WATCH WITH MY EYES

Filmgate brings women creators together to explore VR/XR reality at The Montréal/Miami New Narratives Lab


By Yulia Strokova

The total distance from Montreal to Miami is 1635 miles -- about a five hour flight. With virtual/mixed reality, there is no timing and no barriers. Put on the smart glasses and be wherever you want.

“I remember how I spent several hours in the multi-layered world of Magic Leap, then took the glasses, looked outside and everything was like a little bit boring,” chuckles Diliana Alexander, producer, independent filmmaker, and the Executive Director of Filmgate Miami, which is challenging local storytelling with new programs, tools and, as she said, mind-blowing goosebump-inducing experiences. 

“I love stories but I also love experiences that are be anchored in this regional context. What does it mean to be human in such a dehumanizing time? Florida is a hot pot for discussions of all these issues we have faced during the pandemic and the blueprint of what's going to happen to our planet.”

The Montréal/Miami New Narratives Lab is looking for cis, trans-women and non-binary creators, with strong ideas and unique perspectives, who are based in Miami or in Montréal. Tech background or coding skills are not required.  Six winners will be invited to Miami and then Montreal to attend workshops, develop their concepts and to pitch the potential co-producing funders.

“With Magic Leap and other outstanding partners, we’ll be able to create a so-called human toolbox around the artists so that a tech team could help creators realize and implement their idea. I understand as a producer that one of the hardest things is the idea and its execution. Of course, you need money, and time, and technical support; distribution is always a challenge. But the idea is the essence of the story. It needs to be profound and innovative.”

The fact that immersive storytelling is rapidly progressing, Diliana confirms with no doubts. The virtual devices will be cheaper and more advanced, the behind-the-glasses world will be more realistic, the audience with long-lasting lock-down experience will be more demanding. Miami immersive storytelling has just begun.

“There are some virtual projects we are producing but we don't have film artists from South Florida who could compete at the national level,” continues Diliana. “That's what we want to change. Our aim is to level-up our local creators to be world players.

Among the partners of The Montréal / Miami New Narratives Lab are key international players in digital storytelling such as the National Film Board of Canada and MUTEK, globally known for its annual namesake festival, which has taken place in Montreal for over 20 years. The Montreal-based not-for-profit organization has branches from Mexico to Tokyo, and is dedicated to promoting electronic music and the digital arts in Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to partner with our colleagues from Filmgate Miami and O Cinema, who have a strong film background and desire to bring new, immersive experience to the market and help local creators to grow,” says Katharina Meissner, Head of Strategic Development of MUTEK, in her phone interview to Impact.Edition.

“The US production market is huge, but for some financial reasons, especially funding structure, I cannot say that I have seen so much collaboration between the big players on the West Coast. I hope we could help accelerate these cultural exchanges and combine our efforts across the borders and continue the work of gender parity in the global tech and creative industries.”

Since the advent of digital technology -- and now new XR tech -- telling our stories, engaging with friends and strangers alike has never been more important nor more powerful in connecting us to our humanity.

“For any community being represented in culture, being understood, being kind of translated to an audience, it's always as a door opener, especially at this time when racial injustice still exists because of this lack of understanding,” notes Katharina. “You can watch TV and stay informed. But this is an out-of-body experience, a simple way to see the world. 

“Imagine: I'm a woman and there is an experience where I could see the world in the body of a man. Or if I can really immerse myself in another community and see the world through this person's or this community's eyes. It's not just understanding and digesting information.

“This is an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, questioning your own identity, your values, your established relationship with this reality in order to become more tolerant, to demonstrate more empathy, it's living experience in the end, with huge exploratory, transformative power.”
FILMGATE MOTHERSHIP: A series of talks, rants and panels on XR in 2020