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June 8, 2016 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

This summer, Montrealers will be able to experience a groundbreaking foray into data-driven storytelling as the film-generating installation Seances is showcased all summer long at the Phi Centre in Old Montreal as part of its Embodied Narrative: Sensory Stories of the Digital Age exhibition, June 14 to August 21. Created by iconoclastic filmmaker Guy Maddin, co-creators Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, and the National Film Board of Canada, Seances dynamically assembles reimagined lost films in never-to-be-repeated configurations.

This communal on-site experience is the latest project to emerge from a cinematic story-world that includes the Seances website and the acclaimed 2015 film The Forbidden Room, named to TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten list. In both the web-based and installation experience, Seances gives audiences the opportunity to influence the film they are about to see, but it will be the only instance of that particular film that will ever exist. There is only that moment to watch.

Seances is powered by an indefatigable film-generating-and-destroying machine that deliberately creates films only to destroy them after their one and only viewing. Called “Imposium,” it’s a proprietary cloud-based video/audio compositing and compilation software from Nickel Media that allowed Maddin and the brothers Johnson to apply algorithmic methods to their storytelling, presenting a completely new method of filmmaking.

Originally launched at the Storyscapes exhibition at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, the Seances installation experience in Montreal will take place inside an intimate space, with room for 12 people. Participants conjure up their films by selecting ghostly text fragments floating on an interactive 55-inch touch screen table, until a story is summoned to life. Participants then take their seats for a one-time-only film experience, one that will cease to exist after their viewing. For each time users conjure up a film, they also participate directly in its eternal loss.

Seances reimagines the lost works of such cinematic legends as Alice Guy‐Blaché, Alexander Dovzhenko, Jacques Feyder, Benjamin Fondane and Alfred Hitchcock, among others. Over 60 Quebec actors appeared in Montreal-shot Seances films, including Karine Vanasse, Roy Dupuis, Céline Bonnier, Carole Laure with Lewis Furey and their daughter Clara Furey, Caroline Dhavernas, Paul Ahmarani, Marie Brassard and Sophie Desmarais, as well as Anthony Lemke, Louis Negin, Gregory Hlady, Noel Burton, Romano Orzari, Judith Baribeau, Juliette Gosselin, Kyle Gatehouse and others. Additional films were shot by Maddin at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Seances is a collaboration between the NFB’s North West Studio and Digital Studio, and is produced for the NFB by Alicia Smith and Dana Dansereau, with David Christensen and Loc Dao as executive producers. The 2015 feature The Forbidden Room was co-directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, presented by Mongrel International and Phi Films and co-produced by Buffalo Gal Pictures, Phi Films and the NFB.

Including Seances, 13 works are being featured at Phi as part of Embodied Narrative: Sensory Stories of the Digital Age, which is curated by Future of StoryTelling (FoST) and produced by Phi in partnership with Future of StoryTelling.

Quick Facts

Creator biographies

Guy Maddin

Guy Maddin is an installation and internet artist, lecturer at Harvard, and writer and filmmaker. He has directed 11 feature-length movies, including The Forbidden Room (2015), My Winnipeg (2007) and The Saddest Music in the World (2003), as well as innumerable shorts. He has also mounted over 70 performances of his films featuring live elements—orchestra, sound effects, singing and narration—around the world. He is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.

Evan Johnson

Evan Johnson is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Winnipeg with his girlfriend and son. He studied film and philosophy at the University of Manitoba and worked at Winnipeg’s Rug Doctor chemical bottling plant before being discovered there by Guy Maddin. In addition to co-directing The Forbidden Room, Evan has made a number of short films, including Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton (2015), co-directed with Galen Johnson and Guy Maddin, and featured at TIFF’s 2015 Wavelengths program.

Galen Johnson

Galen Johnson is a Winnipeg-based composer and designer whose award-winning work has been exhibited around the globe. Over the years, he has collaborated with filmmaking duo Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson on a number of projects, including the documentary short Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, which he co-directed and composed, and The Forbidden Room, for which his opening title sequence was named best title sequence of 2015 by artofthetitle.com.


Associated Links

Phi Centre
Embodied Narrative: Sensory Stories of the Digital Age
Nickel Media
Mongrel International
Phi Films
Buffalo Gal Pictures
Future of StoryTelling (FoST)

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  • About the NFB

    The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won over 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.