Shane Walter, director of onedotzero, celebrates the festival's decade of adventures in moving image and looks to the next decade.
As an entity, onedotzero is very hard to pin down. Perhaps best-known as a film festival, it has emerged from a single weekend gig to – ten years down the road – an international event that spans 65 cities and is one of the biggest lights in showcasing emerging and established talent.
And, onedotzero director Shane Walter has been in since the get go – working with onedotzero back in 1996 with Matt Hanson.
It’s been a heck of a ride, reckons Walter, who talked to Digit from his London offices about the changing landscape of digital moving image, onedotzero in the next decade, and how learning to go without sleep has proven a vital skill.
Onedotzero the festival is ten years old, and Walter reckons both the festival and the medium of moving image is still undergoing organic evolution.
Convergence and moving image
“Onedotzero was something that was designed to be organic, responsive and reactive,” says Walter. “Because the medium was changing very quickly, and the media landscape shifting, this was something we spotted very quickly – and the festival is about that – about convergence and the future of moving image.
“It’s about where that is all heading, the future of platforms, and the future of creators – and, if you’re about all that, you have to keep moving. It’s called onedotzero because it was version 1.0 of a new kind of festival – one that isn’t about collecting and showcasing once a year.”
From its humble beginnings back in 1996, the festival has collated and commissioned over 200 hours of original programming, and has emerged as the largest digital film festival in the world since 1999.
In addition, onedotzero has produced a standout TV series, award-winning short films, and installations. Recent highs include onedotzero_transvision that saw over 6,000 attend an installation at the V&A in London, and tour visuals for the likes of U2.
“It’s a many-headed beast,” admits Walter. “And it’s very hard for me to give you an impression of it – because if you did pin it down, I’d think, well, that’s it then, isn’t it.”
Walter is reluctant to pull out some highlights, claiming there are so many that it’d be unfair to pick out just one, but clearly there are some standout moments.
“I remember showing Chris Cunningham’s first music video during the first festival, and then onedotzero talking about him as a great talent to watch, and then some people violently disagreeing – and then coming back five years later and admitting we were right and the festival was right to show him,” Walter recalls.
“Garth Jennings and Hammer & Tong were highlights, and have gone on to do great things since they first showed at the festival. And, watching the likes of Gondry, Spike Jonze, and Glazer – how they moved from music videos, via commercials, and then onto the big screen is a real validation of success. It’s about the detail, and watching someone’s work progress.”
Yet with ten years under its belt, and the freshness of digital moving image proving slightly faded, surely onedotzero struggles to maintain its relevance? Not so, reckons Walter.
“I think that every year that goes by, onedotzero becomes more relevant,” he says. “And partly that’s by design. The festival has always been about convergence: the convergence of creativity that manifests itself because of the convergence of technology, the latter of which is our focus. By that, I mean if you’re a graphic designer you’re using the same tools and suddenly you can do motion-graphics work as you would do still work. Convergence is important for a creator.”
“But,” adds Walter, “I guess we’re also about collision and creating this artistic crash and getting, say, the juggernaut of architecture to hit the train of design, and then see what happens. Then, you don’t follow the two trains, but the hundreds of bits from that crash.
“Then, each year, we encourage all those bits to come back and create another collision. For us, it’s not about the fireworks of the explosion, but what happens afterwards. The festival isn’t about now, it’s about what’s next.”
That same collision and convergence is being mirrored in the creative realm, too, reckons Walter – with the upshot that people who considered them crazy a decade ago for exploring moving image now accept that digital-moving image is part of the creative landscape at all levels.
“Moving image today really is ubiquitous, on a day-to-day level. In a day, you’ll put your ATM card in a cash machine and see an animation, sit on a bus and go past a giant ad screen like the one in Leicester Square, you’ve got a mobile with movies on, and portable games players and PDAs.
“And, when you get home to the computer, the Internet is alive now. Ten years ago, the Web didn’t move much,” he says. Walter also feels that while onedotzero has charted a major shift in the creative landscape, there is still all to play for in the UK.
“If you’ve got the talent, then the platforms are all there – and the hardest thing is figuring out how you fit into those worlds and how you make a living from it while remaining a creative person,” he says.
“That’s the biggest challenge for people, but I’m very excited about onedotzero. Last year we did the visuals for the U2 global tour, and we worked with a range of artists as well as students – and there is no way students would normally get the chance to do the visuals for U2. With onedotzero, we can facilitate that.”
And, for a festival that celebrated creative life outside of the mainstream, Walter is unexpectedly welcoming about increasing the audience and visibility of onedotzero.
“If we changed what we did to be mainstream, that’d be wrong. But, if we carry on doing work that is radical, and it becomes popular, does that make it mainstream?
“If we kept our goals and attributes, then I’d be happy, as it meant the work is getting the audience it deserves without having to compromise to meet that audience.”
Which brings us back to onedotzero’s tenth anniversary. Looking back, Walter reckons that while he’s probably aged more quickly, and learned how to survive on zero sleep, it’s the international angle that has opened his eyes to broader creative tastes.
And it’s all about expanding creative tastes. “I think one of the most important things is onedotzero lets you engage with content, or talent, or people outside your creative sphere – and that’s vital,” he says.
“It’s vital to get experience from lots of different areas, and onedotzero is a place that will open doors and opportunities, directions and ideas. It acts as an inspiration engine or an ideas lab.
“And, it doesn’t matter if you’re an illustrator, or a filmmaker, or work in fashion or music – if you come to onedotzero you’ll find something that will inspire you to do something new.”