Even You Leave: A Neighborhood Sketchbook

FIVARS 2023: Spotlight on Even You Leave: A Neighborhood Sketchbook

Geoffrey Beatty Even You Leave: A Neighborhood Sketchbook is a hand-drawn animated 360° short film drawn from sketches of the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is also a meditation on the relation between movement, space, and creativity. FIVARS had a chance to speak with director Geoffrey Beatty.

What lead to the creation of this piece?

In the Summer and Fall of 2021, I ran each and every block in my historic Philadelphia neighborhood of Germantown. I documented every leg of that 200-mile journey on a digital map with the intention of producing an animated short film based on what I observed. Over the past 18 months, that initial idea evolved into a hand-drawn 360° (VR) short film based on my sketchbook drawings.

What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?

At first, I just began by sketching scenes from my runs and from different vantage points in my neighborhood. Eventually, I recreated some of these sketches as 2D illustrations and animations within a 3D environment using the Grease Pencil tool in Blender.

The obligation of a persistent 360° view in VR and the narrative necessity of moving the viewer through that space forced me to reckon with how to address the changing perspective of objects, how to balance choice of viewpoint with my preferred direction, and how to effectively maintain the ethos of a sketchbook.

How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?

I didn’t initially set out to make a 360° film, but the material called out to be experienced in an immersive way. I wanted not to recreate the exact experience of running my neighborhood, but rather to use the possibilities of immersive media to meditate on the experience of moving through a space that is at the same time mundane and spectacular.

What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?

The Philadelphia region has had active VR/AR creators since the early 2000’s. I myself worked with a firm that has been creating AR experiences for over 20 years. However, it’s still a niche industry, with tons of potential for growth.

What do you have planned for the future?

I will continue to run through my neighborhood, make drawings of what I see, and experiment with immersive media. I am currently planning a film based on the history of my neighborhood as experienced by its residents over the years, from pre-Colonial times to the Revolutionary War to the era of the Underground Railroad, all the way to the present day.

What would you like to share with fellow content creators and/or the industry?

Immersive media is still in an early stage, and there are so many opportunities to explore new visual approaches that both echo and extend traditional animation styles. Sometimes looking back is an excellent way to move forward in a fresh way.

Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?

There are far too few venues for VR films to be experienced in a communal way, and that’s why FIVARS dedication to immersive media is so important. I’m very grateful that they have selected my film as part of their festival.

FIVARS 2023 runs in person September 15-19th in Toronto and online through October 3rd.

Even You Leave: A Neighborhood Sketchbook