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‘Let’s change the narrative,’ urges digital storyteller Céline Tricart at SXSW keynote

Omar L. Gallaga
Special to the American-Statesman

Céline Tricart, in a Monday afternoon keynote at South by Southwest, posed a challenge to established storytellers, as well as the new breed of blockchain-based NFT peddlers: Tell better stories and make them more collaborative. 

Tricart is an award-winning filmmaker behind the short VR films “Sun Ladies” and “The Key." She worked on several huge Hollywood films using 3-D, such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” before striking out her own to explore the possibilities of VR storytelling.

The solo talk Monday went over some of her history as the creator of Lucid Dreams Productions. She formed that company after going to film school as a TV-addicted teen from France and emerging as an expert in stereoscopic 3-D, which was all the rage at the time.

In the keynote, Tricart broke down the different approaches to stories, from storytelling to “story living” to “story sharing.” Story sharing is a collaborative approach (such as Dungeons & Dragons, where the game creator and players make up the story together), while story living presents the intriguing possibility of consumers not only interacting with a story, but becoming its characters. 

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That gets us into the realm of LARP-ing (aka live-action role playing), which Tricart said is evolving from people in the woods beating each other up with foam swords to more subtle kinds of story building. And new technologies including VR and augmented reality, still in their infancy, increasingly get people accustomed to acting out roles in a first-person way, as the more mature medium of videogames has been doing for a while. 

Somehow, this leads to the current vogue of metaverses (basically, virtual worlds) and NFTs (digital tokens often built around and sold to online communities), where Tricart said storytellers now have a unique opportunity to leave the biases and problems of real life to make something more educational, and a lot better. 

“We have the power of emotional storytelling to create strong connection between people. We can shape the world as we know it,” she said. 

“Part of the joy of role playing comes from diving into the fantasy of someone we’re not. We can get swept into the high and low of a character. The feelings persist after a game is over,” Tricart said. She added that these story lessons, this blurring of the real and the virtual story, can help us better understand the world. 

But that’s going to require the architects of these worlds to push the boundaries, she said, while also learning from pioneers of the past. “Study this real world, its beauties and its flows. Understand and respect the power of storytelling … and the narrative value of collaboration and solidarity.” 

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What’s the end goal? Nothing less than building shared myths that will support civilization through great changes, she said. Or as she described them: “All the future universes and metaverses we’ll be building together.”