VR stole the show at TFI Interactive

Tribeca Film Festival took place last month and along with a huge selection of traditional films, shone a light on all things interactive with Storyscapes, the interactive playground, the one-day interactive conference and the brand new VR arcade and Maker spaces.

Whilst VR continues to receive a lot of attention from just about everyone, everywhere, Tribeca balanced the focus with a range of speakers, projects and installations from across the interactive field.


The interactive offering at Tribeca kicked off with the Storyscapes exhibition, which featured 10 projects – a mixture of virtual reality and interactive, installation-based work.

“This year’s Storyscapes offerings are a reflection of today’s world. We live in a very charged period—from the political landscape to unprecedented violence—and the Storyscapes installations are compelling and engaging experiences that balance some of the sobering issues facing society, as well as inspiring and wonderful ones,” said Ingrid Kopp, Storyscapes curator.

The installations were generally interactive projects that can be accessed online, but sought to create something on a larger scale for the installation. Guy Maddin, the filmmaker who collaborated with the NFB to make Seances, did a great interview with Tribeca about the process and workflow of turning an online interactive piece into a physical installation.

Tech Crunch explored the other projects on show in this short video, focusing on the Guardian’s 6×9 and Jonathan Harris’ Network Effect in particular.

Notes on Blindness – a feature film turned interactive VR experience – scooped the Storyscapes award this year, judged by Jessica Brillhart (Google), Saschka Unseld (Oculus Story Studio), and Olga Serna (AT&T), the jury comment was:

“The most powerful stories allow us to see the world and its vast array of experiences through someone else’s eyes. One project took us on that journey in a most unexpected way. Through its creative use of a medium and its meticulous and elegantly crafted audio landscape. Through its dedication to nuance and aesthetic. Through its care and compassion not only for the protagonist, but for those who take the journey with him. Because as the piece so eloquently ends: ‘After all, being human is not seeing, it’s loving.'”

You can read about the other festival winners here. Notes on Blindness will also being appearing in the Cannes NEXT VR (!) programme later this year.

Exhibiting this interactive work remains to be a challenge, with VR presenting additional issues – something that was picked up in this Storyhunter piece on the event:

With so many projects sharing the same space, sounds often bled from one experience to the next. Interactives that relied on the power of their soundscapes were muddied by others in close proximity. Virtual reality films, which can run ten minutes long and rely on the availability of individual headsets, racked up lengthy waitlists and frustrated festival-goers, some of whom never saw the short films they came to view.

The silver lining is that demand for Storyscapes is high. If Tribeca’s room of immersive projects is any indication, there’s plenty of appetite for virtual reality and transmedia experiences among filmgoers.

Read the full article here.

TFI interactive

Although the Tribeca Film Festival was marking its 15th anniversary this year, as it’s younger sibling, TFI interactive celebrated it’s fifth year and took time to reflect on the field. Senior Director of Interactive at Tribeca Film Institute, Opeyemi Olukemi commented on in an Observer interview in the lead up to the event:

Instead of pulling from this really small pool of interactive artists, we basically we did an umbrella from four different categories. We have Story, Community, Maker, and Technology. And with these 16 speakers, we can infuse a new energy into this interactive community. Because in my opinion it has stagnated a bit. VR has had a huge uptick, but I think that everything else around interactivity has been swallowed. We’re trying to reassess why that is, and give it new life and meaning. And on top of that, we want to find how people work best across disciplines. Because when you find the best content out there, it’s when someone comes from the left field and thinks of a project in a totally different capacity.

You can read the full interview here.

The programme for the interactive day looked great and wonderfully varied as usual, unfortunately I couldn’t find much written about it specifically, so here are a few takeaways from Twitter instead:

Hacker and cybersecurity pro Jeff Moss (also known as Dark Tangent) presented during the conference and you can get a idea of what he was talking about in this Observer interview.

VR stole the show…

So despite having a range of interactive work on offer, from scouring the internet, VR seems to have stolen the show pulling the focus of the Wired, Verge and Vice Motherboard write ups. Robert De Niro, a founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, even tried out the Guardian’s 6×9 VR experience:

On VR, my favourite piece so far has been Liz Nord’s ‘5 Groundbreaking Ways to Tell Stories in the Future of Filmmaking‘, which includes VR director Oscar Raby’s comments on the role of the user:

“If you come from the filmmaker tradition, start by realizing that everything in the VR space is a suggestion. Camera work is outsourced to the user.”

Looking beyond VR, i’m keen to find out more about the Argus project, directed by Gan Golan, which was installed in Storyscapes and also featured in the Maker Space on the Interactive day: a performance intervention, video installation and wearable sculpture which directly intersects the current debate over police accountability and state surveillance, creating a space to bring together the many points of view required to have a real conversation on police violence.

Also worth checking out – Whitney Dow released the second installment of his ongoing interactive documentary production The Whiteness Project at Storyscapes. Titled Intersection of I, it focuses on millennial’s perceptions of race and identity.

It’s becoming obvious that as this field develops and grows into new and interesting spaces, it moves further from the fringe of festivals and into the main event. It feels like a wider audience is now paying attention to interactive – possibly spurned by VR – and the next year is hopefully going to see it grow in more interesting and exciting ways… With support and funding to match the interest.