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Director Danny Boyle at the inaugural SODA industry event

Director Danny Boyle at the inaugural SODA industry event

Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle delivers first School of Digital Arts talk

25 September 2019

Fascinating industry-focused events in lead up to SODA opening in 2021

Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle delivered a thought-provoking talk on the Future of Storytelling as part of the inaugural School of Digital Arts (SODA) industry event series.

His talk, Will Robots Love Jesus?, was the first of a series of industry-focused talks that will promote debate and conversation in the run up to SODA opening in 2021, facilitating insights and conversations with some of the leading voices in digital storytelling

Boyle, director of hit films such as Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, is co-chair of the industry advisory group for SODA alongside Nicola Shindler, Executive Producer of RED Production Company and CEO of StudioCanal UK.

He delivered his talk to a packed theatre at HOME on Monday evening (September 23).

Boyle delved into the world of technology, looking at the explosion of computing, data and machine learning – both now and in the future – to interrogate what it means for humans, society and culture.

PODCAST: Listen to Danny Boyle's full talk in the latest episode of MetCast

Bury-born Boyle, who also directed the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, was joined on a Q&A panel with leaders from film, TV and immersive storytelling.

These included: Nicola Shindler; Rose Kay, CEO and Immersive Filmmaker at Immersive Storylab; Saz Vora, Short Film Coordinator at the UK Asian Film Festival; Stefani Bardin, Artist/Entrepreneur and NEW INC Professor at New York University; and Jason Wood (panel chair) Creative Director of Film and Culture at HOME and Professor of Film at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The panel reflected on the impact of technology on storytelling – whether in film, online or in computer games – and how this can be harnessed to produce great stories.

Boyle said: “I'm not a future storyteller because that's what the School of Digital Arts is about – it is about creating the space where future storytellers can begin to find their footing. When I heard about the School of Digital Arts, I thought what a wonderful thing.”

On the importance of culture in a technological world, he added: “My own take on it is that culture will play a much more significant part than it does at the moment. Throughout my career, we've been with a begging bowl to governments to constantly try and get support for the arts. Actually, culture is going to be like oxygen.”

Boyle developed his talk by previously delivering it to a group of students at the University’s Manchester School of Art. Students then developed digital responses inspired by the theme of the rise of technology, which were then screened during Boyle’s talk at HOME.

The panel Q&A

The event was also live streamed and live questions could be submitted for the panel to respond to.

Penny Macbeth, Dean of Manchester School of Art and event host, added: “This was a brilliant evening bringing together leading lights from across the fields of TV, film and the digital sector, providing a thought-provoking discussion on both the possibilities afforded by the growth of technology, but also the pitfalls.

“A big thank you to all of our panel and to Danny, who has been working closely with us and helping to shine a light on the innovative work underway as part of SODA.”

Opening in 2021, SODA is a £35m investment by Manchester Metropolitan University and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority into state-of-the-art lab spaces, workshops, and networks, underpinned by a unique teaching and research environment that will support the urgent and growing demand for skilled workers in the region’s creative, digital and tech sectors.

The five-storey SODA building will be located on Higher Chatham Street, adjacent to Manchester School of Art Benzie building and the Students’ Union.

It will provide space for a digital innovation lab, green screens, edit suites, screening space, a media gallery, sound and music studios and production studios.

At full capacity, SODA will house more than 1,000 students annually with expertise in disciplines that span film, animation, UX design, immersive technologies, photography, games design, AI and more, often working on live projects with industry partners.

Construction of the School of Digital Arts begins on site in November.