American University’s School of Communication Teaches Interactive filmmaking with Stornaway.io
The Film and Media Arts division of the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C., is the first university to use the interactive filmmaking platform Stornaway.io to introduce its students to interactive film production. This international collaboration with the UK-based Stornaway.io is a sign of how universities are adapting to the changing circumstances forced on them during this pandemic.
Stornaway founder Ru Howe said, “Film students are really excited by the interactive story games that Netflix have been pioneering, like 2019’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and 2020’s interactive Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This is a new form for the new decade, and who better to explore it than this next generation of filmmakers? AU students go on to make films that change minds and change the world – interactive storytelling is perfect for that, and Stornaway makes it easy.”
Associate Professor with the School of Communication, Larry Engel met the company’s founders Ru Howe and Kate Dimbleby in the fall while seeking new ways to work remotely with his students during lockdown. He says he immediately felt a synergy between the work at the School of Communication and the potential for this brand-new format.
Last semester, Stornaway.io’s founder and product designer Ru Howe worked with Professor Engel’s first-year graduate filmmaking class on a pilot interactive film project. Two teams of seven students filmed under Covid-19 restrictions, collaborating on their films remotely, including one student in lockdown in Pakistan.
“I was so impressed with what these first-year, first-semester film students were able to create despite all the constraints of the pandemic and it was really exciting to see them using Stornaway’s concept of Story Islands as a way of working together,” Stornaway.io’s founder Ru Howe said.
Their aim was to create a fiction work based on the idea of “Alone in My Space,” which is a single-actor short scene with only one line of dialogue. The streaming interactivity enabled students to connect their films in multiple ways so that the audience gets to choose how to move through the films.
“Interactive storytelling shouldn’t be hard and miserable – it should be fun for creatives, and with Stornaway it is,” said co-founder Kate Dimbleby. “We are excited to get this groundbreaking production tool into the hands of the next generation of filmmakers to see how it inspires them.”
“The team at Stornaway has engaged with our students by joining our virtual classrooms for advice and story island building,” said Professor Engel. “The students are so excited about this emerging streaming art form. While I am new to this realm too, I’m excited for the opportunity to provide our students with an emerging medium in our field.”
“Next semester, I’m looking forward to developing an interactive environmental-justice project with my documentary production students and Stornaway.io that focuses attention on this issue in American University’s Washington, D.C. home,” added Professor Engel.
Until now, interactive production has been difficult and expensive. Charlie Brooker said that making Bandersnatch was “like doing a Rubik’s cube inside your brain” because there aren’t any tools aimed at professionals, so “everyone went a bit bananas.”
Stornaway.io fixes that with a web-based platform designed for creatives to focus on their storytelling. With powerful features and the ability to instantly preview and publish their films without coding, Stornaway.io simplifies interactive creativity.
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