By: Alexis Dunn ’19
This Summer, Julia Swift joined the Emergent Media Center (EMC) as a faculty consultant to work with a team of students on a brand new 360 degree VR film experience. She created a prototype with the student staff that was debuted on the first night of the South End Art Hop. Julia is a highly regarded film professor at Champlain College. As well as her position as an assistant film professor, she has written, directed, and edited for film and TV over the course of her very impressive career. You can even watch her locally on Fox 44’s “At the Box Office!” reviewing recent films.
She worked alongside EMC staff and students to develop the prototype entitled Silent Connection. The student teams goal for the summer was to create something with ‘new media’ that would evoke empathy in the user. One of the challenges the team had was how to measure if they could indeed evoke empathy with this experience.
When Julia was asked why she decided to get involved with the EMC so closely this Summer, she explained that she had been looking for a way to work with the center ever since she came to Champlain.
“This summer they contacted me about a VR project involving filmmaking.”
What initially drew her to the project was the idea that she would be able to work with students outside of the classroom, for longer than a few hours a week.
“I was excited to learn more about the EMC and thrilled to have a chance to really dive into a project with students who could work on it full time.”
Julia worked to further encourage the intimacy of the project with the team. She wanted them to understand what they were doing and why. Their dedication was also what would help her with her own inspirations and ideas. In order to continue to develop the concept of this new project, she asked them questions that would provoke emotional responses.
“It was important to me that they felt personally invested in the subject. I pushed the team to consider what they truly cared about…if they had a captive audience, what would they say. Then we worked on how to transform those ideas and thoughts into characters, feelings, and experiences.”
Working with 360 video was brand new for most of the members of the team aside from Mathew Roache (Film major, ’19) a video producer on the project team. He had worked with360 video technology once before in a class he had taken while studying abroad in Montreal.
“I worked on a concept for a game for Electronic Arts and Crytek in Germany that had some similar goals and interactions, but this was before mass 360 was available. I have played with 360 videos before, but working with the team, we have all had the chance to jump in and do in-depth research and tests which has really expanded both our knowledge and interest in the medium.”
Storytelling has been a huge part of Julia’s career as a professor, a working director, writer, and editor. Throughout her life, she has found different ways to tell different stories with different mediums. One of her goals for the Summer was to teach the student team a little more about the art form.
“A lot of artists working in new visual mediums try to bring the old rules with them, and I have tried to guide students to think about which rules are essential to grab an audience’s attention, and which rules no longer fit. And then to remind the students that rules are only lessons we have learned from past experience, and they are always bending and changing.”
Julia Swift threw herself into the project this Summer and really focused on not just the task but the team behind it. Her vibrancy seemed to energize those around her and her dedication was incredible. She has one piece of advice for any other professors that are thinking of getting involved with the Emergent Media Center;
“You will only get as much out of it as you put into it.”