Machinima Film Festival Coming on Nov. 1st

Machinima Gets its Own Film Festival

Machinima has made huge strides in the last six years, since the first Machinima Film Festival was held. However, most people, even many gamers, won’t even recognize the word, let alone be able to tell you what it is. At the 2008 Machinima Film Festival in Manhattan on Novermber 1, 2008, the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences (AMAS) hopes to change that with their biggest show yet.

The AMAS, aside from proving that there is an organization for everything, has been running this show every year since 2002, when it was just a side cropping of QuakeCon. The non-profit organization has stepped up its efforts each year, leading to this year’s show complete with new categories and features. They alternate the show between Europe and New York each year, which provides unique experiences in each location, according to show organizer Friedrich Kirschner. He notes that the American audiences feature both filmmakers and a wide array of fans, while mostly filmmakers make it to the European shows. “Gaming culture in America is much more widespread than in Europe; it’s more accepted in media and public social life,” explains Kirschner. He even saw a social scientist at the even two years ago, studying the attendees.

But what is Machnima, you may ask. It’s movies, short and long form, created using an existing 3d environment; most often with video games used as the base. The most famous Machinima (pronounced muh-sheen-eh-mah) is probably an ongoing series of web shows and movies called Red vs. Blue. These productions are filmed using Halo 2 (and now 3), then dubbed over with full scripts to tell the story. While many RvB moments are humorous, they have touched on the darker side of storytelling on occasion as well. The Sims 2 is another commonly Machinima-d game, as it features a video recording function directly within it. These and many other games are used as storyboards, animation, and production houses all in one, providing a unique brand of cinema. Kirschner likes the unique creativity. “Machinima was invented in several homes at the same time,” he says, and events like the Festival, along with web-based communities, helped to bring these people together. Collaboration is the name of the game here, as well, rather than having “a loan filmmaker sitting in his basement.”

Previous festivals presented awards in categories like “Best Writing” and “Best Series.” This year two high profile new categories have been added. “Best Long Format” features films over 20 minutes in length, a recently commonly occurring phenomenon. “And they’re actually really, really good! You can watch them!” exclaims Kirschner Also, the AMAS plans to honor professional game studios’ own productions with “Best Game Studio Machnima.” Kirschner clarified these are not the pre-rendered cutscenes prevalent in today’s games, but rather video sequences using the in-game engine. This shows a real convergence between the professional and fan-made flicks, and helps to legitimize the art form.

On August 7, 2008, AMAS opened up for submissions to this year’s festival, which will be held at Eyebeam in Manhattan on November 1, 2008. The Arts and Technology Center is a “great space” that allows for much more to be done at the day long fest; panels, screenings, and even a concert will be held for fans and creators alike to enjoy. The submission time is open until September 12, 2008, and the full list of categories as well as submission requirements is at AMAS’s Festival Website. Kirschner said they started getting submissions today, on the first day, and expect to get between two and three hundred. However, he hopes to see even more; “given the growth rate, we could be way off” on the estimate. He did want fans to know they should submit, submit, submit. “We’re happy for everything we get; well, not everything we get, but we’re SAYING we’re happy for everything we get,” he joked, noting that while there are tons of amazing submissions, there are also some that won’t be added to the cinema hall of fame anytime soon.

Fans wanting to attend can check the Festival Website for more information. Machinima.com hosts a large variety of Machinima for newbies wanting in on the action.

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