NYFF Convergence Returns with Interactive Premieres and a Surprise

Posted by Brian Brooks on 8.28.2013

Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Karlyn Michelson's Charlie Victor Romeo.

Transmedia returns to the New York Film Festival this year with the second edition of NYFF Convergence. Spotlighting the intersection of technology and storytelling, the program offers participants the opportunity to experience a curated selection of new immersive storytelling projects. This year's edition will close with a "special secret event," which will be unveiled by Film Society of Lincoln Center at a later date.

The three-day program, taking place September 28 - 30 in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and the Walter Reade Theater, examines the confluence of technology, content creation, and interaction and will present projects in three categories: Experiences, Panels and Keystone Presentations.

The Experiences component spotlights the interactive element of transmedia storytelling. Highlights include the World Premiere of Eline Jongsma and Kel O'Neill's The Empire Project, an immersive documentary experience that examines the still-unfolding legacy of Dutch colonialism, while the New York debut of Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels, and Karlyn Michelson's Charlie Victor Romeo takes audience members into the cockpit with an airline pilot during an in-flight emergency. Nicolas Alcala's The Cosmonaut travels back to the 1960s, allowing participant to experience "the space race" alongside two Russian cosmonauts trying to beat the U.S. to the moon. 48 Hour Games by Suvi Andrea Helminen is an interactive "choose your own adventure"-style documentary that was shot during the Nordic Game Jam, an event that annually brings together more than 300 game developers from all parts of Scandinavia. And Rick Prelinger's No More Road Trips? takes to the highways and byways through thousands of home movies and amateur films and looks to the audience for its narration and soundtrack.

The World Premiere of Katerina Cizek's A Short History of the High Rise is among the highlights of NYFF Convergence's Keystone Presentations program. Produced by Op-Docs, the New York Times editorial department’s forum for short, opinionated documentaries, and the National Film Board of Canada, the project is an interactive documentary that explores the global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world via four short films and an interactive experience that incorporates the films allowing users to dig deeper into the project’s themes with additional archival materials, text, and micro-games. Musician, writer, director and actor Cory McAbee (Crazy & Thief, Indie Night '12) will return to the Film Society with Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club featuring live music and video pieces from the project. McAbee will be on hand to share anecdotes from the piece, which is described as "an original experiment in collaborative art."

Christian Fonnesbech and Frederik Øvlisen's Cloud Chamber

Also taking part in the Convergence's Keystone Presentations is Christian Fonnesbech and Frederik Øvlisen's Cloud Chamber, a collaborative experience that is part alternate reality game, part film, part social network. Players are asked to work together via a single web portal to uncover the story of a young scientist who risked her sanity and betrayed her father in order to "save humanity from its most dangerous enemy: itself."

Panels taking place during the weekend, which runs parallel with the opening weekend of the New York Film Festival, will delve into a cross-section of topics related to content and technological innovation. Crowdfunding, micro-finance, business models, and producing will be among the areas discussed in addition to "teams and tools" and the ins and outs of working on multiple platforms.

"The core of Convergence is interaction—audiences and creators coming together to explore, play, and debate the future of entertainment," said NYFF Convergence co-programmer Matt Bolish. "We couldn't be happier with the quality of the projects and the global reach of the line up for this year's NYFF Convergence program, with creators from the U.S. sharing the stage with those from Denmark, Spain, and the Netherlands... and we can't wait to reveal the details of our special closing event!"

A priority-access badge to the three days of NYFF Convergence programming is now on sale for just $99!

2013 NYFF Convergence categories and event descriptions follow.


Charlie Victor RomeoNew York Premiere
Directors:  Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Karlyn Michelson - (Appearing in Person)
Saturday, September 28 at 2:00PM, EBM Beale Theater
Derived in its entirety from black box recordings of true airline emergencies, Charlie Victor Romeo presents the sort of visceral experience that stays with audiences long after credits roll. Originally produced as a highly successful stage play in New York’s Lower East Side, the film makes startlingly effective use of a state-of-the-art 3D process to take us to a place few civilian eyes have ever been: the other side of the steel reinforced door that separates the public from the pilots. Directors Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Karlyn Michelson invite their audience to play silent witness to six high-tension dramatizations possessed with a raw intensity real enough to earn multiple citations from organizations such as the Air Force, West Point, and countless professional groups across the aviation community. In equal measure startling and uplifting, Charlie Victor Romeo is a project that demands our respect and attention.

Rick Prelinger's No More Roadtrips?

The Cosmonaut New York Premiere
Director: Nicholas Alcala – (Appearing in Person)
Sunday, September 29 at 12:30PM, EBM
Ambitious in scale and scope, The Cosmonaut is the very definition of what a multiplatform immersive narrative can be. Encompassing a feature film, web-based content, social media, studio albums, live events, and a documentary feature the project has garnered international attention and praise since its inception in 2009. Set in the late 1960’s, the project follows Stas and Andrei - two Russian space-farers in training who along with a cast of adventurers, scientists, engineers, and dreamers are in a race against the clock to beat the United States to space.

The Cosmonaut Experience
Director: Nicholas Alcala – (Appearing in Person)
Sunday, September 29 at 2:00PM
In 1957, the first man-made object was put in orbit. That ignited a wild race between two countries that were fighting an undercover war. Earth wasn't enough anymore. The new goal was to conquer the universe.

See the feature film then dive deeper into the world of Riot Cinema’s The Cosmonaut. Featuring choice selections of web content created to augment and expand the world of the film, these short videos provide audiences with a unique cinematic experience. Equal parts backstory and primer on the characters, situations, and pivotal moments in this storyworld, we invite audiences to join us for this free event and to explore this complex narrative universe. New York based filmmaker and transmedia creator Mark Harris (The Lost Children) will lead a creator to creator discussion with The Cosmonaut's Nicolas Alcala about building this unique multi-platform experience.

The Empire ProjectWorld Premiere
Directors: Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill – (Appearing in Person)
Saturday, September 28 at 4:00PM
A hidden synagogue in the mountains of Indonesia. A Dutch-style village in the Sri Lankan rainforest. A white separatist enclave in the South African desert. These are just a few of the communities brought to light in Empire, an immersive documentary project that examines the still-unfolding legacy of Dutch colonialism. Shot in ten countries over four years, Empire employs a broad range of storytelling techniques—including nonfiction filmmaking, multi- channel video projection, and experience design—to unearth the contemporary aftershocks of the world's first brush with global capitalism.

Empire's videos and installations will be on display throughout NYFF at several venues on the Lincoln Center campus including the Film Center, Walter Reade Theater, and Alice Tully Hall. Viewers are invited to chart their own course through the work, and to draw their own thematic connections as they go and then join Directors Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill for a discussion about the genesis of this one of a kind experiential documentary.

Katerina Cizek's A Short History of the Highrise.

48 Hour GamesNew York Premiere
Director:  Suvi Andrea Helminen - (Appearing in Person)
Saturday, September 28 at 5:00PM
48 Hour Games is an interactive “choose your own adventure” style documentary that is as much a game as it is a film. Shot during the Nordic Game Jam, an event that annually brings together more than 300 game developers from all parts of Scandinavia, the film is an intense exploration of the creative process. Fueled by caffeine, competition, and perhaps a little madness, 48 Hour Games tracks the soaring highs and depressing lows of the Game Jam teams as they work towards the epic grand finale. Originally released as an online experience for a single user, NYFF Convergence will host a fully interactive screening of the film with creator Suvi Andrea Helminen – an event that will ask the audience to chart the course of story through a process that the film magazine Ekko describes as “…somewhere in between democracy and ”survival of the fittest” – the ones who shout louder get to decide…it’s about cheering with your whole body. ”

No More Roadtrips? New York Premiere
Director: Rick Prelinger – (Appearing in Person)
Saturday, September 28 at 9:00PM
Artfully assembled from thousands of home movies and amateur films, No More Roadtrips?, the latest film from archivist and filmmaker Rick Prelinger (Lost Landscapes of San Francisco; Lost Landscapes of Detroit), explores the highways and byways of a period in American history that may well be in our rearview mirror. Focusing on road culture and the idea of “peak travel,” the film is a participatory experience that depends upon audiences to provide the soundtrack and narration. No More Roadtrips? is a perpetual work in progress, a piece that cannot be completed until you, the audience, lends your voice to the images to this one of a kind interactive cinema experience.

Keystone Presentations

Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club
Presented by Cory McAbee
Sunday September 29, 5:00PM
Writer, musician, director, actor Cory McAbee (American Astronaut, Stingray Sam; Crazy & Thief) returns to the Film Society to discuss his most recent project, The Embalmer's Tale.  Set in an America still reeling from the Civil War, the film charts the 1600 mile journey that carried the body of President Abraham Lincoln from Washington D.C to Springfield, Il, and the lives of the soldiers, surgeons, and morticians tasked with keeping the president’s remains intact. Through a global collaborative known as Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club, McAbee is leading a band of fans, filmmakers, illustrators, actors, and artists in creating a crowdsourced storyworld of epic scope. In a presentation featuring live music and video pieces from the project, McAbee will share anecdotes from the front lines of this truly original experiment in collaborative art.

The Cloud Chamber Mystery
Presented by Christian Fonnesbech and Frederik Øvlisen
Saturday September 28, 11:00AM
Billed as the world’s first premium online mystery community, Cloud Chamber is an enthralling collaborative experience that is part alternate reality game, part film, part social network, and in its way altogether original. Players are asked to work together via a single web portal to uncover the story of a young scientist who risked her sanity and betrayed her father in order to save humanity from its most dangerous enemy: itself. The project stars Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones) and Jesper Christensen (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) and is produced by Vibeke Windeløv (Breaking the Waves, Dogville). In a session featuring an in-depth exploration of this unique storyworld, director Christian Fonnesbech and CEO Frederik Øvlisen will discuss the genesis of the project and their vision as well as the challenges involved with building and marketing this new interactive experience.

Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill's The Empire Project

Hollow and the Call to Action: Elaine McMillion On the Role Interactive Docs Play in Ongoing Narratives
Presented by Elaine McMillion
Sunday September 29, 11:00AM
Launched in 2013, Hollow is an interactive documentary that merges cinematic techniques with web-based storytelling to encourage a dialogue about the issues facing small town America. Part of a new wave of documentary cinema that creates immersive environments that literally calls their audiences to action, Hollow is a story of hope that strives to not only address the issues through storytelling but help provide potential solutions. Director Elaine McMillion will take the Convergence stage to reflect on the project and the evolution of the documentary creator from filmmaker to facilitator, offering audiences an insider’s view to this essential piece of contemporary web-based storytelling.

A Short History of the Highrise - World Premiere
Director: Katerina Cizek
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada and The New York Times
Monday September 30, 6:30PM
A Short History of the Highrise is an interactive documentary that explores the 2,500-year global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world. The centerpiece of the project is four short films. The first three (Mud, Concrete and Glass) draw on The New York Times's extraordinary visual archives, a repository of millions of photographs which have largely been unseen in decades. Each film is intended to evoke a chapter in a storybook, with rhyming narration and photographs brought to life with intricate animation. The fourth chapter (Home) is comprised of images submitted by the public. The interactive experience incorporates the films and, like a visual accordion, allows users to dig deeper into the project’s themes with additional archival materials, text and micro-games. The festival premiere will include a screening of the films, followed by a walk-through demonstration of highlights from the interactive experience.


Making Movies as the Ultimate Social Medium
Presented in collaboration with Digital Hollywood NYC
Saturday, September 28 at 2:00PM
In the early 2000’s advances in inexpensive digital video cameras and easy to use editing software placed the means of production in the hands of any person with the will to become a filmmaker. It wasn’t long before web sites like YouTube and Vimeo provided creators with a way to get their work seen by a global audience. Technology is once again revolutionizing filmmaking – from professional creators to novice makers – this time fueled by crowdfunding and microfinance sites likes Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and Seed & Spark. With technology, distribution, and finance readily available to hungry creatives this panel of industry pros asks the question “has there ever been a better time to create content?”

Producing Convergence: A History of Multiplatform Collaboration
Presented in partnership with the Producers Guild of America New Media Council.
Saturday, September 28 at 3:30PM
The Producers Guild of America (PGA) has been recognizing producers working on platforms beyond television and movie screens for a decade, and in that time, the opportunities to create new media types has expanded exponentially. Seasoned PGA members will share some of their early work integrating the creative process on multiple platforms and describe how those techniques have evolved into what we see today. We will discuss the process, business models, team and tools, as well as the ins and outs of working with producers on multiple platforms as it relates to projects involving: film, animation, digital distribution and platform extension. The art of producing holds many similarities even though the art that is produced may lead to very different experiences. How do leaders in the field keep a handle on creative consistency while breaking new ground with technology? How do you produce successful convergent material?

Transmedia Storytelling & Documentary Film
Presented in partnership with the Writers Guild of America, East.
Saturday, September 28 at 12:30PM
The word “transmedia” often conjures images of interactive worlds filled with fictional characters and vast story arcs yet some of the most compelling work being done by creators today is in field of immersive, multiplatform documentaries. Moderated by Orlando Bagwell (MLK; Hymn: Remember Alvin Ailey; JustFilms), this panel will explore some of the most intriguing work being done in the field today - nonfiction pieces that tell their story in film, television, online, and in living color - and discuss the profound effects of synthesizing the cutting edge storytelling techniques with riveting documentary material. Featuring panelists actively developing immersive projects and those engaging with the form for the first time the discussion promises a twist on the classic adage – that the truth can be much more engaging than fiction.

Platform Agnostic, Brand Specific
Presented in collaboration with Digital Hollywood NYC
Sunday, September 29 at 12:30PM
What do trendy tastemakers, magazine publishers and traditional television networks have in common? They all need to become platform agnostic and transcend their roots to cross into new and uncharted territory. While Daily Candy is transforming from an aggregator into an original content generator with high aspirations, Condé Nast has long provided filmmakers with material for first-rate adaptations. HBO and Bravo on the other hand started out as TV’s innovators on cross platform extensions and quickly left their TV roots behind for HBOgo and Bravo-online. What does it take to succeed in a world increasingly defined by the content produced and less by the means audiences discover it and what can indie creators learn from these trendsetters?

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