The 53rd New York Film Festival Convergence will run September 26-27 and delve into the world of immersive storytelling with a mix of unique films, panels, and live interactive experiences.
“This is our fourth year as part of the New York Film Festival and I couldn’t be more excited about the lineup for 2015,” said Convergence programmer Matt Bolish. “There’s a lot of attention focused on virtual reality right now so we are really pleased to feature the U.S. premiere of The Dog House, a 360-degree film that’s going to start a lot of conversations. The program isn’t restricted to virtual worlds either, with several incredible live experiences like Temping, an immersive theater piece designed for one audience member at a time. The hope as always is to give our audience a chance to experience a wide variety of participatory storytelling projects.”
Complementing the experiential programs is a free series of talks and panels featuring notable storytellers from Lucasfilm, StoryCode, Storyline Entertainment, Pixar, NPR and more, discussing their work and the evolving state of storytelling in the interactive age. The presentations will also include the world premiere of the interactive presentation of The Deeper They Bury Me, which plunges audiences into the world of Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary for over 40 years at Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison.
The complete schedule will be announced soon, along with additional NYFF special events, documentary section, and filmmaker conversations and panels and NYFF’s Projections.
NYFF53 CONVERGENCE EVENTS
Experiences and Installations
The (Dis)Honesty Project Presents The Truth Box
Created by Dan Ariely & Yael Melamede
Step inside and tell us the truth… about a lie. The Truth Box is a traveling story booth and part of the larger (Dis)Honesty Project, a collaboration between behavioral scientist Dan Ariely and filmmaker Yael Melamede that aims to improve our behavior and ethics. The Truth Box explores the complex impact dishonesty has on our lives, asking participants to sit inside and come clean, on camera, about a lie they have told. Excerpts of stories recorded will be shared on http://thedishonestyproject.com and through social media.
Created by Johan Knattrup Jensen, Mads Damsbo & Dark Matters
Few technologies have elicited as much debate as virtual reality. How will this powerful technology change the way we make and consume films? Audiences can get a taste of a possible future with The Doghouse. A table is set for five, and on each plate rests a virtual-reality headset. Slipping them on plunges the viewer into a fully immersive experience—one of five unique points of view within the same film. Mom and Dad are meeting the older brother’s new girlfriend for the first time while the younger brother just tries to avoid an inevitable disaster. This unique 360-degree cinema experience places its audience right in the middle of a home-cooked family drama and challenges our notions of what short films are… and what they may be in the very near future. U.S. Premiere
Human beings are hardwired to tell stories. We spin tales about everything in our lives from the mundane to the extraordinary. Some of the most compelling stories being told today are coming from game designers blending sharp narrative and gameplay in new and exciting ways. This selection of gripping, engaging, and even revolutionary independent storytelling games was co-curated by the NYU Game Center and is free and open to the public. Presented with Support from the NYU Game Center.
Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things
Created by Lance Weiler & Nick Fortugno
Step into the shoes of Sherlock Holmes for this collaborative storytelling experiment in which participants attempt to solve a string of crimes unfolding throughout Lincoln Center. Do you have what it takes to become a 21st-century Sherlock Holmes? A prototype developed and run by the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab, Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things is part of a massive connected crime scene taking place in over 20 countries this fall. For more information, visit sherlockholmes.io. Presented in partnership with the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab.
Created by Wolf 359; Directed by Michael Rau
Somewhere in a filing cabinet in Delaware or Indiana, there is a chart that breaks down how long we’re expected to live. Most of us will never see it… nor would we want to. But what if your job was to update these charts, to record the beginnings and ends of thousands of lives? What if you found the formula to predict your own lifespan? Sarah Jane Tully, a 50-year-old actuary, is taking her first vacation in years, and you’ve been hired to take her place. Temping, the strange and comic tale of an employee’s inner life written by Michael Yates Crowley, is performed for an audience of one by a Windows PC, a corporate phone, a laser printer, and the Microsoft Office Suite. Filling in at Sarah Jane’s cubicle, you’ll update client records, send e-mails, and eavesdrop on intra-office romance. Each performance is unique, depending on which tasks you accomplish and which of your co-workers you decide to trust. Congratulations, you’re the new temp! Get ready to work.
Panels and Presentations
Brand Meets Story: How Filmmakers and Brands Are Reinventing Digital Content (Panel)
Moderated by Bob Garfield
The digital-video era has opened up vast opportunities for audiences to enjoy powerful short-form content. Some brands have responded by recruiting professional filmmakers to work in the story-focused new arena of “content marketing.” Bob Garfield, Host of NPR’s On The Media, will moderate a discussion with Marjorie Schussel, Corporate Marketing Director for Toyota, along with Academy Award–nominated filmmakers Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and Kief Davidson (Open Heart) and Oscar winner Ross Kauffman (Born into Brothels). They will discuss the partnership and process they established to develop a form of marketing that marries the freedom of creativity with meaningful brand communication goals in order to tell “stories that matter.” Includes World Premiere screenings of three compelling new short films, and a cocktail reception to follow.
A Conversation with Diana Williams (Talk)
Featuring Diana Williams (Lucasfilm, Roller Coaster Entertainment)
The camera opens on a field of stars before revealing a pair of spaceships locked in a deadly chase. Inside the pursued ship, a pair of iconic droids scuttle between rebel crewmen. “We’re doomed,” says C-3PO. “They’ll be no escape for the princess this time!” That exchange stuck with a young Diana Williams—what else had Princess Leia been up to?—and it set her on a course to become a storyteller in her own right. Williams has produced the acclaimed films Our Song and Another First Step; developed The Gatecrashers, a cross-platform storyworld, and Chinafornia, an animated Web series; and collaborated on motion comics for Torchwood, among others. In 2014, she joined the Lucasfilm Story Group, the team charged with developing narrative cohesion and connectivity within the Star Wars universe. Williams will take the stage to discuss her career and personal evolution as a storyteller, from feature filmmaker to cross-platform storyworld builder.
The Deeper They Bury Me (Interactive Presentation)
Written and directed by Angad Singh Bhalla & Ted Biggs; Produced by Anita Lee for the National Film Board of Canada, Storyline Entertainment
An interactive encounter with one of America’s most renowned political prisoners, The Deeper They Bury Me plunges users into the universe of Black Panther activist Herman Wallace, who was held in solitary for over 40 years at Louisiana’s notorious Angola penitentiary. Within the time allotted for a prison phone call—20 precious minutes—users navigate between his tiny cell and his dream of freedom, a fantasy home he envisions through a collaborative art project with artist Jackie Sumell. Sparse, poetic animation evokes his segregated New Orleans childhood and his courageous efforts to build community within a prison system that keeps over 2.3 million citizens behind bars. Join the creators of this compelling portrait of defiance for an immersive live presentation of the interactive experience and a panel discussion featuring leading activists and thinkers. World Premiere.
Immersive Storytelling Goes Global: A Live StoryCode Dispatch (Panel)
Moderated by Mike Knowlton (Co-founder, StoryCode)
StoryCode’s growth into six continents over the past three years has been fueled by an international appetite for new storytelling methods, tools, and experiments. Though still in its infancy, this worldwide phenomenon takes on myriad forms in each region it conquers. StoryCode chapter organizers will share happenings and breakthroughs around the country and the world, and discuss where we are headed in terms of emerging genres, cross-pollination of disciplines, technology, and artistic achievement. Panelists include Kel O’Neill (StoryCode LA), Diliana Alexander (StoryCode Miami), Michael Epstein (StoryCode San Francisco), and Kelli Anderson (StoryCode Washington DC).
The Making of a Connected Crime Scene (Talk)
Presented by Lance Weiler & Nick Fortugno
Join Lance Weiler and Nick Fortugno for a special collaborative think-and-do session. Over the course of 90 minutes, attendees will see and experience the inner workings of what it takes to build a massive collaborative effort like Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things. The presentation will pull back the curtain on a yearlong experiment with 1,000 collaborators working in 20-plus countries. Learn methods and solutions that can help you design and build immersive, engaging storytelling projects.
Producing for Impact: Finding the Story (Panel)
Moderated by Colin Fitzpatrick (Guardian Labs, WNET, Al Jazeera America)
As nonfiction crosses platforms, producers have more options than ever to reach, inspire, and activate audiences. The way a production is presented allows producers to realize specific audience end goals previously unobtainable without immense budgets. Tactics using comprehensive data visualization, compelling personal narratives, and sourcing from social media allow journalism and documentary producers today to appeal to emotion as well as the facts when creating issue-driven stories. Producers on this panel will discuss their own projects—from documentary film and interactive docs to social programs and digital newsrooms—and how to create meaningful and moving stories with goals beyond business as usual. Presented in partnership with The Producers Guild of America New Media Council & PGA East Documentary Committee.
Created by Danny Cannizzaro & Samantha Gorman (Performance)
Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman will perform excerpts from Pry, an app experience that fuses cinema, video game, and the novella into what the LA Weekly calls “Charlie Kaufman by way of an acid trip.” Six years ago, James, a demolition expert, returned from the Gulf War. Explore James’s mind as his vision fails and the past collides with the present. What happens to story when instead of turning a page, readers open or shut the protagonist’s eyes, pull apart his memories, or read his thoughts infinitely scrolling in every direction? For more, go to prynovella.com.
Small Star Seminar (Performance)
Presented by Cory McAbee
For the first solo music project created by Cory McAbee (Crazy and Thief, The American Astronaut), the filmmaker/musician takes the stage as a motivational speaker who urges people to give up their goals, stop reaching for the stars, and start looking for the stars within their own minds. “Small Star Seminar” features optimistic songs about quitting, accepting one’s own limitations, and the power of sitting quietly. McAbee will address the theory of “Deep Astronomy” and answer questions from the audience. Part of a larger storytelling project, the performance will be documented for an upcoming feature film written and directed by McAbee.
The Working Screenwriter (Talk)
Presented by Mike Jones (Pixar)
Big dreams, wild risks, and seven-figure sales are all part of the typical screenwriter mythos. Yet most of these writers have had a different career, one where a few highs barely make up for the many lows. Working screenwriters must look at the long arc of a career where no models exist. How does a life in the screen trade fit into an everyday life? How do writers maintain their spark among constant rejection, wide financial fluctuations, and family stress? How does failure affect style? And how does a writer change? Mike Jones has never made seven figures. Yet for 15 years he has maintained a screenwriter’s turbulent life while writing for independent producers, major studios, and now Pixar. In this talk, Jones will outline how he built a steady career through checkered success, but became a better storyteller through failure.