Hugues Sweeney on Journal of Insomnia
Our inaugural Storyscapes program, created in collaboration with Bombay Sapphire®, celebrates new trends in digital media and the filmmakers and content creators who employ interactive, web-based or cross-platform approaches to story creation. We spoke to Hugues Sweeney about Journal of Insomnia and the ways that insomniacs represent themselves through their own artistic creations and confessions.
Tribeca: Could you just talk a little bit about A Journal of Insomnia and what inspired the project?
Hugues Sweeney: It’s a documentary about the phenomenon of insomnia. It’s about making an appointment with one insomniac to come back later at night to live that insomnia from that character’s point of view. The storyscapes project and section will be displayed as an installation where people can participate.
Tribeca: So people will be able to share their own stories on site?
HS: Exactly. It’s an installation with a bedroom space, almost a claustrophobic room, and participants will walk inside that room and answer some insomnia questions.
There’s a real need for these people not only to come out as an insomniac, but also to share how they feel.
Tribeca: Were you surprised by how open and willing people seem to be when it comes to sharing their insomnia stories?
HS: The insomniacs were part of the creative process itself. I would say I was so surprised with the intimacy with which they confessed. It kind of changed the perspective of the project itself.
Tribeca: Were there any stories in particular that affected you? Was there one person’s confession that really sort of touched you?
HS: There were a lot actually. Most of the drawings were especially affecting. I didn’t expect them to be so personal and so natural. There’s one that asks, “how does the insomnia make you feel towards the people around you?” And that person really drew themselves as completely separate from the world. That touched me. I was impressed with the ways that people would create themselves. The medium is a website and they talk like they would to a real person. There’s a real need for these people not only to come out as an insomniac, but also to share how they feel.
Tribeca: You mentioned that drawing was really effective. How many other forms of multimedia did users employ when sharing their stories on the website?
HS: Webcam, keyboard, and mouse. So people could talk to the camera, type with the keyboard or draw with the mouse.
Tribeca: Can you talk about the National Film Board of Canada’s aid in helping to create The Journal of Insomnia?
HS: The Film Board provides a place where documentary and animation films are made and turned into production. We have released more than 14,000 titles since the beginning of the organization. In the last four years, we’ve dedicated about 25 percent of our money to interactive projects, which celebrate the creation and expression of the subject through interactive media.
Tribeca: After the festival, what does the future hold for Journal of Insomnia?
HS: We’re discussing about planning it elsewhere. The only thing is that the website will be live around the world, so we’re going to be focusing on the website more and its influence on people everywhere.
The insomniacs were part of the creative process itself.
Tribeca: What are you most looking forward to at Tribeca?
HS: The reaction of the public. I’m hoping people will be surprised by themselves and by the ways they choose to participate in the project.
Tribeca: What technology can you not live without?
HS: Anything that has music on it. Spotify, my iTunes, any platform with music is like blood in my veins.
Tribeca: What technology were you late to adopt?
HS: Every one of them. [laughs] I’m always the latest to adopt anything.
Tribeca: What does the word transmedia mean to you?
HS: It’s an awful buzzword that just means using media in its most relevant way to tell different kinds of stories.
From April 19 - April 21, Journal of Insomnia, along with our other four Storyscapes selections, will be featured in a public, interactive installation at the Bombay Sapphire® House of Imagination (121 Varick Street, 7th Floor).