Written and directed by Lainy Voom, a Resident I didn't know about until now, "Tale from Midnight City" is a strange and beautiful work of SL machinima. There's much to write about her movie, [mainly my conversation with Lainy on how she came to create it], but before reading any further, dim your lights, crank your headphones, and for the love of God, watch it now.
And when you have, read on.
A lucid nightmare and a singular work of what can only be called pagan noir, "Tale from Midnight City" is an awesome work of Second Life machinima. But that's to qualify it too much. In every element-- mood, photography, editing, storytelling, choice of shots, and more-- it transcends SL and machinima as a medium. This is simply an excellent short film by an exceptional talent who just happened to choose those forms to tell her story.
Which is odd, for as Lainy tells me, she actually has no real life film training, and created "Tale" with no particular plot in mind. "[I]t was more an organic process," she says. "I’m not a great writer, so nothing I do ever has a pre-made plot attached."
The inspiration began with the mask, a free gift from the “Mask and Feathers” store of dzogchen Moody. "It’s such an incredible piece that I wanted to find an outfit to show it off." She added feathers and other assorted parts from various shops. From this, Lainy's Death was born. At first, the plan was just to take some dramatic shots of her avatar from the clock tower under the permanent dark sky of Midnight City.
"The pictures weren’t really capturing the right feel and [I] decided to see how it looked as a recording," she continues. "From there I moved to the bar in the city, which I remembered had the most beautiful lighting, and continued to film shots." Only then did the kernel of a story emerge. Midnight City, she says, "reminds me of a noir movie, so tried to create a character that would live in that place."
"I added a face light attachment from Barerose to the main character, which helped light her face in the dark and created added shadow for her features. After that I started to edit pieces together and found some great music which helped dictate the rest of the filming and mood, and the story kind of grew from there." (Like the music, found on the Creative Commons-licensed repository of Opsound, the sound effects are derived from the CC-based Freesound Project.)
Lainy has been making machinima in other platforms* for a couple years, but hadn't been planning to create any in SL. "I’d heard so much about Second Life and wanted to try it out as a game only," she says. "[B]ut the amazing builds and beauty in SL, you can’t help but want to capture it in some way." One can only hope Lainy Voom keeps exploring.
*UPDATE, 11:33PM: A larger collection of Lainy's machinima is here at her YouTube site.
Ms. Voom's portrait courtesy of the director.