Bobby Boermans

At 15, Boermans received the MTV Home Music Video Award, and his filmmaking
career had begun. He attended the Dutch Film Academy (NFTA), where he studied
editing, and went on to attend the prestigious American Film Institute (AFI),
studying directing under the guidance of Michael Mann, David Fincher, Luc
Besson, Christopher Nolan, and George Lucas. In 2011, he directed Claustrofobia,
the first Dutch feature film made especially for an online release. He’s also won a
MOBO Award for best Urban Video. His combined music video work has gained
more than 50 million hits to date on YouTube.

-Director Statement-
The notion of technology taking control of our lives is a concept that has always
fascinated me. I’m a big technology addict myself. And like everybody else I use
these new technologies to enrich and comfort my lifestyle. But at the same time,
we have to be constantly aware of how we deal with it. What do we want to share
and in what way?

Most of us general users have no idea where our personal data goes after we
enter it on a computer, tablet or smartphone. It stays on some far-away,
unknown dark server, probably at some vague company in a distant country, and
you can bet it’ll stay there forever. With that data, “they” can do whatever they
want and eventually control what you see, hear or do.

This scary thought led to the idea of developing an exciting story about a ruthless
smartphone APP that turns against our female protagonist, Anna. At the same
time, I really wanted to make a film that especially would appeal to a younger
audience. And since most kids these days are glued to their smartphones (yes,
let’s face it, even inside a movie theater), it became pretty obvious to me that we
also had to develop an actual APP, complimentary to the movie itself. It just felt
like second nature.

So we loosely based our scary antagonist entitled “IRIS” on the famous SIRI voice
recognition system from Apple (IRIS is SIRI in reverse). At first, our heroine Anna
thinks this APP that suddenly appears on her phone might be useful. But soon she
discovers that the opposite is true, and she goes on a journey to find out who’s
behind it.

After we started writing the script, we came across this amazing second-screen
patented technology from a content identification company called Civolution.
Together with the production company 2CFILM, they developed this amazing
second screen technology where you could actually synchronize a smartphone of
an audience member sitting in a movie theater directly to the movie screen. They
used this technology in TV, but nobody had ever dared to do this inside a movie
theater. So there was no playbook, layout or any rules of engagement we could
rely on.

First we had to figure out how to use this technology and incorporate it into a
story that was designed for a movie. After we figured this out, it gave us a
tremendous amount of narrative storytelling opportunities to explore. The
amazing fact nowadays is that everybody carries this personal screen in his or her
pocket. As filmmakers, we can use that screen to tell our stories.
By using the second-screen technology, you can play around with the amount of
dramatic info you want to divide between two separate screens. As a result, you
sometimes know more than the main character in the film itself. You get to see
text messages, graphics, pictures or filmed scenes on your phone. While at the
same time the movie itself plays on the big screen. We developed, produced and
shot the film like any other normal movie.

The hardest part was the editing process. Sometimes it felt like we were editing
two movies at the same time. But finally, it came down to good timing, since you
don’t want the audience to miss important plot-points on the big screen while
watching the small one. We tested the human eye-movement extensively in post-
production and we figured out a way to incorporate the technology so that it
actually supplements the dramatic purpose and doesn’t distract from the
storyline. I think it’s great because it brings this “never been done before” extra
layer of excitement while watching a movie.


Artist Interview


Q | Talk about the beginnings of the idea for the film. When did it become clear
you’d include the second screen content?

A | I wanted to make something that was cool and refreshing. Personally, I like
movies that are entertaining and push the boundaries in every way. My producer
also wanted a project that would appeal to a younger audience. So I started
thinking, well, what do kids do these days? They all go to the cinema with their
phones in their pockets. We all sit and Facebook or instant message to each other
while inside the cinema. It’s just a habit nowadays, whether you like it or not. And
everybody carries this amazing second screen in his or her pocket. So I said to
myself: Wouldn’t it be great if we could incorporate your own phone as a part of
the story itself? So we brainstormed and came up with the idea of your own
phone turning evil against you.

The basic premise was: What if technology takes control of your life. As a starting
point, the screenwriter and I picked the iPhone personal assistant example
Siri. From that point we starting thinking about a story and thought about
creating a movie about an evil APP. And we flipped the name of this APP, so in our
film she’s called Iris (Which is Siri in reverse

From that point, we knew we had to do something with a real-life app as
well. Then we discovered this awesome technology called audio-watermarking,
where you can synchronize your phone with the movie screen based on inaudible
sound cues, like Shazam or Soundhound does, but much more frame-
accurate. Because this technology was improved since its inception, we knew we
could make it work inside a movie theatre as well. It’s an amazing technology,
because you don’t need a wifi connection inside the theatre or at home. You just
download the app, start the movie, press start on your device, and it just works.
This way you get so see great fun stuff during the movie itself. Exciting elements
that are actually part of the story itself instead of something that’s put in
afterwards or has nothing to do with the story. This heightens the experience of
watching APP and gives a different dynamic in the way you watch the film.

Q | You have a history of web-based filmmaking. How did that influence your
decision to include second screen content?

A | The first film I made (Claustrofobia) was the first feature film in The
Netherlands solely made for the web. I like to try new things and not hold on too
much to traditional conventions. So I already had some experience in working in
a conscious way for the web and for smaller screens. But funny enough, this
didn’t influence the movie-making process that much at all. Because at the end of
the day you just want to make a good movie that entertains people and takes
them away for an hour and a half. And maybe, if you’re lucky enough the movie
makes them think a bit more about the subject matter itself on an intellectual

Q | What were the obstacles you encountered in creating this additional content?
How did it influence shooting and post-production?

A | It didn’t influence the shooting itself that much. This sounds weird, but
except sometimes you shoot things a bit with a closer lens, to be on the safe side
for your smaller phone screen. But the main goal with this film was that you
needed to be able to watch the movie without the second screen experience as
well. So the movie needed to be able to completely stand on itself.

The real trouble came when we were in post-production and editing doing side-
by-side editing with the second-screen experience. Suddenly we noticed it was
sometimes very hard for the audience to focus on two things at the same time. So
we had to switch things around and shuffle with it. Funny enough, your eyes can
see one thing, but your ears can hear something else. We didn’t want the
audience to miss important plot points while watching their phones, so on purpose
we had to extend some scenes and make them longer, so you wouldn’t miss one
story line while watching the other on your phone.

We discovered it took about three seconds for your eyes to switch from one
screen to another, so we had to make sure that these three seconds were not
ultimately crucial to understanding the story. It was also interesting to see and
learn on how people react to certain information. You can play with what dramatic
information you tell the audience or hold back. This gives a different dynamic to
how the audience experiences the movie with and without the second screen. This
was a real discovery for me as a filmmaker and it taught me a lot of how we
watch movies and use our senses.

Q | What do you say to the purists who want to keep all smartphones and tablets
out of the movie-going experience?

A | Good luck trying!! It’s inevitable. I’m not a purist and I don’t think you should
be. Like Steve Jobs said, you always have to try and be bold and try new things
to broaden your vision. In the 1920s, people were accustomed to watching
movies without dialogue, then we switched to talking actors. Then we switched
form black and white to movies with color. Then we switched to a bigger canvas
and cinemascope. Then we went to 3D and 48FPS (frames per second). In short,
it always takes time for us to get used to any new technology.
I’m not saying the way we used the second screen in APP is the ultimate next
generation of future of filmmaking, not at all. Because I don’t see this technology
work in a 16th Century Keira Knigtley costume drama, hopping around in a
garden and suddenly your phone ring. That would be weird! But I do see this
technology working in these Minority Report-type or Sci-Fi summer blockbusters
like Iron Man or The Dark Knight.

Our society changes. The way we use our screens changes. Who knows - maybe
in twenty years we all have screens implemented in our eye-lenses or Google
glasses. Imagine what you could do with that for a cinema experience.

Q | What do you think is next in the continued marriage of filmmaking and

A | Because of our changing technological society, I think movie exhibitors are
going to be forced to evolve in a few years. It will not take that long is my guess,
only a decade or so. In a few years, everybody will have his or her own projectors
and big-ass theatrical screen at home with this amazing Dolby Surround
System. So why would we go to see a movie inside a movie theatre then? If you
can also have the same experience at home? Call up a few friends and make
some popcorn.

That’s why I’d like to make a movie someday where your chairs move like
crazy, where things get thrown at you, and you get twisted and turned around in
all the craziest ways. Like a ride in an amusement park. Wouldn’t it be great if
every major city in the world would at least have one affordable movie theatre
like that? So you can have the choice in how you want to experience a movie, like
3D & 2D now. Or just like IMAX, but then better. I think theater exhibitors will
ultimately be forced (out of financial reasons) to at least start to think like
this. Especially now with all the piracy concerns and high speed
internet access across the globe.

I think 4D initiatives like that will help you get a more immersive experience of
the movie itself and ultimately will help create profitable box office results. I
would love to do a big summer blockbuster like that one day. To go inside a
theater, strap myself up in my seat and experience a good movie in 4D like that.