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How to get lost

Anagram take us through their immersive offering at this year's Sheffield Doc/Fest, ‘Door into the Dark’, with an exclusive clip

In a world where GPS is the final frontier – it seems increasingly impossible to disconnect with technology and simply get lost. Enter Anagram, documentary filmmaker duo May Abdalla & Amy Rose, who bring together a collective of interdisciplinary individuals: set designer Felicity Hickson, architect Tabitha Pope and engineer Aaron Robinson, to reinvent the way we tell stories through film in their latest immersive documentary piece Door into the Dark – a sensory installation about the psychology of navigation, which brings to life the experience of getting lost in the purest way possible – through complete darkness.

Showcased at this year’s Sheffield Documentary festival, the content of the piece is full of surprises, twists and turns in both the storyline and the physical experience. “With Door into the Dark, the question was really, 'Could you have an emotionally immersive experience and still be an agent?' We wanted to take the form of film and put people in a situation where they have to give up control,” Abdalla says. For me, it was a time when I was feeling particularly lost myself, and I wanted to make something about the feeling of disorientation being a necessary experience,” Rose adds. Here, Anagram give us a guide into how to lose yourself and find your senses.


"The door into the dark is actually the second door, and the first door is a door into a waiting room. It’s a symbol of a transitional space, where you leave the world behind and you haven’t yet entered. It’s a moment to prepare yourself to go into the dark, like a miner would have done to go down into the mines, or the room a surgeon washes his hands in before surgery. It's kind of like a semi-ritual that you have to enact to prepare yourself for entering the story."


"Once you’ve been blindfolded, the person before you puts your hand gently onto a rope. You are told to follow this rope, and you suddenly become very aware of the edges of your body. iBeacon’s emit Bluetooth signals to a phone, which are concealed in the blindfold, and effectively when you are in the vicinity of the iBeacon it registers that you are at the bridge, at the end of the rope, or at the door, creating live responses to people’s presence."


"The experience we have created doesn’t require you to use technology, so you’re not glancing through your phone – you have to navigate the world around you. Door into the Dark is not about looking at a phone, it’s about technology facilitating a connection. It's really easy to get excited by another Google Glass, but before we get too excited about that, we just need to ask the question, 'What happens if we just don’t know?'"


"As part of research we went on blindfolded dates, it was a bit like speed dating where you had a tiny bit of each course with a different person every 15 minutes. It was really amazing what it did to what you thought the other person was, you take the blindfold off and you are absolutely sure what that person was going to look like, and then you’re totally wrong."


"There nothing better than a good surprise. Having the opportunity for some intimate time with yourself to think about confronting your fears is a small step into the unknown, but once you’ve overcome it, it puts you in better stead to face the other kinds of darkness we face every day."


"I think that limitations advance creativity more than anything, and the problem with technology is that you have too many options. I think a scarcity of resources often presents the most exciting projects, because you have to respond and you have to be creative. If you’re flooded with choice you don’t really have any new ideas. The iBeacon’s had a lot of limitations, and they probably became a blessing rather than a curse."


"We are lucky to be residents of the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, where really its about technology being developed blindly, because you need to be able to take risks to hit up on gold mines. You can’t just work backwards from 'What does my client want?' It needs to be people working with technology in the same way that Jackson Pollock worked with paint, just with the gut, sometimes getting it wrong in order to get it right."