This morning I found Vincent Morisset’s super cool interactive project for the National Film Board of Canada. It’s called BLA BLA: a film for computer and it came out in 2011. (Morisset’s most recent project is Just a Reflektor for Arcade Fire.) Here’s the explanation from the website:
an interactive tale that explores the fundamental principles of human communication. The viewer makes the story possible: without him or her, the characters remain inert, waiting for the next interaction. The spectator clicks, plays and searches through the simple, uncluttered scenes, truly driving the experience.
I enjoyed looking at it so much that I had my kids (my almost 11 year old and almost 8 year old) check it out too. They both liked it. I’m not sure if (or how) it fits with my current farm project; I just wanted to make note of it as an interesting example of creative interactive storytelling.
For a review of the project, check out Creative Review’s BLA BLA: a film for computer.
I’ve long been interested in representing the Puotinen Farm land as a character in my farm stories. I’ve never imagined it as merely the passive setting for the action. The first farm film that I created in 2001 attempts to express this through the title, The Farm: An Autobiography. While I’m not sure I still like this title, the goal was to tell the story of the land. I imagined the digital video as the autobiography of the farm. In the second farm film, The Puotinen Women, I made the land one of the four main storytellers. In that digital video, I interspersed the stories of Ines Puotinen, Judy Puotinen, Sara Puotinen and the Farm.
In this story experiment, I’m still working through how to represent the land. Maybe this blog post, Eyes Open, Ears Up—Writing about Place will help.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in The Old Ways, “Landscape is not the passive object of our gaze, but rather a volatile participant…I prefer to take landscape as a collective term for the temperature and pressure of air, the fall of light and its rebounds, the textures and surfaces of rock, soil, and building, the sounds…the scents…and the uncountable other transitory phenomena and atmospheres that together comprise the bristling presence of a particular place at a particular moment.”
This past month my son FWA, who is in 5th grade, completed a family heritage project. He decided to do it on the Puotinen family. Since the focus was on the immigrant experience, we talked about Elias and Johanna Puotinen and their journey from Evijärvi, Finland to UP, Michigan in the late 1800s. While his project was not that extensive (a few hours of talking + writing), I became really curious about my grandparents and the immigrant experience. That curiosity led me to do a little more research (which I’ve already posted about on this blog) and to speculate on ways to incorporate their immigrant stories into The Farm project. After talking with Scott and FWA, I (we?) came up with an idea: a RPG, Oregon trail-like video game in which you participate in the process of both emigrating from Finland and then trying to survive/thrive in the UP.
While starting in Evijärvi and paying some attention to the process of traveling from the Old Country to the UP, much of the focus will be on living in the new country. Players will make choices (such as: gender, occupation, urban/rural location, stay in America or return to Finland) as they struggle to survive harsh winters, terrible working conditions, hostile neighbors and as they discover ways to celebrate their heritage and maintain their strong family and community ties.
I don’t know that much about video games (how to play them or how to create them), so I’m hoping that FWA will be interested in helping me. I already have a lot of research about the immigrant experience (and a great resource: my dad, Arthur Puotinen, who did an extensive Oral History about the Finnish immigrant experience while writing his dissertation in the 1970s). And I know that there are some DIY RPG game maker tools available. So, I don’t anticipate that this game will be too time-consuming. I envision it as a fun experiment and a part of the bonus material for this project.
A few resources:
The Farm is located in the heart of the “sauna belt.” Here is a video tour by my dad of the sauna at the Farm. Originally it was a savusauna (smoke sauna), but was later converted into a steam sauna.