SxSW 2020 Interview – CODA director Oliver Lewin

“CODA is an interactive afterlife played with your eyes. In it, your entire life’s story flashes before your eyes, literally, as each actual blink unfolds the narrative in a tale of repressed memories self acceptance. Filmmaker Oliver Lewin on CODA which is part of the VR experience at SxSW 2020.

Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW

Welcome to the amazing SxSW and congratulations! Are you planning to attend SxSW?

Yes! But it’s not our first. 

Tell me about your previous experience here at the festival and what you showed.

Previously our writer/director showed a short film entitled Where You Are (which I produced and composed music for). Last year our creative partners RYOT and Coda producer Jake Sally showed the award-winning VR experience Gloomy Eyes here at SXSW.  

What is it about Austin, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?

The openness to new things, and the excitement around transcending genre and other boundaries. Also the amazing food and awesome people. It’s a festival with a down-to-earth vibe! 

How did you first hear about the SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?

We’ve known and loved SXSW for a while now! Can’t recall when we first heard of it. 

Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!

We wanted to create a game/narrative experience which incorporated the eyes as an input for interactive participation in the narrative. Our first attempt at this was the Indiecade and IGF award-winning student project Close Your, which later evolved into Coda. 

Who are some of your main creative inspirations?

Games like Kentucky Route Zero, Florence, and Virginia.

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint?

Coda’s main game engine is Unity. In addition to Unity, we used Motion Builder to work with motion capture animation data, and Blender and Maya to create 3D models. 

After SxSW, where is CODA going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?

After SXSW we will be distributing CODA to the world via Steam and other online distribution platforms. 

What would you suggest to theatres or even film festivals as a way to show more short films theatrically or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

We are a VR and computer based experience. Setting up more VR installations at movie theaters is a terrific way to reflect the awesome narrative work being done by VR filmmakers and developers. Coda is also available as a computer-based experience, so it will be quite accessible. For VR-only pieces, we hope that headsets become more affordable and commonplace. 

If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker/creator, what would you suggest to get their start?

Collaborate with other creative people with similar interests, even if it just means messaging them online! That’s how we met some of our core team members. 

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM! 

For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film!

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