By Coline Drevo and Carolina Kaempf, Junior Project Managers
The world’s first immersive storytelling festival took place from October 7 to 9, on the northeast corner of Central Park. On this occasion, the spectacular Africa Center, at 5th Avenue and 109th Street in New York City, metamorphosed into an imaginary world where virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality experiences, and much more, were at the center of attention.
As a proud contributor of the Future of Storytelling Festival (FoST), swissnex Boston dispatched four staff members to the opening event, where they had the opportunity to interact with more than 70 hands-on exhibits, demos of the latest cutting-edge technologies, satellite events, and panel discussions. At the opening ceremony, music and performances regaled the large audience in a theatrical and festive atmosphere.
Three exhibits at this year’s exhibition were Swiss: Late Shift by CtrlMovie, the world’s first interactive cinematic movie, Birdly, the VR (virtual reality) flight simulator by SOMNIACS, and the world premiere of Break a Leg, from Swiss design studio Apelab.
We had the chance to have a little chat with each of the founders of the three Swiss projects at the festival: Emilie Joly from Apelab, Max Rheiner from SOMNIACS and Tobias Weber from CtrlMovie. Here we want to share with you some quotes and impression of these creative people.
Q: What is the Future of Storytelling Festival according to you?
Tobias: Well it’s a collection of loads and loads of works, some are finished solid products and some of them are experiments – experiments which are very, very important to define what the future of storytelling could be. Because you don’t know until you try. Because when you do completely new stuff you also meet a lot of skepticism so it’s cool to have festivals like this which celebrates what we do and give ourselves a platform. So people can experience and talk about it and the whole process of storytelling is developing and a new way of storytelling can actually happen.
Emilie: I think the Future of Storytelling is a place where you can discover spaces and worlds you have never seen before and that in a way that you interact with your whole body, your mind, your eyes, and senses.
Max: The Future of Storytelling is definitely in the area of immersion. Of course they talk about storytelling in different ways, but for me it’s like, you’re really embedded in a story and a little dash of artificial intelligence.
Q: What will storytelling look like in the future?
Emilie: Well I guess that we are still very in the beginning. It’s like creating a new medium, similar when theater or the cinema got created – anything new. We’re just building the box. So right now the experiences are like a starting point. Now we need to build the tools, we need to build some rules as well – what they will be like. I think the future will be very bright.
Max: I think especially VR is somehow a first taste of what could happen with enhanced possibilities to tell stories. And I think in that sense AR (augmented reality) can become very big as soon as you have more or less the right devices.
Q: Do you have special wishes or expectations for your project at the FoST Fest?
Tobias: For us it’s a platform to showcase what we do, it’s a networking platform as well – to meet other people, to sort of spread the word about our film, it’s important for us to share this with other filmmakers. And on one hand it’s important to have a very diverse idea of distribution channels because in film you know you have cinemas scaled down to DVD and all of that. And this whole range has to be sort of repudiated for CtrlMovie because we have to design all the players and all those platforms again. So we have to spread those. And on the other hand it’s also to bring out new content, try out new genres – we now made a thriller but I think it could be very cool to make something more in the realm of drama.
Q: Now that you have seen all the other projects at the festival, is there something that really inspires you for your own project?
Emilie: I would say that the Google Spotlight Stories are very inspiring to us. When we started on 360 storytelling, they were also starting to work on the same kind of stories and getting animation, working together with 360 interactive and they have done an excellent job. They are a really good inspiration for the work we are doing as well. And I think everyone is doing so much and we can get inspired by most of the projects here – I mean here is only the top level. So there is something to pick in every project here.
Tobias: Absolutely, the U.S. market obviously is huge! We have shot our film in English because we wanted to be compatible with this market as well. It will be very important – and New York is a great springboard to enter that market. We hope to be distributing Late Shift to cinemas here in 2017. At the moment we’re more successful in Russia but we really hope to be in the U.S. market soon as well.
Q: What’s happening in Switzerland? Is there a market for AR/VR in Switzerland too?
Emilie: Well I think Switzerland has a lot of really amazing talents. You can see that in every international festival, the Swiss groups are always there. So the talent is there, the design is there! Then in terms of markets that’s harder, because we are a small country and entertainment is not that big in Switzerland. So I’m thinking that showcasing in the U.S. or even in Asia or everywhere around the world is very helpful. We’re getting very excellent feedback. Switzerland is just known for design and good experiences, especially in the VR space right now. So we have been very successful.
Q: What would be your advice for the next generation – for the students who are studying AR/VR right now?
Max: I think the most important thing is always get educated in the history of the scene. Now a lot of people just start with VR, but there is a rich history actually, going back several years, which they can study and build their work upon it.
I think at the moment in Switzerland we have a great opportunity because there are several VR projects which really hit big internationally and so we really have to use the chance to build upon that. Because in VR and AR everyone starts to get into the topic. And we are really in a good place – we’re such a small country – but we just have to proceed and do something with it.