A Watershed-supported project is the talk of New York City: immersive documentary Door Into The Dark, made by Pervasive Media Studio residents Anagram, has just scooped the Bombay Sapphire Storyscapes Award (taking home $10,000) at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.
Storyscapes is Tribeca's showcase of immersive, interactive creations at the cutting edge of technology and storytelling, a chance for people to experience ground breaking participatory work. Door Into The Dark, presented in partnership with Watershed, has had its first showing in the US as one of five projects selected to take part in this year's showcase.
Door Into The Dark, made by Amy Rose and May Abdalla at Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio, is an immersive documentary that combines technology, storytelling and real, visceral experience. Participants - blindfolded, shoeless, and alone - feel their way along a length of rope through a room, guided by a cast of voices. Get a taste for the experience in the trailer below:
The response has been enormous: the entire run sold out, it generated fantastic word of mouth and brilliant press coverage. Door Into The Dark graced the front page of the New York Times Arts Supplement, while Indiewire proclaimed "this is how to do immersive storytelling" and The Verge said it was "like encountering a foreign country, using a language I've lived with for years but will never quite understand".
Door Into The Dark has come a long way since its early days. It was made in residence at the Pervasive Media Studio, where Anagram are based. They teamed up with another resident, Tom Melamed from Calvium, to integrate iBeacons technology that would allow the story to unfold as the participant moves through the space in their own time.
It was first shown as a very early prototype back in 2013 at the i-Docs Symposium, led by UWE's Digital Culture Research Centre, who are also based in the Studio. From there, it has gone from strength to strength, being commissioned for Sheffield Doc/Fest, where it was discovered by Ingrid Copp, Tribeca's curator of Storyscapes, who then invited the team to this year's festival.
Their win is a real coup for Bristol and Watershed. As one of the jurors said:
"Ambitious, simple, and profound, Door Into The Dark marks a fresh and promising direction for the field of immersive theatre. It evoked a euphoria that stayed with us long after we left it."
Also featured at Storyscapes alongside Door Into The Dark was Karen, a life coach in a smart phone app that uses psychological profiling in the background as your interact. Karen's creator Matt Adam, from Blast Theory (who also helped mentor Door Into The Dark in its early days), will be here at Watershed on Wed 29 April to talk more about the project.