Q&A with Katerina Cizek - Part 2

Q. How did you approach the process of piecing it all together?

A. It was a bit like a rubik's cube, to try and figure out how it could work. Amsterdam was the first collage we put together, and Branden Bratuhin, our technical director, had this huge excel spreadsheet just figuring out how the pieces were coming together. He did a lot of the collage photoshop work. It was a huge process and workflow.

The photos come in and they're like pieces of a puzzle - you haven't been on set so you have no idea what they're going to look like, you have no idea even where they're going to work. For Amsterdam I'd been in the room for a test shoot so I was able to assemble it, but some of them I just didn't know until it was finally all together. And sometimes there were literally hundreds of photographs, from both the inside and the outside. For the mini-stories I cut Amsterdam and Prague first, and that helped - that was where we figured out the process and then worked from there. But each city had its own magic.

Q. What has the response been like for Out My Window?

A. What I've been most moved by is the time people are spending on the site. We've had a lot of chatter on Twitter. It's funny, coming from the documentary background, taking something like 'amazing time suck of the day' as a compliment - I guess that's a compliment. And it's one of the major goals of the project - we were talking about this sped up world, this 140 characters universe, and I want to engage with that as a maker and someone who is really interested in new technologies and how these intersect with our politics and the way that we move in the world and who we get to talk to and have never got to talk to before. I'm really interested in figuring out how we can have deep, moving, profound experiences online that are immersive, that are emotional, that are tactile. From the early responses to the site, I think we're achieving that, I think people are spending a lot of time on the site

Q. It sounds like you've been using a lot of social media for this project - is that a recent approach, or did you do this for Filmmaker-in-Residence as well?

A. When we started Filmmaker in Residence, YouTube didn't exist. I made a film in 2002 called Seeing is Believing: Handicams, Human Rights and the News, co-directed with Peter Wintonick. It's a film that documents the handicam revolution and documents new technologies in human rights advocacy around the world. That film is a huge part of my life and a huge influence on what I do, and it's also part of a trajectory I've taken. Technologies are constantly emerging, but I'm pretty technology and media agnostic - I don't care so much about the tools, it depends on what's available and what works best for what. What primarily interests me is community media, how to work with people. How can the creation of media be part of something a little bit larger than just documenting something?

Q. So what’s next for Highrise?

A. As I mentioned we’ve partnered with the University of Toronto to look at digital literacy in highrise communities, so we're hoping to get a research project off the ground. We're more interested in ideas and the way in which our research can help the people in the communities figure out some pretty basic digital stuff. On top of that we're hoping that documentary material will flow out of that. We also have an interventionist project off the ground in India, with an incredible urban planning team - they're doing some great work in the slums in Mumbai, in Dharavi. We’re also doing research on a project about hip hop in highrises - looking at the relationship between built forms and music. We're in development, we're researching, we're learning, we're developing partnerships, so it's a very organic process.

We’re continuing to work with the same group from 1000th Tower (the first online piece to come out of Highrise), and we're developing a project called 2000th Tower - we were actually shooting last week. 1000th Tower was about the grim reality of the physical built world they're living in, 2000th Tower is about envisioning what that space could look like with a little bit of money, inspiration, some forward thinking approaches to community, and building neighbourhood renewal. We'll be working with some animators to bring that to life on the screen.

We’re also currently turning three of the cities from Out My Window into a physical installation. We’ll have huge screens and project the stories onto them. This will premiere at IDFA in Amsterdam in two weeks - I’m really interested in seeing how the stories will transform in the physical space.

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About this Blog

In the second instalment of an interview (the first one is here) with Katerina Cizek, she talks about the process of putting Out My Window together, the response they’ve received, and what we can expect next from Highrise.