Subjective Atlas

As part of my research I developed a prototype of a subjective atlas. This atlas could be the starting point of a ‘world bible’ to develop the design of the world of “FIGHT” a science fiction film that is currently in development. Written and directed by Simon Pummell.

Although the actual questions this atlas explores are very specific to our imagining of a world 50 years into the future, my underlying research questions are not specific to this project.

I stated my expectations for this project in a previous post:

Primary goal:
This is first and foremost an experiment in designing a creative process. So I hope to learn about creating a shared mental space that is an emotionally safe space for the participants to really engage in an open collaborative atmosphere.

Secondary goal:
I will be working on a shared design vision of a futuristic world specifically for a feature film that we will be working on during the years to come.

On may 24th I spend three hours in an open conversation with three others: Tim Roza (film editor), Jasper Wessels and Adriaan van Veldhuizen (both animators). I explained a couple of basic parameters and invited a discussion speculating on how we could envision a future world. During the conversation images were collected and discussed, and after the conversation we put those into a Pinterest board that we kept contributing to over the following week. From my notes of the conversation and these collections of images I selected material to create the Subjective Atlas of London Freeport in the year 2070.

Preliminary conclusions:

My main surprise is how excited and motivated the contributors were to be part of this process at this stage. There is no budget yet, and not even a guarantee that this film will get made (although we are optimistic). But there was an enormous willingness to participate.

I have in the past been very reluctant to invite people to collaborate without budget, wanting to avoid ‘wasting their time’, but unintentionally I have been keeping them ‘out of the loop’ and ‘at distance’. Whereas working on this atlas together clearly shows me there is a more exiting way.

This way of working also has an influence on how we position ourselves. In the past we would have been credited as visual effects artists, but at this point we are much more speculative designers of fictional future worlds. Not sure how this will end up in the final credit roll though…

Although the first session was only a week ago, and I have just created the first version of the atlas, I am very optimistic about using this atlas as a conversation piece to collaboratively further develop this fictional world. I will keep the director informed of our ideas and will ask for contibutions but we all agree that at this point it is good to avoid too much focus on the narrative scenario, but much more let the world tell its own story.

So on the surface this atlas may look like a straightforward collection of moodboards but for me it has opened up the design process immensely.

Not new

This type of document is not new. On the surface it will look like any moodboard even. But for me it is a small breakthrough in inviting participation and taking the design process out of my head and hands and into the group.

What is new, is that usually these types of documents are created by a production designer or concept artist – who then sends the material to the craftsmen who will create the sets, costumes and props. Practically or digitally. But in this case it is these craftsmen, who are usually not invited until much later, who are part of the co-creation process.

And by starting the design of this world at such an early stage (before the scenario is finished) allows for the narrative to be partly informed by the world design, which should lead to the futuristic world being much more than a wallpaper backdrop to set the narrative against.

Download the atlas here:

(As this is a document that is part of the development of a feature film, please do not spread.)