If you’re a New Yorker who loves film then you are likely attending parts of the Tribeca Film Festival, which started April 15 and runs through April 26. And if you don’t live here, take heart knowing that many of these outstanding films will be hitting a cinema near you, or Netflix.
I caught up on Sunday with journalist Lapacazo Sandoval, who is covering the film festival for myNewYorkeye and interviewing filmmakers. As Lapacazo went off to interview a film producer, I decided to hit the Storyscapes Exhibit and Lounge on 50 Varick Street.
A collaboration between the film festival and Bombay Sapphire Gin, Storyscapes showcases five distinctive interactive projects vying for a festival award in groundbreaking approaches in storytelling and technology. For 2015, Storyscapes is all about “full spectrum storytelling” from virtual reality to immersive audio, apps and personalized web series, according to the festival flier.
Life coaching over tea. Does Karen need you or do you need Karen?
One such project is Karen, an app that mixes gaming, storytelling and psychological profiling. Created by British art group Blast Theory, the app engages you in a dialogue with Karen Elliott, a fictional life coach played by British actress Claire Cage.
Yesterday, I joined a group of five people who stood in line to play the game, listen to Karen’s life story, and answer questions ranging from attitudes toward relationships to what top she should wear on a date. I chose the boring peach blouse because it was better than the tacky white sweater with sequins, and now wonder what she would think of my judgment call.
Is therapy telling Karen what top to wear?
“I love the idea of a life coach that goes wrong,” said Ingrid Kopp, director of interactive at the Tribeca Film Institute and curator of the competition, in an interview with Frank Rose of The New York Times. “And I thought it would particularly appeal to New Yorkers.”
The conversation with Karen is murky, and weird. At certain points, I felt that she asked certain questions not so much to learn about me or another player but because she wanted to know our opinion of her.
Several of us remarked that Karen resembles the storyline of Her, the 2013 movie about Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with an operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson.) Rose in his article observed the similarity, too, noting that the app “develops boundary issues and leaves its users feeling distinctly uncomfortable.”
The video below captures an early moment in the relationship. Karen is walking home, out of breath and rushed like most urbanites after a long day. “Great!” she exclaims, finding you on her doorstep. “I’ve been expecting you.”
In this short clip, she whispers to you from bed although she appears alone. How would you answer her question?
From a storytelling perspective, I think the idea is brilliant. It’s immersive and interactive, and that is where all forms of story are headed. It left me wanting to know more about her and myself. But playing the game for 20 minutes is certainly not enough to arrive at profound answers.
You have to stick it out because as Karen says early on, “If you share with me, I can help you find out things about yourself you might not even realize.” The Times’ Rose pointed out that you won’t know what Karen thinks about you until the end of the game, at which point you will be asked to pay $3.99 for an “extensive–not to say invasive–psychological provide compiled by the app itself.”
I think I will fork over the cash. Just out of curiosity, of course.
–Sally O’Dowd is founder and CEO of Sally On Media, a strategy, branding and communications company serving media and tech companies. Sally On Media is sponsoring My New York Eye’s promotional efforts during the festival; we have sponsored post cards to increase brand awareness and website traffic. We do this because we believe in the site’s creative mission and love to see media sally on with entrepreneurial vigor.