Long before the first snow touched upon the ground in real life, Mary Wickentower’s Second Life home had a thick blanket of snow surrounding it. Inside, the fireplace provided warmth as we sat back on oversized purple armchairs to discuss Mary’s artistic creations through a Machinima artist’s perspective.
Mary looked every bit the professional wearing a white blouse dusted with pastel shapes and a white and beige patterned skirt. Upon her shoulder, sitting quietly and contently, was a black bird, which reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s feathery extras from his classic and frightening movie, “The Birds.” Perhaps this is intentional, an unspoken tribute to a master of cinema. (I later learned that he is actually from her filming of Gibbet).
Mary is the owner / curator of the Art of Mary Wickentower, an original collection of real life and abstract photography. She also produces films (machinima), is a poet / songwriter, has twice been awarded the LEA FULL SIM ART SERIES grant and is running for president on the virtual party ticket.
I asked Mary how her interest in machinima was kindled.
“Way back in the good ole days of Machinima Monday, I did a lot of photography in Second Life and enjoyed it. I came into SL for the art. I wanted to bring my art in here,” she explained. “It took me about a year to get around to doing it. I was getting flabbergasted because it wasn’t anything like I expected.”
She created her first avatar in November, 2008. Unable to access her, she created Mary Wickentower in December. In no time at all, she tapped into the literary and machinima communities. Currently, her virtual focus is machinima. She’s literally fallen in love with it. Mary explains machinima is filming in-world, live. Her focus is Second Life so that’s where she does all the work.
“You can actually film in any MMO (Massively Multi-player Online) environment with the proper software. You use the backgrounds that are already present in-world and your avatars are the actors and actresses,” she said.
Through experimenting what could be done through machinima she began learning the process. She met Chantel Harvey during Machinima Monday meetings and found members to be very informative. She also joined various groups and learned about AView TV and how it supports machinima artists. She learned a great deal by simply being in contact with AView’s staff.
“I approach Machinima pretty much like I approach writing. I am a photographer and a writer in real life,” she told me. “With writing you have to pay particular attention to transitional paragraphs. I try to use that same legality in my films. Whether I’m creating transitional bridges with themes and concepts, it ties it together a little more tightly.”
She stated that the majority of her machinima would be regarded as abstract. She also does a lot of the particle shows for the particle artists.
Her first efforts in filming machinima were done for a contest called “Gibbet.” The short story was very intense, similar to an Alfred Hitchock movie. It psychologically gets to you. It’s very dark. Five minutes in length, “Gibbet” opened with young lovers lounging in a claw-toothed bathtub. By morning, her lover leaves her. She lies naked in bed crying. “Suspended between your measured love and indifference” is the statement we see and it helps us to understand what the young woman is feeling. Perhaps Mary was saying that every day the woman died a little bit at a time knowing that her lover didn’t care. You can see it and many of her other machinimas on YouTube.
“This was one of the few machinimas where I actually outsourced a few other actors,” she explained. “I was one and another person was the little girl. I used a lot of alts. It was much easier to do it that way because I knew what I wanted. Gibbet was a form of torture. It was been common through the centuries. Extremely brutal. It was the sort of setting I wanted to establish. The gibbet I used in the film is actually a very good representation of an actual real life gibbet. They were hung on the side of a wall or up on a tower. By the water, you would drown or die of exposure of the elements.”
Mary said people either hated her presentation because it scared the daylights out of them or they loved it because it was so dark and intense.
Afterwards, she worked on a presentation for Machinima 3 for the University of Western Australia. Her entry focused on a performance of Moon River. The soundtrack was actually from a recording of SL singer Antonio Galloway, which was filmed on location at Jack Rabbit Slim’s on Second Life. Mary filmed her machinima while watching one of his performances.
She then felt obligated to do a comedy after the dark elements of “Gibbet.” Mary did a comedic spin off of the movie, “The Sixth Sense,” by creating “I See Ruthed People.” Anyone in Second Life knows exactly what that means. It occurs, at times, when an avatar teleportates to a sim. The avatar reverts to the beginning issued shape “Ruth” which frustrates everyone having worked hours to upgrade our virtual selves. Ruthing often gives men feminine features and women several styles of hair or unsophisticated body shapes, skins, eyes, etc. One would have to wear a newly-saved outfit to get back to the newer you. So in this machinima, Mary showed various examples of being ruthed.
“People loved it,” she said. “They thought it was just hilarious.”
Mary’s machinima has evolved over the years from dark or comedic films to recorded shows of particle artists like Spectr3 Belfire. She does a wonderful job capturing the dynamic colors and movement of light Spectr3 presents. In an alien-like avatar, the performance is similar to modern dance. The exception is the amount and variation of particles, almost mimicking galactic creation. It’s quite an artistic presentation. Mary uses different camera angles, distance and close camming to give the viewer a unique view.
“Particle artists are very individual in their approach to participles. I try to capture that in what is distinct to them individually. I love the shows and what a really good particle artist can do,” she said.
Mary’s virtual movies are featured on youtube. Bookmark this page http://www.youtube.com/user/MaryWickentower so you can return and over time watch them all.
One of her newer machinimas, “Bunni & Claude” won an Audience Choice Award. It’s a 48 Hour Film Project 2013 which was filmed on location at LEA 7, Broken Arrow, Dark Star and Heaven’s Point, it features a vintage performance easily recognized as a silent movie. One can see that a lot of attention to the storyline went into its production. You have to give her credit for that. To describe it would be a science fiction/fantasy spin. Upon opening, the dialogue tells ladies to remove their hats, no doubt because years ago they blocked everyone’s view of the screen. The story begins with the introduction of a automaton named Claude, with a metal body and a pulsing heart. Dear Claude falls in love with a sweet doll named Bunni. She has porcelain skin and yarn for hair. This other suitor comes along, but he’s neglected. Bunni is far too occupied spending quality time with her adorable Claude. We are informed that “unrequited love can turn a heart to stone,” meaning that her ignored suitor went from being a caring individual to a villain having not been given the opportunity to court her. Unaware of the danger, the couple continues on dating. Unwilling to let it slide, Pat, the other prospective suitor, abducts poor Bunni and ties her down on the railroad tracks like they did in the silent movies. “Don’t you get it? I don’t love you. I love Claude,” she screams out to him. Our hero, Claude saves Bunni and Pat is arrested by the authorities in a hot-air balloon.
It’s nothing less than adorable.
Copyright Netera Landar