The FuseBox is proud to support a diverse community of multi skilled innovators and it isn’t unusual for a FuseBox resident to be working on more than one project at one time.
As part of this trend, Lucy Nordberg began working in the FuseBox leading research for Built Environment Media but as time passed, Lucy recognised collaboration opportunities to connect her other business, Moving Pictures Theatre with fellow residents within the space.
This month, we decided to catch up with Lucy to find out more about this second venture; Moving Pictures Theatre and how the FuseBox has played an unexpected role in their mission of capturing performances in locations of importance and delivering them to our cinema and tv screens.
Hi Lucy, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I’ve got a background in writing for theatre, and producing plays. I’ve got a particular interest in modern blank verse and making that form accessible to modern audiences. That has crossed over into some collaboration with the educational world, from Cambridge University to University of International Business and Economics in China. I’ve also got an interest in architecture and construction, having previously worked for a construction services company in London.
I’m currently a co-founder of Moving Pictures Theatre, formed to produce and film plays in notable locations. I’m also Head of Research for a company called Built Environment Media, which supplies data and business information to architects.
And how did you become a FuseBox resident?
My boss at Built Environment Media took up residency here for a new project called Developer Insight, which will significantly expand our current service. So I’m at the FuseBox with two hats – perhaps a tech-savvy resident can find a way to make a robot so I can do two jobs at once (ideally without replacing me entirely!).
Can you explain how and why Moving Pictures Theatre formed?
It’s a natural progression, I suppose. A play of mine was put on in the grounds of a castle in Edinburgh after a run in a conventional theatre the year before. I met my business partner, Marc Green, through a filmmaker who was filming this play as a record. We shared a similar vision.
We thought that there are some incredible locations – in this country and around the world – that would make perfect setting for plays, and were in fact historically used for entertainment. These include halls, castles, palaces and even more contemporary homes. However, you couldn’t put on a large scale play at these locations because they wouldn’t be available for the long run necessary to make financial sense.
When we first had the idea, event cinema was just beginning, and now an established audience has grown for filmed plays. Our content is exclusively for people watching at the cinema, on TV or online, as we can only have small or invited audiences in these spaces. We like to think we’re reclaiming significant sites as performance spaces and making them accessible to a wide audience.
Moving Pictures Theatre use both traditional and innovative technologies, is it difficult to balance both old and new processes in film?
One of our touchstones is the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Rope was essentially a one-take film. Dial M For Murder was filmed in 3D. Both of these films are based on plays. In the scheme of things, we’re not doing anything new. We just try to use whatever is around us at the moment to do the best we can.
So, the plan is to shoot everything conventionally – which is so much easier now digitally. 360 filming is something we intended to do, but since working at the FuseBox we’ve been able to experiment and plan this more fully. We simply film in 360 afterwards, once the ‘normal’ shoot has taken place.
360 filming would be a challenge if we were making the switch from entirely ‘conventional’ film making, where there are cuts every few seconds and switches to many locations. From an audience perspective, you would feel sick pretty quickly watching that on a VR headset. Our standard footage will have cuts and so on, but it’s in one location – so after the normal shoot, the 360 camera is placed in the room, everyone leaves, the actors play the scene. The camera is their audience.
A bigger challenge is distribution for 360 content. We’ve got a distributor for our standard content, but we need to find where we can place the 360. It offers exciting creative possibilities, even if at the moment it’s just an add-on to our main offerings. So we’ll keep using it for as long as we can. Then, should opportunities arise, we’ll be ready.
What are the main challenges when producing a large-scale play in a non theatre environment?
Simple logistics like finding the time to book the place. However that’s the same with theatre. And although many locations have filming restrictions, anywhere that’s open to the public usually hosts events and has a clear a list of dos and don’ts for filming. One thing that’s far easier is the set – we’re picking places that are entirely suited to the plays. We have only an invited audience or a small audience, so that’s easy to control. I suppose, really, one of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing is because it’s simpler in many ways.
According to recent studies, there has been a decline in audience figures. Why do you think this is and do you think emerging technology can help the theatre industry change this?
I think the main problem is money. From the audience perspective, it’s very expensive for a night out at the theatre. From the producer’s perspective, putting on a play is an expensive and risky business. A good place to start is very generous tax breaks for investors and a dispassionate, non-politically motivated (from both sides!) overhaul of the way we subsidise theatre. Technology can play a part in all this, through crowdfunding platforms and so on.
From our point of view, filming a play means you can see it far more cheaply. Your audience for one night extends to however many times you can distribute it. That’s one of the reasons event cinema has become popular: imagine the cost of a night at the opera versus seeing a filmed version at the cinema, or as part of your streaming service. Essentially, we’re making films but connecting back to a theatrical tradition, which seems to suit digital very well.
Looking at the industry overall, I think a disconnection has grown between subsidised, commercial and fringe theatre. Living in a time of general disruption could shake that up a bit – hopefully in the right way, as long as everyone doesn’t panic and try and impose solutions from above. Listen to the people making the stuff. One thing to bear in mind is that the death of theatre is reported every few years and it still keeps going.
Can you tell us about one of your most recent productions: the Last Lighthouse Keeper?
We’re starting with some short films, to build up a team and test out the content. We had just met an actor, John Locke, who suited our first planned production, and at FuseBox we met Michael Danks, who was interested in shooting some 360 footage with us. A friend of his, Gary Weston, owns a lightship moored at Gravesend, which he’s running as an arts centre. So we had a day’s shoot on board, which was great fun, especially when the tide was in and we were afloat for a couple of hours.
As planned, we shot a conventional version and Michael Danks shot in 360. The whole thing is quite simple, an actor reciting a poem to camera, based on the idea of how myths grew up around lighthouses and lighthouse keepers, and the human consequences of automation. I like the circularity of using new technology to comment on technology, it’s quite neat.
How has the FuseBox helped Moving Pictures develop as a business?
As you’ve heard, it’s already helped practically with networking and connections which push projects forward and in new directions. It’s not just a case of shared rental office space – collaboration is encouraged. There’s plenty of advice on hand from the use of technology, to funding, to potential markets. Beyond the practical, it helps keeps the spirit of development itself alive, which is important when you have to drive things on.
What events and projects have you taken part in since being a FuseBox resident?
The round tables are a great way of keeping up with what everyone’s doing and sharing news. I also went to a trial of the Immersive Discovery Days lead by Chris Chowen, which are designed to help businesses explore effective ways to use immersive technology. We also attended a VR show-and-tell event. Looking to the future, I’m interested in possibilities offered by the upcoming FuseBox residency at the Brighton Digital Festival.
How do people find out more about your company?
Drop us a line at [email protected] or our website is at www.movingpicturestheatre.com