Filmmaker Katerina Cizek and her National Film Board of Canada partners, including NFB senior producer Gerry Flahive, have been immersed for the past two years in Highrise, a web doc series slated to feature numerous chapters over its life span. In 2011, the first chapter of the project rolled out. Out My Window was an interactive web project encompassing 360° photography, video, text and music that captured life in high-rise apartments in 13 cities around the world. It took home an International Digital Emmy award for non-fiction – just one of the many accolades it received over the course of the year.
Currently Cizek has two years left to go on the Highrise project, which on January 1 of this year launched its latest chapter, One Millionth Tower, in the subway stations of Toronto as a series of 30-second silent spots, in addition to its debut on the Internet.
You direct with a unique Web sensibility. Can you describe your approach?
The NFB has given me this incredible opportunity to be able to explore documentary and non-fiction in a very experimental way and push the boundaries of what documentary and non-fiction mean; in particular, the process and the methodology I’ve been able to work in.
What I get to do with Highrise is research a story. We develop partnerships before we decide what medium the story is going to be told in. We haven’t gotten the rights of a book or taken ideas from academics that they’ve been working on for 10 years; we’re working right alongside academics at the forefront of a lot of content research. We’re really seeing the story unfold as it’s being discovered.
What have you been most proud of in 2011?
I’m really most honored to work on the world’s first WebGL documentary [which brings interactive 3D graphics to the Web] and breaking new ground on open source, open standard web technology.
Do you see non-fiction film and TV increasingly embracing multi-platform methods?
Documentary is a language and it is constantly evolving. The documentaries we were doing in the ’20s aren’t the documentaries we’re doing now. And the documentaries we’re doing now shouldn’t be the ones we’re doing 10 years from now. Or even a year from now.