Adding city life

Creating WeMakeThe.City, the festival that makes cities better — part 4

We launched, announced dates, the outlines of the programming; WeMakeThe.City was born. To not forget what it is about, and tell others too, we thought we needed to capture the essence of the festival in a short clip. To explain what we mean with ‘we’, with ‘make’, with ‘the city’ and why it is a festival and that it is not about Amsterdam, but for all people living in cities, in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and cities anywhere else:

  • Who are ‘we’? Everyone connected to the city, in whichever way. Most of the time, we play several roles at once. We’re a municipal worker, an inhabitant, a father, mother, commuter, visitor. All kinds of people from all different backgrounds, in all kinds of manifestations. We all make the city. By simply being there, or by actively contributing.
  • What is make? Cities are made by everyone. By people who are pioneering, persevering, playing, designing, teaching, making policies, enforcing, developing, trying, breaking, building and rebuilding, dreaming, working, intervening, talking, parenting, enjoying.
  • Is it just the city? Urban living is everywhere. In the future, as more and more areas will fuse, the metropolitan region will acquire a big city dynamic. We anticipate this development, by including the region. Everything we do in the city has an impact on its region and vice versa. A city is more than just a place owning city rights. It is all actions of all people combined.

The idea was simple:

  1. Create laser cut cards, because that transparency would show more environment
  2. Take the cards into town and ask people at different locations to hold them for 5 to 10 seconds, or put them in the urban landscape throughout the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area
  3. Film that using a non-invasive camera. We simply used an iPhone, because the onboard image stabilisation is perfect.
  4. Call Ritzo ten Cate. Because Ritzo is fun, amazing with people and knows how to make things happen.

To see if this could work, we make a simple prototype with Apple Keynote. By setting the properties of a text box to ‘shrink text to fit’ in the Layout menu, the text perfectly scaled in the 16:9 frame. Then you can record the session while pressing the spacebar along with reading the text out loud. And then you can simply export to a video and Keynote then uses your timed pace and tada! Prototype done, something like this gif:

Animatic test

When we were happy, we created the cards in Adobe Illustrator to have them als outlines. Which is simple, you can just copy from Keynote and paste the items into Illustrator, arrange them, select all of them and turn everything into outlines. Next stop: Snijlab in Rotterdam. They offer a simple service where you can choose the material you want, then upload your work and depending on your hurry they send it you way. Even better, they can also add adhesive material so you can directly mount your work on other materials. We had the idea to build up the WeMakeThe.City word mark in layers and to then colour it so we made several different layers to create the right visual effect we wanted. As a material we chose for plain and simple cardboard, which turned out to be quite tricky with the smaller pieces, but eventually worked out perfectly.

Going into the city was amazing. We learned a lot about the city, about culture, about hospitality, about the people, and about how you make the perfect hummus. Also that where you least expect people to collaborate, people were really willing to help. And where you expect people to help out, they don’t. Fascinating. It eventually took 2.5 days to collect all the clips. But it was worth every minute of it.

For the voice, we wanted to have a nice mix of ‘Sir David Attenborough meets Monty Python’. We found that voice at Voicebooking. The process was quite hilarious, because we added a couple of example clips which all made no sense to our kind voice in London. So he decided to record multiple versions. For the final result we combined pieces of all of them into a perfect blend.