EFM Horizon focuses on the future of narration
by Vassilis Economou
- BERLIN 2019: The third edition of EFM’s hub has kicked off with a focus on visualising the future of media and a keynote speech by Alex McDowell on his expectations for new storytelling worlds
The third edition of EFM Horizon, the innovative hub of the European Film Market (EFM), kicked off on 8 February at the Berliner Freiheit. The director of EFM, Matthijs Wouter Knol (see our interview), opened the five-day programme with a speech where he mentioned the importance of embracing new technologies, stressing that attitudes towards them had changed and that trends are developing at a rapid pace. He underlined the importance of adapting to the needs of the market and reminded the audience that we are moving ever farther into the future. According to Knol, “EFM Horizon is beyond tech: it’s about the future”.
The opening keynote speech was delivered by pioneer Alex McDowell, founder and creative director of Experimental Design, who introduced the audience to the work of the World Building Media Lab at the University of Southern California, of which he is the director. As a narrative designer, McDowell develops new and innovative approaches to storytelling, with the aim of solving potential problems through narrative design. He explained that this can be achieved by merging different technologies in a holistic and integrated manner, ensuring that they work together seamlessly, with a view to breaking with linear and two-dimensional forms of narration. This offers the viewer a new experience, placing him/her in an active rather than the traditionally passive role. According to McDowell, we should prototype the future and bring about change.
In an attempt to respond to the double question of “What if? Why not?”, McDowell has developed a futuristic world which belongs more to the realm of a “Future Reality” than that of Science Fiction. His design allows multiple stories to emerge logically and organically, driven by the rules of the fictional but haptic world in question. It should be noted that some of these 3D storyworlds currently being developed rely on media platforms that don’t yet exist, though these aren’t too far away from becoming a reality.
Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that McDowell is better known to wider audiences as the production designer of Minority Report, the 2002 movie directed by Steven Spielberg. The film is an excellent example of a well-studied “prediction” of future reality, based on the technology available at the time, which envisioned the near-science-fiction world that we are almost living in today. For McDowell and Spielberg, it was more important to build a future that looked something like the present day, rather than creating an unrealistic, utopic world. That might also explain why, in little more than 17 years since the release of the film, more than 200 patents have been filed and real products now exist, based on the ideas depicted in the blockbuster.
McDowell stressed that the future we’re expecting might actually be the world we’re experiencing right here, right now. He insisted that: "There is no more science fiction; there is nothing new to be imagined that we cannot already do" – that is, no more science fiction as we currently know it and as we have seen it develop over the last couple of centuries. His keynote speech concluded with a one-on-one discussion with AC Coppens, founder of The Creatives Catalysts.
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