Here’s a recent talk I gave in a session on Future Documentary at a BBC Academy event. My focus was on crowd-funding, collaboration, and “connected documentary”.
Posts Tagged ‘Highrise’
Tags: 18 Days in Egypt, BBC, BBC Academy, crowd-funding, Documentary, Highrise, HTML5, Popcorn Maker; Kickstarter, Sound it Out
Tags: BBC, Bear71, Doctor Who, Gaza-Sderot, Highrise, Human Planet, i-Docs, iPlayer, Journey to the End of Coal, National Film Board of Canada, Participatory Culture, Prison Valley, Radio Ballads, The Family, Video Diaries
You’re a journalist; investigating the working conditions of the miners who are fuelling China’s industrial growth. You follow leads, conduct interviews in the polluted, devastated landscape of Shanxi, where workers are living in grim conditions, risking their lives for the production of products that we consume. This is the experience of Journey to the End of Coal, a fine example of a new breed of documentary projects – web-based, interactive – emerging in the last few years. It’s a big contemporary issue, approached in an accessible, vivid way – a classic public service offering.
Immersive, participatory; digital platforms offer new opportunities to inform, educate and entertain. This is the BBC’s remit. Yet the BBC is not producing any of the recent documentary projects that take advantage of the interactive and exploratory potential of the web. Why not?
In the mid 2000s the BBC’s critics grew vocal, charging the Corporation with being too big and dominant on too many platforms. There were accusations that it was skewing the commercial market, and criticism of too much unfocussed investment online. The BBC came back with a new strategy. The BBC’s “unique selling point”, it was argued, were great programmes and news. Journalism would thus continue to have a big presence online. A few major TV brands – Human Planet, Doctor Who – would have significant interactive enhancements. BBC Radio too would have substantial web support.
Early BBC experiments in interaction and participation were abandoned. Interactive commissioners were gradually let go, and technology teams were consolidated in the Future Media & Technology Division, separate from editorial staff. On the positive side, that strategic and organisational refocus enabled the development of iPlayer. On the down side it relegated the emerging platforms to supporting roles and the BBC stopped learning about what their creative potential might be.
Since then, the BBC has pursued its focus on linear programmes. Meanwhile, in other major media organisations, production teams have been formed which draw together “old” media skills (video, storytelling) and “new” (experience design, interactivity), and a number of centres of excellence have been developing in the new arts of factual storytelling. Check out the interactive portfolio of the National Film Board of Canada – award winning projects like Highrise; a multi-year, global, participatory investigation into life in the most common form of housing on earth, the tower block, or Bear 71; an irresistible treatment of the deadly clash between humans and animals in the Banff National Park. Browse Arte TV, France’s interactive output. Explore Prison Valley, which uses a game-like approach to interrogate the US prison system, or Gaza/Sderot, a web doc through which the user is confronted with parallel lives in two villages within a few kilometers on either side of the Palestine/Israel border. These projects use compelling interactive formats to engage with pressing themes and questions.
You might say that the BBC already makes terrific documentary content; so why does this matter? There are a number of answers. One of the BBC’s six public purposes requires that it take advantage of emerging technologies. A BBC that doesn’t know how to deploy these new potentials risks becoming redundant to “the people formerly known as the audience” who take interactivity for granted. Looked at from a creative industries perspective, the BBC is the biggest UK commissioner and needs to be producing work in this emerging field – to develop skills and capacity in a sector that could be world-beating, as well as for the value that could offer its audience.
The BBC has been at the forefront of documentary innovation in the era of one-to-many media. With Charles Parker’s Radio Ballads in the 50s, Paul Watson’s The Family in the 70s, Video Diaries in the 90s, innovation delivered new shapes and types of programmes that showed us Britain and the world anew. There’s an opportunity now for a generation of BBC documentary that uses non-linear forms to throw light on the realities and challenges facing us now. Producing this work is part of the crucial project of re-inventing the BBC’s public service role in the participatory culture of the 21st century. I urge the incoming DG to support that development.
Tags: "The Are You Happy Project", 18daysinegypt, Antoni Negri, Antoni Roig, Caroline Basset, Challenge for Change, David Evan Harris, ECREA, Elisenda Ardevol, Eric Raymond, Global Lives, Highrise, Isis Hjorth, Jon Dovey, Kat Cizek, Life in a Day, Mad V, Mapping Main Street, Millionth Tower, Mozilla Foundation, Nancy Thumim, one day on earth, perry bard, Semantic Documentary, The Johnny Cash Project, Trish Morgan, Video Nation, Wreckamovie
I’ve just been in Barcelona, at the ECREA (European Communication Research & Education Association) Digital Culture Workshop which looked at innovative practices and critical theories. It was a terrific gathering – small enough to get to know people, focussed enough to be productive – a great mix of conviviality and critical dialogue. (Thanks to the convenors, Caroline Basset and Elisenda Ardevol.)
I presented in the Creative Practices strand which was concerned with, “concepts of participation, co-creativity, co-design or co-innovation in creative processes involving audiences and independent creators in a wide spectrum of activities including art, photography, video, and videogames.” My paper offered a draft categorisation of the projects I write about here, according to the type of contribution made by the participants. I’ll give a brief summary of the four categories.
In “The Creative Crowd” model which covers work including Mad V’s The Message, and perry bard’s Man with a Movie Camera; the Global Remix, multiple participants contribute fragments to a highly templated whole, analogous to the separate panels within a quilt. The units of content may not make much sense on their own but value and meaning accrue as they come together producing a distinctive aesthetic that’s about energy and repetition. (Though not a documentary, The Johnny Cash Project is a prime example of this mode.)
In the second model, “The Participant Observers” are distributed filmmakers who each contribute to a work that’s concerned with contrasting experiences of place. The participants decide when and what they shoot and what story they want to tell, but their role in the final contextualisation of that content can vary dramatically. Participants may contribute rushes towards a linear whole that someone else edits, as in Life in a Day, or produce a stand-alone film, a considered narrative, for an interactive framework as in Mapping Main Street. Though filmed observation is as old as documentary I see the prevalence of these situated observers now as significant. What they bring is the potential for documentary “knowledge” that is grounded in experience – situated, embodied, affective. This mode is all about multiplicity, and when content is organised in a database the output can also be open-ended, produced through the interactive experience of the viewer / user.
The third mode I call “The Community of Purpose”. Here, a group of participants take part in a production with a shared objective around social change. They may be involved in making content but may have another role in the process, as the resident experts do in the Highrise project. These projects tend to be iterative rather than having a fixed trajectory. Global Lives and One Day on Earth are examples here. What’s fascinating in this category is that collaborative process – the dialogue and experiences involved in production - begin to be as important as product. There is a definite turn in this direction right now, though this way of working is not new in itself. Kat Cizek’s work at the National Film Board, in particular, is a deliberate re-working of Challenge for Change – the 1960s project which initiated Community Media. ( See earlier post on Cizek as Filmmaker in Residence.) For more on this group do take a look at my interviews with David Evan Harris (Global Lives) and Kat Cizek (Highrise). An open rights framework such as Global Lives has can then add another dimension of emergence as uses for the content can grow in a unrestricted way, driven by collaborators.
After I submitted the abstract for Barcelona I added a fourth category, which I call, The Traces of the Multitude. (Thanks to Jon Dovey for introducing me to Negri’s concept, here used somewhat ambiguously.) This category relates to “Semantic Documentary” - work that’s just emerging like the Highrise spin-off, One Millionth Tower, and 18DaysinEgypt. These projects introduce a new aspect to collaboration by drawing on social media content – linking to a multitude of, potentially anonymous, contributors. Here we can start to see documentary that is continually live and updating, with static video linked to live web data. (I’ve been working on an article with Jon Dovey about this work and the wider implications of the “Sea of Data” for documentary, in which I ponder my own experiments on the The Are you Happy? Project. I’ll write more about that here soon.)
It was lovely at ECREA to meet and hear from a number of scholars doing theoretical work on areas close to mine. I presented alongside Isis Hjorth, from the Oxford Internet Institute, whose PhD examines peer-production in the Wreckamovie community. Isis is asking whether accounts of peer-production have been over optimistic, and if these modes aren’t in fact closer to the managerial and bureaucratic modes of conventional production than has been suggested. The other panelist, Antoni Roig, is, with co-researchers Talia Leibovitz and Jordi Sanchez Navarro of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, examining the concepts and practices of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Again, their interest is in getting behind assumptions about democratisation to understand the complexities of these practices.
The discussion after the panel circled around what is going on in the dynamics of participation. As Trish Morgan asked in a Tweet, “Who has final editorial say in a collaborative, crowdsourced, peer-produced work?” The answer varies, and the discussion made me realise that I need to tease this out and make some of my working assumptions more explicit. When I speak about collaboration I assume that the types of contributions people make, and the control they have, will be uneven; that not everyone will have the same stake or involvement, though the terms certainly need to be clear at the start. I think of collaboration as a relationship that can be productive even if it’s asymmetrical. This perspective comes from experiences in production going back to Video Nation, where the BBC provided production expertise, cameras, training, editing, and the BBC platform, and the participants brought their everyday life experiences, community contexts, their time, thought and their recordings. The co-creative relationship that existed in the first stage of the VN project (94-2000) – which was founded on participants right of veto over what was broadcast – produced documentary insights that were valuable to the audience – based on reviews and audience feedback – and, by various accounts, to the participants – see Nancy Thumim‘s research at the time. Though it is worth saying that Nancy produced a more critical commentary on institutional mediation in her later research which looked at Digital Storytelling including the Capture Wales project I was part of at that time, which will be reflected in her forthcoming book, Self-Representation and Digital Culture. (I do apologise for referring to the VN example so often, but it’s so relevant here. For another take on VN, and a substantial overview of this field, see Nico Carpentier’s Media & Participation, published earlier this year.)
Video Nation, and many of the projects I describe on this blog, are initiated and structured by professional producers. This is not to say that participants don’t make substantial contributions to meaning. But that’s another discussion… The producers are “context providers” but only sometimes “content providers”. They can be seen as “benevolent dictators” as Eric Raymond has described it, referring to the dominant mode of organisation in Open-Source Software development. Even the exceptional Global Lives, which as David Evan Harris describes in his recent interview is now run as a collective, is still substantially influenced by Harris’ orginal vision.
Isis Hjorth mentioned the idea that there is often a charismatic individual behind crowd-sourced projects. It’s an interesting suggestion and isn’t at odds with the producer model I’m describing. You need to be motivated to take part as a volunteer in a collaborative project, and Cizek and Harris, for example, are certainly inspirational figures. The idea makes sense in a particular way in the projects described in the Creative Crowd model above. Those examples come close to Fandom. They are not necessarily led by, but they each involve an iconic figure – Mad V, Johnny Cash – or an iconic work – Man with a Movie Camera. [If anyone isn't sure of the iconic status of Mad V- pictured above - I can assure you that the interview with him on this blog has consistently been the most viewed page - years after he bowed out of You Tube.] These are works of homage. Thinking of them in this way underlines how the dynamics of participation inter-relate with structures of feeling that are not new, and not necessarily egalitarian. (For a nice catalogue of organisational models see the slide below – from a session I recently attended at the Mozilla Festival – where structures for open working were under discussion.)
So the Barcelona workshop raised some important and engaging questions for me. Being there made me realise that I need to unpack some of my starting points, and consider my assumptions. Those four categories may prove productive in that thinking, and they may not. I suspect now that they try and capture too much, conflating production, participation and aspects of form which need disentangling. Another outcome from the workshop for me was that I want to think more about how value is distributed in these projects – about money and surplus value, yes, but also reputational value, the value of taking part, audience value, public value. Some ethnographic work on particular projects is really needed right now. So the ECREA workshop was productive, as well as fun. And there was lots of interesting work under discussion that I haven’t mentioned here. Do take a look at the abstracts, which are all available on the website.
Tags: BBC, Charlotte Moore, Chris Mohr, Global Lives, Highrise, Life in a Day, Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remix, Morgan Matthews, Video Nation
Saturday was filming day for Britain in a Day, the UK version of Life in a Day which is being produced for the BBC by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free company, and directed by Morgan Matthews. Like Life in a Day the project will be made from content shot by the public drawn in through You Tube. The idea is to create, “the definitive self-portrait of Britain today, filmed by you”, which will be broadcast just prior to the 2012 Olympics. According to commissioner Charlotte Moore, all the content uploaded to You Tube will be kept as an archive, a time capsule of Britain 2012.
The BBC has worked with the public in a number of content collaborations designed to capture everyday life over the years. In 1986 over a million volunteers contributed to a snapshot of Britain for the Domesday project, recently revisited as Domesday Reloaded. As Charlotte Moore explains on the BBC blog Britain in a Day has a direct precedent in the BBC’s Video Nation,(the project I co-founded and produced for BBC 2 with Chris Mohr between 1993-2000, and which then continued on BBC online in various guises until March this year.) Looking further back both Video Nation and Life in a Day / Britain in a Day owe a debt to a much earlier British collaborative self-portrait, the remarkable Mass Observation, which began in 1937, and, among many other activities, undertook a number of day surveys,.
With digital tools and the web the early 2000s saw a variety of participatory initiatives at the BBC, projects like Blast, Audio Diaries and the Capture Wales/Cipolwg ar Gymru Digital Storytelling project that I oversaw. Then the mood changed and questions arose about why the BBC should get involved in these initiatives. The projects might be powerful for participants but how did they serve the wider audience? What was the BBC’s role in quality and editorial control in so-called “user-generated content”? More pragmatically, why should the BBC invest in what You Tube seemed to be taking care of?
In the face of these issues, and with commercial criticism that the BBC was doing too much across too many spheres, there was a retreat in the later 2000′s from investment in participatory work. BBC programme makers have gradually become fluent at drawing on social media for audience input and comment, but apart from as witnesses to news events, the BBC seemed to lose sight of its audience as content creators.
So I welcome Britain in a Day as a sign of a renewed curiosity about what might be possible when the BBC and the public work together in documentary. Saturday Nov 12th was an interesting day in an interesting year – the Remembrance commemorations coinciding with the leak about Armed Forces redundancies, with ex-soldiers at Occupy London, a gloomy economic picture contrasting with sublime Autumn weather. Having shown in making The Fallen how he can build a powerful whole from multiple stories, Matthews is just the director to work with the video material that people will have generated.
Putting audience created content into the hands of a professional director is one response to the possibilities of participatory culture for documentary. Projects like Highrise, Man with a Movie Camera; the Global Remix and Global Lives offer alternative approaches and show how collaborative and participatory modes can lead to new forms of documentary experience. I look forward to seeing Britain in a Day. Meanwhile I hope that this commission heralds more experimentation with participatory documentary by the BBC, including non-linear work which can compare with what the National Film Board has been doing in Canada, or Arte in France.
Tags: "The Are You Happy Project", 18daysinegypt, Highrise, HTML5, James Burns, Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler, Kat Cizek, Mapping Main Street, Mozilla, Open Video Conference, popcorn.js, Rebellious Pixels, Web Made Movies, Zeega
It’s this year’s Open Video Conference (OVC) in NYC this weekend. “Open video is the movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video.” I was there last year and it was a great event, very relevant to my work, and this year’s lineup is no less strong.
There are two projects on the programme which I’m particularly interested in. There’s a workshop on Popcorn.js – an open HTML5 platform, created by Mozilla’s Web Made Movies team, which allows producers to relate video to other web data – which I’m going to be working with this Autumn. The Popcorn project has really moved on since the Beta version I mentioned here last year. They’ve built Butter now, an authoring tool to make Popcorn accessible, and producers have created a number of demos that explore its potential. Rebellious Pixels make perfect use of Popcorn as an annotation engine, to reveal the sources of the content in this brilliant Donald Duck remix. In Happy World, it’s used to provide additional context and information to a documentary about the Burmese Junta. In a rougher state, but tantalising for its documentary potential, is a proof of concept for 18DaysinEgypt, the crowd-sourced documentary that’s being made from the media that people produced during the revolution in Egypt back in January / February of this year. The 18Days team have used Popcorn to create overlays offering details within a shot, which they have tested on footage of a demonstration, and it looks like a very powerful way of depicting the dynamics of those unfolding events. And there’s more Popcorn in the pipeline. Kat Cizek described to me in her recent interview how the Highrise team are using it to offer footnotes and semantic references within a 3D animated environment on their latest sub-project The Millionth Tower.
Over the last few months I’ve been gathering video contributions from collaborators for The Are you happy? project and there are quite a collection now – from Serbia, Scotland, Maharastra, Tasmania and elsewhere. Do take a look at the project gallery and the Vimeo group. The sequences are fascinating, and feel like micro-portraits of the places they come from. Taken together they raise lots of questions about happiness, and point up the interview as a social construct, with the interviewer’s style, and the context - Ugandan market, Bristol fashion school, Mongolian capital city square - clearly playing a big part in the kind of things that get said.
This Autumn I’ll be looking at how I can use Popcorn to inform and add other layers of meaning to this content. I want to see how contextual data combines with the video, and try creating some annotations. What really interests me is how web data can be used in a poetic way, creating a montage effect which with live data will be dynamic. Right now I’m wondering what kinds of data and annotation might work in this way – happiness indices? news feeds? weather info? poetry? psychology? One reason I’m sorry to miss the Open Video Conference is that it would be an opportunity to knock these questions around with others who’ve been thinking about how Popcorn can work. If that’s you, or if these questions particularly interest you do please get in touch.
Another ambitious project that will be showcased at the OVC is Zeega – “an open-source HTML5 platform for creating interactive documentaries and inventing new forms of storytelling. Zeega will make it easy to collaboratively produce, curate and publish participatory multimedia projects online, on mobile devices and in physical spaces.” Zeega first got a mention here last year when it was very early days for the project. It’s being developed by Kara Oelher, Jesse Shapins and James Burns, the team behind Mapping Main Street, and they’ve recently won a prestigious award which will support them in the next stages of the development. There’s an interview on the Open Video Conference site about how Zeega is progressing, and an invitation to sign up if you’re interested in creating a Zeega pilot project.
“Will video be woven into the fabric of the open web? Or will online video become a glorified TV-on-demand service? Open Video is a movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video through open standards, open source, and sharing.” These are the questions and the mission behind the OVC and the Conference is about building the policy, rights framework, technology and creative ideas that will support accessible and open web video. Tools like Zeega and Popcorn are really significant in that undertaking, allowing producers without coding skills to produce video projects for and of the web, so that we can begin to see what’s possible when the immersive world of video meets the network landscape of the web.
Tags: BBC, Challenge for Change, CINER, Community Programmes Unit, DCRC, Filmmaker-in-Residence, Gerry Flahive, Highrise, Holy Mountain, iDocs, iDocs Symposium, Jacqueline Wallace, Katerina Cizek, MPI-TV, NFB, Out my Window, Peter Wintonick, PIne Point, Public AccessTV, Sandra Gaudenzi, Seeing is Believing, Video Nation
Good news this week from Cannes, where Katerina Cizek / Gerry Flahive‘s ‘Out my Window’ was the deserving winner of a Digital Emmy for non-fiction at MIP-TV. I’ve enthused about this National Film Board of Canada interactive documentary project here a number of times. (Nov ’10, Jan ’11). It’s the first output from Highrise, “a multi-year, multimedia project” exploring “vertical living in the global suburbs”, which brings the stories of people in highrise communities vividly to life in a web based interactive format.
We had hoped the project director Kat Cizek might be able to present her work at the recent DCRC iDocs Symposium. In the end she couldn’t be there, but Sandra Gaudenzi talked to her a few weeks ago on Skype for the iDocs blog. (Also see the substantial consideration of “Out my Window” that Sandra wrote on her Interactive Documentary blog.)
Watching Kat Cizek you get a feel for some of the factors that contribute to the success of ‘Out my Window’. The iterative process – where research leads the thinking about approach – is key to the great fit between form and content. It’s clear that Cizek is an impressive digital producer with a fluency across platforms and technologies, but interactive production is very much about team work and she’s evidently also part of a great creative team.
The commissioning context is really important here too, though. It’s pretty unusual for a commissioner to make a substantial investment in an experimental project with undefined outputs (though that was, it’s worth mentioning, just what happened on BBC 2′s Video Nation project, and was, without doubt, key to why it worked. But that’s another story…) In the case of Highrise, it demonstrates the National Film Board of Canada’s faith in Cizek, and their grasp of non-linear production. For Highrise is one project in an extraordinary body of interactive documentary work that the National Film Board has commissioned. (The NFB were marketing 14 interactive projects at this year’s MIP-TV.) Have a look on their portal. Explore Pine Point or Holy Mountain. These are intelligent works that take advantage of what the web can do to explore the complexities of life now.
More than that, the NFB have invested in the development of digital documentary as a social practice, and Katerina Cizek is crucial to this story. Back in 2002, Cizek, who has described herself as a “social-justice documentarian”, had explored the democratising potential of the camcorder in ”Seeing is Believing”, a film made with Peter Wintonick . So, when the the NFB had the idea to revisit their Challenge for Change project in the digital age by appointing a Filmmaker-in-Residence, it was Cizek they approached.
Challenge for Change was a pioneering NFB participatory media project that started in 1967, in which filmmakers worked in partnership with marginalised communities, not just to reflect their situations, but to change them. 145 films were made within the project which was the inspiration for Public Access TV projects including the BBC’s Community Programmes Unit.
In 2004 the NFB recruited Katerina Cizek, who embedded herself with the health care community at St Michaels, an inner-city hospital in Toronto, and set about reinventing the Challenge for Change model as a digital project – as what she called “Interventionist Media.” You can see what happened in “The Seven Interventions of Filmmaker-in-Residence“, a film charting the five year process. Watch it. It’s inspiring. There’s also a DVD box set that came out of the project, that I haven’t seen yet. In the words of Jacqueline Wallace, who interviewed Cizek in 2010 for CINER (the Concordia Interactive Narrative & Research Group), ”The resulting work is nothing short of a multimedia juggernaut and includes several films, a photo exhibit, a filmmaker’s blog, and a web documentary that exemplifies non-linear narrative and the possibilities it represents to tell the stories of real people and create real change.”
Out my Window is, then, very much a continuation of Cizek’s energetic engagement with the possibilities of non-linear, with documentary for social change and with participatory and collaborative processes. It’s also a triumph in terms of its realisation – with evocative soundscapes, rich 360 photography, and flashes of animation brought together through apt, engaging visual navigation. [Do we yet have a good term for that 'bringing together', that process of montage in interactive production?]
So, congratulations to Cizek and the team. Do check out the latest, Participate section of Out my Window, which artfully presents photo contributions gathered through a Flickr group. It includes a stunning sequence of images that witness the Egyptian Revolution as seen from a window in Alexandria in February.
I’m going to be really interested to see how the Highrise project will evolve from here. Right now, I’ll leave you with the Manifesto for Interventionist Media that Cizek wrote while working with the community at St Michael’s. (It comes from the Filmmaker in Residence blog - Cizek talks about it in the video above.) It’s a great document – a blueprint for a socially engaged documentary practice.
- The original project idea and goals come from the community partner.
- The filmmaker’s role is to experiment and adapt documentary forms to the original idea. Break stereotypes. Push the boundaries of what documentary means.
- Use documentary and media to “participate” rather than just to observe and to record. Filmmaker-in-Residence is not an A/V or a PR department.
- Work closely with the community partner, but respect each other’s expertise and independence.
- Use whatever medium suits – video, photography, world wide web, cell phones, ipods or just pen and paper. It can all be documentary.
- Work through the ethics, privacy and consent process with your partners before you begin, and adapt your project accordingly. Sometimes it means changing your whole approach – or even dropping it. That’s the cost of being ethical.
- The social and political goals – and the process itself — are paramount. Ask yourself every day: why are you doing this project?
- Always tell a good story.
- Track the process, the results and spend time disseminating what you’ve learned with multiple communities: professionals, academics, filmmakers, media, general public, advocates, critics and students.
- Support the community partner in distribution and outreach. Spend 10% of the time making it and 90% of the time getting it out into the world.
Tags: Albert and David Maysles, Canada, Highrise, Katerina Cizek, Kim Longinotto, National Film Board of Canada, Out my Window, Toronto, Tower block, Werner Herzog
I’m going to be in Toronto this week presenting at a conference on DIY Citizenship – Critical Making & Social Media. It’s a very interesting programme and I’m looking forward to it. Before I go to Canada I must mention Out of My Window, which recently launched, and is the first output from the National Film Board of Canada‘s long-term HIGHRISE project. It was just on the bill in the 360 category at the Sheffield Doc/Fest but you can see it right now online.
In the last decade the National Film Board have been building on their long tradition as documentary commissioners with some terrific interactive content. Recent output has included Capturing Reality ; The Art of Documentary – which looks at the genre of non-fiction itself through interviews with over thirty filmmakers including Werner Herzog, Albert Maysles, Kim Longinotto and Errol Morris, and GDP, an “interactive account of the recession as it plays out in the lives of ordinary Canadians”. The NFB’s interactive work is nicely executed, with clean design giving primacy to storytelling. (You get the impression of a community of creatives experimenting and learning about multi-perspectival storytelling together across these projects. Possibly a starry eyed view and I’ll be curious to find out more about the scene there while I’m in Toronto.)
The elements really come together in the NFB’s most recent launch, Out of My Window, the first iteration of the HIGHRISE project – itself a remarkable undertaking – “a multi-year, multi-media, collaborative documentary project about the human experience in global vertical suburbs”, led by award winning filmmaker Katerina Cizek.
Out of My Window is a lovely work, based on 360 video and intimate first person audio, which you access through a simple effective interactive device – a block in which each apartment offers an insider perspective on life expressed through telling detail in “the suburban vertical city” in thirteen different countries. The images, pacing, use of sound and music (all by local musicians) work together to create vivid portraits of the diverse people and communities of these commonplace but often overlooked locations. Take a look. And don’t miss the Directors’ Statement for an insight into how Cizek evolved the idea and developed her technical approach.
- Cool new interactive Web documentary looks at life in high rises (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Interactive documentary set in highrises around the world (boingboing.net)
- Vertical Change: Highrise (osocio.org)