|Posted on June 26, 2012 at 10:10 AM|
In this blog I want to discusses the third pilot screening of the interactive spectators project which took place on the 16th of May. With this final screening there was a deliberate intention to broaden the potential audience beyond specifically film students. This was essentially for two reasons: first I wanted to collect data and reactions from as wide a group of participants as possible and analyse how a greater demographic range (academic staff, students and non-academics) of respondents in one single screening would react to the twitter stream. Secondly, it was always the intention to organise a distinctive ‘public event’ through which to expand the possibilities of using the system. The screening was advertised both inside and outside the university using twitter and Facebook with the added incentive of a drinks reception afterwards. I wanted to get some immediate feedback particularly from staff members regarding their impressions how the system worked. Furthermore, a group of level one students filmed whole event itself for a short documentary which be used on the website.
After previous feedback it was obvious that the two-screen arrangement, used in the previous screening, preserved the cinematic integrity of the experience. This was even more important as the film being shown was the retro sci-fi Moon (Jones, 2009) a visually striking film that would benefit greatly from the full capacity of sound and image that the auditorium provides. I had canvassed various opinions about the type of film that would be both broadly popular and potentially lend itself to an interesting twitter debate. Indeed, understanding the types of film that would suit the interactive system is an aspect of the analysis that I will discuss as part of the final research analysis. Moon was considered a good choice because it is not too narratively complex and is quite slowly paced, perhaps giving time for audience members to tweet, but it is also thematically and aesthetically complex providing scope for an in-depth and wide ranging commentary. The nostalgic futurism of the films’ tone also (somewhat tangentially) parallelled the interplay between old and new medias, which this project interrogates.
The selection of Moon became even more apposite when I contacted, Gavin Rothery (@GavRov) who was the artistic director and visual effects supervisor on the film, and he agreed to contribute to the event. I invited Gavin to Falmouth in order to participate in a Q&A but the short notice meant this was impossible to schedule. Instead he agreed to give an introduction to the film on Skype, and then provide a commentary and respond to audience questions, via twitter, throughout the screening. The specific contribution of someone attached to the film undoubtedly engendered another level of interactive possibility that I had previously considered in a circumspect way, but never fully realised its potential. Director commentaries (on DVDs), webchats, liveblogs and special events in which filmmakers reflect or discuss their own films are, of course, nothing new. However, the development of an organic, audience-led discussion, using twitter as a virtual forum, not only for ‘traditional’ film criticism but a mode of reciprocal film deconstruction between audience and filmmaker, has thus become another strand of this project.
Setting up the technology to provide a smooth transition between the Skype interview, the twitter feed and the screening itself provided the main logistical problem. Two laptop computers were required to run the Skype and Twitter in conjunction, along with the main system for playing and projecting the Blu-ray. Thankfully, there were no technological issues and the integration of systems worked perfectly throughout. In fact, I could not have envisaged how well the combination of the Skype introduction from Gavin, followed his participation in the twitter stream, would work. I began, as with previous screenings, by outlining a little background to the project and explaining how the twitter interaction works. Then, there were a few anxious moments as I Skype-called Gavin and a few seconds went by until he answered. But then he appeared on the screen. Having never used Skype with a live audience I didn’t know how the interview would come across; talking to someone who is sat in their own home environment, yet who is addressing a cinema audience (see images blow). There was sense of intimacy imbued by having someone speak from private space projected onto the big screen, which was further enhanced by the enthusiasm and detail with which Gavin spoke.
After around 20 minutes of questions we began the screening of Moon with Gavin continuing to make comments and answer questions using the twitter forum. The stream thus took a different form than the previous pilot screenings focusing much more around specific questions to Gavin (from the audience) and the many anecdotes about the making of the film he outlined. It was much less centred on the audience’s own critique of the film from an academic perspective. Furthermore, about halfway through the screening, the director of the film, Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) entered into the debate having obviously seen the discussion in twitter. This had not been prearranged and shows how the system induces multiple, unforeseen levels of interaction and communication.
After the screening the consensus was that this event had offered a new dimension to the interactive possibilities than the previous screenings had allowed. There still were criticisms which centred are distraction from the narrative and the difficulty of following the film and tweeting simultaneously. Nearly everyone agreed the addition of the filmmaker’s comments undoubtedly enhanced the enjoyment and usefulness of the screening. There was, however, a suggestion that the discussion had been quite specialised, focusing very heavily on the technical aspects of film and, at times, requiring a quite specific knowledge of science fiction. This could have left certain members of the audience ostracised and perhaps feeling they couldn’t contribute to such a discussion. Overall my primary evaluations of this final screening that will be explored in further analysis is threefold: 1) the system doesn’t automatically cut through all the barriers to interaction that participants may feel 2) the system has a range of applications and uses depending on the film, audience and how a specific screening is set up 3) the stream produced can be shaped to a certain degree but its organic development and unpredictability is a key aspect of its potential value.
Categories: Project blog