From Sandy to Star Wars: Tribeca’s Storyscapes Astound and Amaze

One of the big buzz words in independent film these days (and film festivals) is transmedia or multimedia storytelling—telling a story through multiple platforms. The Sundance Film Festival has been a big champion of the genre with their program, New Frontier. Well, now the Tribeca Film Festival is getting into the mix this year with Storyscapes. Programmed by the Tribeca Film Institute’s director of Digital Initiatives, Ingrid Kopp, the exhibit space was a diverse mix of interactive stories that made you think as much as entertain.

Here’s a look back on the five installations. Yes, the exhibit is now closed, but the good news is that all of these projects live online.

A Journal of Insomnia

Storyscapes VIP Cocktail Reception - 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Why can’t some of us sleep? Insomnia is a debilitating disease and there are many causes for it. Hugues Sweeney of the National Film Board of Canada has produced this interactive documentary that delves into the reason for sleepless nights. When you go to the website you can make an appointment with “Insomnia” who will give you a time in the evening when it will call you. When Insomnia calls, it will ask you a series of questions, which will then be chronicled and uploaded to the site. At the installation, these recorded sessions taken from people across the globe were showcased as well as a small space where you can answer Insomnia’s questions as well as provide drawings that would then be projected on a wall.

Robots In Residence

Storyscapes VIP Cocktail Reception - 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

If you’ve been attending the Tribeca Film Festival at all this year you may have noticed a small cardboard contraption being carried around or people even talking to them. What you saw was BlabDroid, a mini robot that is paving the way for a new form of documentary filmmaking. Inspired by the test theory of an MIT computer scientist, robot maker Alexander Reben and filmmaker Brent Hoff (he’s also the screenwriter of the upcoming Ol’ Dirty Bastard bio pic starring Michael K. Williams) are behind BlabDoid, which walks (well, rolls) around the streets of New York and asks questions (in the voice of a 7-year-old) to random people, leading to revealing answers which it captures with its digital camera eyes. See some of the footage over at the BlabDroid Kickstarter page (yes, you might get your own robot documentarian one day).

Sandy Storyline

Storyscapes VIP Cocktail Reception - 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Following the catastrophe that was Hurricane Sandy thousands upon thousands of people had stories of where they were and how they pulled through. Creators of this participatory documentary—Rachel Falcone, Michael Premo and Laura Gottesdiener—had their own as after the storm passed and recovery began they quickly joined the grassroots recovery. This led to the idea of capturing the events that unfolded and the region’s experience by collecting audio, video, photos and text stories. The Sandy Storyline team showcased some of those stories at Storyscapes and asked for those attending to share their memories (you can also do so on their website now), including photos from their phones which were then projected on small screens at their exhibit. Their space also had charging stations, a useful trick to cause foot traffic at a film festival, but also a reenactment of their own Sandy experience as the Sandy Storyline team were responsible for a make-shift charging station following Sandy.

Star Wars Uncut


Storyscapes VIP Cocktail Reception - 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

You may recall in 2010 the Internet sensation Star Wars Uncut, a fan film of Star Wars: A New Hope made up entirely of footage submitted by fans of the saga. Well, Casey Pugh, creator of the New Hope film is now putting together a fan version of The Empire Strikes Back. At Storyscapes the footage collected so far of the Empire version of Star Wars Uncut was displayed on a giant wall broken into small thumbnails that you could shuffle through and select using a tablet. There has been so much footage for Empire that there are duplicates of scenes and characters. So with a swipe of your finger you could easily subcategorize and watch, say, all the version of scenes with Boba Fett or any scene that has an X-Wing in it, if you so desired. There’s still time to submit to the Empire fan film (which has the full backing of LucasFilms), go to the website and select which scene you want to take on. But hurry, submissions close May 1. See the trailer.

This Exquisite Forest

Storyscapes VIP Cocktail Reception - 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Inspired by the surrealist game “exquisite corpse,” Aaron Koblin and music video director Chris Milk are behind this web-based animation experiment. Visitors can go to the site and create animations on their browsers then allowing other visitors to build on the animation, leading to the creation of branching narratives resembling a tree. The installation at Storycapes showed off some of the existing works as well as offering visitors to create their own on tablets.