#07 in review: Bandersnatch, Blast Theory, VR and dansathons

A rich theme, jam-packed lineup and ¡WORLD EXCLUSIVE! as #Bandersnatch producer Russell McLean took us through the tools that made a mainstream interaction film phenomenon.

The demos will be back in full force next time around but we tried something different for the 7th Artful Spark: two great panels offering diverse perspectives on what it means to produce interdisciplinary work.

Read on for a quick look back at “Artful Spark #07 Producers, Unite!”

“Budgets, Babysitting and the Bigger picture.”

Muki Kulhan – @mukiapproved

Formats may have changed, but the three Bs remain the same.

Muki has been practising them since the 90s, dragging various brands into the world of digital, whether as MTV’s first Executive Digital Producer for online in the 90s, helping the BBC bring The Voice to a digital audience or bringing 360 binaural AR to the world of rap.

“Scrums are weird with telly people.”

Dan Tucker – @tuckface74 – Sheffield Doc/Fest

Having worked across many different screen formats, Dan shared key takeaways from each – telly people grew to love the agile scrum – ending with some practical reflections on VR production and a £20k funding announcement!

Where he once thought VR was rubbish, he now curates Alternate Realities at Doc/Fest and believes that – beyond the technical production – it’s audience facilitation that is critical in delivering a great VR experience. Few people have it at home and touring shows are all they’re likely to see.

Ultimately producers need to delegate, trust their team and bring in experts – you don’t necessarily need to know the technical detail to produce VR, but you do need someone that does (E.g. don’t try and install an artist’s VR piece without them)

On tools of the trade, the one thing you need is a room covered in whiteboard paper (Dan has one at home) and if you’re making interactive fiction, apparently, the humble Rolodex is a great quick-access reference tool.

  Doc/Fest announces new £20k Alternate Realities commission.


“They didn’t even come close.”

Russell McLean – Black Mirror producer

The thrill of Russell’s talk was seeing the progression from 100-page PDF flow, via a sprawling and bug-laden Twine file put together by Charlie Brooker to Netflix’s custom-built (proprietary) software Branch Manager that coordinated more than 5 hours of Bandersnatch footage. The Reddit community made a valiant effort, but didn’t even come close.

As one of only two people who knew the flow inside out, Russell had the tricky task of coordinating various heads of department, which basically meant not telling people things because it was all too mind-meltingly complicated.

Their approach to shooting had to be refined over time. Actors were getting confused delivering disconnected segments, so they shot scenes story-line by story-line, which meant lots of dismantling and remounting of the set.

It seems Russell was the swan personified: perfectly calm on the surface, but paddling furiously beneath it.

“Producing sometimes feels like policing.”

Tim Wright – @moongolfer – National Film & Television School

With the longest bio known to Powerpoint, Tim responded to our invitation to provoke by comparing producing to policing because ultimately someone needs to lay down the law and put some constraints in place.

He also Toffler-ed us: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” (Alvin Toffler), wrote obscure poetry in Excel to prove an esoteric point and volunteered himself as Sarah Ellis’s worst mistake. Their Twitter + Romeo & Juliet experiment was poorly received, but that ‘mistake’ didn’t exactly halt Sarah’s trajectory…

Irreverent, endearing, self-deprecating and packed with great observations.

“Interdisciplinary teams talk different languages”

Matt Adams – @BlastTheory – Blast Theory

Too many takeaways to list – video of his full presentation coming soon – and no wonder; Matt and his co-directors have been collaborating innovative, groundbreaking and downright inspiring audience engagement projects for more than 27 years.

Even when discussing what is fast becoming a cliche – test early, test often – Matt gave one of the most thorough and well-evidenced endorsements. Testing is not just validation, but an act of making. Especially when you discover in testing that you don’t need to add anything else, you just need to polish the gem you’ve found.

“To anyone who attended my first art/tech projects – I’m sorry.”

JiaXuan Hon – @idanceinbetween

Starting with a brief guided visualisation, JiaXuan then brought us through her journey as a producer of technology-augmented dance performance – how do you encourage meaningful collaboration?

At one of her first projects for artists and technologists to work together, she encouraged both disciplines to explain how things worked, which was only partially successful. In future, they will move straight into making, where failures will be welcome!

“Know what you don’t know.”

Andrea Moccia – @NdrMoccia

Having started in “pre-narrative” – everything the audience experience up to the live event and essentially digital production – Andrea showed that all the glam jobs start with the basics.

He is now responsible for making sure the creative vision is achievable by acting as the pivot and translator between the creative and technical teams. Secret Cinema is a collision of film, theatre and live event, so they have created their own language of production to bring their unique events to life.

And when they move out of their comfort zone, they bring in the experts.

All the pics are on Flickr

We’ll be back in the Spring – get in touch if you’ve got something to demo or you’d like to speak!

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