Felipe Barral is a multimedia storyteller.
Barral, who produces features for CNN International and CNN en Español, has long used film, music, poetry and visual art, sometimes simultaneously, as expressive vehicles.
Always on the lookout for new outlets for his work, the Chilean-born artist will soon take his stories to the street — actually, to the I-75-85 Connector, on the W Hotel Atlanta-Downtown‘s digital billboard at Williams Street.
“PIXEL,” a video piece he produced, directed, filmed and edited, will begin running on the billboard Saturday, July 20. Its 13 episodes, told in 10-second increments in rotation with the billboard’s ads, will run for two weeks each over the course of 26 weeks. It’s the first of “The Billboard Film Series,” to be created in partnership with the hotel.
The project has been gestating for a while. “I’ve been thinking about how to find a new use for billboards, a new way to make films and reach a new public,” Barral says. “250,000 people pass by that billboard every day.”
The concept of a drive-by movie screen presented many challenges, which he relished. Among them, the Department of Transportation permits nothing on the billboard to run more than 10 seconds at a time, because of concerns about distracting and slowing drivers. That dictated the episodic structure, which Barral likens to a TV series.
Then, too, it had to be silent. “The story had to be simple: no character development,” Barral explains. “And the actors would have to communicate through body language.”
Dancers, he decided, would play the roles. He turned to John Welker of Atlanta Ballet, with whom he worked when both participated in ArtsATL’s “Bodies of Art” event at the Goat Farm Arts Center last year. (Barral makes exclusive videos for ArtsATL.)
In the piece, the ballet’s Nicole Jones plays a young woman who receives an email from her father (Welker), who died when she was three months old. A link in the email sends her on a voyage of memories and self-discovery. The piece, filmed at the Goat Farm, also features dancer Natasha Nyanin.
In coming weeks, look for more information, longer versions of the episodes and deleted scenes on the W’s website.