I make adventure

Spencer McCall and ‘The Institute’

In Guest Post, Process Notes, Shameless Self Promotion on 4 • 10 • 12 at 1:20 pm

For a little change of pace, I’ve invited Spencer McCall over to talk about ‘The Institute,’ his new documentary about the Games of Nonchalance and the Jejune Institute.

Spencer has been working on indie video and motion graphics projects for years in addition to his current day-job at IGN. He got his first taste for editing Nonchalance footage when we turned him loose on our archives to create the ‘teaser video‘ for the Games of Nonchalance. Now, a little over a year after the doors to the Jejune Institute closed, Spencer is close to completing his feature length documentary about the experience.

Here’s Spencer on his motives for making his first documentary:

When I first visited the Jejune Institute at the behest of a friend who gave me only dubious factoids, I was extremely confused and kind of angry and definitely weirded-out. I gave up somewhere in the middle of the first act simply out of pure frustration at not knowing why I was doing this. I left and tried to put the whole thing out of my mind. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t help but feel as if I had failed some sort of a test and that I had to go back and see where the trail of crumbs led. I’m super glad I did.

What I ultimately got out of it was the obsessive desire to share with others the glimpse of this mysterious underground world that I felt was all mine. What intrigued me the most was the method in which an intricate and detailed story was being told. It had never occurred to me that a linear narrative could be told in such a non-linear, non-contained, multimedia way. I still don’t know how they did it and I’m still not 100% sure they successfully did. But what they did do was reveal a really compelling story in the neatest way I’ve ever seen.

I don’t think everyone can enjoy experiencing a story in this way. I think some people need to be eased in to the concept. And even then, it’s pretty high-energy. It’s not something you just sit and observe like – say – a movie. You experience it and it takes a good amount of work and time. That’s not something everyone can be cool with.

When the Games of Nonchalance ended, I hadn’t completed all the acts and yet I still had the desire to share this world with others; some of whom would regret not having been able to participate and others may simply have found the story compelling, regardless of whether or not they would have participated. I still wanted to finish the acts as well as have a chance to help tell the story to people who had absolutely no familiarity with the subject or even the art form of Alternate Reality Games — a subject which I feel has pretty little coverage above ground. And so that’s what I did. I made a doc that I hope captures the merging of reality and fictional narratives in the awesomely ambiguous and creepy ways that the Games of Nonchalance did.

If you’re interested in seeing the documentary, there are still tickets available for the test screenings in Oakland and San Francisco on April 20th and 21st.