Letters from Orion

 viewing messages from the final frontier 

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"to touch the infinite"

     

©2001 by Kurt Lancaster

"summer twilight"

 

       

"ship of the dead"

         

Press Release

Kurt Lancaster, the author of Interacting with Babylon 5 and Building a Home Movie Studio & Getting Your Films Online, announces the completion of three volumes of a video-streaming web narrative, Letters from Orion.

Shot with a Sony DV camera against a blue screen, Lancaster hired actors to perform monologues in front of the screen, then digitally composed them in front of Hubble Space Telescope images using Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Video—an “all in one” digital editor. Orion is a combination of compelling acting in a word-centered storytelling medium usually found on the stage.

“I wanted to combine the powerful elements of storytelling and acting found on the stage and translate it to the digital stage located on the Web,” Lancaster says, who teaches Shakespeare and Science Fiction at MIT. He has directed plays at MIT and off-off Broadway. One critic, Nick White of The Tech, has called his work dark and powerful. “I felt the pain and the joy, the love and the anger of each character,” White says.

A selection from Orion was presented at MIT’s Digital Cinema conference in fall 2000. Henry Jenkins, the director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program says that it is “Powerful. Letters from Orion combines complex scripts and emotionally demanding performances. Lancaster thinks creatively about the distinctive properties of the web as a storytelling medium.”

Lancaster explains that after he and his co-author, graduate student Cynthia Conti, started writing Building a Home Movie Studio last summer, he became interested in telling a story on the Web. “We’re on the cusp of a new film revolution,” Lancaster says. “The convergence of digital video, computers, and the internet has given rise to a new form of storytelling. Anyone can now build a home movie studio for about $2,500.” The equipment for Lancaster’s studio cost less than $3,000. “My actual budget for this project was under a $1,000,” he says.

“New aspiring filmmakers can build their own digital video movie studio for far cheaper than one year’s attendance at a prestigious film school,” Lancaster says. “In many of these projects,” he adds, “we find deeply personal films, as well as daring and experimental works that could not exist without the accessibility of the Internet.”

Letters from Orion is like any other story, but told in a new medium. I could have written the story as a novel or as a screenplay, but I chose the Web as the medium for the story, because it is best suited to the way I want the story to be told,” Lancaster explains, pointing out how viewers can choose which monologues to watch first and have the opportunity to post their own letters to the characters on a discussion board.

He plans to hire other writers and actors to enlarge the tapestry of his universe, where other stories, sometimes intersecting, will be told alongside the stories in the first three volumes.