Wendy Spinks went to France to develop her project I Am Chuma. Here is her experience.

Back in November 2018, at the DISCOP, Cape Town based creative Wendy Spinks was awarded the opportunity to take up a full month’s residency at Abbaye Fontevraud, in France, thanks to a partnership between DLA and NEF Animation and funded by the French Institute of South Africa. The winning project, I Am Chuma, is an experimental animation and VR hybrid documentary/VR experience, and was presented at the DISCOP Johannesburg (14-16 November 2018).

And that’s how, on the 30th of April 2019, Wendy Spinks landed in Paris and was taken to the Abbaye Fontevraud, in the heart of the French countryside. Although being in a very isolated and remote environment, with no internet access, Wendy found the location exciting and allowing her to immerse fully in the experience: “Despite not having internet in my room, all was perfect, the lack of connection turned out to be a positive as part of my process. It required that I switch off the outside world and also get to know my fellow residents better, by embracing this creative community living concept and communing with them. Instead of watching content or catching up with loved ones, family and colleagues from back home in Cape Town, I shared with new people from different cultures, got to know them in such a natural way”.

On the first week, Wendy explains she got time to settle in and get to know the team, before starting to work and do some research, diving into the work of Agnes Varda, french film director, photographer and artist who passed away recently, and who inspired Wendy to “clarify [her] point of view and [her] dramatic questions, and how [she] wanted others to experience both the documentary and the VR project“. On the second week, Spinks started working on the structure of her documentary, sharing and discussing it with other residents and her co-writer. When completing the documentary outline, she started working with imagery, which she says was very helpful for her approach of the VR experience, and allowed her to start writing a script.

The NEF team then invited her to the National Animation Festival in Rennes, to discuss about her project and experience in residency, which was a great opportunity for her to gain perspective and experience other VR projects. She then spent her last days doing more research and working on her script.

When talking about her experience, Wendy insists on the fact that the location she was at during her residency was very helpful and inspiring: “It was good for us to have to walk to our work stations, and for it to be on the opposite side of the Abbaye, which meant we would walk through the main buildings, cloisters and gardens every day, this I found to have an interesting effect on me. I was inspired by the details of the architecture, the textures, the smells, the vibrations of sounds within the walls and from the bells and her visitors, blended with the sounds, smells and sights of nature, all around us. Creating deep reflection, and space … Just as I walked to and from my workstation“. The residency was a wonderful opportunity for her to focus and work project, preparing her for what’s next: ” All in all had I not had a month to focus on this project, we would never be here, ready for the next steps. I would never have had such an enriching experience and been allowed to dive into Chuma’s head and my own in this way“.

Find Wendy’s blog article here to learn more about her experience.