I skipped my morning bourbon and had spent the time perusing through every tech-news website I could get my hands on. In order to read them all I had to sign up for them all, so when I get fifteen magazines coming my way I’ll know it wasn’t some big mistake.
Wired had a big piece written in their previous issue about “The Future of Film-Making” with a small blurb about Travis Winston and his newest contraption. Popular Mechanics, Popular Science and Fast Company had mentioned Travis in their “Up and Comers” in film-making with his Droga5 ads, but nothing on the new tech. The Atlantic called him the “Elon Musk” of film-making, but without anything to show for it, I can only assume his work has more hot air than Tesla Airships.
After seeing his Droga5 ads, I changed my mind. In the ads, the camera swerves and swoops through the process of making and using Wildhouse boots, from the company’s inception until the moment the customer buys the next pair. I had to shut off the ad so my opinion could be sufficiently annihilated. The kid’s got talent, I thought, so at 8:30 am, I pulled on comfortable jeans, my favorite jacket, slipped on my loafers and took in the crisp California air before Judd pulled the limo onto the gravel driveway.
“This must be a record, Mikey. Two times in two days to Downtown L.A.?”
I slid into the warm leather seat as the door closed behind me. That sort of thing always comforted me.
“I guess so, Judd. You got the coordinates?”
“Yes, sir. It seems to be close to the same place we went to yesterday.”
“Yep. Let’s go.”
We arrived at 9 in front of a dark grey building, unique amongst the beiges and reds of the other brick buildings, with a large WANDA logo emblazoned on the doors and the building itself.
Judd left me at the building’s mouth with the promise to return in an hour and a half. I sauntered into the building, an uncomfortable wave of stale air hitting my nose and stinging my throat.
“Mr. Whittaker, I presume?”
A young, blond-haired lady called me over to the front desk, engraved with the rose logo of the parent company of Paramount.
“I see you have a 9 o’clock with Mr. Xiuying. I'll let him know you're here. Take this print out pass and go up to the 24th floor. Your agent, Mark Wallace, will be there to greet you."
"Thank you, young lady." I gave the most reassuring smile I could at the moment. She beamed back at me with such naive reverence.
"I'm such a fan of your work, Mr. Whittaker. It's so nice to see you back here again."
"Me too kid. Me too." I lied. It's easier to lie when you're old. As the elevator doors closed behind me, capsule making the world smaller, I had no idea what to expect.
What would Maddy think?
She'd probably be here with me, more curious than concerned. Her always red hair would smell of her favorite Chanel, Coco Exotica. She'd probably be covering her beautiful figure in a soft teal cocktail dress and constantly flash me a reassuring smile. She'd look into my eyes and say how proud she was of me like she always did.
Why the hell did I have to fuck that up?
I shake myself out of the trance.
Mark is standing in the elevator doorway, his cufflinked hand outstretched like he was pulling me out of the falling elevator.
"Sorry. I had a daydream."
"This early, sir?"
I smirked. "When you get to my age, you get to dream whenever you want."
Mark shrugged his shoulders. "They didn't even start the presentation. They were having technical difficulties."
"With the new tech already?"
"No, with telecommunications. Apparently, we're not the only ones at this meeting."
A massive screen covered a single wall of the massive room, comprised of different sized TV's occupied by different groups of people.
"They can't hear us until we're set up with lavaliers. The big screens are corporate for Wanda, in Qingdao, China. The smaller ones are Press, mainly AP and a small handful of tech companies. They think you're an investor so for all they know you're not acting here. Once the cameras stop working, then the talks will begin."
"So why am I here?"
"Because they think you should see what this camera can do."
"They're making it sound like it gives free wifi and dispenses coffee while singing 'We Didn't Start the Fire' by Billy Joel, backward."
Mark chuckled through his nose. "For all we know, we could be watching the first 'talkie'."
What the hell did that mean, I thought. Unless he was talking about how the talkie overtook silent films in the 1920's...
He sat down in the seats outside of the screen camera's periphery, leaving me at the conference table with a large number of people, mostly investors and young celebrities I've never heard of. Everyone, but Travis. I really hoped he wouldn't enter with the panache of a billionaire. I'm sure the patent papers weren't even printed yet.
The crowd stopped their murmuring at 9:30. A younger associate stepped up to the camera at the center of the TV console, hidden by the screen.
He spoke in Chinese for the first few minutes, only to return to English soon after:
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board, Friends and Colleagues, New and Old, we welcome you to the dawning of a new age of film-making.
"For over 100 years, the standard design of film has been to present art through a camera, showcasing a world we've built inside of it. People were spectators, watching without the ability to interact with the story. We've made audiences lazy and unable to think further about the stories we intend to create. That is why I'm proud to welcome our newest director, Travis Winston. He's worked in the filming industry long enough to know what to fix, and young enough to have the guts to fix it. My audience, members of the press, on behalf of Wanda Studios, and its subsidiary Paramount Studios, I'd like to introduce our newest star behind the camera.
"Travis, please show us what you've made."
Out of the corner of the room entered a man in a grey, sleek suit with black sunglasses and a bent head. His hair shined with a perfect balance of hair gel. He limped slightly in his walk, a twitch on his right ankle barely noticeable.
"It started with a phrase that I've always hated: 'That's how it has to be'," He began, his small voice booming across the long room.
"My professors kept telling me that the world of film-making is set in stone, that it was the only format we have to present great stories. But what if we could change that?"
He stayed further away from the podium as if he was about to pull down the curtain covering a machine at the center of the room.
"My dear friends, the old system is broken. The audience doesn't want expensive headliners to sell a movie. They don't need wide establishing shots of nothingness. They want stories, not actors. They want to be a part of the story, not to be an audience member. Here's my replacement:"
With a grip on the black curtain, he whisked away the black felt and revealed a massive tower. It looked like a tower of cameras, a massive amount of wires connecting to an adjacent computer.
"This pillar with help film the P.O.V. system I intend on implementing in my newest film, Lee's War. Based on the 200-year-old war, it will focus on the philosophy of the man the world grew to hate, Robert E. Lee, and how he came to his wisdom and made his symbol into one of hate and misery. It will include the point of view of a soldier headed into battle, as well as a comprehensive world built for the audience using this wonderful tower.
"The P.O.V. system is better known as the Point of View System. It takes up the mantle of the main character and turns every character into a side character, only there to serve the audience and give them a good story.
"Surprisingly, this tower is pretty light, so filming on a dolly or a drone can still work.
"The scripts will be massive in order to fit all of the different configurations of the story. Free will is a pain in the ass here, so we have to be ready for every permutation, every change in the script that the audience will make and Hell, we'll have to be ready for the audience members that will try to break the movie. Yet just like film reels would be switched as pranks in the theaters, and movies were spoiled by early viewers, so too must we accept the problems that come with this system and hope that this will only be the beginning of the new age of film-making. Before the demonstration, are there any questions?"
Technical questions arose from the audience, including sizes of these movies compared to others (1-10 Exabytes, compared to the standard 100 Terabytes of 5K digital film), how long filming would take (2 consecutive years, with a year of post-production and 2 years pre-production, so about 6 years), how much will it cost (base models will go for about $100 Million, with higher end IMAX+ cameras for $500 million- each lasting the length of filming 1000 movies), and can it display fully rendered CGI while filming (yes). I stared at it like it was a monolith, a rosetta stone of sorts. This was the future? A pillar half as ornate as a Roman column? I looked back to my agent, who was preoccupying himself with his wristphone, mentally asking for an explanation.
"Alright, now with those questions out of the way, let me take over your feeds with another one less than a block away.
To my surprise, the cameras on the wall replaced the heads of the press and corporate with a shot of two people watching a movie, using different headsets.
"These two people are watching the prototype movie we filmed in less than a month. The plot doesn't matter, just that a 'plot twist' is coming up, with the viewer supposedly a stone's throw away from the action."
The scene showed a mob execution of sorts; four men, one with a gun pointed at the person in the center of the circle. As the dialogue went along, Travis spoke quickly.
"This feed is live, with two participants watching the same movie programmed to have the same endings should the viewer do or say nothing. However, any sound they make will be 'heard' by our actors and be interacted with. The camera will stay on a set path for now during this prototype, but other films might not."
The main mob guy pointed their gun at the victim and shot. One of the viewers squeaked in shock, while the other one didn't. The mob immediately gave chase to the scared viewer, sending sweat dribbling down their temple, their heart rate monitor skyrocketing.
"Should the problem arise, our systems can automatically take down the stress to allow viewers with hypertension to relax. We call this maneuver the 'kiddy coaster'."
Some of the investors and press guys chuckled while their stories took different paths, only to end up in near-identical scenes only a few minutes later.
"In order to keep filming schedules on track, as well as avoid any possible story deviation brought by people's free will, we force the character back to the main story through manipulating their world towards doing what we want them to do. True story, everyone involved at the company that builds this thing also forced in a clause that no one can use this manipulation for product placement. No one should be manipulated into drinking Dr. Pepper."
The film ended with a FIN in Berkshire Swash, the short credits dedicated to the team at VitaView, the company making the POV pillars. They must have made the film, I thought. Sure ain't as good as Wildhouse Boots.
"Did anyone notice anything strange about that film?"
The audience looked bewildered. There was something wrong with it?
"Did anyone notice the faces of the celebrities in the picture?"
Again, only eyebrow raises from the crowd's faces. Even Mark was paying attention at that point.
"No one noticed that Tommy Childs was in the picture?"
Him?! In there?! I didn't even notice!
He seemed ready for that. In one swoop he showed the scene during the running film's chase that his hat flies off and his iconic bright green hair glinted in the shot for a moment.
"None of you noticed, nor did any of you care about the actor's name or any of their names. This is the next reason why this is the next generation of film-making. Our films guarantee that every single role becomes a side character. The camera is the main character now. This is the beginning of a wonderful ride with Wanda Studios, as well as its subsidiary Paramount Pictures. I hope to not only work with every facet of this company but build the next cornerstone for the next generation of film-making. Thank you very much."
His shoulders relaxed as he finished. I applauded with the crowd but I felt a tug coming from my stomach. No main characters? Impossible! That's always how people were able to make it big. It's how I got big, and how thousands of people before me found their way! You expect me to believe that with one foul swoop this over-achiever is going to change the game?!
The meeting finished soon afterward. The press and investors left the room slowly, taking their time to congratulate Travis and Paramount's executive board.