(April 21, 2017 – Montréal, QC) The National Film Board (NFB) is making news on the festival circuit with two productions screening outside of Canada. Pictured is a still from Matthew Rankin’s The Tesla World Light. It will have its world premiere at the 56th International Critics’ Week, a parallel section of the Cannes Film Festival organized by the French Syndicate of Film Critics. Rankin’s film will be one of 10 short films competing at the prestigious international event, which takes place May 18 to 26, 2017.
Produced at the NFB by Julie Roy, The Tesla World Light is billed as a “dazzling cinematic experience designed for the big screen.” Set in New York in 1905, the focus is clearly not on the Car that bears his name but on the visionary inventor Nikola Tesla who makes one last appeal to J.P. Morgan, his onetime benefactor. Inspired by real events, this electrifying short is a spectacular burst of image and sound that draws as much from the tradition of avant-garde cinema as it does from animated documentary. A native of Winnipeg, Montreal-based Rankin studied Quebec history at McGill University and Université Laval before turning to film. Sound design for The Tesla World Light is by Sacha A. Ratcliffe.
“Producing Matthew Rankin’s film was an extremely enriching experience,” said Julie Roy, Executive Producer, French Animation Studio, NFB. “Matthew is talented, versatile, creative, cultivated, and a team player, and I was greatly impressed with his approach to Nikola Tesla, an important historical figure. He casts the scientist in a whole new light by shooting in 16 mm and employing a range of hand-crafted animation techniques, from pixilation to puppet animation to ink on film—all of it in the NFB’s purest auteur-animation tradition.”
Meanwhile, launching today at Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes, award-winning playwright and filmmaker Jordan Tannahill will unveil Draw Me Close an “emotional, immersive audience experience” performed live with motion capture and VR.
Draw Me Close blurs the worlds of live performance, virtual reality and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of her terminal-cancer diagnosis. Weaving theatrical storytelling with cutting-edge technology, the project takes a deceptively simple and humanistic approach to the immersive medium: it allows the audience member to experience life as five-year-old Jordan, inside a live, animated world.
This is the first major co-production between the National Film Board of Canada and the UK’s National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, in collaboration with multidisciplinary creative studio All Seeing Eye, led by its founder, Ollie Lindsey, with illustrations by Teva Harrison and Olie Kay. The experience is unlike anything the form has seen before. This unique collaboration between the NT and the NFB began as a Research and Development Lab, spearheaded by the NT’s Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development, and the NFB’s David Oppenheim, Producer, to advance the language of creative non-fiction VR.
“There’s no other story that weighs more heavily on my mind right now than my relationship with my mother—a story that’s still in the process of unfolding,” said Jordan Tannahill. “Draw Me Close has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to reckon with all of the challenging and ultimately unknowable questions around mortality.”
“The primary motivation for the NFB and National Theatre Lab was to combine the strengths of our respective studios and experiment at the edges of creative documentary, theatre and VR—to expand the possibilities of VR storytelling and play a small part in building a creative vocabulary for this evolving medium. Jordan is a brilliant writer and multi-disciplinary artist, and not afraid to play with boundaries, including between the mediated and the live, so Draw Me Close really benefits from that chemistry. He had a wonderfully humanistic vision for what he wanted to create with this piece. I’m looking forward to seeing Tribeca audiences inhabit the world that we’ve created, and I think they will be emotionally transported when they do,” said David Oppenheim, Producer at the National Film Board of Canada.
“I’m very proud of what we have achieved with Draw Me Close,” said Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at the National Theatre. “Jordan is an incredible storyteller and his approach to audience experience and immersive narrative aligns completely with the ethos of the NT’s Immersive Storytelling Studio. At the Studio, we work with artists to understand what emerging technologies can mean for their craft of storytelling; artistic exploration leading to audience experience. At this stage in the development of the medium, that’s incredibly important to me. Working with Jordan and the NFB has been a wonderful example of what that approach realizes. I get such pride in seeing audience reactions to something that is, on the one hand, a fundamentally personal and interactive narrative experience and, on the other, a very progressive and completely relevant use of technology in storytelling.”
The NFB has enjoyed a good year internationally. Their production Blind Vaysha was selected to screen at Berlin in 2016 and picked up an Oscar® nomination. At Annecy Blind Vaysha was given the Jury Award and another NFB film, The Head Vanishes won the coveted Cristal Award. Also in 2016, I Like Girls took the Grand Prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. “A big round of applause for the filmmakers and for the entire studio team!” said Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson.