TIFF12: Renga and the future of digital, gaming in film – part two

During the Toronto International Film Festival, Playback has featured a series of Q&As with festival programmers and insiders on trends in the films they program and the buzz they’re hearing from distributors.

In part one of this Q&A, TIFF director of public programs Shane Smith and TIFF Nexus programmer Nicholas Pagee talked about market interest in digital projects for film and how traditional and digital/game producers can better collaborate. Here, they break down Renga, a huge multi-player, in-theatre laser game, and discuss digital opportunities for Canadian creators in the global marketplace.

Is Renga an example of what cinephiles and gamers alike can expect in the future, as digital and gaming content converges with the traditional film space?

We’ve seen a lot of different methods tried for making the cinema space more interactive, including crowd voting, audience use of controllers, etc, but the camera-vision and laser-pointer system used by Renga undoubtedly offers a more compelling, original and crowd-pleasing experience. While there is room for evolution in this system, we (and the other festivals who have programmed it) all agree that it’s a watershed moment, and this has led some to speculate on whether it will indeed represent a new genre. No doubt there will be a lot of attention on the potential of this system for not only in-cinema narrative gaming events but also for other forms of interactive engagement.

Games and play are a literacy everyone understands and, thanks to blockbuster cross-over franchises, game culture is tied more than ever into film culture, pop culture, internet culture, comics culture, etc.

We can’t wait to see how events like Renga are going to converge with existing and other developing technologies to provide entirely new experiences for audiences. The cinema space itself is really a big empty box and now, thanks to digital technology, the innovations and experiments that take place in that box are limited only by our imaginations. Renga takes the communal aspect of cinema and turns it into an adventure requiring collaboration, communication and a sense of fun. It’s an experience like no other you’ve ever had in the cinema.

What are the opportunities for Canadian new media/gaming/digital creators in the great, wide global film landscape?

Canada has invested in technology, infrastructure and training and is known as a global leader in the kind of high-tech skills it takes to produce cutting-edge digital and interactive content. Whether it’s high-end CGI animation, coding and games development, attracting large technology companies or supporting the growth of grass roots and independent gaming and digital media companies, there’s depth and quality in these sectors that can only benefit all.

Underscoring this wealth of skilled and educated creators, Canada is already being recognized internationally for a number of innovative projects, like Bear 71 (from the NFB), and the work of CapyBara Games (a Toronto game studio). And the government is supporting the growth of the sector by using tax credits to encourage large studios and production facilities to move and work here.

So we have the people, we have the tools, and we have the infrastructure to ensure Canadian creators can remain at the forefront of innovations in interactive digital storytelling.

Can you speak more about the collaborative potential of film and digital media, and the future of interactive cinema?

An overwhelming international trend is increased integration – from the massive shifts seen in the structure of CMF tax credits that privilege interactive co-development, to the undeniably hot trends around transmedia production- and an increasing acceptance that film alone isn’t enough to survive in the increasingly digital and user-driven media landscape of today. Significant overlaps with film are happening in gaming, web content, digital and mobile distribution, social media, interactive documentaries and transmedia productions (Bear 71 again!).

From the shared effect of technological advancements on film and game production to the influence of cinema and games on each other, to the effect of new media on film criticism, film, gaming and new media are in a dialogue with each other and TIFF as an organization is keen to explore and showcase the innovations that can emerge from that dialogue. Through TIFF Nexus and other programming we hope to bring diverse audiences into TIFF Bell Lightbox, encourage exploration and collaboration between the digital industries, and build upon the impressive international reputation that Canada already has in film making, game development and new media production.

Photo: Renga