Trevor Groth was looking for something splashy to help kick off the inaugural online show at the Sundance Film Festival.
So when Groth, who programs both the online and terrestrial offerings at the festival, came across an animated short called QRIME (pronounced like Crime), he knew he had something.
QRIME is an animated short produced by Motomichi Nakamura, who lives in Ecuador and had a difficult time communicating with Groth. After several attempts to track down Nakamura, Groth succeeded and convinced the animator to let the Sundance Online Film Festival show his work.
“It’s really interesting and out there,” Groth said. “Now he’s going to have a venue for people to see his films. With the online world going through some growing pains, we want to encourage people to continue making art.”
So the online festival opened its doors to moviemakers looking to make a splash with Internet-only movies. The opportunity to push the bounds of the new medium brought out the University of Southern California’s Labyrinth project.
Headed by Marsha Kinder, the project seeks to combine the imagery of the cinema with the interactivity of the Internet.
Kinder’s two projects splice film, animation and the facets of the Internet together to tell short stories. But Kinder said the two projects – which run roughly 90 to 120 minutes in length but will debut online in 15-minute blocks – require viewers to do more than just click on hypertext for the interactivity.
“At certain points you (are) asked questions which you answer,” Kinder said. “We have a game of anagrams at a certain point. In Memories and Desire, you are in charge of mixing the music, the movement of the sex hunters, and voiceovers and settings. We have a turntable that can be moved to mix the music.”
Through a series of randomly generated choices, viewer interaction and narrative structure, users are guaranteed a different experience in each movie.
Besides the interactive components, the films made specifically for the Internet offer viewers a different experience than they would normally get in theaters, Groth said. A film called The New Arrival allows viewers to make use of a 360-degree camera, essentially panning around a scene while the movie is playing.
However, animations still make up the bulk of submissions this year, Groth said – not all of which were made for the Internet.
Wave Twisters –The Movie is a modern day telling of Disney’s Fantasia that grew out of a scratch album from DJ Qbert. He made the album from mixes of old Spiderman and Superman children’s records, then handed it to four animators and asked them to create a movie.
“This is a concert album and Qbert asked us to imagine what it would look like,” said co-director Sid Garon. “So we reverse-engineered a movie out of. All of the soundtrack came first, so it’s like having the soundtrack to Star Wars and then trying to visualize what that would look like.”
Three years later, Garon completed the project without ever stepping foot in the same room with his three cohorts. Doug Cunningham drew the characters, along with Garon; Henry helped direct the project; and Tricia Golubey did the lip-synching and character animations.
By uploading images back and forth through an FTP server, the group created a 45-minute movie meant to be seen on the big screen.
Because of technological constraints – it needs to be viewed with at least 30 frames per second or the animation gets lost –Sundance can only put clips up on the website.
“It was actually made for television, although it’s going to play in movie theaters,” Garon said. “We’ve had a bunch of interest. We never intended this for the Internet.”
However, Garon said the group has received a lot of interest in the project and expect to make it commercially available after the festival.