Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: (Toronto) 360 Screenings

Inside the Secret
by Jasmine Chen

The tag line for 360 Screenings is “Step in to the film”. This immersive screening experience begins even before you enter the venue. Outside 10 Adelaide Street East, at 10:50pm, there’s a long line stretching down the block. Already, the world of the film is being created for us by actors who interact with the audience while they wait. 10 Adelaide street, is a heritage building, the sixth venue to house a 360 Screening. I’ve passed by this address so many times, but for the first time tonight I’m really noticing it. The Ontario Heritage Centre was built in 1909 originally as a bank. Pillars loom above us as we wait. Soon, we’re ushered into the lobby where the space is dressed as a new setting altogether. I won’t give anything away, though, because that’s the best part: not knowing what to expect. How it works is 360 Screenings does not reveal the location of the screening until a day or so before. You are then given recommended actions, like what to wear and what to bring. All of these actions are suggested to help you better connect as a participant. When I say “participant”, I mean: expect to be engaged. The performers are not only open to your curiosity, but they will actively seek you out and involve you in the world of the film. Clues are everywhere, if you look for them. In speaking to different characters, you’ll be led closer to the discovery of what you’ll be watching later on. 

The venue plays an integral role in the experience. The Ontario Heritage Centre, now over a century old, is a character in and of itself. Its rooms are transformed by 360 into: a bedroom, an apartment, a doctor’s office, and so on. On our way up, we travelled in a manually operated elevator; a nice touch. Each room will tell you more about the story you’re walking into. You’re free to eavesdrop on characters' conversations, or – better yet – start one with them. The actors play their parts well, remaining in character throughout. Outside of the story, there’s a bar and food available for those requiring refreshments. This evening there were also special effects makeup artists who gave audience members frighteningly realistic wounds. Over the course of an hour, many scenes occurred around us. If you paid close attention, you could even watch one character transform within that time. Before you knew it, somehow, the audience had been led into the main room, where a final climactic scene was played out, which led the audience to their final destination: the screening room. Up until now, everyone had just been guessing, trying to piece together the clues they’d received in order to deduce what the film was going to be. Downstairs, in the grand gallery, once everyone had settled in, Ned Loach and Robert Gontier warmly greeted the audience and proudly announced the film. But I’ll never tell, you’ll have to find out yourself! 

This edition of 360 Screenings has closed, but check the company's website for future events
See also: Jasmine Chen's interview with Ned Loach, co-founder of 360 Screenings

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