Launching April 21 at Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes, Draw Me Close blurs the worlds of live performance, virtual reality and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of her terminal-cancer diagnosis. Weaving theatrical storytelling with cutting-edge technology, the project takes a deceptively simple and humanistic approach to the immersive medium: it allows the audience member to experience life as five-year-old Jordan, inside a live, animated world.
Created by award-winning playwright and filmmaker Jordan Tannahill, described as “the future of Canadian theatre,” Draw Me Close is the first major co-production between the National Film Board of Canada and the UK’s National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, in collaboration with multidisciplinary creative studio All Seeing Eye, led by its founder, Ollie Lindsey, with illustrations by Teva Harrison and Olie Kay. The experience is unlike anything the form has seen before, integrating live performance and VR into one seamless narrative, with the audience member as performer—an actor in the immersive world. This unique collaboration between the NT and the NFB began as a Research and Development Lab, spearheaded by the NT’s Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development, and the NFB’s David Oppenheim, Producer, to advance the language of creative non-fiction VR. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible with dramatic storytelling, the experiential project, produced by Coffey and Oppenheim and co-produced by Johanna Nicholls of the National Theatre and the NFB’s Justine Pimlott, has emerged from the NFB/NT Lab as a groundbreaking exploration of the theatrical potential of VR and beyond. For rising international talent Tannahill, the Studio project commission marks his VR debut and first collaboration with the NT and the NFB. The world premiere of Draw Me Close at Tribeca Storyscapes is the first chapter of what is to be a feature-length immersive experience about Jordan’s relationship with his mother, to be developed in 2018.
This spellbinding immersive experience is convincingly brought to life through live performance combined with a real-time motion-capture system, Orion, which utilises HTC Vive and is currently being developed by IKinema. This room-scale VR experience transforms an ordinary room into a 3D virtual world. Audience members enter the performance space and put on a VR headset to become a young Jordan, navigating seamlessly through both physical and virtual environments. As they walk through the physical set, they use the motion-tracked controllers to manipulate objects and take action in the virtual space. They are guided by Jordan’s mother, played by an actress. As the mother engages with the audience member in the physical world, her movements are translated by motion capture into the virtual world. In this first chapter of Draw Me Close, both actor and audience member experience an early childhood memory as they bring it to life.
Draw Me Close – World Premiere
Tribeca Film Festival
April 21–29, 12 p.m. until 10 p.m. daily
Storyscapes, Tribeca’s Immersive Virtual Arcade
Spring Studios, 50 Varick Street
“There’s no other story that weighs more heavily on my mind right now than my relationship with my mother—a story that’s still in the process of unfolding. Draw Me Close has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to reckon with all of the challenging and ultimately unknowable questions around mortality.”
– Jordan Tannahill, Co-creator, Draw Me Close
“The primary motivation for the NFB and National Theatre Lab was to combine the strengths of our respective studios and experiment at the edges of creative documentary, theatre and VR—to expand the possibilities of VR storytelling and play a small part in building a creative vocabulary for this evolving medium. Jordan is a brilliant writer and multi-disciplinary artist, and not afraid to play with boundaries, including between the mediated and the live, so Draw Me Close really benefits from that chemistry. He had a wonderfully humanistic vision for what he wanted to create with this piece. I’m looking forward to seeing Tribeca audiences inhabit the world that we’ve created, and I think they will be emotionally transported when they do.”
– David Oppenheim, Producer at the National Film Board of Canada
“I’m very proud of what we have achieved with Draw Me Close. Jordan is an incredible storyteller and his approach to audience experience and immersive narrative aligns completely with the ethos of the NT’s Immersive Storytelling Studio. At the Studio, we work with artists to understand what emerging technologies can mean for their craft of storytelling; artistic exploration leading to audience experience. At this stage in the development of the medium, that’s incredibly important to me. Working with Jordan and the NFB has been a wonderful example of what that approach realizes. I get such pride in seeing audience reactions to something that is, on the one hand, a fundamentally personal and interactive narrative experience and, on the other, a very progressive and completely relevant use of technology in storytelling.”
– Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at the National Theatre
Jordan Tannahill is a Canadian playwright and filmmaker whose award-winning work has been presented at numerous festivals and galleries both in Canada and abroad. He has been alternatively described as “the future of Canadian theatre” (NOW Magazine), “the hottest name in Canadian theatre” (Montreal Gazette), and “the posterchild of a new generation for whom ‘interdisciplinary’ is not a buzzword but a way of life” (The Globe and Mail). His book, Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama, published in 2015, was called “essential reading for anyone interested in the state of contemporary theatre and performance” (The Globe and Mail). In collaboration with William Ellis, Tannahill ran the alternative art space Videofag from 2012 to 2016, during which time it became an influential hub for queer and avant-garde work in Canada.
Teva Harrison is a critically acclaimed artist, writer, cartoonist and author based in Toronto. Her bestselling hybrid graphic memoir, In-Between Days: A Memoir About Living With Cancer, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction and named one of the best books of the year by The Globe and Mail, The National Post, CBC, iBooks, KOBO, Walrus Magazine and Quill and Quire. Harrison’s comics, which have appeared regularly on The Walrus’s website, explore everything from her magic-filled hippie childhood to what it means to live with metastatic breast cancer. Harrison was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 37 and has since been invited by numerous health organizations to speak publicly on behalf of the metastatic cancer community.
Olie Kay is a multidisciplinary designer, art director and creative with extensive experience working in digital. Olie has experience across UX, UI, narrative and games, and has spent years leading and nurturing creative processes and managing teams of artists and developers. Olie has taught at University of the West of England and held examiner roles at the ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers).
Olie’s previous collaborators and clients include BBC Earth, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Shakespeare’s Globe, Dyson, National Theatre Wales, Mondelēz International, Peugeot, British Council, Agatha Christie Ltd., Bristol Old Vic, Royal Shakespeare Company, Magic Memories, Watershed, REACT, Barclays, Sony, Slingshot, Interactive Scientific and Knowle West Media Centre.
Since graduating with a degree in graphic design from Falmouth University in 2004, Ollie Lindsey has worked as a founder and creative and technical director, running creative technology studios. Mainly focussed on the arts and cultural sector, he designs experiences for installations, events, online and mobile. His work mixes the application of emerging technologies such as 360-degree film, virtual and augmented reality with more traditional settings, reaching audiences in new, exciting and unexpected ways. Most notably, his recent VR work with the National Theatre has been selected to be shown at Sundance, Cannes, Seattle and the Sydney Film Festival, among others. Ollie will be leading the Production team over the course of the project.
About the National Film Board of Canada
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, immersive stories, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won 100 awards, including 17 Webbys. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV.
About the National Theatre
The National Theatre is dedicated to making the very best theatre and sharing it with as many people as possible. They produce productions on the South Bank in London each year, ranging from reimagined classics to modern masterpieces and new work by contemporary writers and theatre-makers. The National’s work is seen on tour throughout the UK, in London’s West End, internationally (including on Broadway) and in collaborations and co-productions with regional theatres.
National Theatre Live, which broadcasts live performances to cinema screens internationally, is now celebrating its seventh year and has been experienced by over 5.5 million people worldwide in 200 countries. For more information, visit NTLive.com.
The Clore Learning Centre at the NT is committed to providing programmes for schools, young people, families, community groups and adult learners. The nationwide youth theatre festival Connections and playwriting competition New Views engage thousands of young people around the country. Further, over 2,200 secondary schools have signed up to the free streaming service On Demand. In Schools since its launch in September 2015.
About the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio
The Immersive Storytelling Studio examines how Virtual Reality (VR), 360-degree film, augmented reality and other emerging technologies can widen and enhance the NT’s remit to be a pioneer of dramatic storytelling and to enable an audience to stand in the shoes of another.
The work is divided into two broad strands of activity: Homegrown, a series of projects originated entirely within the National Theatre, and Partnerships, formal partnerships with creative, technical and commercial collaborators.
Accenture is the National Theatre’s “Partner for Innovation” and supporter of the Immersive Storytelling Studio. They are providing both financial and in-kind support to enable digital innovation and will use their digital strategy and delivery expertise to help the Studio create unique, immersive theatrical experiences. For more information about Accenture’s support, please visit nationaltheatre.org.uk/immersive.
Tribeca Film Festival
Storyscapes, Tribeca’s Immersive Virtual Arcade
Screening Room Online: NFB.ca