Thursday, September 16, 2010

The 48 Hour Film Project Machinima in Second Life

I had just arrived at an event, an art exhibition that opened on a Saturday afternoon in Second Life. With the number of green dots on the map, I knew it would take much longer than the usual several minutes to rezz, so patiently I waited. As avatar after avatar popped into view, I noticed that Chantal Harvey stood very near to me. We’d met a few times and chatted only briefly each time, an exchange of pleasantries. Coincidently, a note card had arrived from her only the day before regarding the 48 HFP Machinima Project and so I opened an instant message window to say hello. We chatted briefly about the event we’d both chosen to attend that day and I also took the opportunity and referred to the note card she’d passed to me. I then asked if she’d be interested in meeting for an interview about it and she graciously accepted.

The 48 HFP Machinima in Second Life takes place this year starting on the 17th through the 19th of September and the winning machinima will go on to the Filmapalooza Festival, which is part of the Miami Film Festival. It is anticipated that nearly ninety films will compete there along with the one machinima. The winner, and nine runners up will go on to the Cannes film festival in France.

Chantal Harvey is one of Second Life’s premier Machinima makers and has received tremendous recognition for her work and her contributions to the art of making machinima. She is also the founder of the MaMachinima International Festival, a SL Solution Providers Program member SLDEV and she is the producer of the 48 HFP Machinima Project in Second Life. We met at her place for the interview a few days later to talk about the latter and her own projects.

Chantal Harvey: Welcome!

Nazz: Thank you … This is the site?

Chantal: No, this is my studio or, my SIM and set and home. The event will be at UWA - BoSL

Nazz: How did you get involved with the 48 hour film festival?

Chantal: I entered it twice, the machinima one in 2007 and 2008. The first edition was SL only, the second one involved all games and worlds. I think it is probably the best film contest in the world at the moment. It is a real life event and focuses on do, instead of talk.

Nazz: So each team has 48 hours to do their film … rather than a film, followed by speeches and then another film.

Chantal: Well they have 48 hours, yes but before that, they each draw a genre and get a prop, line and character, that has to be in each film … then, it ends with uploading to our server 48 hours later. After that, the jury starts watching and judging the films. On the 22nd, the jury meets in Second Life, they have a conference, during which I am present along with a member of the 48HFP. They decide on awards, winners and feedback and, the 23rd, we have the big event awards and the winner is announced.

Nazz: How many teams have entered?

Chantal: Twenty four teams can enter and last year there was nine … I now have seventeen teams.

Nazz: The entry fee I noted is $48 USD, how is that money applied?

Chantal: The 48HFP is a large organization. It runs its own servers, film festival and website. The real life contest is $150 USD dollars. I talked them into $48 dollars.

Nazz: Are you involved with an entry?

Chantal: No … producers can’t enter. I applied for producer last year, after entering it myself twice, and I don’t regret it. Even when I stop, I can’t enter for two years.

Nazz: The rules are pretty stringent, is it a conflict of interest concern or because you may have some inside knowledge?

Chantal: To avoid people thinking that I have inside knowledge I suspect … you know, after entering it twice, I said I would never do that again ... but last year i actually wished I could have. The teams got their genres, and flew off to work and there I was ...

Nazz: What can a new to the event team expect?

Chantal: A lot of adrenaline. It’s a race against the clock. I remember thinking … I have plenty of time *laughs* I didn’t. I had 10 minutes left first year, and smelled like a polar bear … my husband was wondering if i was sane. The second year ... we had 2 minutes left. I was jumping up and down like a frog, *laughs* counting the seconds aloud. The uploading takes time, and if there is an internet hiccup ... that’s it. So it’s best to not leave it till last. Imagine, you work like that for 48 hours, almost no sleep or food ... and then fail. It happened to several teams.

Nazz: That would be a bitter pill and I can imagine the disappointment.

Chantal: It happened twice now to one team and they entered again this year … now, that is determination.

Nazz: I will keep my fingers crossed for them.

Chantal: Another team has entered the 4th time now, they say they will not stop entering till they have won it.

Nazz: You have to admire that.

Chantal: Very … and did you hear the jury news?

Nazz: I did about the film maker who agreed to judge, Peter Greenaway.

Chantal: Yes … I have four jury members … all four top.

Nazz: He'll be in Second Life or is he already here?

Chantal: He is in Second Life, sometimes in a special avatar. I don’t know his Second Life name!

Nazz: Who are the other judges?

Chantal: Phaylen Fairchild, Tom Jantol and Tracy Harwood. Tracy is an academic and founder of the first European machinima festival. Tom Jantol is a real life filmmaker, director, a machinimatographer and writer of Anymation … and Phaylen, does she need an introduction … creator of Divas, writer, machinimatographer.

Nazz: That is an illustrious panel. I would imagine that this event has consumed a good deal of your time. So after this, what's next for Chantal?

Chantal: Yeah, this is like 2 to 5 hours a day of work … today more than 10. After this? … The MMIF starts again. Two big events a year.

Nazz: You are a busy lady. Do you have any of your own projects in the works?

Chantal: Oh yes! I am pretty productive. I am building a set, preparing a series. And, I would want to make a movie in machinima … in different virtual world.

Nazz: Why not Second Life?

Chantal: Every platform has limitations … lag, animations, facial expressions. I would do large scenes in OpenSim, with many actors … crowds … and facials, in iClone … and a movie should be in 3D, don’t you think? That’s my dream.

Nazz: It should.

Chantal: Nazz, the organizer of the 48HFP is coming over. He is the head of outreach. Take advantage. He comes into Second Life twice a year. So if you have questions for him, he might just answer

As she spoke, an avatar dropped in to my right, his name tag read Zaddick Zerbino. Chantal greeted his arrival and we exchanged hellos while waiting for him to rezz in.

Nazz: Hello Zaddick, its pleasure to meet you.

Zaddik: Nice to meet you too.

Nazz: How long have you been involved with the 48 HFP?

Zaddik: I first produced the Boston 48HFP in 2004 and have been the Director of Outreach since 2005. (My RL name is Ben Guaraldi.) I've produced the 48HFP in Boston, NYC, SF, and at Burning Man as well.

Nazz: I think we may have met last year. I was assigned to do a piece for a magazine last year i think.

Zaddik: That sounds right.

Nazz: The 48 HFP is your only involvement in Second Life?

Zaddik: Yeah.

Nazz: Has being in the virtual world had an effect on publicity for the 48 HFP?

Zaddik: I'm not sure I understand the question--do you mean how has the press covered the Machinima 48HFP?

Chantal: Tom Cruise blogged it this year, after Phaylen Fairchild mentioned it to him.

Nazz: Cool ... To rephrase my question, with having a component of the 48 HFP in virtual worlds, has it garnered any additional recognition?

Zaddik: Oh, sure thing. The Tom Cruise article that Chantal mentioned and Peter Greenaway is judging this year's Machinima 48HFP. Those are the most notable ones, but we've had other press as well.

Nazz: The real life event is in Miami?

Chantal: Filmapalooza is the 48HFP festival. It joined forces with the Miami film festival.

Zaddik: That's right. Filmapalooza is our end-of-year event. We show the winning films from each of our locations. Last year, it was at NAB Show in Las Vegas. So the films from the 2010 Tour play at Filmapalooza 2011. We've also had it in Albuquerque, Austin, San Jose, and Washington, DC.

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