[ISEA94] Paper: Grahame Weinbren — An Interactive Cinema


As one who has been thinking about, experimenting with, and developing an interactive cinema for over 10 years, I am always trying to find ways to describe what is distinctive about the medium — a sound/image stream whose flow can be affected by a viewer. As one assesses the relationships of interactivity to traditional media, the first questions one asks are:

  1. Does interactive cinema simply tell the same old stories in new ways? or,
  2. Does it enable the disclosure of a different kind of story?

And this is the fundamental issue tackled in this lecture. For me the central issue in producing interactive works has been to achieve the right balance between continuity and interruption. Ideally, the interactive cinema should be seamless and continuous, a
depiction of a complete world in which a narrative can unfold. On the other hand, to be truly interactive, it should respond to viewer input at any time, so that the viewer really feels that he or she is exploring the fictional universe.
Can a work be at once seamless and continuously open to viewer input? Overcoming this apparent contradiction is difficult, but not impossible. Addressing the problem in the production of two works of interactive cinema, The Erl King and Sonata, I have developed a language of interactive montage, a grammar of interactivity. Perhaps the ultimate question about works in the new technologies is: What is the point? Do we go to all this trouble only because it is the last available unexplored territory, the final untapped market? Are we climbers facing Mount Everest, or, worse, European colonials in Africa and Asia at the turn of the 19th century? Neither, I hope.
The potential of interactivity is apparent -to a limited extent- in advanced videogames, but the investigation has hardly begun. There are countless possibilities. We are finding that we can, indeed, say things that there was no way to say before, that we can depict experience afresh, that I can come closer to showing you what it is like to be inside my mind rather than yours. The last part of the lecture will focus on the question of what the interactive cinema allows us to say that could not previously be said.

This paper is part of the Nordicil seminar on the New Narrative of Cinema, organized in context of ISEA94