They can romanticize us so, mirrors, and that is their secret: what a subtle torture it would be to destroy all the mirrors in the world: where then could we look for reassurance of our identities?
- Truman Capote (Other Voices, Other Rooms)
I’m working on a treatment for my short film at the moment. Right now its still a bit jumbled, and I don’t yet know how to finish it – will keep working on it!
A podcast wakes a man up in his city apartment. We hear the audio.
‘The festival of Le starts tomorrow, meaning that from 6am, a city wide, week long suspension of personalisation services will be in effect. To get the most out of the festival we encourage you to take it slowly at first, as many find the first day disorienting. We would like to remind you that while personalisation services are disabled, your actions and preferences throughout the festival will affect your profile and your personalisation algorithm after the event.’
The man walks to the window. It is a beautiful day. He lives in a wealthy part of town – old industrial buildings are converted into airy cafes and work places. In between the buildings are lush pastures where urban cattle graze. As he steps out onto the street, the buildings around him are full of news and advice on world affairs, healthy eating, mindfulness and yoga. He sees the headline ‘UN Spends 7 Billion on Lenses for Refugees’. He chooses a recipe for dinner tonight and around him the city shifts to become even more idyllic. Plants spring forth from balconies and shops selling organic produce glow with an unnatural beauty. Suddenly a child runs across the man’s path and he swerves to avoid colliding with her. To the man she appears dressed in her school uniform.
Looking up from the girl’s perspective we see the man but he appears as a man in armour. The idyllic hipster city has changed into a fantasy landscape. She bows to the man and speaks an apology in a foreign language. She then continues to run down the street which now appears as a bustling fantasy marketplace toward her school. An advert on a nearby building shows a new role playing game. She stops and stares at it, and as she does, the world around her slowly changes, taking on characteristics of the advert’s atmosphere and architecture. A monster from this world approaches her, hand outstretched – she screams and runs.
Switching view to the monster’s perspective we see the ‘monster’ as a beggar. Over the shoulder of this homeless woman we see the school girl running down the street, toward a building simply labelled as a Primary School. The building is on an island surrounded by water. The beggar sees the city as a series of walkways suspended above water, with safe routes and refuges marked by the presence of the walkways. Looking back toward the building from which the man emerged earlier, it now appears as a gold plated, garishly luxurious edifice, completely surrounded by water. Graffiti across its façade shows a politician with the caption ‘the filthy rich are stealing your livelihoods; I am on your side’.
The man wonders the streets in the evening as he makes his way home from work. A glowing sign on a nearby restaurant tells him his friends are inside. He sees a teen spray-painting the wall of the restaurant in a back alley. The teen is writing ‘Kill Prosthetic Nature’.
From the teen’s point of view the wall is already covered in graffiti and hateful posters. He sees the man as a lavishly dressed executive who shouts at him ‘get out of here!’.
The man watches the teen slink away back down the alley. As he shakes his head, the fresh graffiti quickly morphs into a beautiful creeper vine on the brick wall of the restaurant.
In his apartment the man lounges on a sofa, reclining as he watches a news report on the ceiling. His house is a hipster haven – minimally decorated antique furniture, supports burning incense and an abundance of succulents. As he pours himself coffee we hear the news report:
‘This will be the first time the city has participated in the festival of Le and we are expecting it to cause quite a stir! It is thought that the festival will bring over 15 million international tourists to the city over the coming week.’
‘In everyday life, your lens is your mirror. Starting tomorrow, for a week your lens will be society’s mirror. Who knows what will change and what you’ll see. I’m a bit scared to be honest, what if I turn out to be a minority? [laughs]’
The video cuts out as we realise the man has fallen asleep on his sofa.
He wakes to find his house bare. The coffee cup from last night is still there, and the incense has completely burned down. Some small antique objects remain but otherwise his house is white and bare. He fiddles with the lens in his eye – a notification appears on the wall in generic font: ‘The Festival of Le has started: all personalisation services disabled.’ Below is a counter counting down the time until the festival finishes.
He groggily gets up and walks over to his window and looks down at the street. The scene is transformed. Barely anything is recognisable from his normal view. The pastures have disappeared and are instead replaced with a bustling marketplace. No cows graze, instead hydroponic farms infill space between buildings. The streets are much busier than he remembers – more people than ever stream through the neighbourhood he thought was his.
As he steps out into the street the images on the buildings around him have changed. Most adverts and news reports are in foreign languages. He gets an advert for some Filipino talent show he has never heard of. What used to be a wall of vegetation has now opened into a vibrant street market he did not even know existed – barely 10 meters from his front door.
TO BE CONTINUED…
The film would need to somehow conclude by showing how the Festival of Le reveals hidden aspects of culture and in doing so, alters/expands the personalised world-views of the individuals once the festival concludes. The agenda of the film would be to spatially exaggerate today’s screen-based filter bubble phenomenon, whilst proposing the need for a contextualising, impersonal way to access culture in the future (not as a replacement to our own world views but as an occasional reminder).
I hope to utilise interactions between characters – physical collisions, conversations etc. to switch universes and I’m currently wondering whether this means a first person perspective is most suitable. Also trying to decide whether this will work better (and more practically) as fully animated or as a live action film with composited animation within…
I like Keichii Matsuda’s method of storytelling in his film Hyper-Reality, although for my scenario I think that it is better not to have such a clear visually distinct language for the augmented vs. the real environment. The idea of the echo-chamber is more powerfully communicated if personalised augmentations to reality are seamlessly visually integrated rather than being overlays with distinct ‘digital’ characteristics.
By reducing the site of the film to one district in a metaphorical city, I hope that the film can better address the individual scale implications of Le. I think the film should function as a condenser of Le’s universe, while I can potentially further expand it in the future through more issues of the magazine (for TS and otherwise).