Today, Magic Leap is proud to announce the premiere of “These Sleepless Nights”, presented by The Next Amendment at the Venice Film Festival. “These Sleepless Nights” is a location-based experience and documentary created and directed by Gabo Arora using spatial computing, with music by Philip Glass.
A large part of US homelessness hinges on the facilitation of court-ordered evictions. “These Sleepless Nights” is a documentary that uses cutting edge spatial computing technology to allow visitors to listen, connect and engage in new ways with those on the frontline of America’s eviction crisis.
Check out the trailer for "These Sleepless Nights"
The process of eviction involves the collision of home life, the law, the market, along with America’s fraught history of racial and economic injustice. “These Sleepless Nights” lets you explore in-depth the stories of those who have intimate experiences with these collisions, be it as memories from childhood, being bored at work, or trying to be a mother when you can’t pay the rent. Making use of spatial computing to navigate your own journey through these stories and conduct your own experience, it brings nuance and a new perspective on a situation we can no longer keep sleeping through.
In an effort to better understand the experience, we asked Lauren Hutchinson, Audio Producer of “These Sleepless Nights” and BBC World Service Reporter, to elaborate on the work and her thoughts on spatial computing.
“In an era of the podcast boom, what does spatial computing offer an audio storyteller? When podcasts and traditional radio broadcast listenership can reach over 20 million people, as much as my reporting for the BBC does, I still find it incredibly fulfilling to go deeper and bring the human body and movement into the stories we hear. Something which only spatial computing makes possible.”
“These Sleepless Nights”, Created and Directed by Gabo Arora, is inspired by the Pulitzer prize winning book "Evicted" by Matthew Desmond about the eviction crisis in the USA. I worked with Gabo and Dpt, the award winning immersive experience studio, to design the immersive engagement by focusing on audio for this experience. We have been able to merge and sculpt powerful audio testimonies of the eviction crisis in the United States, with visuals and the real world; working with gaze, movement and touch to allow people to listen to and be moved by the stories. This offers real potential for the future of documentary storytelling.
As with any documentary, our task was to go deep into the topic and hear and learn as much as we could about America’s homelessness and housing instability. We partnered with 317 Productions in Milwaukee, where Matthew Desmond’s book is based and evictions happen on a daily basis (like much of the US). We had the opportunity to enter courtrooms and interact with people going through life changing circumstances.
I don’t think anything could have prepared us for sitting in a courtroom and watching someone hear they have 48 hours to move themselves and their disabled husband from their home. A home they have been in for four years, with no idea where they will go next. Or holding a microphone as you hear someone’s breath as they recall the week they were evicted over ten years ago. When they made the decision to temporarily hand over their kids to the state so they had a safe place to stay. Then hear their breath change as they tell you things didn’t go as planned. Their children were adopted by a white family, and they didn’t see their kids, now young adults, again until years later.
When working on documentaries, the usual dread arises. How do you let the listener hear the multiple different stories and make their own connections, rather than force your own connections on them. How can we hold the listener’s attention and keep them engaged without creating victims? How do you convey their grace as they tell these difficult stories? Or the injustices you see in the courtroom without creating villains?
For “These Sleepless Nights” we did this in a variety of ways. In parts of the experience you are forced to close your eyes, shut down all your other senses and listen to every word a person has to say. Elsewhere you become the conductor of the stories in a courtroom setting. Or you use your hand to move through testimonies and soundscapes at your own pace. What this means is that, rather than having the stories forced upon you, you edit them yourself, deciding when you have had too much. You get to choose whether you listen to the person talking about her heart beating as she has her first ever court appearance. Or an attorney who has built his career defending landlords and is a little tired of seeing the same tenants.
What is magical is that with spatial computing, that gap between experiencing these stories in person whilst interviewing them and then sharing these stories with the world somehow becomes a little smaller. The user gets to experience something closer to the messiness of life, while also having a carefully crafted experience. This allows for an engagement with complexity impossible in linear documentaries.
Making this experience meant we were no longer able to ignore the way the legal system treats people in need of shelter, particularly women and children. After experiencing “These Sleepless Nights” with Magic Leap , you will go on your own personal journey through this collision of home life, heartbreak, the law and the market, and I doubt you will be able to ignore the injustices of evictions either. Something which Next Amendment, who commissioned this project are aiming to tackle.”
About The Next Amendment
The Next Amendment to the Constitution of the United States can be the right to shelter. Our Goal: To fund projects, build products, and deliver research that will kick-start a national conversation on a right to shelter.
The Next Amendment commissioned "These Sleepless Nights" to raise $1M for local action networks providing Housing First solutions from Oakland to the Bronx.