Grandfather of the Body Horror genre, David Cronenberg is reinventing the prospect of ancillary rights for filmmakers. The typical merchandising landscape is littered with book deals, toys, soundtracks, or other monetizable swag. Cronenberg recently struck a deal with a biotechnology startup in Los Angeles, Body Mind Change Labs, to bring his film’s fictional biotech props into reality.
Anyone familiar with Cronenberg’s films such as Scanners, Videodrome or eXistenZ, will shiver at the thought of these concepts becoming a reality. His films often depict the disturbing collision when humans attempt to fulfill survival or desire through technology. In Cronenberg’s universe, what usually begins as a daring experiment to evolve the human condition turns into nightmarish mutations.
Why would this soothsayer of technological oddity, willing sell the ideas he so effectively scared us with? A creative curiosity aside, a licensing deal reported at tens of millions of dollars is certainly appealing. Though, Cronenberg has involved himself creatively and personally as a subject. The filmmaker, Body Mind Change Labs, and interactive storyteller extraordinaire, Lance Weiler, are launching a groundbreaking exhibit at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Lance Weiler continually wows audiences, at film festivals, the online arena and beyond, with revolutionary storytelling that integrates interactivity. In Weiler’s projects the audience, collectively or individually, becomes a part of the narrative and often influences the outcome. Under Weiler’s creative direction, Cronenberg will star as the subject of his own experiments, conducted by the Body Mind Change Labs.
It’s only fair now to address what the heck all this means. As part of the intellectual property that Body Mind Change Labs licensed from Cronenberg, they have developed a POD (Personal On-Demand). The POD is inspired by the Game Pods in Cronenberg’s 1999 film eXistenZ, but they don’t plug directly into the user’s spinal cord as depicted in the film. The Body Mind Change Labs’ POD uses a proprietary neural stem cell technology that interacts with signals from the user’s central nervous system. Anymore of an elaborate description would require that you and I both have degrees in nanotechnology, biology and neurology.
A producer on the project, Ana Serrano offered the insight: “It has been an exciting creative journey resulting in North America’s first interactive storytelling experience that generates a physical object for the user that has narrative meaning.”
Conceptually, what the project offers filmmakers is a trailblazing way to engage audiences. Centuries of storytelling have strove to create empathy in characters, but we are moving into an age where we are the protagonists. An age where the imagination of a David Cronenberg can be tapped by designers and poured into the mind-body experience of audiences. Filmmakers take note, as an insatiable demand for new experiences is born from the saturated marketplace of content. There is a reason video games are the biggest earners today, and taking these notions of interactivity will infuse the potential of what filmmaking and art can be.
TIFF, the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab, and Body Mind Change Labs are producing the project. Lance Weiler wrote a piece about it in Filmmaker Magazine, and a trailer for the exhibit is on the Body Mind Change YouTube channel.