Future of film may be resting in your hands

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2012, 12:00am


If you happen to notice a young German looking over your shoulder on the MTR to catch a glimpse of what you are doing with your smartphone, don't be alarmed. Marco Sparmberg isn't trying to pry into your personal life; he believes that whatever snippets of entertainment you may be watching on the device will help fuel the next evolution of filmmaking.

'When I'm on the MTR, I see what people watch on their phones - usually its television stuff, comics, animation series,' the 27-year-old filmmaker says. 'I hardly ever see anyone watching a movie.'

Sparmberg is interested in how different media can be used together, in particular so-called transmedia storytelling, where different parts of a single story are told through various platforms. A story could start as a short film, move into a video game then on to a smartphone application. It's an interactive approach where the viewer can often become part of the narrative.

'People don't have the time to sit down for two hours and watch a movie. You're more likely to reach viewers on their way to and from work.'

Transmedia is where the future lies, he says. And he has entered part of his transmedia project Squattertown in the 5th Hong Kong Mobile Film Production Contest. The short film, tailored for the mobile phone, is the first episode in a dystopian story set in an alternative Hong Kong, about a society formed after the 1960s riots where the wealthy live in a concrete utopia underground while the poor fend for themselves on a smoggy surface in squatter towns.

With action inspired by movies like Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series, it's easy to see how the next episode is being played out in a video game. Initially, Sparmberg had hoped to use the squatter areas he had filmed in around Hong Kong, some of which have since disappeared, as points where viewers could go too see a new episode using augmented reality - in which a smartphone application displays information about the area when the phone's camera is pointed at a particular spot.

It's an approach that public relations firm Edelman thinks is the future of marketing, as well as filmmaking. 'It's going to be important for companies to create their own content, to tell stories across platforms,' said Andrew Kirk, managing editor for Edelman's Hong Kong and Taiwan operations. Surveys by Edelman suggest people are more likely to trust knowledgeable individuals than corporations or governments.

It is important for companies to be able to tell their stories in a way that's interesting, Kirk says. And that could provide a funding pool for the new generation of filmmakers like Sparmberg.

Squattertown and the work of 15 other finalists can be viewed at the festival's website: www.mobilefilm.hk. The winner will be announced today at the Holiday Inn in Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.