On 28th of August, 2019 The Weekly Times wrote an article about ‘Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following’. See below!
On 28th of August, 2019 The Weekly Times wrote an article about ‘Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following’. See below!
On Wednesday the 1st of May 2019, Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following had a preview screening for cast and crew at Golden Age Cinema in Sydney, Australia. It was followed by a Q&A with me and producer Harry Reid, hosted by The Music Arts Editor Hannah Story.
Below are some pictures of the night.
Happy to say that Facon has finally been released online to watch and enjoy! Please watch and share!
On the Friday the 14th of October 2016 ‘The Audience is Present’, a new work by performance artist Belinda Anderson-Hunt, was presented as part of Verge festival at the Cellar Theatre.
‘The Audience Is Present’ by Belinda Anderson-Hunt aims to expand on the themes of Marina Abramović seminal performance art piece ‘The Artist is Present’. In ‘The Artist is Present’, Abramović invited spectators to sit opposite her for 5 minutes or less with her full attention and direct eye contact, leaving them to sit comfortably or uncomfortably in her gaze.
In ‘The Audience is Present’ the audience is shifted from their position as safe spectator and left feeling exposed. When I arrive at the Cellar Theatre we are instructed to turn off our phones and are led into a darkened foyer. In the foyer Anderson-Hunt performs a series of stretches and encourages the audience members to join her. Next she takes the spectators by hand, and one by one leads them into a second space with two seating banks opposite to each other. Then, she leaves.
The spectators are left for 30 minutes and the results are intriguing. Each audience member is left to sit uncomfortably in each others presence. Some refrain from direct eye contact, preferring to stare directly at their shoes. The eyes of a whole seating bank is intrusive. Some audience members embrace the eye contact with welcome, while other eyes dart away from the intimacy. The duration of the work is certainly what made it so powerful, as noone is quite sure how long the piece will go for.
Without phones, without distractions and without any indicator of time, there is nothing left to distract us but the fact that we are in presence of other people. How often are we left to socialise without any of the social cruxes we cling to: a drink, a joke, polite banter, a phone?
A comfortable silence, is often thought of as something that can only be achieved with a true friend. Surrounded by this wall of strangers, constrained to silence, I felt that we were forced into such a friendship. No talking, no excuses, no laughing, the audience was only able to drink each other in. The long duration led, me at least, to take in every detail of the audience, to construct their personalities by only what I could see.
We so often stalk each other online. Hours are spent staring at someones pictures, making guesses at who they truly are, but in civilised society we are never allowed to just stare, to purely take someone in without fear of being labeled a creep.
By the end of the performance I felt like I knew a little about each person; the one who adverts their gaze; the one who smiles; the performer; the one who shifts in their skin. A study conducted in 1989 by Kellerman, Lewis, and Laird posited that with enough direct eye contact anyone can fall in love. It was this strange thought that lingered in my mind, as I walked out of the performance and heard these peoples voices for the first time. The experience was one of isolation and intimacy, and one I was glad to have caught.
I’m excited to see what Belinda Anderson-Hunt comes up with next.
The TFCF shoot is now over and we are now working on the Post-Production. With the completion of Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following also comes with a new venture. I have started my own production company Fliction Media. You can like the Facebook page here (please do).
Here are some production stills from the shoot, there are more on the Facebook page. If you’d like to keep abreast of all updates for the film, please like Fliction Media! Have I said that enough? I think I’ve said it enough.
I am in my final year of my Masters of Media Arts and Production and that means I have to complete a final thesis work. I am making a film I wrote in 2013 called Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following. Pre-production is underway and we’ll be filming on the 22nd and 23rd of May. Please get in touch if you’d like to be in some way involved (my email address is fpickering (a) gmail.com. I’ll have more updates soon! But watch this space!
The emergence of the First Person Shooter has had a significant influence on the gaming world and gaming culture. Policy advocates and social crusaders endlessly dialogue about the ramifications of the first person shooter on the gaming community and society in general. Academics have given First Person Shooter games more attention that any other single game genre (Call, Whitlock, Katie & Voorhees 2012).
Historical/ Artistic Context
Many sources have noted that there is a discrepancy as to when the first First Person Shooter emerged. However, many argue that the first game to introduce the phenomenon was Spaism (an abbreviation of ‘Space Simulation’). Spaism was a game that was released in 1974 for the PLATO network. Many central features of the First Person Shooter genre were present within the program: wireframe 3D graphics, local multiplayer for thirty-two players and the first person perspective (Haman n.d).
1990 was a period of vast change for the First Person Shooter. While several works had embraced the first-person perspective before it, Wolfenstein 3D from id Software was the most influential and introduced many to the first-person shooter form (Haman n.d). Wolfenstien was a game that put the gamer in the perspective of a prisoner of war in a German castle as the prisoner of war tried to escape. Wolfenstein was a hit attracting attention for it’s textured 3D graphics, high quality sound and unique playing style (Free Info Society, n.d).
The next most prominent work came in the form of DOOM. Released in 1993, the work set a new standard in its design template (Haman, n.d). While Wolfenstein had allowed gamers to wield a knife, pistol, machine gun and gatling gun, DOOM allowed the gamer to wield a greater variety of weapons, including a chainsaw. Within the work, the gamer was put in the position of a marine who fought demons and zombies in a base in Mars (Free Info Society, n.d). DOOM set a new standard of gaming. It was iconic in its keyboard and mouse control scheme, rich world of story and integration of item pick-ups. DOOM’s real stroke of genius however came from its idea to release a limited version as the game as shareware and ability to be modified (Haman, n.d).
By 1995 FPS games were starting to integrate different genres. In 1996 Bethesda Softworks released a popular RPG/FPS named Daggerfall. Daggerfall was a featured open-ended gaming, which added to the interactivity, and a rich and complex world. Gamers could fight enemies with swords, buy horses, ride horses, join guilds, rob shops, buy house and become a vampire (Free Info Society, n.d).
The First Person Shooter and Violence
Since the First Person Shooters emergence there has been critique from communities that gaming genre has become increasingly violent. Many have argued that First Person Shooters allow and in fact encourage violence. However many in the gaming community consider the genre a release of such urges without having to go through with any unlawful acts (Free Info Society, n.d).
First Person Shooters first started attracting negative attention six years after the release of DOOM. During this time DOOM became the pin-up of how the first person genre encouraged violence. According to Call, Whitlock & Voorhees (2012) the outburst of outrage began in 1997 when there was a murder of three students in Heath High School in Kentucky. On behalf of the victims’ families, litigator Jack Thompson filed a suit against Miramax, makers of the movie Basketball Diaries, and against id Software, makers of DOOM, Quake and Castle Wolfenstein. Thompson claimed that Miramax and id Software were integral links in a casual chain that led to the shooting. While the lawsuit was dismissed, its impact on the perception of the first person shooter genre was profound.
Over the next two years the rate of school shootings rose significantly. There were attacks in Arkansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Virginia, Georgia, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The most damning massacre however came in the form of the Columbine Massacre. The Columbine Massacre was particularly devastating to the perception of the First Person Shooter genre due to the fact that the two murders, who killed two teachers and a dozen classmates, had played and even modified DOOM (Call, Whitlock & Voorhees, 2012).
This led to a series of escalating events:
Thompson made the talk-show circuit describing FPS games as murder simulators that teach children how to prepare for and enact these school shootings. Retired Army psychologist David Grossman became a go-to source for news programs speaking about how the US military uses FPS games to normalize killing. A new set of congressional hearings was convened in 2000 and a range of FPS games released in the last decade were brought to the table, chastised and rebuked by lawmakers and parent organizations alike, despite expert testimony that there was (and still is) no evidence of a casual relationship between games and violent crime (Call, Whitlock & Voorhees 2012, p. 100).
In recent times, there has been a significant push for the first person genre to focus less on violence and more so on the creation of rich worlds and interactive stories.
The First Person Shooter and its Perception
While the first person perspective in gaming has become stereotyped as a genre whose progress and development has been driven by commercialism: an industry pandering to an audience of violence hungry gamers, others challenge that discourse. Level designer and writer Robert Yang, in his three-part series titled ‘People’s History of the First Person Shooter’ published on Rock, Paper, Scizzors, challenges the paradigm that the first person genre has been driven solely by commercial developers and stresses that the first person genre has been greatly influenced by the community. As he states:
The popular narrative is that the first-person genre has long been an industry-funded enterprise of carnage, a linearly-structured, corridor-filled wasteland bereft of innovation. And now, only recently, are the ‘pretentious’ cultural elite and avant-garde beginning to defile/liberate this lovely camera perspective from the muddied obsidian-clawed clutches of the AAA game industry (Yang 2012, para 8).
Firstly, Yang argues that traditional discourses focus too much on the gory side of the first person genre, and ignore more finessed works. As he aptly illustrates in this anecdote:
In 1994, the New York Times filed a review of a first-person game under its ‘Arts’ section, proclaiming it to be ‘a game that weaves together image, sound and narrative into a new form of experience.’ It sold millions of copies and inspired dozens of imitators. It seemed poised to define an era.
That game was Myst and it failed to define an era. Instead, a game called DOOM came out three months after Myst – and then it shot Myst in the face.
Myst died a slow, painful death. The sequel, Riven, sold well but caused the New York Times to seemingly backtrack, downgrading its Riven review to ‘Technology’ instead of ‘Arts’ (Yang 2012, para 2).
Secondly, Yang challenges the conception the first person genre has been solely run by mainstream companies. He states that first person shooters have always been influenced by the communities that play them. He posits that this is largely due to mods: attachments that allow gamers to customise their gaming experience. The ability to modify your gaming experience was first adopted by DOOM. DOOM’s file structure easily allowed for amateurs to adapt their user experience.
This ability for amateurs to influence DOOM and the games that came after it led for these gamers to influence how the games were being made, who was making them and how people engaged with them. This led the line between amateur and professional to blur.
The First Person Shooter genre has thoroughly changed the landscape of gaming and society at large. While there have been many who have tried to link the genre to violence, there is no scientific evidence. It seems to me that the First Person Shooter genre is a misunderstood beast that has been polarized by the media and public opinion. Within the First Person genre there are many more multifaceted experiences that can be had. The gore is not always the focus of the game and the responder can partake in enjoyment in the act of emboding a character or world that is not their own. Within the first person genre we are able to transcend our anatomy and take on a new gaze. While the very term ‘First Person Shooter’ suggests violence, the genre can offer more beyond that superficial rendering, allowing individuals to engage in a constructed world that is an immerse world of art, sound and storytelling.
‘Welcome to Pine Point’ is an interactive documentary that focuses on the now demolished town of Pine Point in Northwest Territories in Canada. The town was a mining town that the Canadian government ordered to be shut down after the mine closed in 1987. The website interweaves photographs, illustrations, archival footage and interviews together to take a comprehensive look at nostalgia and examine the question: ‘ What if your hometown never grew old. Would it be so bad?’.
The project was created by Vancouver based duo The Googles, a group that consists of Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons. It was produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
The project began after Mike Simmons (one of the co-creators) visited his childhood town of Pine Point. What Simmons and Shoebridge decided to create was ‘a piece about memory, and how memory is utilized, filtered and activated. It’s way more a story about memory than a profile piece on a town’ (NFB Blog, 2011).
The project was inspired by a website that documented Pine Point, called ‘Pine Point Revisited’. It was curated by an ex-pat of Pine Point, Richard Cloutier (Shoebridge & Simons, 2011).
I am a student of Media Arts and Production currently, but I am also a writer. This work interests me because of its unique mix of story telling, using both writing and media. I found ‘Welcome To Pine Point’ a work that I instantly connected with. What I liked most about it was its ability to create atmosphere. Despite never having been to Pine Point or having any personal connection to Pine Point I felt connected to this work and was instantly intrigued by it. The pastiche style of the work was pleasing to look at and I found myself reminiscing on my own memories of child hood. It’s in this way that ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ can engage with a wide audience, by the universal theme of nostalgia and memory.
It is also particularly interesting from an Australian point of view because it made me question what will happen to the mining towns of Australia after the mining boom. It made me question how these towns will be remembered and what will be their legacy?
Some aspects of the work I particularly enjoyed were the profiles on individual people from Pine Point. In the ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ section, ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ profiles four ex-Pine Pointers: the Beauty, the Brothers and the Bully. In a yearbook style they present photographs and interviews with these ex-Pine Pointers. Each person is given a symbol to represent them.
By reducing the interviewees to stereotypes Shoebridge and Simons illustrate how often in memory we are remembered for one singular aspect of our personality or often just one certain act.
It’s easier to remember people as stock characters and that’s often how we identify ourselves in highschool: as nerds, popular girls, rebels. These archetypes are present in most people’s memories and thus it adds to the universal nature of the work.
However, the Simmons and Shoebridge are aware of the inaccuracies of memory, as is illustrated when the text reflects on a misremembered memory, casting a light on the historical inaccuracies of reflection: ‘Turns out the lobby is grey. It never was blue…’ (Shoebridge & Simons, 2011).
Other aspects of the work I highly enjoyed were the haunting aspects that really highlighted the manufactured and fleeting nature of mining towns. I particularly liked the section that, with a split screen showed Pine Point then and now. It was almost chilling to see that where there was once a bustling town, was now only concrete.
The visual style of ‘Welcome to Pin Point’ is nostalgic. Showbridge and Simons have used symbols that are commonly associated with the past to instill a sense of nostalgia. For example the layout is arranged in a style reminiscent of scrapbooking and they frame slide shows like they are a collection of polaroids.
In their choices of visuals Shoebridge and Simons have tried to echo Pine Point. They use wood paneling and yellowing album pages as backgrounds.
This aesthetic was one they found present in the images of Pine Point:
‘Even the colours and textures seem unself-conscious – wood paneling, perms, velour, deep shag – all enclosed in yellowing photos with rounded corners.’ (Shoebridge & Simons, 2011) It’s this ‘unself-conscious’ aesthetic that is utilised in ‘Welcome to Pine Point’.
Rather than slick 3D animation they use flash to animate simple hand drawn images. They whimsically superimpose cut-outs of photos on to video footage of Pine Point.
The videos are often shown pixelated and glitched. There are no slickly designed pages or lines.
The colours are soft muted yellows and browns with no stark contrasts. This soft unobtrusive use of visuals evokes the feeling of looking through an old photo album.
Cleverly, Shoebridge & Simons have used a cut and paste style of text. This is an inventive way of making sure that the text is always visible against any background, while choosing a visual style that is very much in tune with the overall look of the multimedia project. The use of a black Sans Serif font on a white background is perfectly conducive for reading.
As mentioned before, the central themes of ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ is memory and nostalgia. The tone of the writing is sentimental and reminiscent. There is a glorification of a certain past.
But the work also has an eerie quality that is reminiscent of the film ‘The Virgin Suicides’. Many elements of the work: aural, visual and written, have a haunting quality. I think this dreamy, eerie quality is most directly invoked by the sound. The music comprises of an original soundtrack by the Besnard Lakes created especially for the project. The music is incredibly cinematic; it is slow and often goes into minor tones.
The language used within ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ is highly emotive and subjective. It is almost a personal essay in style. This is highlighted by personal reflections and soft pensive music that emotes a feeling of days gone by.
The language is rich in imagery and metaphors:
‘I always found this comforting. We were all in the same boat – or at least swimming nearby. Now, we’re all in our own little boats, in out own little oceans. It seems so much harder to be collectively surprised, exhilarated. ‘(Shoebridge & Simons, 2011)
At times the prose borders on poetry:
‘Memory is funny.
Specific and vague.
Visceral and unreliable.
Truth, and fiction.’ (Shoebridge & Simons, 2011)
The language within the work is highly evocative and subjective. While the work is informative, the language is far from passive. It actively constructs a glorified image of Pine Point.
‘Welcome to Pine Point’ is a Canadian story, and in particular a North Canadian story. The National Film Board of Canada hopes, in funding projects such as ‘Welcome to Pine Point’, to create works which reflect Canada to Canadian audiences and the rest of the world. In this way it was important for ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ to represent the specifics of the rural Canadian experience. I believe the intended audience for this project was to those already familiar to multiplatform story telling.
I wasn’t able to get specific information about how ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ was made. However, I could find out that most of the projects hosted by the National Film Board of Canada are written in Python within the Djano environment, PyAMF, Apache and MySQL. The application is hosted on an Ubunto Linux server and they use the Pyro video player developed by Turbulent Media.
Being hosted by the National Film Board of Canada’s website is a good choice because it will most likely mean the project gets reliable hosting. Additionally, by having the project standing alongside projects of a similar nature, it is more likely to attract attention of those who already appreciate multiplatform story telling.
Navigation and Narrative Techniques
Simmons and Shoebridge have described the format of ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ as a ‘Liquid book’ a format where ‘there is exploration within the narrative, but channeled exploration.’ (2011, NFB Blog)
There are only two ways to navigate through ‘Welcome to Pine Point’: the ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ tabs, or the chapter indicator that allows you to peruse through the different chapters.
Interactive Elements and Use of Social Media
The most interactive section is contained within the ‘Odds and Ends’ chapter. On this page you drag away fabric badges to look at the text. It is my opinion that there are some missed opportunities in the lack of interactivity but understand if there were time or budgetary concerns.
‘Welcome to Pine Point’s low interactivity level had a clear justification for Simmons and Shoebridge: ‘Coming from print, part of the process for us was minimizing the interactivity to only those elements that serve to forward the narrative’ (NFB Blog, 2011).
Shoebridge, P. & Simons, M., 2011, Welcome to Pine Point, Multimedia Text, Produced by National Film Board of Canada, Accessed August 30, <http://pinepoint.nfb.ca/#/pinepoint>
Weldon, C. 2011, Welcome to Pine Point: An Interview with The Goggles, NFB Blog, Accessed 2014 August 30, <http://blog.nfb.ca/blog/2011/02/03/welcome-to-pine-point-an-interview-with-the-goggles/>