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Agents for Change
by Karen Pecota

The pioneer for the Sundance Institute’s expansion of cinematic storytelling that joins contemporary artists with technology and the moving image is John Cooper. His product is festival venue, The New Frontier on Main. His talent and creativity fosters diversity and channels a vision for the future as the technology in our world rapidly develops. His energy and enthusiasm has helped to attract an ever-growing audience to the independent film spectrum since 1989. Preceding the 2009 official Sundance Film Festival opening day press conference, Cooper welcomed the press to his venue for a sneak preview of what is on the horizon for storytelling interventions and a delicious light lunch. A true host par excellence!

The New Frontier on Main press luncheon hosted by Shari Frilot, a Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer, introduced the artists who would showcase their innovative cinematic structure for storytelling. The New Frontier on Main venue housed the projects for the entire week of the festival and was sponsored by HP and Sony Electronics, Inc. The fifteen featured guests were artists and scientists from around the world known for the ability to communicate a message for entertainment with modern media technology. The chance to preview these various forms of art is really fun because it is hands on. I can experience the form of communication to further understand its task for futuristic filmmaking.

The featured Artists/Filmmakers/Scientists and their project name:

Candice Breitz – Mother
Father Omer Fast – The Casting
Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar – Universe, We Feel Fine
Cory McAbee – Stingray
Sam Nova Jiang and Michael Kontopoulos – Moon Theater
Nasty Nets Artists – endless pot of gold cd-rs
Leighton Pierce – Agency of Time (part 1b)
Michael Portnoy - Michael Portnoy Provocateur
Kelly Richardson – Exiles of the Shattered Star, Twilight Avenger, Wagons Roll
John Underkoffler and Oblong Industries – TAMPER
Maria Marshall – Artist Spotlight: The Works of Maria Marshall
Lynette Wallworth – Evolution of Fearlessness
Gngger Shankar – Metamorphoses
Mike Plante – Lunchfilms
The Bay Area Video Coalition’s Producers Institute featuring multimedia projects by Thomas Alen Harris, Deanne Liam and Paco De Onis.

Many of the featured guests answered this question according to their particular art form with film: How do you keep your visual imagery from getting lost in storytelling using the latest technology?

One artist notes that he can stimulate the storytelling by creative means using movable shapes. Another emphasizes that she is trying to connect the sense of feeling with the character when one is up close and personal and actually seeing eye-to-eye. She uses life-size characters through a screen as if talking to Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. Another is doing a live TV show interviewing festival guests. They want to connect human beings and to find out what is essential to that connection—like dissecting human relationships. Another feels that it is time for art to drive technology and not the other way around. The arts are all abstract until you connect the human with the movement, thereby creating a collaboration of the best of both worlds that will impact creative storytelling. First internet users, Nasty Nets, say that since they are working with tools, everyone has access. It is standardized and not like the theater where you have the group experience but their work takes on the personal or individual experience. You can do it anytime of the day or night. The Australian artist, Lynette Wallworth, in Evolution of Fearlessness, says that she wants her piece to move you, make you feel something (positive or negative) as well as be attractive to the eye. She engages people to film with pieces to the project purposefully left out. She wants the audience to listen for the order of the narrative. Listening to each artist share one notes quickly that there are many options to incorporate the arts and sciences to express a message.

In conjunction with the New Frontier 2009 projects of art forms for entertainment, all of the films mentioned below were chosen to showcase at the venue because of the eccentric use of visual imagery, graphics, color, etc. to create a story. There were six female filmmakers who presented their films along with three featured short films:

Sharon Lockhart – Lunch Break and Exit, 120 min, 2008, color
Deborah Stratman – O’re the Land, 52 min, 2008, color
Laurel Nakadate – Stay the Same Never Change, 93 min, 2008, color
Eija-Liisa Athila – Where Is Where?, 54 min, 2009, color & B/W
Maria Marshall – Artist Spotlight: The Works of Maria Marshall, 67 min, 2007, color
Ry Russo-Young – You Won’t Miss Me, 81 min, 2009, color & B/W
The Beekeepers – Richard Robinson – 28 min
Horizontal Boundaries – Pat O’Neill – 23 min
Untitled – Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder – 42 min