Every year, the New York Film Festival descends upon the city’s most passionate cinephiles, bringing flashy world premieres and giving New Yorkers a chance to finally see films they’ve been salivating over since Cannes. For the experimentally minded, the Convergence series is a chance to explore immersive storytelling such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and interactive multimedia projects with an eye on the future.
The sixth edition of the annual program announces its full slate today, including three VR horror experiences from Dark Corner Studios, a VR documentary series exploring the lives of Pakistani citizens from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and a game about sci-fi hallucinations from Tender Claws. In addition, NYFF is partnering with Lucasfilm to premiere their new virtual production technology with a public presentation. The never-before-seen technology harnesses the power of VR as a tool for filmmakers to compose shots, create virtual storyboards, and more.
“Our hope each year is to provide a forum for creators to show off their work to audiences who are ready and willing to play, explore, imagine, and experience,” said NYFF Convergence programmer Matt Bolish. “Whether world premiering virtual reality pieces, or acting as the launching pad for new technologies, Convergence strives to bring NYFF audiences projects at the forefront of innovation.”
Dark Corner VR: “Night Night,” “Mule,” & “Catatonic”
The team at Dark Corner Studios have made a name for themselves on 360-degree virtual reality projects that explore the boundaries of horror cinema by placing audiences in the center of thrilling—and often terrifying—scenarios.
Guy Shelmerdine, USA, 7m
Night Night takes you from the safety of your childhood bed to a clown-filled nightmare dreamscape. A Dark Corner Studios, MPC, and Unit Sofa production.
Guy Shelmerdine, USA, 6m
A thrilling, emotional journey through the last moments of a man’s life. Choose your ending—do you want to be buried or cremated? A Dark Corner Studios production.
Guy Shelmerdine, USA, 5m
This pioneering horror experience places you in the POV of a new patient as you are welcomed into a sinister psychiatric hospital. A Dark Corner Studios & Here Be Dragons production.
“Look But With Love” – Episodes 1 & 2
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, USA, 2017
Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and presented by WITHIN, this documentary series follows extraordinary people in Pakistan actively working to change their communities through causes they care deeply about. From a doctor in the slums of Karachi who has dedicated his life to providing free emergency care to children, to a courageous community of women in Nowshera, the epicenter of the terrorist insurgency, “Look But With Love” explores the lives of Pakistan’s most fearless and passionate citizens one story at a time.
Vizor, Finland, 2017
Finnish visual artists Fthr and Lintu specialize in creating surreal worlds in real time while interacting with the audience. Using custom software (Vizor Patches) and a variety of materials, they guide you through a trip that starts from nothing and ends in a living, breathing virtual world. Each participant walks away with a personalized piece that is saved on the web and can be relived at home.
“Sanctuaries of Silence”
Adam Loften and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, USA, 2017
“Sanctuaries of Silence” invites its audience to join Hempton as he travels through Olympic National Park, one of the quietest places in North America, searching for a place not impacted by noise pollution—which is fast becoming as threatened as any endangered species. A New York Times Op-Doc production.
“Virtual Virtual Reality”
Tender Claws, USA, 2017
The brainchild of Tender Claws, the collective behind PRY (2015), “Virtual Virtual Reality” ponders humanity’s purpose in a future where our jobs have been co-opted by machines. Will we be little more than relics, reminders…even pets? Activitude, a Virtual Labor System, is here to help, creating an A.I. manager that’s a perfect match for your meaningfulness quotient. It’s Inception meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets The Wizard of Oz, only there is not just one wizard but a network of wizards living inside wizards, splitting themselves open like nesting dolls, pulling back infinite tiny curtains to reveal a churning multitude of unstable realities.
VR and the Future of Virtual Production by Lucasfilm
Demo and Talk
Rachel Rose, Jose Perez & Nick Rasmussen
From the depths of earth’s oceans to galaxies far, far away, VR allows us to be anyone, go anywhere, and see anything. Lucasfilm and its visual effects division, Industrial Light & Magic, have harnessed the power of this medium to create a new Virtual Production toolset, allowing filmmakers to build and scout a virtual set, manipulate props, puppeteer characters and vehicles, even compose shots to create virtual storyboards. It’s a game changing application that is easy to learn, allowing storytellers to focus on the elements that blend together to form great stories. The creators of the toolset will participate in a conversation about the development of the platform and its potential to impact the filmmaking process, followed on Saturday by a public demonstration that will allow audiences to experience the system first hand.
Experiences and Talks
Augmented Reality Installation
With Augmented Reality, which superimposes images, video, and other content onto our flesh and bone world, the line between the virtual and the real can blur to the point of being indistinguishable—with little more than a cell phone. Helsinki-based Arylin has created a number of installations and activations that leverage the power of AR to great effect: paintings that come to life and everyday objects that spawn interactive videos.
Gamescape: The Revenge of Full Motion Video
It’s 1983. You find yourself in an arcade in the ’burbs. Among the future classics—Galaga, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong—you find something different: Sega’s Astron Belt or Cinematronics’ Dragon’s Lair, games that eschewed pixelated sprites for video and vivid animation. Full Motion Video games were movies you could play—to a point: the technical execution left something to be desired. Games were unreliable, systems crashed, and FMV all but disappeared. But FMV is making a comeback as creators breathe new life into this 35-year-old form. The 2017 edition of Gamescape celebrates some of the best new FMV work and looks back on titles both famous and infamous from the golden age of the arcade. GameScape is co-curated by Clara Fernandez-Vara, of the NYU Game Lab.
“Her Story” (Sam Barlow, UK, 2015)
“Mind Trapped” (Claire Carre, USA, 2017)
“Loop Record” (Nicolai Troshinsky, Spain, 2017)
“PRY” (Tender Claws, 2015)
“Cibele” (Nina Freeman, 2016)
“Last Night” (Dejobaan Games, 2018)
De-Escalation Room: Live Lab with Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab
Talk and Rapid Prototyping Session
Presented by Lance Weiler
Founded in 2014, Columbia University’s Digital Storytelling Lab was created to explore ways of telling stories that incorporate technology and disciplines from across the humanities. A champion of iterative, collaborative design, the DSL will pull back the curtain on its creative process during this special session, and invite the festival audience to become participants in developing the group’s next project, the De-Escalation Room. A collaboration with SAFELab, the De-Escalation Room aims to create an immersive storytelling space that reckons with the negative behaviors of social media, forcing its players to work together to defuse an otherwise dangerous situation.
Convergence is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of the 55th New York Film Festival, which runs September 29 – October 1.