Sundance Film Festival

Games People Play

Independent Video Gaming Panel

Park City, Jan. 19. While the festival has been running a new media center for the last years, the newest incarnation, New Frontier on Main, moves initiative to integrate worlds of technology, art and cinema to a new level. For programmer Shari Frilot, “There are more artists in the gallery and museum world dealing with the moving image, and we wanted to create a space that that could speak both to a film audience and the art world.” New Frontier on Main houses three galleries, a D.J. installation lounge, and a 100 seat microcinema. “We wanted it to be fully immersive,” recounts Frilot. “So there is no overhead lighting. And we wanted the programming play like a festival in a festival.”

Some of the most provocative programming is the series of panels organized by Jeffrey Winter and John Nein. On Friday, Ruby Lerner, President of Creative Capital [creative-capital.org] moderated a panel on “Art and Technology on the New Frontier” that introduced many of the artists being shown at the New Frontier on Main. From the old guard theoretical filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson [www.lynnhershman.com] (who talked about her interrogation of the construction of self) to old school experimental film artist Jennifer Reeves [home.earthlink.net] who admitted on the panel she “was very reluctant to enter into digital technology.” Also R. Luke Dubois, a professional composer turned digital artist introduced his various works of media compression. In introducing his work “Timelapse,” [www.wired.com] where he compressed every #1 song to one second, he joked that “most of the seventies was in the key of F, since that was mostly the Bee Gees.”

On Saturday, Heather Chaplin (author of Smartbomb with Aaron Ruby) moderated a very well-attended panel on “Independent Video Gaming: A New Medium for Filmmakers.” In thinking about the panel, Chaplin reflected that “The main question for me was why would independent filmmakers be interested in video games and what video gamers can learn from independent film.” The panel included founder of Gamelab [www.gamelab.com] Eric Zimmerman, Connie Yowell, Director of Education Grantmaking for the MacArthur Foundation [www.macfound.org], Suzanne Seggerman from Games for Change [www.gamesforchange.org] and finally game artists Eddo Stern [www.eddostern.com] and Asi Burak who helped create the game Peacemaker [www.peacemakergame.com].

While the worlds of independent film and gaming remain still very far apart — one being about narrative, the other about game play — there were unique lessons to be learned from each other. One powerful issue was the question of accountability. Different panelist pointed out how a film on the Columbine massacre could be praised, but a game, like Super Columbine Massacre RPG! [www.columbinegame.com], proved to be a scandal.

Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, Filmmaker Magazine