Digital convergence, laughter and tears
It’s not very often that a piece of multimedia work evokes such a powerful emotional response in an audience but I feel extemely privileged to have experienced something really special in Sheffield.
Sheffield DocFest is the UK’s leading documentary filmmaking event with four days of screenings and lively debate taking place all over the city.
This year’s festival coincides with the ongoing experimentation on The Space: Arts Council England and the BBC’s new digital arts platform that is pushing the boundaries of content delivery across different platforms including web, mobile, tablet and connected TV.
The Space presents an ideal opportunity for plundering our country’s film vaults and we [thinkamigo] have uncovered our own fair share of delicious gems as part of our work on the [Alan] Sillitoe Trail based in our native Nottingham.
thinkamigo Creative Director Paul Fillingham and LeftLion Writer James Walker were invited to take time out from the Sillitoe Trail to look at what is happening in Sheffield.
Staying ahead of the curve
Sheffield DocFest proved to be a punishing (yet stimulating) schedule of presentations concerning the future of broadcast and documentary filmmaking. The event served to highlight the important contribution the media industry makes to our economy and the need to embrace and understand the dynamics of mobile, social and digital interaction if we are to stay ahead of the curve.
This of course lies at the heart of The Space and our own efforts as digital evangelists; building upon years of experience with digital platform development within both commercial and cultural sectors. There was a strange irony that today’s evangelical presentations took place in a beautiful Chapel adorned with carved pews and stained glass windows.
“Sheffield DocFest merely confirms our belief that digital convergence is unstoppable and already taking shape in our living rooms. I personally look forward to fruitful collaboration with artists, writers, directors and organisations who wish to harness the power of mobile and social networks, via two-screen interaction (HDTV/mobile), location and web-based media”.
Twittering in the pews
There were irreverent outbursts too, courtesy of the two screens left and right of the stage, displaying live feeds from Twitter. Even Arthur Seaton had his say, commenting on how he had ‘boggered off to Sheffield’ to escape the Royal visit taking place in Nottingham’s Council House.
But the best comment went to Alexander Graham @alexwtw who summed-up his experience as a TV Producer attending Sheffield DocFest as ‘being like a farrier in 1850 attending a conference about railways’.
Arts Council England chose Sheffield DocFest to launch an ambitious film project by Director Penny Woolcock.
Penny’s film From the sea to the land beyond is made entirely from footage taken around Britain’s coastline, liberated from the BFI archive.
“From holidays, to war and working lives, these precious images capture the essence of what it is to be British. Forget the damp pomp of recent Royal celebrations – From the sea to the land beyond is the real deal.”
Much of the content is silent film footage and the audio for the film was played live by the band British Sea Power, assembled in a casual grouping on the floor of Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. This of course is the place where BBC2 pioneered colour television in the 1970′s, broadcasting iconic snooker games to a nation hooked on saturated cathode ray tubes.
It was an interesting configuration; musicians playing with their backs to the audience, the drummer facing a huge projection screen. At times, it felt as if the band were on the bridge of a ship, the music a metaphysical engine, propelling us through hell and high water.
The good ship Crucible sailed through a whole range of audio dynamics, from lighthearted tunes to thundering waves and calm ambient washes of sound.
Sheffield DocFest served up the best unified audio-visual presentation I have ever experienced. We laughed, we cried and suddenly our creative endeavours all made perfect sense.
Sheffield DocFest runs from June 13-17th 2012
From the sea to the land beyond will be featured on The Space until October 2012.
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