New Media may be a catch-all category for the genres that don’t fit elsewhere, but that also makes it the most interesting. From branded films to interactive films, these filmmakers are pioneering new ways we digest stories—and in the process, discovering entirely new types of stories. They are the innovators of the industry, and we sat down to discuss where the industry is headed.
LEANNE ALLISON & JEREMY MENDES (Winner!—Bear 71)
NEIL HARVEY (Winner!—Robbie)
ANDREW HUANG (Winner!—Solipsist)
DANIEL LAZO (Honorable Mention—Sight)
CHRISTIAN CARLSSON (Honorable Mention—The Forty Story)
What new doors has your film opened up for you, and how has it changed your career?
NEIL HARVEY—I have been lucky in that Robbie has opened a lot of doors for my career as a film-maker. Quite a few of the studios and production companies have approached me to turn it into a feature, but I guess I’m still waiting for the right partner to come along who wants to do it right. Regardless, it is now much easier to initiate a dialogue with studios/financiers with the other projects I have.
DANIEL LAZO—We didn’t have a ‘film career’ at all. We thought we’ll pick up jobs at a design/advertising firm after finishing design school. We had no idea Sight would draw so much attention. We are immensely grateful. Somewhere along the way we dared to voice the idea of making a feature film out of SIGHT, and now it’s actually possible. We have begun writing a feature length idea, and hopefully it’ll come to fruition soon.
ANDREW HUANG—Solipsist was a new beginning for me, artistically and professionally. It led to my collaboration with Bjork for her latest music video Mutual Core which premiered at MOCA Los Angeles this year, and also garnered me a listing in this year’s Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase at Cannes Lions. The film has been a breakthrough for me in so many ways and continues to propel me towards more creative opportunities.
With new media, many get caught up in the novelty of the new format. Yet all of you managed to rise above that and tell a great story on top of it. How do you do it?
LEANNE—Right from the start Bear 71 made sense as an interactive project because the material that originally inspired it, over a million images of wildlife from motion triggered cameras, lent themselves to the small screen and interactivity. It’s so much fun ‘discovering’ the images for yourself, so we wanted to preserve that experience for the user. As other themes, and most importantly the story of Bear 71 started to emerge, the technology followed. Technology came second and enhanced the themes and story.
JEREMY—The union of story and form is at the centre of our guiding principles at the NFB digital studios. Although pushing the limits of technological form is at the heart of experimentation, at the end of the day innovation has to be within the grasp of your audience. Successful interactive documentary is the combination of conventional story telling and technological innovation. Bear 71 captures audience at that moment. I was extremely lucky to have been paired with Leanne Allison. She is a very talented story teller and filmmaker, and our combined talents with the guidance of NFB producers were crucial in the success of the project.
DANIEL—The initial concept was to simply show how the world could be like if we didn’t need a clumsy apparatus or screen in our hands for AR. Then we figured we need a story, then we came up with the date idea, and the whole thing started taking shape. I think that most interfaces in the film world, are made to just decorate the background. This usually makes ‘film interfaces’ look rather generic (military monitors with green/black tint / police computer interfaces with the flickering mug shots etc.) But every now and then, great films come along that genuinely inspire with revolutionary interface design (Terminator, Ironman), and these concepts eventually seep into practical interface design.. which in turn, seep back into films… so yeah, there’s definitely an exchange of ideas and inspirations between the two mediums.
CHRISTIAN—Pentagram partner and copywriter Naresh deserves all credit for writing the original story. In the case of The Forty Story it is so incredibly obvious that it is all about brands ‘artificially’ fit into story, and that is the charm. I think it works because everyone does love a good story. It’s a very human thing and it’s deeply ingrained in our genes. From tens of thousand years back when we gathered around the fire to exchange stories up until today where good storytellers are key, may it be in the boardroom, at the pub or in the news. Today we need storytellers more than ever to make sense of our surroundings and contextualise the time we live in.
How does new technology change the type of story you can tell?
ANDREW—I grew up watching films like the Neverending Story, Legend and Bladerunner. A frustration I had in my early experiments with video was the inability to create worlds that felt as big as the sci-fi fantasy films that I absorbed as a kid. I remember when I first figured out that I could do my own bluescreen keying with digital home video software, I seriously couldn’t sleep. All the possibilities were running through my head like crazy. But the best thing about having this technology available to us is that we can create worlds that are as lush as a big hollywood film, but narratively and conceptually so much more experimental and daring than anything that a studio would come out with. The technology has opened the gates for auteur filmmakers to execute bigger, more expansive visions but still maintain the strength and originality of their individual voice.
JEREMY—Interactive projects can be massive unruly beasts. There are no blueprints, established workflows are rare, and sometimes it feels like a new wheel-making effort every time. Bear 71 was no exception. Jam 3 and their team of creative directors, developers and designers helped us through the most challenging creative process I have encountered. At the end of the day it’s the risks involved that can make a project great. People use the internet and technology like never before in history, and how they engage changes by the moment. It’s in this flux that our projects thrive.
How have you seen the film industry evolve over the past year?
NEIL—Overall, I think that studios/agents/production companies/etc are now scouting a lot more through Vimeo for new voices in filmmaking than previously. So if you’re lucky enough to get your work seen and appreciated by a Vimeo staff member, then this can enable you to bypass a lot of self-promotion that many young filmmakers are forced to engage in to get their work seen and their voices heard. A lot of the traction I got from studio/production companies off Robbie came through online, as opposed to film festivals. Robbiedid go to festivals, but only much later as a courtesy to people who asked to screen it—rather than an exposure thing.
DANIEL—My impression of how filmmaking is evolving in general is that it’s getting increasingly easier to make films on your own. really, with film capable DSLR cameras, some basic lighting and obtainable software, anyone could make something with really high production values, without investing a lot of money. just some time and passion. which is absolutely great in my opinion.
LEANNE—Accessibility at the front and the back end of filmmaking continues to explode. I’m blown away by the volume, production value and creativity of short films everywhere I look. It’s inspiring!
ANDREW—I saw a lot of exciting new work this year from both emerging and established talent. I really dig Mikey Please and his film The Eagleman Stag. Also really love Michael Langan’s short films. Most recently I continue to be so blown away Yoann Lemoine. I feel like his work epitomizes the next generation filmmaker and the ability to build expansive, highly personal worlds, not just visually but obviously musically with his Woodkid project.
Where are we headed, and what do you hope to see happen in the coming year?
LEANNE—It’s always a struggle to get ideas off the ground, and then it’s often hard to find the money to finish films properly. I don’t see many places to go to for funding in these areas.
ANDREW—More financial support for filmmakers. Whether it’s through branded opportunities or commissioned through arts organizations like MOCATV and Ch4 Random Acts, I think more backing for projects will embolden DIY filmmakers to take their work to the next level.
CHRISTIAN—I think it’s important that independent filmmakers can make money directly from their productions. The average person is more visually savvy now than ever before which should increase the demand for moving material and how it’s consumed as we go forward.
NEIL—From my limited exposure to it, I see the industry as being in a really good place at the moment. The next generation of filmmakers coming through are really switched on with budget because they are used to doing things themselves. So I would hope that this will offset the overall lowering of budgets that seems to be occurring throughout the industry.
DANIEL—We hope to see more original and indie content on the big screen. I think people have had enough of Hollywood’s money-making formula template films.
What are you each working on next?
CHRISTIAN—I keep trying new techniques, software and collaborate across disciplines to realise ideas and tell stories in various formats. I’m always open to offers so get in touch if you’ve got ideas or thoughts! Follow: @chrestian
LEANNE—I just finished a short documentary called Highway Wilding and I’m starting a new one called Backcountry. Both are set near my home in Canmore, Alberta, and both attempt to reveal the incredible everyday lives of wild animals that we forget about. I love working on these projects because they put my life into a much larger perspective, and I’m growing an incredible sense of place along the way. Follow: Website
NEIL—I have just started casting on my first feature film – which is called Offline. We have an April start date, and I will be directing a script that I wrote. Follow: Vimeo
DANIEL—As I’ve mentioned before, a feature version of SIGHT is in the works (!) that’s what we’ll be working on in the foreseeable future, and some other smaller projects too short films etc. Follow: Vimeo
ANDREW—Working on a new music video for Sigur Ros and setting my sights on a developing feature farther down the road. Follow: @Andrew_T_Huang