complementing these nine experiential works are various talks and panels. Presentations include ILMxLAB visionaries Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen on collaborative innovations in immersive entertainment; Positive Psychology expert Lindsay Doran on the psychology of storytelling; The State of the (Interactive) Art, a panel for StoryCode’s fifth anniversary, with cofounder Mike Knowlton and special guests; and a special preview event for the much-anticipated project Traveling While Black, highlighted by a sneak peek at its first VR piece and a panel discussion with Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams.
NYFF54 | 2016 CONVERGENCE EVENTS AND DESCRIPTIONS
Experiences and Installations
Kiira Benzing, Stina Hamlin
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality, 2016, USA, 3m
Cities are in a constant state of flux, waxing and waning along with their populations. Many consider these cycles of growth and decline part of the appeal of urban living, but change has consequences for those not able to keep up. Such is the case with the subjects of Cardboard City, a community of artists forced out of their Gowanus studios due to skyrocketing rents and runaway development. Blending virtual reality, augmented reality, and user-generated content, the piece is a hands-on interactive installation that uses these artists’ stories as a jumping-off point, before inviting viewers to become creators and add buildings, memories, and stories to an ever evolving cityscape.
Interlude, Sandeep Parikh, Casey Donahue, Daniel Scheinert, Billy Chew
Interactive Video Installation, 2016, USA
Interactive video projects often weigh mechanics against storytelling, creating an unbalanced final product: it’s a technical achievement or a quality story, but rarely both. EKO, a new video platform that responds to the viewer’s input, may finally have balanced the scales. Audiences are invited to experience a trio of interactive shorts built on this new platform: The Gleam, an interactive documentary about a small town paper; That Moment When, a comedy that asks the viewer to navigate a battery of awkward conversations; and Now/Then, a Rashomon-inspired story focused on the various perspectives swirling around a relationship on the rocks.
Milica Zec, Winslow Turner Porter III
Virtual Reality, 2016, USA, 10m
Virtual reality has been so central to recent discussions of interactive storytelling that it’s easy to forget that the form is still relatively new. With the ability to drop the viewer into an immersive environment, it’s no wonder that early conversations about VR stories focus on the empathy between audiences and subjects. This is used to startling effect in Giant. Transported to a basement shelter in an active war zone, we watch—and listen—as parents try to distract their daughter from the thunder of bombs. This is more than a film rendered in 360 degrees; it’s a testament to the power of this nascent form of storytelling.
Baptiste Planche, Tobias Weber
Audience-Directed Narrative Feature, 2016, Switzerland, 80m
Are games and films on a collision course? It’s a question asked every time emergent technologies broaden what’s possible with a little code, a story, and the will to blend the two. Yet while cinematic games are commonplace, game-like films are not. The high-octane thriller Late Shift aims to change that. A parking attendant’s world is turned upside down when he’s forced to take part in a brazen heist, and the audience makes choices to shape the story via an app. The branching narrative is flawlessly executed, creating an in-theater experience as enjoyable for the casual viewer as the hardcore “player.” U.S. Premiere
Lives in Transit
Global Lives Project
Video Installation, 2015/2016, USA
The San Francisco–based Global Lives Project produces long-form documentaries that capture the rich diversity of human experience and engender cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. Each 24-hour film provides a window onto a single day in the life of its subject. This latest iteration of the project, Lives in Transit, focuses on ten individuals who in their own ways are responsible for moving people and products throughout the world. Presented as a large-scale video installation, Lives in Transit is more than an exploration of ten unique people—it is a dynamic ground-level examination of our hyper-connected world. World Premiere
Ram Devineni, Dan Goldman, Paromita Vohra, Shubra Prakash, Vikas Menon
Augmented Reality Installation, 2016, USA/India
Launched in 2014, Priya’s Shakti was a first-of-its-kind fusion of augmented reality, comic books, and social engagement. The story of Priya, a rape survivor and modern-day superhero, shattered taboos that exist in India on the subject of violence against women. The second volume of this ongoing series, Priya’s Mirror sees the heroine joining forces with acid attack survivors to take on the demon king Ahankar. As with its predecessor, Priya’s Mirror makes use of augmented reality to bring the 2D world of the comic to vivid life and unlock a number of interactive story elements. World Premiere
Yo-Yo Lin, Will Cherry, Steve Dabal, Elle Callahan, Michael Matchen
Virtual Reality, 2016, USA, 15m
It’s no coincidence that we are so moved by stories about quests. The search—for love, for forgiveness, for meaning—is an essential aspect of our humanity. In Ricerca (Italian for “search”), a man scours his memories for something lost, traversing a lush world rendered with a vibrant mix of 2D and stop-motion animation. Originally presented as a large-scale video installation, the reimagined piece employs virtual reality to extend its life beyond the gallery space, raising a compelling question: what will the relationship be between VR and the world of fine art?
Sherlock Holmes & The Internet of Things
Lance Weiler, Nick Fortugno
Immersive Storytelling Experience, 2016, USA
While one imagines that real criminal investigators hope for the shortest distance between crime and conviction, readers of detective fiction care more about the journey: the more twists the better. The same could be said for this ever-evolving storytelling experiment. Since its launch, participants from 20 countries have taken part in a project that uses the emergent web of connected digital devices to investigate mysteries with the world’s favorite consulting detective. For the second year, NYFF invites audiences to step into Holmes’s shoes to solve a string of crimes across Lincoln Center’s campus.
François Le Gall, Nicolas Blies
Immersive Storytelling Experience, 2015, France
Long before Lawrence Lessig, Austin Kleon, and Malcolm Gladwell each dubbed this the Age of the Remix, T. S. Eliot wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” With Sound Hunters, the audience makes music by recording and remixing the sounds of the world around them. Created by François Le Gall and Nicolas Blies, this multifaceted project does more than make music from the audio of everyday life; each uploaded sound is a window onto its author’s world, and every song created by the Sound Hunter community is as much a remix of distinctive life experiences as of unique audio elements.
Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen, ILMxLAB
Founded in 2015, ILMxLAB fuses the talents of Lucasfilm, Industrial Light and Magic, and Skywalker Sound to create a new, collaborative space to experiment with stories across all visual media platforms—those we know well and those just being established. The lab encourages exploration, and, yes, even failure as a means for discovering new ways to tell and experience stories. Discovery is at the very heart of the lab’s work. Hilmar Koch and Nick Rasmussen will share some of their personal discoveries from their journey so far and reflect on the promise and perils of working at the frontiers of storytelling.
The Psychology of Storytelling: Lindsay Doran
Oscar-nominated producer and studio executive Lindsay Doran brings more than 30 years of experience in the movie business to bear on this examination of what the field of Positive Psychology can teach us about the secrets of writing a satisfying movie—and how our “deep-seated fear of the saber-tooth tiger” keeps them secret. Doran has served as the President of United Artists and as the President of Sydney Pollack’s Mirage Productions. Doran’s first film credit was on the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. As a producer, her credits include Dead Again, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, and Stranger Than Fiction.
The State of the (Interactive) Art
StoryCode’s Mike Knowlton, interactive theater director Michael Rau, filmmaker Ram Devineni, and more
The NYC Transmedia Meetup was founded as a monthly gathering of creative professionals looking to discuss the emerging field of multi-platform storytelling. By 2011, the group had evolved from a loose confederation of storytellers into a community that would become known as StoryCode. That same year, NYFF launched its Convergence section. On the fifth anniversary of both programs, StoryCode cofounder Mike Knowlton and a panel of key players from the New York interactive scene— Convergence veterans, game designers, immersive theater directors, virtual reality producers, and interactive filmmakers—reflect on where we’ve been and imagine where we’re headed.
Traveling While Black: Special Preview Event
Roger Ross Williams, Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, Lina Srivastava, Yasmin Elayat
Published in 1936, the Green Book became an essential tool for African American travelers. The book consisted of a coast-to-coast listing of bars, hotels, and other businesses that were black-friendly in the age of Jim Crow. Traveling While Black presents a contemporary exploration of the issues related to restricted movement in modern-day America with a suite of experiences including a traveling museum exhibit, virtual reality films, and live events. Academy Award–winning director Roger Ross Williams will present a sneak peek of this compelling project, including a live performance, a teaser of the project’s first VR piece, and a panel discussion.