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About This Project

Posted on Mar 13, 2016 by in Project Notes | 0 comments

CinemaMutation is the “operating system” that controls the interactive room containing HotelCity. The software was developed to support any type of map-based storytelling, and supports interactive and generative modes. The project was first shown at the La Manufacture 10 year anniversary celebration.

The project was developed in part for Dr. Andrew Sempere’s PhD work on digital scenography:

HotelCity is an exercise in psychogeographic cinema. Originally called 46°31’26.4’’ N 6° 38’9.6’’ E (the GPS coordinates for Switzerland), the film mixes elements of genre narrative, film-noir and spy films in particular, to tell the story of a secret society and their machinations in and around the city of Lausanne. The film is shot as a series of vignettes which can be watched independently or in one of several orders, chronologically or thematically. The initial intention during filming was to include every graduate of the La Manufacture acting program making for a cast in the hundreds. Not every graduate is featured in the lm but the cast contains fifty to sixty different characters and as many story lines, all shot in different locations around Lausanne.

Due to the large number of characters the lm can be watched by following the action of one character throughout the story or by remaining in one location and watching the various stories which take place in that location. The film is like the city itself: many stories overlapping each other, occasionally crossing, influencing each other even when the influence is invisible or seems incidental.

The tenth year anniversary celebration took place on September 15, 2014, midway through the production of the film. The intention for that event was to show the work in progress while emphasizing the production as an ongoing event. The initial idea was to present the public with an editing room. Called “Rush Room,” this installation was imagined as an editing suite which visitors would be allowed to enter in order to create their own version of the film which would be presented alongside the most recent “directors cut” of a linear version of the film. Early on it became obvious that a real editing room was not the appropriate way to present the material, especially for an opening party where it was expected that a large number of visitors would encounter the film in a short period of time. Editing is a special skill that takes a great deal of time. As most of the visitors were not expected to be film editors it seemed unlikely that they would be willing or able to spend time editing footage.

Instead I decided to try to create an environment that would conveyed the idea and experience of editing. While presenting the footage I wanted to give the audience some sense of what it was like to make a film like Hotel City. I wanted to create an immersive model. Not a dumbed-down editing tool, but a situation in which people would directly experience mental processes similar to those encountered when editing footage and mentally connecting locations, themes and people across space and time. It also seemed important to convey directly a sense of distributed place. Initial brainstorming included an idea of an actual physical dérive around the city of Lausanne, perhaps culminating in a clandestine meeting where participants would receive a physical key to an apartment somewhere in the city where the lm was being screened, but unfortunately this seemed impractical to execute.

In a bid to capture all of these ideas FX and I settled on a game-like approach. I developed a storytelling engine called CinemaMutation, which allows the audience to explore locations, footage and related documentation fluidly. In addition we began to discuss the role that computation was playing in the story.

A kind of meta-character emerged through our discussions and the development of the CinemaMutation software. ..the film was making itself known and requesting that we present the content in a certain way. Playing with this idea, FX and I discussed a fantasy scenario in which all of the footage and a computer would be locked into a cinema for 100 years to be discovered by an unknown audience in the future. In this version of the story, the future discovery would reveal that the computer had spent a century trying to complete the work the human authors had left behind. The computer had been making films, running through every possible iteration in a desperate bid to understand the story encoded in the data that it had been given. This idea evolved into the scenogra- phy for the 10 year anniversary presentation. Rush Room became an abandoned editing suite, filled with equipment for surveillance and lm making. The filmmakers were nowhere to be seen, but visitors were allowed to sift through the artifacts they had left behind. Computer terminals provided access to actual surveillance cameras mounted around the room as well as allowing visitors to watch Hollywood block- busters which had influenced various scenes in Hotel City. The script of the film and related documents were scattered around as well, encouraging visitors to encounter elements of the film and its production at their own pace. In effect the room itself became the experience of making the film as the visitors put together their own story from the information at hand. By staging a situation where the audience was able to explore the material of both the film and the filmmaking process we created a situation that was similar to the process of making the lm itself. We hoped to catalyze an experience and convey a particular understanding of film and the city that was in the heads of the filmmakers.

-Andrew Sempere Lausanne 2015


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