The National Film Board of Canada is one of world's the leading producers of immersive and cross-media documentaries. Loc Dao and Hugues Sweeney give an in-depth look into the process behind their award-winning projects A Journal of Insomnia and Bear 71 and discuss the past and future of the NFB as well as its role in the global media ecosystem.
Let's start with two of your recent projects: Bear 71 and A Journal of Insomnia. In each case, is it possible to separate the story from the technology?
Not in our work. The technology is part of the work. It's interesting in that Bear and Insomnia share certain technological characteristics: multi-user audiences, web-cams, installations that interact with the content, but ultimately each is a very different way of telling a story.
Each project is a blank canvas. This has been the NFB's DNA for almost seventy-five years: there is no format, there is no series or recipe, there is no repetition. If you go back to the birth of cinéma vérité — direct cinema — it's about synching sound to film. And when you read the discussions around the first direct cinema films, they are talking about the camera and the sound as "reality sensors" and "reality captors". That was in 1959. So what does a web-cam mean today? What does a GPS mean today? What does a brain sensor mean today?...