World Building The Rilao Project at USC

USC 5D returned last Saturday with “The Rilao Project” at the 2014 Science of Fiction Festival, spearheaded by award-winning production designer and USC School of Cinematic Arts Professor Alex McDowell. I participated in the international one-day investigation, creating the fictional city of Rilao, a world build based on a mash-up of the DNA of Los Angeles and Rio.

We were divided into districts and mine was District 2, The Narrows, the only naval way in and out of Rilao, which was quarantined and blockaded because of a plague, but which had a thriving black market because of its valuable oil supply that came from the sap of a tree. We studied Rilao’s history and stories, working down from systems to cultures to tribes. By doing so, Rilao served as a means of creatively and critically re-envisioning the near-future of our own cities.

My group was comprised of game designers, students, computer experts, historians and filmmakers. We played a game based on the outline of Rilao’s culture and politics conceived by a class on gaming and McDowell’s world building class, in which we constructed the basis for storytelling scenarios.

We were given clues for how to thwart government oppression and propaganda through narrative and technology. We took it to the next level: a virtual reality children’s book, a tribal climbing sport that frees you from constant monitoring, a secret hiding place for a political underground movement, a new beverage.

Finally, we went further by taking some of the best ideas and turning them into tangible products: I wrote tweets as part of the propaganda campaign to halt reform and wrote a travel brochure touting the beauty and resources of Rilao.

It was indeed an exercise in world building from the ground up: analyzing a socio-political outline and fleshing it out and then coming up with the seeds for storytelling possibilities. The results of our work will then go into the writing of a book by students, poetry, and gaming. It was an invigorating exploration that reveals the breadth of design as part of trans-media world building.


Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Education, Events, Festivals, Movies, Music, Production Design, Tech, Videogames, Virtual Production

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