The Future is Now: 5 Things pushing the art and form of storytelling

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I Love Your Work, by Jonathan Harris, played in the New Frontier section at the 2014 Festival.

As I reflect on my tenure with Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, I’ve been considering some ways innovation is advancing the art of storytelling into the future (the future is now, after all). The role of “new” technology in the process may surprise you; new technologies are exciting tools building on the rich foundation of storytelling and experimentation. Here are 5 things I can definitively say are pushing the hand of progress.

1. The Internet

One might protest that the Internet is not so new. But filmmakers and artists are using online interactive immersive experiences to share narratives in new ways, using new web technologies. They are building on the work of pioneers from just a few years ago, who were using online story designs like “dots on a map,” as featured in an inaugural New Frontier Story Lab project, Reinvention Stories

Out My Window, A Short History of the Highrise, by Katerina Cizek for the New York Times Op-Docs and National Film Board Canada
I Love Your Work, by Jonathan Harris, featured at the Sundance Film Festival 2014

2. Canada

Canada? Yes indeed, through the National Film Board of Canada interactive (NFB), the public producer of artistic, inventive, and socially relevant audiovisual content. In the emerging New Frontier marketplace, support, financial and otherwise, is crucial, and the forward-thinking NFB has created fertile ground for development. 

Welcome to Pine Point, by New Frontier Story Lab Alumni The Goggles
Bear 71, Creators Leanne Allison and New Frontier Story Lab Creative Advisor Jeremy Mendes, featured at the Sundance Film Festival 2012 
The Last Hunt, by Alexi Hobbs
Fort McMoney, by David Dufresne, produced in collaboration with TOXA.

3. Games

Games generally are a universal part of human experience across cultures. Indie video games are using new and often surprising kinds of experiences and content to experientially share narratives. The original ARG (Alternate Reality Game), The Beast, was the seed of what people began to think of as transmedia (many of the original creators formed 42 Entertainment, helmed by CEO and New Frontier Story Lab creative advisor Susan Bonds). Even no-tech board games are au courant these days. Personally I’m very curious to see what the new ARG/LARP (Live Action Role Play game) looks like. 

Kill Shakespeare the Board Gameby the New Frontier Story Lab alumni Kill Shakespeare team Anthony del Col and Conor McCreery
Gone Home, by the Fullbright Company
dys4ia, by Anna Anthropy
Babycastles, Current exhibit features indie games exploring "lived Muslim experience,” dovetailing a collection of hip hop games.

4. Collaboration

Perhaps again you say, “this is nothing new!” But we’re discovering new possibilities and roles as technologists converge with more traditional storytellers to forge unique and fertile creative relationships. Creative technologists with a background in storytelling as well as technology deepen the potential of both. At the CalArts graduation ceremony this year, speaker John Lasseter, an early proponent of computers in animation, and now the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, described artistic collaboration not as fighting for ever-smaller pieces of the pie, but the making of a bigger pie. 

The Wilderness Downtown
, by New Frontier Story Lab Creative Advisor and New Frontier Alum Aaron Koblin, Google Creative Lab and New Frontier Story Lab Alum Chris Milk, for the band Arcade Fire.
Windy Day, by Pixar and Motorola.
PETLAB, a joint project of Games for Change and Parsons The New School for Design, teaming up with a wide roster of organizations. Past projects include Manahatta: The Game, with the Wildlife Conservation Society and New Youth City Learning Network; and Re:Activism, tracing the history of riots, protests, and other political episodes in the history of New York City, originally developed for the Come Out And Play Festival. 

5. The new Virtual Reality

Finally, the truly “technological” on this list, this Virtual Reality is not the “virtual” of the 1990s. When Nonny de La Peña debuted Hunger in Los Angeles at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 with Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey, the headset was already capturing the minds of developers—and artists--before being bought by Facebook in a $2 billion deal. 

Sound + Vision,
 by New Frontier Story Lab Alum Chris Milk, featured at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014
Gender Swap: part of A Machine to Be Another, by BeAnotherLab
Second Livestock, Oculus Rift for chickensby Austin Stewart

Honorable Mentions:

Biometrics The Ascent ; Body/Mind/Change

Data I Want You To Want Me; Flight Patterns

Apps Silent History, Touch 

Installation Evolution of Fearlessness; What’s He Building in There 

Performance This World Made Itself; Untitled Opera About Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs (forthcoming)

Ruthie Doyle served as the inaugural New Frontier Story Lab Intern from September 2013 to May 2014. She is a filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Often lyrical and impressionistic, her work makes a non-literal exploration of issues surrounding family, memory, identity, gender and sexuality. Ruthie's past work includes interactive screen pieces: for performance via physical computing, and for audience engagement using mobile phones. She is also influenced by her social justice activism and work in health and healing. 

Past projects have appeared on national television and numerous online outlets including MTV, Vice, and Bust magazine; in New York art spaces, including Monkey Town, Brooklyn Fireproof, and Glasslands Gallery; at the Sundance Film Festival; and in The Museum of Modern Art and the Arnhem Fashion Biennial (The Netherlands). Work she’s assisted or crewed on have also appeared in the Whitney Biennial, the Cannes Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival, among many others.

Ruthie earned her BA in new genres performance and socio-behavioral public health (with a focus on gender and sexuality) from Sarah Lawrence College and studied photography in Florence, Italy. She later studied as a Master's candidate within NYU Tisch School of the Arts’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television; and is currently attending CalArts in pursuit of an MFA in Film/Video.

Lead photo:

I Love Your Work, by Jonathan Harris, played in the New Frontier section at the 2014 Festival.