I like the look of it. But what I like more is that I, like most of the rest of the world, know virtually nothing about this movie.
Nolan, Like JJ Abrams, understands the value of intrigue. The massive buzz around Abrams’ CLOVERFIELD had much to do with the title-less teaser trailer that turned up, and the anti-campaign that followed, establishing a deliberate distance between the alpha moviegoers and the experience that was waiting for them inside the cinema:
These kind of online campaigns aren’t about bombardment, or scatter-gun marketing. They work around timing, budget, a well thought out strategy, and a creative brief articulated in terms of the cohesive experience it will deliver.
Of course, this doesn’t work for every movie. Some films still have to be sold the old-fashioned way (especially if they’re shit). And it doesn’t work when you’re bringing a book or a comic to the screen – fans tend to just obsess over how faithful a representation it will be.
It’s working for INCEPTION though in terms of keeping me guessing (and blogging. It’s worth stating that we’ve had nothing to do with this campaign, I’d disclose it otherwise.)
And yes, two weeks out we’ll get the customary media blitz, with ‘Leonardo Di Caprio’ and ‘From the director of THE DARK KNIGHT’ written in big old letters. For the majority of movie-goers this will probably be the first time they’ve even heard of INCEPTION.
For the rest of us, it will be confirmation that the wait is over.
I’m sitting in New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill with Annie Ok. We’re about to have dinner, after several glorious hours talking bleeding edge tech against the epic backdrop that is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Annie and I have met before but never in the flesh. Last time was across the table of a booth at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. I was Iron Man. She had dual clerics strapped to her thighs.
That’s why we were there, Iron Man, his first outing. Annie was helping PPC with a fan art thing we were doing in Second Life, I was modelling a wearable version of his suit we’d had made up.
We’re teasing each other (which is to say she’s teasing me) over the odd minor fuck-up, and talking turkey about the next big thing. That was my brief for the visit – what’s next? (One meeting in, and that question’s almost certainly been answered.)
All of this is happening through this amazing new medium we’re calling Actual Reality™. It’s not bad. The whole gravity thing is a bit of a drag, but this bottle of wine more than makes up for it, and my steak just arrived. I’m having it real, and bloody as hell.
Annie’s also been telling me about ‘My Life as An Avatar‘. It’s an art project she’s working on looking at how we choose to represent ourselves online, and how we come to understand and relate to other people according to the choices they make.
This is her latest video, a beautiful work of machinima, shot in Second Life:
In the context of Annie’s work the term ‘avatar’ has infinitely broad application – it can be anything from a single colourless pixel through to an infinitely complex 3D model. A likeness can be as explicit as that of a photograph, or as abstract as a choice of colour representing a particular mood. Perhaps there is no likeness, or even an anti-likeness – something conceived to deliberately mislead, disguising one’s true nature or motives.
Annie’s interest seems to be in the things people project onto each other’s avatars, imbuing them with attributes originating from our own hopes, desires, assumptions and expectations, how we moderate our behaviour accordingly and, by extension, how we invite others to behave in relation to us using these outward representations of ourselves. As Annie puts it,’a primary focus of the series is private moments and the observer’s perception projected on to the observed. This not only applies to avatars but to everything, including other humans, animals, objects, movies, artwork, etc’.
I’m on the flight home, and I’m back to thinking about our conversation. I’m thinking about my life as an avatar. Years in the ether, drawing and redrawing myself for the various communities and individuals demarcating my own emerging digital persona.
Avatars, I’ve had a few; favourite photographs; transient anthropomorphic 3D bodies; playful responses to whatever meme happens to be doing the rounds at any given moment; even the crosses and squares of various other chat rooms and forums, the simple ubiquity of which invites its own interpretation.
With sightless eyes I’ve watched sparks ignite, epic friendships borne out of chance remarks, springing up to signify life online – life, as an avatar.
I’ve met Annie Ok in a dozen different worlds, under as many different names, with as many different avatars. There are threads, areas where the likeness overlaps, themes emerging over time, coalescing into human being.
Actual Reality™ is just one such world. Life is multi-channel now, and this is just meatspace. And the real reality is an amalgam. Above the table, I get to see that smile in the flesh. Below it, my ferrous family jewels are looking down the barrels of a pair of dual clerics.
This is the first of a series of videos we’re producing to promote the release of Iron Man 2. As you can imagine, the comics geek who ends up being paid to fetishistically realise tiny corners of the expansive Marvel Universe has to pinch himself every now and then to check that it’s real. Especially when he gets to play First Boffin in the intro.