Thursday, March 1, 2012
Beth Quander Interviews Ambrosia Lanley: Machinima Artist in Second Life
Ambrosia Lanley is one of the more prolific machinima artists in Second Life. As her new film 'Lucky Lady', is premiering MAR 2 (to coincide with IWD 2012), I thought it would be appropriate to post a new interview with Ambrosia here. Enjoy! - Gina
An Interview with Ambrosia Lanley: Machinima Artist in Second Life
Written by Beth Quander
Lucky Lady Film Premier Event is MAR 2 at 5PM SLT (Teleport there now)
I’d sat, wide-eyed, through 15 minutes of shoot-outs, technicolour sci-fi transformations, death-defying circus stunts, glowing vaginas and clowns. Behind the high-octane women superheroes working together to save the day colourfest was a serious message about child abduction and organised crime. And at the front was all that Second Life tech could do to portray bangs, flashes, explosions and high-speed chases.
“Who the heck makes this stuff?” I wondered. That would be Ambrosia Lanley, a completely self-taught machinima creator who has only been developing her craft since March 2010. Yet ‘Clown Dolls Forever’ is already her 21st film. It’s a ‘Hollywood style’ action thriller, but her cannon includes love stories, horror, Egyptian sci-fi and Westerns: “I like to try different ideas.”
Ambrosia’s zest for the new was probably what led her to machinima via the interesting route of Second Life magazine publication and DJ-ing. “I meet a Greek woman who published a magazine that was for Ancient sims.” Ambrosia became Editor in Chief and provided a lot of the visuals for the magazine. And her visits to the dance club at Lesbian Paradise progressed to DJ-ing there. “I started doing a few music videos and then started to tell a story and found that telling a story was fun.” This music-video-on-steroids approach is evident in her first film, ‘Terror’
but Ambrosia was quick to move on and experiment. “Well, I started looking at other machinima. And then thought - why not do it like a real Hollywood film?”
No mean feat, considering the difficulty of finding the right camera angle and the painful process of locating or building the right animations. And Ambrosia quickly found that many shots ‘expose’ the workings of Second Life in a way that isn’t always helpful. She spotted a useful technique that she incorporated in her first Hollywood-style Western
“I saw that most films used just split second shots. You can make it look like a lot has taken place. You have to do it like Hollywood - and fake it!”
Inspired by the possibilities presented inside Second Life, Ambrosia attended a few Film School classes in Real Life. She’s been told she’s already shot more footage than someone with two years of school (the fractional cost of inworld film production helps considerably). Her last five films have averaged $L300 each, which pretty well covers the sim tier at her own Island Rain Studios. She builds the sets herself, the music is copy right free from collective commons online, and actors are lining up to be involved for the fun of it. Ambrosia’s ‘fan club’ was in evidence at the premiere of ‘Clown Dolls Forever’: members of the audience were quick to praise both the woman and the movie.
It was evident from local chat that Ambrosia is fun to work with and inspiring, she has collected loyal and loving admirers who respect her work, her energy and her commitment. And this has led to a steady stream of willing actors for each production. “Each film people see, they want to be involved in the next. I never dreamed this would happen.” The sense of community, involvement and collective activity comes through in every aspect of Ambrosia movies, their storylines and their creation. And there is a direct family connection too. Ambrosia’s Real Life mother, Lina Loxley inworld, has been involved in all the movies, both acting and supporting her daughter throughout the creative process.
And Ambrosia has taken on and tackled every aspect of that process. “Director, Producer, lights, camera, acting, editing, scoring, post production. The works!” She builds the set components where she can, or buys full mod items so she can change and reuse, depending on need. ‘Clown Dolls Forever’ took 367 hours over 40 days, including the storyboarding, set building and shooting. “I’m on SL over 100 hours a week. I’m an addict!” Caylee Sabra has written six scripts, developing storylines from Ambrosia’s basic ideas. There are often dozens of actors involved, on screen and doing voice. Ambrosia describes coordinating these massive projects as “fun” – the kind of thing that can keep everyone fired up and immersed for 40 days at a time. Obviously there are ‘learning curves’ and frustrating periods. When asked how she deals with those, Ambrosia smoothly replies “one day at a time…”
The fact her movies are all credited as being “shot, chopped and scored” by Ambrosia Lanley actually reveals a lot about her high-octane style and energetic approach to film-making in SL. Not to mention the amount of action, drama, and indeed gore, in much of her work. “I bash men a lot in my films,” she says with a grin.
Men’s political influence and male privilege are certainly questioned in no uncertain terms, and Ambrosia is proud to be “all for” women power in Real and Second Life. Given her affinity for mayhem and spectacle, of course, it might come as no surprise to find that “in most films, the men end up as a bloody stain on the concrete.” However, Ambrosia’s ‘fan club’ has no shortage of male members, and the queue to be in her movies contains more than enough male actors. “Men actually don’t mind being bashed, because in a lot of my films I have beautiful women, and sometimes show some butt.” Showers, brothels, exotically located bedchambers and harems feature widely too. Which could perhaps be construed as giving Ambrosia’s movies ‘broad appeal’. And while it was unrelenting in the action-department, ‘Clown Dolls Forever’ was something of a departure for her, as it was her first film with no actual nudity.
Machinima making will take up a large proportion of Ambrosia’s 100 hours of SL a week in the foreseeable future. ‘Clown Dolls II’ is already in the pipeline, to follow on from her “love story”, called ‘Lucky Lady’, which premieres in late February 2012. “It’s my story. About growing up as a lesbian.” Creative time will be split with her other major on-going project – the writing and publication of ‘Lesbian LifeStyle’ – a feature, fashion and interview magazine, coming out inworld every month. The hard-working Caylee Sabra joins Ambrosia as an editor on the magazine, along with Ashlee Kingsley-Sabra. While the two projects are entirely separate, the cross-over for Ambrosia is obvious, and she has used the publication as a vehicle to promote the production of machinima in Second Life. She already has firm ties with AviewTV, a promotion, distribution and creative collaboration, and is strongly in favour of influencing and advancing the evolution of machinima for SL residents.
Ambrosia has sound advice for people flirting with the possibilities of dynamic media in SL. “Start out making a short film, under 4 minutes, maybe a music video.” Going down this route will bring your attention to the limits within SL, but by using them, and treating SL as a tool, getting results you like and are proud of are quick to follow. Ambrosia has found the Mamachinima group, founded by Chantal Harvey, invaluable in terms of encouragement and practical advice. “I owe a lot to Chantal and the people in that group. Without them I wouldn’t have got as far as I have in a year.” The inworld machinima community is growing, and is a great place to share your work, ask for feedback, seek inspiration and learn the craft. “People see the films, and it’s like raising the bar. You try to outdo the last film, always trying to make a better film.” Ambrosia Lanley is a prime example of what is possible in terms of fun, friendship and the creative frisson in Second Life.
Mamachinima meetings every Monday at 2 and 7 pm SLT. Classes available on request. Group key: afae95a2-bbd0-175b-4061-2b710e849251
Visit AviewTV at:
View Ambrosia’s machinima at http://www.youtube.com/user/AmbrosiaLanley77